The National Novel Writing Month goal is a 50,000 word novel in thirty days. This number was chosen because it is long enough to be called a novel while also being an achievable amount without entirely sacrificing your life away from the keyboard/notepad/slate.
How much typing does that take?
Before I started NaNoWriMo in 2004 I timed myself to see how fast I could write – not copy typing, because that is not what writing is about: just making words. There was no story that I recall, just free association sentences. I managed 450 words in the fifteen minutes I allotted for the test, or 1,800 words in a hour. That gave me confidence that I could get the work done, at least.
These days I reckon I can manage 1,000 words an hour as a baseline with maybe 1,200 words if things are flowing really well. I don’t touch type but I have been using a keyboard so long that I type fluidly.
So, given 1,000 words an hour, how much could you write in a month? What’s the longest story you could commit to screen in thirty days?
- 50,000 words is an average of 1,667 words each day, takes about 1:40 per day.
- 100,000 words => 3,334 words per day, which takes 3:20 per day
- 150,000 words => 5,000 words a day or 5:00 per day
- And if you could spend ten hours a day every day for the full thirty days, you would have something like 300,000 words at the end of it. You would probably also have some pretty serious musculo-skeletal issues after sitting in the same spot for so long, but let’s gloss over that.
So I reckon that I could reasonably expect to write a 100k novel if I wrote three hours a day for the whole month, but that would absorb all of my free time and doesn’t allow for holidays (such as Thanksgiving, which is quite the thing in the States). Anything above 100k is getting into not working full time, and 300k is the upper limit of my writing energy, although I don’t think my body could actually take it.
In that light, the 80,000 words I wrote last year is probably the upper end of what I can really manage in a month.
Of course if all of this is too easy then you could always try writing a novel in three days.