#SATurday: The Value of Knowing How Fast You Can Read or Write

11 Jul

The Value of Knowing How Fast You Can Read or Write

I don’t have time to read. I don’t have time to write.

We’ve all heard the phrases before…and possibly even said it ourselves. We get it. We do. Every writer and reader has a busy life, because every person has a busy life. Finding time to write or read isn’t easy. You just do it.

Easier said than done, right? Right. Which is why I want to share a small tip that worked for me in the early stages of my writing career. I’ve shared this with fellow writers before, so I know it works for some, but I must warn you that it has also discouraged others, so keep this one important fact in mind: It’s not about how fast you are. It’s not about comparing your speeds to anyone else’s. It’s about being aware of yourself, and using your awareness to manage yourself better.

Kiki helps me keep track.

Kiki helps me keep track.

My tip? Figure out how fast you read and write. (Remember, quality is key. This is not a race.)

What do I mean by that?

When you’re writing, take note of what time you start and your word count. When you’re done, take note of the time and how many words you get down. For reading, it’s very similar. Take note of where you started and when you started; then jot down how far you got and when you stopped. Do this a couple of times to get an average. Also, be aware of your nuances.

As an example, my major nuance is chapters. For both reading and writing, I cannot—for the life of me—stop in the middle of a chapter. So, for writing, I’m more likely to push myself longer just to finish that section, or if I feel myself getting tired, I might stop early to prevent myself from getting in the middle of a chapter. Now that I’m aware of my nuances, I can calculate speed. For two hours, I generally manage to write a chapter of 4,000-5,000 or so words and prep the next chapter, depending on where I’m at in those two hours. For reading, that’s about 200 or so pages, but this one is a little trickier since it is normally affected by the language or topic of the novel. That being said, that is my example.

Now what?

Now, pay attention to yourself. Did you just spend three hours watching television? I know I did that the other day. I couldn’t write due to carpal tunnel syndrome, so my situation was a little different, but I watched Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, an entire episode of John Adams, and the finale of Silicon Valley. I spent over three hours watching TV. Three hours. I could’ve written a chapter, prepped a chapter, and read 100 pages in my current read. This is where knowing your speed helps you manage your time. You stop counting time like one hour and you start counting time in word counts and pages.

Managing your time starts with being aware of your time. I know we all have difficulties—so, trust me, this is not a post slamming anyone who can’t find time to write and read. In fact, I’ve had a difficult time for the past week to find time to write and read since I’ve been moving more furniture from city to city. But there are days—like my three-hour television days—that I think we all have. And those are okay too. We’re allowed to take a break. This is more for those who might be struggling with their free time. This post is designed to suggest a new way to approach their situation. If you pay attention and figuring out another way to count time, you’ll be less likely to say, “I just watched one TV show” and more likely to realize that was an entire chapter in your WIP.

Remember that one important fact though. It’s not about how fast you are. It’s not about comparing your speeds to anyone else’s. It’s about being aware of yourself, and using your awareness to your advantage. And be aware of everything else too.

What do I mean by “everything else”? I wrote this blog post while cooking lunch—because I’ve been behind on blog posts and figured my lunch break would be a good time to sneak that in—so I wrote while I cooked. Pasta to be exact. It worked. I finished a blog post in time…but don’t let the water boil over like I did. ;]

~SAT

We’re so close!

As of yesterday, all three novels (YES, even Death Before Daylight) became available for pre-order

Minutes Before Sunset, Seconds Before Sunrise, Death Before Daylight

17

Pre-order today!

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19 Responses to “#SATurday: The Value of Knowing How Fast You Can Read or Write”

  1. Beth Caplin July 11, 2015 at 12:07 am #

    Just want to say that I love, love, love all your cat pictures.

    • Shannon A Thompson July 11, 2015 at 10:41 am #

      Haha! I’m so glad you like them! I sometimes worry I post photos of Bogart, Kiki, and Boo Boo too much, but they have so much character.
      ~SAT

  2. eclecticalli July 11, 2015 at 12:12 am #

    Such great advice! I haven’t been so methodical about it, but I’ve realized through observation. For instance, I can easily spend 30 minutes of my hour-long lunch break scrolling through social media…. or I can sit down with my computer and write a good chunk of a scene, or a blog-post. Some days need to be social-media-scrolling days, but at least I know I am making a choice to do that.

    • Shannon A Thompson July 11, 2015 at 10:42 am #

      That works too! I suppose I did get a little too methodical, as you put it, now that I’m looking at it. (I tend to overthink things.) But I LOVE your example. Thank you for sharing it with us. It’s very helpful to see how others have managed their writing time.
      ~SAT

      • eclecticalli July 11, 2015 at 12:21 pm #

        The methodical method sounds just like what my dad would do… and I totally WOULD do that, but then I’d need to gather MORE data (you know, so that it can be exact) and… end up spending more time playing with spreadsheets and graphs than actually writing.

  3. A.E. Rivenbark July 11, 2015 at 1:39 am #

    Oh yeah, I am confirmed procrastinator. Good tip: download the Pomodoro app. It’s free and you can adjust the time for reading/writing sessions. Plus there are built in breaks.
    I try to write as soon as I sit down to the computer or find a pen. This is, of course, after I decided to scrub the baseboards again.

    • Shannon A Thompson July 11, 2015 at 10:43 am #

      Sounds like a great app! Thank you for sharing it with everyone. I’m sure it will help many. 😀
      ~SAT

  4. Charles Yallowitz July 11, 2015 at 7:39 am #

    Excellent advice. I actually have my writing speed divided into chapter sections. A normal, low distraction day sees me finishing 3 sections while a bad day might be one. Though somewhere along the line I slowed down a lot. Used to be able to crank out 20-30 pages a day, but now it’s closer to 10-15. Probably because of ‘everything else’ since the change happened around the time my life gained a lot more distractions.

    As for reading, I try when the kid is playing nearby. It never works. Within 5 minutes, he’s in my lap trying to read with me. It’s usually asking what a word is, turning pages, or playing with my bookmark. At least he’s interested in books.

    • Shannon A Thompson July 11, 2015 at 10:49 am #

      Thank you for sharing how you divide up your writing time! I’m similar. I divide my writing time into chapters. Maybe one chapter a day. But hey, at least it’s a chapter. It was fun to also hear about excited he is about books. :]
      ~SAT

      • Charles Yallowitz July 11, 2015 at 11:21 am #

        Do you find that your writing/reading rates change on weekends?

      • Shannon A Thompson July 11, 2015 at 11:49 am #

        Honestly, no. But I go through spurts. Like the other week, I probably wrote 40,000 words in two/three days. I haven’t written that much in that little of time in years. But I couldn’t stop. That being said, it was a HUGE exception. I’m pretty consistent. A chapter or two chapters a day here and there. I’m a slow writer, especially now that I can only spend so much time on the computer.
        ~SAT

  5. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt July 11, 2015 at 7:51 am #

    I normally block the internet with Freedom; as soon as I do that, my brain begins the task of focusing so I can write. Some days I can do it quickly and easily, but on most days making the decisions to start Freedom is hard.

    But now that I’m working on final edits, I can’t block the internet, because my editing software – AutoCrit – is online only. So I’m finding myself exposed to the distractions more than I usually am, right at the end when I need to NOT be distracted.

    It’s going, and once I get into it, the edits are coming easily, but changing my work habits has been hard.

    I haven’t found anything I can do offline that is half as good, but it IS a problem. I may look for software that will block everything except a pre-selected site, and hope that works. Any ideas?

    I like your system: know what you do with your time. But it is a bit more complicated for me: time spent watching TV is time I am not capable of spending writing (brain is mush). I do the same calculus: how did I use my time? But the loss is when I spend my little bit of daily GOOD time doing something stupid.

    Congratulations of your impending launches – you must be so excited!

    • Shannon A Thompson July 11, 2015 at 10:54 am #

      I’ve always loved the name “Freedom” for that app! Thank you for reminding everyone about how helpful it can be if they aren’t using another Internet-based app (like AutoCrit).I found an article on additional apps for you, but I don’t know if they have what you’re looking for. Worth a shot though!
      http://mashable.com/2012/01/03/block-internet-distractions-apps/
      I definitely understand the “some TV is non-writing time.” I have carpal tunnel syndrome, so I have to rest my hands sometimes. No writing for me. :] It’s been an adjustment, because I’m not used to forcibly taking breaks, but I’ve been able to discover some great documentaries.
      Thank you for the congrats! I’m VERY excited, even doubly excited for Death Before Daylight since readers never got to have it. I cannot wait for all of them though. Thank you again. :]
      ~SAT

      • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt July 11, 2015 at 11:15 am #

        Thanks for the links. I’ll go check them out.

        The people who make Freedom also have something called Anti-social. It allows you to block WHATEVER websites are sucking up your time online – presumably FB and Twitter, but it can ALSO be used to block all the sites I visit every day. So I may just get that one, grit my teeth, and list EVERY website I’m likely to surf on.

  6. debyfredericks July 11, 2015 at 11:01 am #

    What an interesting perspective! Video games are my down fall. I’ll have to try your technique and see if it doesn’t push me to do a little more writing instead of playing.

  7. Cristina July 11, 2015 at 3:17 pm #

    Great post ! What can I say…from all the “pasta” you “cooked” for us today, I only do either chapter count or page count – but most of the times is chapter count. I’ve said either, because I happen to be a moody person, and sometimes I just switch between the two of them. That is for when I read, of course.

    When I write, it only comes down to how many words I have managed to write and in how much time – I know it’s not a competition, but I can’t simply help myself. 🙂

  8. D K Powell July 15, 2015 at 9:41 am #

    Good solid advice. I’m terrible for calculating reading and writing because I do it TOO MUCH! Seriously, at the end of every reading session I look at how many pages I’ve read, what’s left to read and calculate how many ‘reading sessions’ it will take to finish it. I’m also for starting to think about the next book I’ll read and get it ready to begin as soon as the current one ends – but often end up beginning to read it too!

    For writing, if I’m having a really good writing session it’s a killer if I stop for a moment and think about how well I’ve done – from then on I’m calculating how many words per hour I’m writing and how many hours it will take to finish it off and so on. Oh man…I could waste HOURS doing that!!

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