Maybe you've just been assigned an essay at school or a project at work, and now you're wondering — how long is this thing going to take?
Well, let me give you a clear overview as someone who's been writing for a very long time. And just for context, here are a few things I've written:
- Two 20,000 word master theses.
- Twelve 40,000-60,000 word self-published books.
- Over five hundred 1,000+ word articles for blogs, websites, and magazines.
- More emails than I could count!
All that is to say, I've experienced a lot of writing in my time and no two projects are the same.
Keep reading to see exactly how I got these numbers.
What factors determine writing time?
From my experience, there are a handful of elements that can either increase or decrease the time it takes to complete a writing project.
- The amount of research required.
- Familiarity with the topic.
- How many sources, images, or data points need to be included?
- Fiction or nonfiction.
- Are you writing, rewriting, or editing?
- Is there a deadline?
For example, if I'm writing a short 500-word fiction piece that focuses on a single scene and character, I can get that done in around 30 minutes. But if I need to condense a 40-page research paper into a 500-word summary, that could take me several hours because I need to read the content, organize my thoughts, outline my summary, and finally type it out.
Writing is not typing
The average person can type around 40 words per minute. Meaning, that if they were freewriting (letting their fingers move as quickly as their brain allowed), a 500-word piece could be completed in about 12.5 minutes.
But typing is only one part of the writing process. One usually has to read, research, take notes, outline, draft, edit, proofread, re-draft, and publish — all for a single piece of writing to become a finished product.
A formula for writing time
Now, I know some of this might seem complicated so let me offer you a simple formula to follow when you want to a simple way to calculate how long a potential project will take you to write.
- Start by figuring out how many words you type per minute. (Here's a typing test I like).
- For simple projects that don't require a lot of research or pre-work, multiply that number by 3.
- For in-depth projects that do require a lot of reading and prep, multiply that number by 10.
So, my average typing speed is about 68 wpm.
For a simple project that is 500 words long, the formula would look like this:
(500 words / 68wpm) * 3 (difficulty score) = 22 minutes
And for a more complicated project, here's how I would calculate it.
(500 words / 68wpm) * 10 (difficulty score) = 73.5 minutes
Of course, these are only estimates. But they will give you a general idea about how much time you should set aside to produce a good piece of writing.
Also, the difficulty scores can vary greatly. I love to write about books, so my difficulty multiplier for that topic might only be a 2 or 3. But when I need to write about a complex business or technical topic, that multiplier could reach 25 or higher.
How long does it take the average writer?
To help you visualize how long different amounts and types of writing take, I created a table you can see below. The numbers are based on the 40 wpm figure we mentioned above, which is the speed of the average typer.
The first column contains 8 different writing lengths : 500 words, 1,000 words, 2,000 words, 5,000 words, 10,000 words, 20,000 words, 40,000 words, and 100,000 words. The next column offers a quick explanation of the kind of writing that length usually entails. And the last three columns display three difficulty scores: easy, medium, and hard — along with the writing time for each shown in hours and minutes.
If you're a significantly faster, or slower, typer go ahead and adjust the figures accordingly.
|Word Count||Type of Writing||Easy (3)||Medium (10)||Hard (25)|
|500||Short story, school essay||37.5 minutes||2 hrs 5 mins||5 hrs 12 mins|
|1,000||Blog article, newsletter||1 hr 15 mins||4 hrs 10 mins||10 hrs 25 mins|
|2,000||Long-form post or script||2 hrs 30 mins||8 hrs 20 mins||20 hrs 50 mins|
|5,000||Short ebook||6 hrs 15 mins||20 hrs 50 mins||52 hrs 5 mins|
|10,000||Novella||12 hrs 30 mins||41 hrs 40 mins||104 hrs 10 mins|
|20,000||Capstone or thesis project||25 hrs||83 hrs 20 mins||208 hrs 20 mins|
|40,000||Nonfiction book||50 hrs||166 hrs 40 mins||416 hrs 40 mins|
|100,000||Fiction book||125 hrs||416 hrs 40 mins||1,041 hrs 40 mins|
If you found this guide helpful, share it with one person you know! It's important to remember that good writing takes time, even for experienced writers like myself. The key is to give yourself the room and patience to do your best work. You'll be surprised how fast the time flies once you do!