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Continually trying to answer the question...can a man of few words write a successful novel?

I'm a Mystery/Thriller/Suspense writer from small town USA who struggles everyday to balance my passion for prose against the need to be a full-time bread winner. Finding ways to devote more time to my writing is the challenge, but for now all I can do is follow this tug at my heart to wherever it leads. I'm here primarily to soak up all the knowledge I can from the writing-centric blogosphere, but I'll do my best to contribute by thinking of new and innovative ways to churn the writing pot.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Pecker





 How many words can you type?  Ever been tested?  Did you know that for measurement purposes a word is standardized to five characters or keystrokes.  But, we all know that typing speed doesn't necessarily translate into writing speed.  In one study of average computer users, the average rate for transcription was 33 words per minute, and only 19 words per minute for composition. In comparison, the average human being hand-writes at 31 words per minute for memorized text and 22 words per minute while copying.  An average professional typist types usually in speeds of 50 to 80 wpm, while some positions can require 80 to 95 (usually the minimum required for dispatch positions and other time-sensitive typing jobs), and some advanced typists work at speeds above 120. (data provided via Wikipedia)

What's my speed?  I have no clue.  I'm what's called a "hunt and pecker", a two-finger typists.  Surprisingly, those in that category can commonly reach sustained speeds of about 37 wpm for memorized text, and 27 wpm when copying text but in bursts may be able to reach up to 60 to 70 wpm.  Technically, I don't use just two fingers (more like six), but I'm also not formally trained.  Oh, I did take a half-semester typing class in high school, and if I knew then what I know now I would have paid closer attention instead of trying to shoot spitballs down Cindy Clarks cleavage.  Over the years I've developed my own system, born out of necessity, which allows me to compose unhindered.  Without looking at a keyboard I couldn't tell you where any of the letters reside, but instinctively I'm able to churn out the words at a good clip.

Why is that so important, especially for writers, streamlining the transition from thought to words on a screen? I'm willing to bet that most of you are like me, experiencing periods of creative inspiration where you're physically unable to type as fast as the words flowed from you.  I'll be composing/typing one paragraph but thinking about events coming into focus several paragraphs ahead.  I'll find myself cursing my unconfident fingers and seriously considering purchasing software like Dragon Dictation.  I cope with my limitations by keeping a notebook nearby so I can jot down these idea's before they slip away, only to reappear at inopportune times like when I'm standing in the checkout line at Walmart or rinsing the shampoo out of my hair in the shower.

As far as a writers skill set goes, how would you rank your typing?  Strong, weak, average?  Go ahead, your allowed to brag.  I consider my lack of formal training a handicap, one that I've learned to overcome.  If you're a strong typist, do you take it for granted, or do you struggle with your typing like I do?
 
This post is 493 words long and took me an hour an ten minutes to compose.  Where is Cindy Clark when I need her? 

27 comments:

  1. I am one who was blessed to type fast. I type well over 100 WPM. Most jobs only require that you type around 40WPM so when I told my current job I could exceed their expectations they hired me on the spot!

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  2. I'm pretty fast. Took keyboarding in high school and was even an admin assistant in college. So I'm at about 80 wpm.

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  3. Well, I work part-time as a medical transcriptionist and I'm paid by the line, so the faster and more accurately I type the more money I make per hour. I type about 90+ words per minute, less when I'm writing because I stop to think/edit/read etc. I will say my speed helped me with NaNoWriMo last year. LOL

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  4. I type well over 90+ words per minute. Who knew that one of the best things I could ever do for my career turned out to be taking a full year of typing in high school? LOL

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  5. After reading the comments above, DL, I'm wondering if the hunk and peck is a guy thing? I probably type as fast as you - well, maybe. But I only use two fingers. It is faster to write it down, but then, sometimes I can't even read my scribbles.

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  6. Well, so you've come back! I had a murder mystery built around why you had disappeared from blogging (which I suppose still works since it was fiction...) I type pretty fast now but had to teach myself how to type. I am not always very accurate which can slow things down a bit but with word I just plow on through and then go back and correct whatever Word didn't correct for me (the magic of auto correct!!! sometimes it's great!) But I don't write at lightening speed ever anyway so it doesn't matter if I don't type 120 wpm. Good to see you back!

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  7. Last I was tested I was about 72 wpm. That was when I was an admin clerk and typing was my whole job.

    I still do a lot of typing at my current day job; but it mostly of the case-comments type, individualized letters to clients, and data entry. Composing client letters and case comments is a lot like the novel and blog post writing I do.

    I'd hate to be tested now . .

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  8. And yes, I will comment on the title of this post. Do you have any idea what I thought you were talking about? Of course you do!

    I can type around 70 wpm if my keyboard is in the right position, the house is quiet, the glass of water is in exactly the right position on the desk with handy dandy coaster, and the pillows behind my back don't fall. Other than that, it's anybody's guess.

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  9. I don't know how fast I type when I'm composing but I'm bad at typing tests. My dad is a "hunt and Peck" typist and it's one of the reasons he really likes the iPad.

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  10. I probably type over 90wpm. The last test I remember taking was a whopping five minutes long (on an actual typewriter), so I asked what I should do when I got to the end of the paper. They looked at me like I was nuts and said "Turn it over." I was the only one who turned the paper over!

    But typing from copy is a whole bunch different than typing while composing. E-mails and blogs are painstakingly slow for me, because I have to make sure every word I write is the correct one. I don't know how many times I've sent out something and was misinterpreted.

    But because I do type by touch, there is NO WAY I could use an iPad. I need to feel the keys.

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  11. I'm a fast typist (and I know the touch system). What a funny title for your blog! ;-) I don't know about the composition vs. actual words typed, but I know it helps me that I can type almost as fast as I can think (that is, when I'm inspired). Funny (and informative) post!

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  12. ooo, I type super fast, but I credit taking piano lessons for years as having something to do with it. It's a good thing I type fast b/c my old lady brain forgets pretty fast. I have to stay ahead of it... :D <3

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  13. i don't know how fast i type. i'd guess about 30, if 40 is average. my hubby is a pecker as well, and he's fairly effective at it.
    i always stop and think a lot while writing (sentence structure and what not), so it doesn't hurt me very much to be a slower typist.

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  14. I type pretty fast, but I have to look at the keys. I never learned how to type without looking! :-)

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  15. I'm a really bad typist and although I type fast, I make a lot of mistakes. I think I type before I think carefully about the words. I type how I think.

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  16. I'm a pretty fast typist, but not nearly as fast as Jen! I took a half semester of typing in high school and I consider it the most valuable course I took - of course, I wasn't distracted by Cindy Clark's cleavage. :)

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  17. I'd say I'm a pretty average typer. I should be better since I've grown up with computers. My dad got our first Mac when I was only 5, and we had computer classes at my school too. Then the instant messaging boom happened when I was 12, and I developed some bad typing habits! But as long as the typing gets done relatively quickly, I think that's okay!

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  18. I never thought about how my typing speed affects the length of time it takes to wrte a post (an hour on average). That's a motivator to get practicing.

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  19. I don't know what my typing speed is, but I use the backspace key a lot. Either because I've dropped a letter of I start a common letter pattern one key offset. So "you" sometimes ends up "upi." I have to watch my hands and mostly use 6 fingers. But typing speed is only as good as what my brain can churn out. So I'm usually pecking away and deleting stuff I don't like.

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  20. Don, my typing skills are very similar. I primarily use my two index fingers and throw in another finger every now and then. I guess if Cindy would have been in my class I would have either been a better typist or I would have better aim with my spitballs!

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  21. Last time I took one of those online typing tests, I think I was between 70-80 WPM. I think my caps lock habit for all capitalized letters held me back. I'm slowly breaking that habit. It's hard.

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  22. I can relate! I type fast, but I know all about ideas that disappear when you need them and reappear at bad times. I did the hunt and peck until I learned to type when I was 14. I was pretty good at pecking, but typing is so much easier!

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  23. So good to see you back in the blog world!

    I'm not sure what my WPM speed is, but I definitely don't use all of my fingers when typing...but I type pretty fast. I guess I'm a fast quasi-pecker.

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  24. I can type fast. Over 100wpm. I think that's great you can type as fast as you can. My hubs struggles with the two finger typing... and his really is two fingers.

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  25. I have no idea my typing speed. But I did take typing in high school (Thank God!!!!), so it's about average or better. It's definitely higher than I need for most days. :D

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  26. I think I type about 40 WPM. I never had a typing class in high school or college and I think the only reason I'm not a hunt and peck typer is because I had a job where I did a lot of data entry. It didn't help me that much, but at least I can look at the screen instead of the keyboard when I type! I do wish I were faster though.

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  27. I can type as fast as I can think, and that's fast enough I'd say! It hinders my hand writing though because I try to write as fast as I can think, and it's ends up being an illegible mess, even I can't read it:)

    It's not too late to learn to type faster, there are several good learn to type software(s)? out there. In your situation, it'd be worth the effort.

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