Ramona Richards

Ramona Richards started making stuff up at three, writing it down at seven, and selling it at eighteen. She’s been annoying editors ever since, which is probably why she became one. Twenty-five years later, she’s edited more than 350 publications, including novels, CD-ROMs, magazines, non-fiction, children’s books, Bibles, and study guides. Ramona has worked with such publishers as Thomas Nelson, Barbour, Howard, Harlequin, Ideals, and many others. The author of eight books, she’s now the fiction editor for Abingdon Press. An avid live music fan, Ramona loves living in the ongoing street party that is Nashville.

Track Changes

The Write Time: What’s Your Point?

There is only one way to make money at writing, and that is to marry a publisher’s daughter.
                                                                          George Orwell, Down and Out in Paris and London

How long does it take to type a novel?

Not write. Not create. Type.

I have a friend who can type somewhere between seventy-five and eighty words per minute. On my best day as a secretary, I could do about sixty wpm. I’ve always been better on a computer than a typewriter (most folks are), so I could, theoretically, type 3,600 words an hour.

As a writer . . . well, we all know that’s a different story. In my writing career so far, my best time is about two thousand words an hour. For one hour.

But let’s play with the math just a moment, taking out any needed “creative lags.” If I can type two thousand words an hour, then a 100K-word manuscript would take me fifty hours to type. So if you take out all those pauses to think, all those moments to correct, all those stops and starts to allow for plot holes and painted corners and “what color were her eyes?” searches, it would take about fifty hours to type a novel. About a week’s worth of work.

If you received a $5,000 advance for that novel, you’d have made approximately $100 per hour. That’s not a bad rate of pay.

Oh, what? I see you have an “aneurysm face” there? What’s that you sputter?

Excuse me while I get a towel.

Okay, where were we? . . . Ah, yes. Typing is not writing, you sputtered, wetly, in protest.

No, of course not. All those creative lags are part of the process and must be figured in. So how long does it take you to finish a book? Say you write one in three months, and you receive a $20,000 advance. That’s still more than $40 an hour. A $5,000 advance would be around $10 per hour. (Most typists make more.)

But you insist that you need at least a year to write a great novel.

Well, now you see why most authors don’t make money at writing. But you knew that. So what’s my point?

My point is priorities. What’s your goal in all this?

There are a lot of folks, including some authors, who think that being a writer is “easy money.” While most of us laugh at the thought, we still cling to the idea of the best seller, that breakthrough book that will let us quit the day job, without really examining what it is we want out of a writing career.

When I ask folks at conferences, “What do you want to get out of a writing career?” I get a variety of answers: Money! A contract! Fame! Recognition of talents and gifts. Some write in answer to their calling from God. Others have a message to share.

To be honest, from this editor’s POV, there’s no wrong answer to the question. But you do need to answer it. The answer will help you set your goals, your writing schedule, and your deadlines. Don’t wait for a publisher to set a deadline. Set it yourself, and stick to it.

If, for instance, you want to make money (George Orwell notwithstanding), the easiest way is to become prolific. Make up your mind that you will write a novel every three or four months. Do it whether or not they sell. When they do, you’ll find you’ll sell more often, and once you get five or six novels in print, your royalty statements may start showing a long-term profit. If you write only one or two a year, then you need to give up the idea that you’re in it for the money (or pray for a best seller).

If you have other goals, define them clearly and draw a path to get there. God gave you a gift. Decide what you’re going to do with it. And make it a priority.

Otherwise, you’re just typing.


Nothing can destroy the good writer. The only thing that can alter the good writer is death. Good ones don’t have time to bother with success or getting rich.
                        William Faulkner, The Paris Review, Spring 1956