just finished printing a 659-page manuscript…

For those of you out there who read things in manuscript form, as opposed to just book form — by which I mean standard double-spaced, one-inch margin, kinds of formats: How many pages do you figure you read an hour? Do you have different speeds for critical reading as opposed to content-reading or skimming? Feel free to comment on any other characteristics of reading said manuscripts that are pertinent to speed and/or consumption. Thanks.

11 responses to “just finished printing a 659-page manuscript…

  1. 659 pages?!?
    I do hope you have a laser printer…
    In an hour, reading critically, I can probably do about thirty pages. But I’d need to take a break right afterwards.

  2. Very different speeds, for editing and just reading. And that includes my own stuff.

  3. Depending on what a mess it is, sometimes I’m lucky if I can get through 5-10 pages in an hour. But, then, I’m a writing coach and freelance editor, so I not only have to mark, but also explain, suggest and so on. IOW, the stuff I’m working on doesn’t have to be even remotely publication worthy.
    As for “just reading,” depends on the writing. Light weight chick lit kind of stuff I can read (and enjoy) really quickly. Something like Judy Cuevas’s *Dance*, I’m much slower, even when I’ve read it multiple times, because I am so completely blown away by the beauty of her prose. I have to keep going back to read again, and shake my head, and wish I could grow up to write like that.
    Hard to estimate numbers of pages.

  4. If all I need to do is form an opinion and be able to articulate it in a couple of sentences at the end, I can keep up a 50page/hour clip. If it’s somebody else’s fiction and the author wants extensive markup, maybe 30 pages an hour, but none of my fiction’s been published yet, so what do I know, really? If it’s somebody else’s scholarly work, 15 or 20 pages an hour, depending on how advanced the draft is and how far it is outside my area of expertise–the more I know about the subject, the slower the grind due to granularity of detail. If it’s a student paper up to 15 pages in length, I can read it twice, fill the margins with comments, write a culminating comment that diplomatically highlights the three main skill areas that need improvement and offers specific strategies for doing better on the next paper, and determine the appropriate letter grade or numerical score according to the rubric of your choice–all in 12 minutes flat, with an egg timer to keep me honest.
    If I’m rereading my own fiction with intent to revise, 20 pages per hour. If I’m rereading it to get back into the feel of a character, setting, subplot, whatever, back up to 50 pages an hour. If I’m marking up my own poetry, one hour per page.

  5. I’ve recently varied between five and twenty-five pages in an hour, and that was revising my own manuscript, albeit one that had been sitting in a drawer for a while and wasn’t entirely fresh. The speed of reading varied with the amount of comments a scene needed and how well the scene fit into the whole; it’s not a reflection of how well it was written.
    For pleasure-reading (or reading-to-get-back-into-the-mood) I’d say I’d probably do closer to fifty pages an hour. When I’m taking notes, even if the author just wants quick ‘this works, that’s well-paced, I particularly enjoyed this character’ [and negative equivalents] the rate drops.
    Sometimes I get drawn into a mss enough that I need to give it a second, critical pass…

  6. My reading speed does depend on whether I’m reading for content, or for critique, or just skimming. Skimming goes quickly, and there I’m just looking for obvious bumps in the story. Reading for critique takes the longest because I add in pauses to digest and analyze the text and my reactions as I go along. Last night I read a polished draft of a novelette. The sixty-one pages took me about two hours to read, including pauses to think about what worked and what didn’t work for me.

  7. I read MSS format at the same speed as dr_pretentious, but much prefer reading/editing on screen rather than on paper — I can type in comments faster than I can scribble them, and the author can actually read them. The big plus: it doesn’t cost me a fortune to mail the MS back.
    And you’re doing the printing of a 659-pg MS because…?

  8. For critical reading, I read 25 pages an hour, for one hour. If my comments are not what the writer was looking for, that saves us both a lot of angst. If the manuscript is so good I can’t put it down, I’ll give it 5-6 hours before I send the initial comments to see how they’re taken.
    For content reading, I can do 100-150 pages an hour. If there is no quiz. For skimming, I just use the Find option. In general, life is too short to read anything but manuscripts I can’t put down, with the possible exception of ARCs or signed first editions from people who have been in my hot tub. Oh, and I do admit to reading something by Dan Brown, just to see what all the hoopla was about. That book is now on its way to the troops.

  9. Hmmmm if I’m reading for feedback 15-20 pages an hour. If I’m critiquing it depends on how much critting it needs but we’ll go w/10 an hour. If I’m reading hardcopy of my own work for line edits, I can do about 25-30/hour

  10. Bleah. Hate reading in manuscript for novel length stuff — a significant part of my time goes to large unweildy stack of paper management, to the point where I doubt I read more than 2 pages a minute (as opposed to three of a standard bound fiction book.) Presumably if I ever get to the point where I do this more than occasionally, I’ll learn the trick of it.
    My critical reading isn’t significantly slower, but it effectively takes double the time since it’s my second pass (if I don’t read for content first, I’ll be too distracted by it.)

    • I should add that by critical there I meant evaluative — for acceptance or rejection, or preparation for writing a future review. If I’m actively editing it, that goes much slower.

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