As 2014 draws to a close, most of us are a) wondering where the heck the time went, b) perusing holiday recipes we don’t have time to prepare but want to eat, or c) reflecting on what we accomplished over the last twelve months.
Progress in writing is subjective, of course, and depends on the stage you’re in. If you are already publishing, it’s tempting to just count titles. If you have yet to think about sending your work out, you might find it hard to believe you’ve accomplished much at all.
I have a suggestion. I can hear the echoes of the other muses through the headquarters: “of course she does. She always has a suggestion.” Well, that’s partly true. Chalk it up to experience. But here’s the suggestion.
Track your words.
Sounds simple, right? But what do you track? My answer is to track everything. Record how many words you write in blog posts. Record your word counts on each fiction project. Estimate your handwritten word count by page and record your journal input. Log your pre-write and outline efforts. If you write as part of your job, you can record that, too, if you like. Keep track of words edited in a separate column.
At the end of 2013, I sat here wondering what I’d accomplished besides novel drafts. I found a blog post (for the life of me I can’t remember who/where or I’d link it) from another writer who talked about tracking overall words written and decided to give it a try for the year. As a result, I’ve found that my naturally competitive spirit gives me a push to have something to record every day, and I also have amassed twelve months of data on how much I write, when I write it, and what I wrote the words for.
I’m suggesting it’s not a bad idea. If you set a reasonable goal or set of goals, or just track your words out of curiosity, you’ll have a new way to reflect on what you’ve accomplished by the end of 2015. If you are at all competitive or like to fill in numbers, you’ll also find that it gives you the push to get daily writing done.
I’ve made my own word tracker for 2015. I used My Big Damn Writing Tracker for 2014, modifying it for myself with a few simple formulas to add the various columns. I keep editing separate from word generation. Take a look at different options and design your own or use one “out of the box.”
The biggest difference for me between December of 2013 and today is what I’ve learned. I have hard numbers, which is great, and can track by project or type. But I’ve also learned there’s an ebb and flow between journal and fiction, between editing and and story development (seems new ideas arrive by the boatload while editing), and other interesting tidbits. I suck at statistical analysis, but even I can figure out a few trends. Of course, the big rush is looking at my yearly word count total!
Jenny Trout developed the one I initially started using. I’ve since modified it quite a bit and hope to share it soon.
If you run across a tracker out there on the web, please link to it in the comments. We all have different tastes, needs, and skill levels.
I’ll have my 2015 tracker ready in the next few days and put a link up on our new Resources page (that will debut before the 31st). I’ve added an image above as well.