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!
Svenja Gosen does a yearly tracker and offers it for free. Here’s the 2014 tracker. Watch here for 2015, due out this month.
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.
Good idea! I’ve not thought about this before. But, now I need to write 40,000 words for a non-fiction book and a tracker would be helpful. Look forward to your 2015 tracker. I’ve copied your 2014 tracker. Thanks for sharing a great writing strategy.
I’ll be working on it this weekend and hope to have the link up next week.
Oh no. Then I’d know how much time I spend in writerly blogs. But…maybe I will try it. I did track my first draft daily totals. How do you count revisions and edits? Silent
I keep track of revisions/edits on a total of its own (the salmon colored box in the image) just because I was more interested in new words. I’ve found since, however, that it’s nice to have those numbers just to remind myself that I am indeed making progress. 🙂
To be quite honest, I entered the blogosphere about a year and half ago precisely to get away from the technicalities of my daily life. I already had spreadsheets for everything else under the sun at the time – personal finances, health plan comparisons, boy scout fundraiser tracking. Heck, I probably had a spreadsheet to track all the spreadsheets 😉
As you say, everyone has different needs. I still do need the input you suggest – just maybe not at as detailed a level. One of my New Year’s resolutions at the beginning of 2014 was to compile and publish a certain number of articles and stories to my blog. I didn’t want to post for the sake of meeting a number, so I put a bit of extra pressure on myself to make sure that they were “meaningful” posts.
That is the level of detail that is best, for me at least. Although, I have to say, my inner analytic mind is just busting at the seams to draft a new spreadsheet for something, and now you’ve got him all riled up 🙂
I totally understand! A spreadsheet-driven work life doesn’t leave much taste for it in the creative life.
I already have a kind of wordcount tracker in a google doc but it is only useful for one project, sort of like the NaNoWriMo tracker. I like the horizontal approach of your tracker that let’s me input numbers for many projects. Now I must wrangle a new spreadsheet.
Tracking this way put an end to my “I haven’t written anything this week!” because of course I have, just not usually on the project I’m supposed to be working on. 😉
What a cool idea to break it down like that and explore the trends. I might give this is a go!
Let me know how it works for you. 🙂
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