How I Used Word Count Tracking To Write 100,000 Words
Do you log your word count?
I’ve been logging my word count (on and off) for the past couple of years. Last year, without really trying too hard, I managed to write 100,000 words of fiction. That was the end of one novel, several short stories (a couple published) and the first half of a second novel.
If I’m so productive, why bother logging my word count, you say?
Come closer and let me whisper into your ear…I’m productive because of the word count log.
Here are four ways logging my progress helped me meet my goals:
In short, logging my words helps me see how much I am or am not working.
I try not to allow use it as a tool to ‘guilt’ me into writing, because guilt is not a terribly effective motivator.
In fact, if you’re like me, you’re probably quite hard on yourself anyway, because you feel you should be writing more.
Instead, I use my word count log go help me to celebrate any and all writing I manage to do. Even if you only write 200 words today, if you’ve logged them, you can look back at the end of the month and see all those days, all those words, adding up.
It’s great to look back and see that you’re showing up. You’re adding to the pile of words. You’re practicing your craft.
And if you’re not showing up enough, you can use your word log to spur you to turn up more, next month.
2. MAKE GOALS MANAGEABLE
If you’re working on a big project, like a novel or a short story collection, it can quickly become overwhelming.
Keeping track of your word count allows you visualize your progress and meet your timelines.
If you want your book to be finished four months from now, but only have 15,000 words written, the thought of wading through 65,000 more words could be pretty terrifying. Breaking that down to 16,250 words a month, or 4,000 words a week, or less than 600 words a day, makes it seem much more achievable, doesn’t it?
Knowing that, also lets you meet that time deadline you set. As long as you write 4,000 words a week, you know you’re still on track.
Q. How do you eat a whole elephant? A. One bite at a time.
(If you don’t have a big project or counting your words doesn’t appeal, try [LINK]these other ways of tracking your progress and staying accountable)
3. INCREASE CONSISTENCY
Doing a big writing binge can be an wonderful exercise. It’s exhilarating. It can teach you about your habits, your process, your strengths and weaknesses, and so much more.
There’s just one problem…
… it’s not sustainable.
Building a writing practice that is enjoyable and sustainable is so much more effective than indulging in periodic binges.
Writers who are publishing books and who are happy with their writing life, are doing one thing that less successful writers aren’t: the successful writers are consistently turning out pages.
A writing log can encourage you to do just that. With a month-long or year-long record of your writing, you’ll get a sense of perspective. And you’ll get a sense of satisfaction from seeing those boxes (and word-count totals) stack up. And that, in turn, encourages you to come back tomorrow and add more days.
And just like that, you’ll find you’re writing consistently and in quantity.
What we do everyday matters more than what we do once in a while — Gretchen Rubin
4. PAT ON THE BACK
The upside of logging is that when I’m having a bad day and beating myself up for my lack of progress, I can look back at the month or the year and see that yes, I DID write more often than I’d remembered.
Knowing what you’re doing (for real, not just what you hoped you’d do, or what you imagined you’d do), allows you to celebrate every success. Even if you’re in a bad mood, nobody can take away the numbers on that log. You’re writing. Celebrate that.
If you tend to be overly hard on yourself, keeping a writing log can help you see that you’re not a total slacker. And that can be the difference between feeling like giving up, and feeling like going on.
Worried that logging might make you feel guilty if you’re missing your targets? [LINK] Read this article.)
HOW I USE THE LOG
Do you have a copy of the StoryADay Writing Log? Go here to download your copy.
I set my goal at 10,000 words a month because I want to write a fair amount. I didn’t set a daily goal because my life is a bit unpredictable. Sometimes I can write for hours. Sometimes I can write for fifteen minutes. Some days I don’t write at all.
I wanted to be able to meet a word count goal without feeling guilty if I missed a day. I thought about setting a weekly goal, but settled on monthly. And the amount I settled on, is not a huge amount. If I mess up for three weeks, I can still put on a little push and get to my word count goal for the month. If I set my goal at 1000 words a day, I might end up writing more than I do now, for a while, but I don’t think it would last. I know myself: I would miss that goal more often than not, and that would be utterly demotivating. In a week or two, I’d resent my writing and stop.
So instead of trying to write a lot every day, I try to focus on turning up regularly and meeting a consistent goal. My monthly ‘deadline’ keeps me checking in on myself.
- I store my log on Google Drive because I can access that from anywhere, on any device.
- I create a link in my browser’s links bar, so I can get to the log quickly (friction-free is my watchword when I’m trying to create new habits).
- I create a shortcut from my phone’s screen to the spreadsheet (for the same reason).
- Any time I get stuck during a writing session, I go and fill in my current total (even if it’s 7 words). That either spurs me on or embarrasses me into writing a few more words towards today’s total. This almost always help me exceed my daily minimum.
- Sometimes I make notes about what project I’ve worked on. Mostly I don’t. I don’t care to complicate matters and create barriers to logging.
Here’s a video showing you how to use the log.
Don’t have your copy yet? Click here
Originally published at storyaday.org on January 14, 2016.