Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Do You Record Your Words Daily?

by Stephanie Morrill

As of today, most schools are back in session. The week after Labor Day seems to bring more change to schedules than January 1st, and it's always felt to me like a fresh start. A time to evaluate goals and priorities.

So if you haven't already, consider this bit of writing advice from James Scott Bell:



"The daily recording of the number of words you write is an invaluable incentive to get your work done."

When I'm in a writing season, I keep a spreadsheet of how many words I've written. The only reason I do this is for motivation. Because sometimes I've written 982 words, and I decide I could squeak out a few more to make it past 1,000. Or I'll see that I'm 100 words short of beating my word count from the day before, and I'll push out another paragraph. (My spreadsheet is really simple, by the way. Here's a link.)

James Scott Bell advises having a weekly goal instead of a daily goal. This is really smart, especially if you're in school or another busy season of life. Your weekly goal will be influenced by what you anticipate being able to accomplish on a daily basis, but that provides some cushion for a bad or busy day.

Do you have a word goal? Do you track how much you write?

28 comments:

  1. When I'm in the drafting stage of a WIP, I do set a daily word goal for myself that changes from day to day based on how much time I know I have and what part of the story I'm in. I don't set weekly word count goals because I think if I did I would just put it off. Working toward a daily goal is a little more urgent than a weekly goal. However, I might set a weekly work goal for the number of days I'll sit down to work on my WIP during that week. I always keep track of my daily word count when I'm working on a longer piece. Every day I write a journal entry about my day in my daily journal and if I work on my WIP on that day, I'll track the amount of words I wrote.

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    1. It's really important to understand how you work best. Sounds like a great system, Ana!

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  2. I don't have a word goal. I have a finish-up-my-two-WIPs-by-November goal. I don't usually track how much I write unless it's NaNo or I'm in a long-term wordcount competition or something like that. I'm thinking I may start, though, since I've gotten in the habit of it anyway.

    BTW, is there going to be another 100 4 100 event?

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    1. Jill and I are going to be talking about that this week. As of today, our kids are all back in school, which makes it a lot easier for us to think through those kinds of events :)

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    2. Awesome! Just wondering, since I really enjoyed it last year, and it really helped me keep writing.

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  3. I don't usually set a goal for myself because it starts to stress me out to much. That said, during the summer, I had some time on my hands to finish my current novel, and for two weeks I noticed I could get 10k words in every week as long as I wrote a little each day. So I made it my unofficial goal, and wouldn't go to bed at the end of that week until I hit the 10k. I did more writing during those last two months than in the first four months of drafting that novel.

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    1. How awesome! I think you have to consider the season of life as well. Like if it's a season where you have school + sports or school + the school play, a word goal might not be realistic.

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  4. I've never thought about doing a weekly word count goal! That's a great idea. Daily word goals just seem to stress me out. I do have word goals, and a deadline I've set for myself - but I've never thought to keep track of how much I write.

    Thanks for the informative post, Stephanie!

    ~L. Marshall

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    1. It really helps to motivate me when I'm working on a first draft. I'm glad you enjoyed the post!

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  5. This is a great idea! I don't have a word goal, but I might start doing that. I really like the spreadsheet. =)

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  6. I have a spreadsheet too. I have it set up to subtract from my overall word count goal. I always go long, though. Still, it makes me happy when I can see all the days I made my daily goal---then not so happy when I see all the days I missed. LOL

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  7. I loved how you this is such a fresh start in writing for you, while all I keep thinking: Argggh college life is starting again!
    I haven't worked with a spreadsheet like this before, but I'm going to try it out. Hopefully it will motivate me to push out some more writing in between college life.

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    1. I know, it's funny, isn't it? School messes with schedules in all different ways. Roseanna homeschools her kids, so as I'm reclaiming my freedom, she's losing hers.

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  8. I haven't/don't set a word count goal. I think it would stress me out too much. I do have little goals throughout the day, though. They aren't as much word count goals as they are finish-this-scene goals. :)

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    1. It's definitely important to do what works for you. The goal is to motivate, not stress, so I'm glad you've found a way to do that!

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  9. I need to set a weekly word goal, I think. It'll help not to have daily pressure when I'm swamped with homework....

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    1. I agree. I like the grace built in to the weekly goal concept. It acknowledges that my days don't always go how I want!

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  10. I use a spreadsheet to keep track of my word count, too. I don't log every time I write, but I really like watching the word count grow!!

    I like your spreadsheet, Stephanie!! Is it alright if I borrow your format? At least use it for an idea generator?

    Thanks!

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  11. I don't have any writing goals, but I do keep a spreadsheet updated. It helps me see where I am with my story and to keep track of it as well.
    I'm not very good at keeping goals, especially because, if I hit a point where I see I need more time then I had expected to fix that part of story, I will just do that and don't bother about any goals.

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    1. I understand that. I'm at a place in edits that's taking more time than I thought it would, but to do it well, I'll just have to work slower for a bit.

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  12. MoreShipsThanTheNavySeptember 2, 2014 at 6:11 PM

    When I'm writing and not editing, I always track my word count, sometimes by the hour if I'm productive. Now that school's in session, I definitely need a weekly goal. Because some days I'm working on trig for four hours, and other days I'm all "I'm getting in the hot tub!"

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    1. I might opt for the hot tub too if I was taking trig :)

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  13. During NaNo I had a daily goal. The good thing about my daily goal was that I wrote every day; without starting my first draft with NaNo I might have given up on it like I have others. The bad thing about my daily goal was that instead of making rapid progress on my story, I would spew forth weasel words, interior monologue, circular arguments between characters, extraneous descriptions, and even give characters ridiculous titles (Ex: Captain Cedric the Second. I called her uncle this every blessed time he came up in the narrative, lol. And once she found out he was her uncle, she would say that bear and then amend it to Uncle Cedric…), all for the sake of reaching that golden 1,667 words.

    It was months before I stopped basing my productivity and performance off how many words I had written and started measuring progress by scenes and using the “systems rather than goals” approach from one of the posts on here. I don’t think those were wasted months, per say - mean, I no doubt improved with all the practice I did - but there were certainly wasted words.

    Maybe I’ll try weekly goals once I start second draft, if I can keep them firmly as guidelines, a means to an end. I’m busy enough this year that I can’t afford to let word count goals become stressful, and ultimately counter-productive, compulsive behaviors.

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    1. * Should be "I mean" after the em dash.

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    2. Very well said, Miri. Yes, word counts aren't everything and that's a very valuable lesson to learn :)

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  14. Last year I would have thought this idea was crazy and guilt-inducing, but I'm totally on board with it now (I get what you're saying about different life seasons being conducive to different systems). :) I actually have a Word doc where I log words AND for this latest ms, I've a printed-out calender on my wall so I can physically write down my word count for the day. So motivating. :)

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