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Keeping track of your daily writing

(note: My Excel word tracker spreadsheet can be downloaded here)

One of the more important things to do – in my opinion – is to write consistently, and not just when the moment hits you. There are lots of time management methodologies – GTD (Getting Things Done), Pomodoro, etc, and these are all great, but as writers, we need concrete goals. Usually these goals come in the form of word counts.

So when I finally started getting serious about my writing, I took a bit of time and built out a simple excel page which calculates and tabulates your writing goals.

The chart is pretty straightforward.

The spreadsheet, in all its glory.
The spreadsheet, in all its glory.

(Download this spreadsheet here)

The very first thing you do is change your daily goal and the stretch goal percentage for the week. Once this is set, I do not change it. I adjust at the beginning of the new week based on my average words per hour of the previous week.  For example, if I know I am only able to work an hour a week on average, I use the “average words/hour calculation on the worksheet to educate my best guess as to how much I’ll get done in the coming week.

Onto writing!

First, you mark the day and date you are writing (usually “TODAY”). Then, you mark down your start time. If you’re going to have several sessions during the day, don’t sweat it. I’ve left plenty of room for multiple sessions per day (as a working father, I get interrupted a LOT). Then you do what you’re supposed to do – write.

Since I use Scrivener, and scrivener has a built in Session Target window, I can enter my target for the day and just go. When I stop because something has come up, I record my stopping time, my word count, and go on about my day.

Repeat. Ad. Nauseum.

If you’re so inclined, you can move the remainder from the previous goal into the row below it once you’ve started back up so you can know when you’ve hit your count for today, but it’s not necessary.

But that’s what I use and how I use it. It’s simple, but it works for me. My first week writing, I target 750 words per hour. I ended up averaging 827 per hour. So, assuming the following week that I’d only get about an hour per day to write, I set the second week to 827 words per hour. My average for week two jumped to 967 words per hour, which in turn I set this current week’s word goal to. Currently (after two days of writing, because I did not write on Sunday), I am averaging 1160 words per hour. I know at some point I will level out and find a rhythm which works for me, but until then, I’m happy to watch my words/hour climb and adjust as needed.

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