Progress (1)

So, in my travels around the blogs of other literary folks, I’ve noticed plenty of talk about writing habits. People have listed their preferences on:

  • Writing location
  • Music that helps to get the words flowing
  • Hours worked
  • Coffee-intake
  • You get the idea
  • I like bullet points

However, one thing I’ve always wondered about and never seen is a list of productivity. How much do people get written in a day? (I’m talking word count here.)

So I decided early this month to embark on a mission to discover exactly how much writing I personally do in a day, and that information would then add up to show me how much writing I do in a month, etc. I figured knowing how much I could potentially write in a day would also allow me to set realistic writing goals and then stick to them.

So I made a spreadsheet. It looks like this:


The top graph shows the middle column–how many words I’ve written in the accompanying day. (It looks like a broken heart monitor because of my inconsistency.)

The lower graph depicts the right column–the total words in my story. (Preferably, this will constantly be an upward slope.)

The “Total” column starts at 18,180 because that was the word count of my current work when I first embarked on this mission.

Now, before you say anything, hear this:

I posted something similar to this on a Writer’s Digest blog, and it wasn’t but a few moments before I heard the two main complaints which I knew would be on the way.

The first was something along the lines of, “You can’t measure ‘progress’ or ‘productivity’ based solely on word count. You have to be writing quality words for it to count.” I know this. I understand the fact that productivity is measured in two parts–word count and word quality. I guess what I’m doing is trying to measure the half of that that I’ve never seen measured before.

The second piece of advice that I was offered was to not spend so much time documenting my writing in numbers that it negatively impacts my actual writing time. To that I would say that, in an amazing and brief moment of near-photographic memory, I remembered how to input the proper functions into the spreadsheet so that the program would do all of the number counting work for me. (It’s been something like seven years since I learned how to work Excel in a high school computer class.) At any rate, rest assured that I don’t dump a ton of useful writing hours into counting my words instead. After a ten-minute setup to get everything in the spreadsheet working, I just put in my story’s current word count at the end of each day and it figures out how much I’ve written and updates the graphs, as well as giving me a running total and a daily average.

My goal, incidentally, is to write an average of one thousand words per day. Note that although I had two days of no writing (my girlfriend and I were out of town seeing the Decemberists in Oakland and then visiting my sister, and there was just no time), my average is still above a thousand–barely–due to a few days of heavy writing.

I chose 1,000 words per day because that makes it easy to make a monthly goal of about 30,000 words, and that kind of scale will let me see the ups and downs of my actual writing time, which I’m extremely curious about.

Okay, sleepy time. Good night, world!


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