Sunday, November 17, 2013

Tools to Track Your Word Count Goals and Averages

Yes, word-count lovers, it's that time of year!

Because we're into the second half of NaNoWriMo (or National Novel-Writing Month, for the uninitiated), the Word Whores are gathering around the table and throwing down on the topic of Word Counts: Goals and Averages.

Our table is draped with a red-velvet tablecloth and has a very large jug of wine in the center. James looks disconcertingly like Walter White as he gives us his "I'm a word-producing machine" stare-down. KAK, resplendent in her pimping purple, spills a bit of wine from her goblet as she gestures while talking. Linda is strumming her guitar and listening, nodding along, while Allison shuffles her ever-expanding novel that just might be reproducing as we sit there. Marcella, with her laptop open, is still searching for that article on improving performance, while her tea steeps and Veronica mutters something about faffing and refills KAK's glass.

This is the group I'm calling to order.


~starts Power Point presentation~
This is my Excel Workbook that I call "Progress Count." I review and add to it every single day. I have tabs to track my priorities, my overall word count (which includes blogging and writing for other promo) and a sheet for each book that is not yet in the can - meaning totally through copy edits and finalized.

 I've been summarizing my weekly word count totals since October 2012, so a little over a year now. I tracked them before, but didn't save the totals. I thought I might see a pattern in my productivity and I have. This is heavily impacted by periods of revision and developmental edits (as in April, May and late September), but I haven't figured out a way to separate that out. I would likely have to track drafting apart from revising and I'm not sure I care that much.
I reset my "clock" every week so, this being Sunday morning, my slate is clean. My Word Whores blog post is always my first set of words for the week. No matter what else I'm doing, I go for a minimum word count of 1,000 new words each day.When I meet those interim goals the yellow boxes that say "Not Yet" turn to a happy green "Yes!"

 I've also been tracking my monthly totals since October 2012. November is, of course, in progress. Again, some months are hit more heavily by revision time. Still I do have a fairly regular pattern of higher word count pulses followed by lower word count months.
 Here's my progress so far for November 2013. I measure my percentage reached of 50,000 words, since that's the NaNoWriMo barometer. Right now we're 57% through November and I'm at 65% of 50K, so my progress box is a happy green.
 I track all of my contracted books with the Priorities spreadsheet. Working back from multiple deadlines, I figure how much time I have for drafting, cooling time, revision, CP review, incorporating comments and polishing. After that, editing timelines depend entirely on my publishers, so I don't even try to track those.
 I work with the three-act structure and, figuring out from my projected finished word count, I estimate where the major climaxes will occur in the word count. Then as I draft, which I do from beginning to end, I can get a better feel for how the in-progress structure compares to the predicted one and I can revise my timelines if the book seems to be coming out longer or shorter than I thought it might.
 Nothing yet today, but this section will track my word count for the day and the rest of the week.
 I like incremental goals, so this shows me how I'm progressing. Right now I'm working at 2,450 words/day to meet a drafting goal of done by 12/14. I'm doing decently in that I only have to get 1,972 words done today to be on schedule, but I'll go for the full goal. That gives me padding for bad days. And Thanksgiving.

That's tighter than I like, leaving me only 11 days to revise and meet my 12/25 deadline, but it's doable.
Finally, I can always refer back to my annual goal for daily word count. I've written 417,990 words so far this year, which already has me at over 1,000 words per day for the year, even if I stopped now. We're on day 321 of the year, so that's even better, giving me an average of 1,302 words per day. Let me meet my Christmas deadline and I shall be very happy!

I think the Word Whores have all fallen asleep, except for James who's been surreptitiously writing all this time. But if you want a copy of the presentation - or a blank template of my Progress Count workbook! - let me know in the comments. Also, I'm happy to answer questions - I know this was a fast presentation.

I'm off to turn some of those boxes a happy green.


  1. I'd love to look at your workbook. Do you enter the day's word count in one place and that propagates through the various charts?

  2. That's exactly right, Ann Marie! I'll blank out the workbook and send later today.

  3. Great post Jeffe! Add me to the "want to play with your worksheet" crowd. You know where to find me.


  4. ~salutes the Queen of Spreadsheets~

    ~thanks Veronica for the top-off ~

  5. I love your use of charts, I should keep track and then give the data to my husband (who adores that kind of thing).
    And I also love how you set the scene, I can picture each one of you doing exactly what Jeffe described you doing :)

    1. heh - thanks Alexia! I amused myself, writing that scene. James kind of DOES have a Walter White vibe, doesn't he???

    2. I would agree with that more than 'sainthood' like he claims two women would nominate him for. ;)

  6. Wow. I am humbled in the presence of your spreadsheets. Holy cra... cow. My spreadsheet is kinda pathetic and lame by comparison, but it works for me. It just tells me how many words I wrote each day, calculates how many words I'm at for the month and where I need to be. Then it gives me a above/below, so I can see how hard I have to work the next day or if I can slack off. This is just for NaNo though. I don't have one that counts anything else.

    Great post, Jeffe, and great work on hitting your goals! =o)

    1. Thanks, B.E.! I think that's most important - to have a tool that works for you.