A few months ago I decided to start tracking my word count on a daily basis. This would serve three primary goals:
(1) To help me build a consistent writing habit: vital if I want to be an author entrepreneur and make a living from my writing.
(2) To act as an accountability buddy: seeing the words tally up would serve as encouragement (and seeing the words decrease would lead me to question what was not working well).
(3) Act as a reflection tool: am I doing the right things towards making my writing career a success?
Most people will agree in that the more you write, the better you become. But what if you struggle to write on a consistent basis, like me?
Then the solution is to track and measure your word count everyday.
Many of us may like to write but if you want to make a living out of your writing then you need to be writing consistently.
You need to treat it like a profession and act like a professional. This means turning up everyday and doing the work.
Tracking my daily word count was a technique I used to help me get more professional in my approach to writing.
What did I do?
- I noted down the number of words I produced every day into an excel spreadsheet.
- My initial goal was to increase my monthly word count every month by 10% (just an arbitrary number I plucked out of the air).
- I wrote a total of 22, 514 words in July.
- That was 11,516 FEWER words than the previous month of June.
Was July therefore a month of writing failure?
Not at all.
This is because by tracking my word count I was able to see WHY I had written less this month compared to June.
And the simple answer is that I spent more of my creative time and energy on editing my manuscript rather than create new words.
The great thing about tracking your progress is that you can reflect on what went well and repeat it, and also see what didn’t work well, and try to resolve it.
The end result is:
- you understand yourself better as a writer, and increase your productivity and efficiency.
- you remain focused on the right goals in your writing journey.
Here are my key learnings from tracking my daily word count in July:
#1. Recognize what phase in the book process you are in:
I wrote fewer words in July because I was primarily editing the words I had written in June (my June goal was to complete the first draft of my upcoming book).
#2. Understand what type of words you need to be creating i.e words for your book or blog?
The only new words I was producing was for this blog. I typically try to write one new blog article per day on my writing and self publishing journey and learnings.
There were a few days in a row where I didn’t write because I was primarily in editing mode (these days were highlighted in purple in the table above). This is OK because the book is my number one goal and should take precedence.
#3. Recognise the impact it has on you when you DO NOT write daily
I noticed that when I didn’t write or create new words my writing muscle got lazy. One day of not writing turned into four days of not writing. And this made me feel grumpy and annoyed at myself. Not creating, I have found, makes me grumpy!
#4. Focus on the writing above all else
I do sometimes get overwhelmed with the amount of things to do, from writing, to reading, to researching, to editing, to social media.
There is a plethora of information out there and sometimes I feel like I am drowning in it all.
I have much to learn, but seeking out information when I am perhaps not ready to implement it can make me feel overwhelmed (should I really be worrying about how to implement Facebook ads when I am still writing the first book?!)
But what I do understand now is that I must focus on the writing first and always.
#5. Don’t give yourself a hard time if you don’t write everyday or hit your word count goal.
You need to find your own rhythm. Some people want to write daily, others binge write in blocks of time (like Joanna Penn).
Do what works for you. But if you are struggling to write then it may be a good idea to start building a writing habit to begin with.
Also, review your goals and see if they still make sense. I initially wanted to increase my word count by 10% every month. But now I see its more important to complete a book and get it out to market, rather than just writing to hit arbitrary word counts. The word count goals should feed into a bigger purpose / goal i.e i want to write 10 books this year where each book will be 30,000 words. Be specific and intentional.
#6. Recognise what stage of the writing journey you are in.
If you are writing your first draft then your focus should be on getting the words down.
If you are in editing mode (like me) then you should focus on making your manuscript better. Every stage of the journey has its own requirements. I just need to remember that more often!
I completed my first draft in June and July was a month of editing.
#7. Recognise when you are feeling burnt out and take a break!
Remind yourself why you are writing and focus on the joy it brings. I forgot this on a number of occasions and was subsequently miserable as I got lost in all the things I thought I had to be doing.
Is it worth tracking daily word count?
Yes absolutely! It acts as a motivation buddy and ensures I exercise my writing muscle daily.
What are my word count goals for August?
I still intend on writing a blog post per day (approx 1,000 words) but my primary goal for this month will be to continue editing my manuscript and send it to a professional editor. I will also start looking at cover designs and formatting for the book.
Do you track your word count goals? Does it help in your writing? Or do you binge write your words in chunks of days? Please join in the discussion below!