Since quitting the corporate world to become an author and entrepreneur, I have been tracking my daily word count.
Because this is the only way I have found I could remain accountable to myself and build a writing habit.
And it works!
At first, I was using a very simple spreadsheet with two columns.
One for the date and the other to document daily word count. It was basic and it did the job.
Then I came across this brilliant monthly word count tracker created by Vilhelmina, an author and blogger.
The Custom Writing Month Spreadsheet is so easy to use and shows your writing progress in the form of a graph. Just seeing the bars go up every day is great motivation to keep me writing!
Today’s guest post is by Vilhelmina Ullemar, creator of the Custom Writing Month Spreadsheet.
She explains how authors can keep themselves on track with any writing project and how setting goals can help you (finally) cross the finish line by setting and tracking daily word count goals.
I’ve always loved writing – but for a long time, the results I had to show for it were quite sporadic.
I was a total binge writer: completely capable of crunching out high word counts, but only doing it when I felt inspired.
Inspiration, as it happened, was fickle. Because the binge writer lifestyle relied on something so inherently erratic, I didn’t finish much writing or complete my writing projects.
Usually, when I sat down to write, I would start something new. Then followed by a long period of not writing, I would lose interest in previous writing projects I had started weeks ago.
I was happy to start writing projects but couldn’t seem to complete them. The long gaps of not writing meant I lost interest in writing projects I had started weeks ago.
It was a pattern I desperately needed to break free from.
I found my escape plan in the form of NaNoWriMo: National Novel Writing Month.
For those unfamiliar with the concept, it’s a yearly challenge in which people from all over the world come together, cheering each other on as everyone tries to write 50,000 words over the course of 30 days in November.
This was 2014. I remember sitting down before it all started, writing a heartfelt Facebook post telling all my friends how daunting I felt the task was. After all, I was in grad school, and fifty thousand is a lot of words.
The first day came. Starting out, I was able to hit on one of my bouts of inspiration – kicking myself into gear quite quickly. But then, inspiration began to wane.
I sighed. Was this going to turn out as it always had?
I logged on to the challenge platform (inbuilt word count feature when you join NaNoWriMo), figuring I should at least document my progress thus far.
As I put the numbers of my word count into the system, something great happened. There was feedback.
I’d set a goal of 50,000 words for the month. Now, the number of words I needed to write per day (1,667, for those of you who were distracted trying to do the math) stared back at me – the ones I’d already written having chipped away part of the greater whole.
I had started something. And I knew just how much I needed to do to keep the ball rolling.
It sounds simple, in retrospect; but it was only when I made myself sit down to define a tangible goal, complete with a time frame, that I saw the smaller pieces I needed to check off along the way.
What had once been abstract became delightfully concrete – and working to stay on track (as helpfully visualised in a bar graph with a line representing the goal for the day) was addictive. I finished that draft.
Then November ended, and that wonderful source of motivation disappeared as the platform closed.
I didn’t write much during the December that followed. I wrote even less that January. By the time February came around, I was miserable.
Where had all that writing steam gone? I couldn’t keep going like that – I had to do something. As soon as I realised what was missing, I created my tracking device.
At first, the spreadsheet I made was quite simple – starting out mainly as a list of the number of words I’d written.
As I kept working with it, however, I added more features until I had something flexible that allowed me to start any writing towards any goal, any day of the month, while adapting to the speed I was going at and informing me if I needed to pick up the pace. The Custom Writing Month Spreadsheet was born, and I was home.
It’s been more than a year, but I still use the spreadsheet on a regular basis. I usually set up a new copy every time I begin a new first draft.
I’ve thought about making a version lasting longer than a month, but since I still have that tendency to get distracted by newer, shinier things, I opted against it.
I can handle sticking to the same project for one month – and it’s so very satisfying to see the end result, every time.
If you want to try this spreadsheet out for yourself, the link is sent out as a welcome gift to all new subscribers of the Write that Story e-mail list, which you can get here.
Vilhelmina Ullemar is the owner of writethatstory.net – a website aimed at aiding writers to ease into words and enjoy their writing life. She also has an accompanying Youtube channel featuring a video with a step-by-step walkthrough of the Custom Writing Month spreadsheet.
When not writing for other writers, Vilhelmina’s writing features three different fiction pen names – the first of which will launch during 2017.
Join in the conversation below. Do you track your daily word count goals? Does it help you to stay on track with your writing projects?
***Want to know how to quit the 9-5 grind and follow your dreams? Join the Launch Team of my book ‘Escape The Cubicle’ here***