How do you keep track of your writing production? You don’t? Should you?
I’ve been asking myself this question for a while now. It seemed to me that the effort of keeping track was just another time-waster, something else to distract me from my main job of in which the author showed how he keeps track of his writing output, on a daily, monthly, and yearly basis. I’m all about Excel worksheets and keeping track, so I thought I’d put together a writing “dashboard,” sort of showing myself the same thing.
Why Get and Use a Writing Tracker?
- It engages your “habit circuitry” (Cal Newport). That is, it helps solidify and affirm the habit of writing.
- It keeps you accountable to yourself. You know if you won’t work on your writing for a day, you’re going to see a big “O” for that day. And if you don’t make your word count, you won’t get to your goal for the month.
- It helps you stay motivated. It’s fun to see your progress each day toward your goals.
- And it might give you some ammunition some day if the IRS wants to know if you are a “real” writer. You can show them the spreadsheet so they can see you are taking this writing business seriously.
The Writing Tracker I Chose
Then I ran across Jamie Raintree’s website. She is the source of the writing progress spreadsheet I am using. I liked Jamie’s because it was easy, it gave me the flexibility to work on several projects at the same time, and I can see visually how my writing is progressing, both in the monthly calendar and the line graph. I can see the days I don’t work (note the “Out of Office” column, for a time when I was on a trip). I added the “notes “section at the bottom to remind myself what was going on. I don’t use it every day, just when I want to keep track of special projects.
The worksheet is set up for a year, with a tab for each month. This month, I worked for several days on an application for a writer’s workshop (Writers in Paradise, at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, FL, in January 2015).
If you are even mildly familiar with Excel, you can modify the tracker to fit your specific needs. If you aren’t Excel-worthy, you can just use the thing. It’s that easy. I added a writing goal for the month and used the running total so I could see how close I am to my goal for the month.
In case you are wondering, at this point I’m editing, not writing from scratch, so I use a rough estimate of word count, based on the time I’m working each day (an hour is roughly 1000 words).
If you want more information about Jamie’s writing progress spread, see this page from her website. She asks that you email her to request the file.
Which Writing Tracker Should I Use?
There are lots out there and most of them are free. Writers are great at sharing with one another. Find one that fits your needs and try it. If you don’t like it, try another one.
Here are some I found in a quick search:
- Tia Ross has a bunch of writing progress trackers
- iTunes has a WordTrack app you can download. This one tracks writing speed, which I’m not interested in.
- NaNoWriMo has some word tracking spreadsheets. These are specifically to help you write 50,000 over the 30 days of November.
- And, if you are using Scrivener, you can set daily writing goals, and track your overall progress toward your total writing goal for each project.