When we’re working on a longer project, like a novel or memoir, it can be easy to lose sight of how much work we’re actually doing. I see this happen in two ways.
- The first group of people *think* they’re writing, but really all they do is think about writing. Very few words make it on the page.
- The second group of people actually do write consistently, but as the months and years go by they *feel* like they haven’t done enough work.
For both groups of people (or if you’re not sure which category you fall into) I highly recommend tracking your writing. So let’s talk about how to do that. I categorize my methods under low tech (pen and paper) and high tech (Scrivener).
Good old pen and paper.
You can easily track your writing by physically noting how much you write each day (word count or time). Maybe devote a page in your journal to this running list, or maybe it’s just a sheet of paper you keep on your desk.
A while back, when I was pushing to finish a draft of my second book, I set a goal for roughly how many words I wanted in each chapter and colored in a square on a piece of graph paper for each 100 words. (read that blog post here) I used a different color for each day so I could see at a glance how much I was writing. Here’s what it looked like:
There was something so satisfying about coloring in those little squares.
Use Scrivener to Track Your Writing
For the more tech savvy, you can track your writing in Scrivener. The software has two ways to keep yourself honest.
The first is the daily word count function. You enter your desired word count and your target date and the software tells you how many words you have to write each day (it even adjusts if you miss a day). You can read my full how-to for the Scrivener Project Targets here. This is great if you’re focused on word count. Here’s what it looks like:
If you’re more focused on BIC time (butt in chair), I suggest using Scrivener’s Project History function. In a glance it shows you how much you’ve written daily. I looks like this:
And no, I didn’t write 14,156 words in one day. I copied and pasted a chapter from another project. I don’t use this chart to assess word count, but it’s great for showing me which days I actually opened my project and worked on it. Even if the word count is negative, which sometimes it should be when I’m editing, I know I got some good BIC time (or not – you’ll notice I didn’t open the project for five whole days, Aug 24-28).
Keeping Yourself Honest
The whole point with these types of tracking systems is to be honest with ourselves about whether we’re actually doing the thing we say we want to do.
The only thing you have to do before claiming the title of “writer” is to actually write. If your project takes years, it takes years. Just keep writing. And if you realize that (as much as you want to be a writer) you’re not actually writing, then it’s time to take a look at why. Maybe check out my Sit Write Here writing coaching program and book a time to chat with me about how I can help. (I love helping.)
Happy writing, my friends.