Thursday, January 30, 2014

Keeping Track of Your Word Count: Does It Work?

Last year, I did a lot of rewriting, but not so much new writing. So one of my goals this year is to keep the new writing flowing. It doesn't matter if I only work on something for ten minutes a day. My reasoning: even ten or twenty words is better than zero words. 

At the beginning of January, I started something I heard about on The Creative Penn podcast (Are You Meeting Your Writing Goals? Try These Productivity Tips for Writers). I stuck a tiny January calendar in my writing book and began keeping track of how many words I wrote each day. I didn't know if it would really help to keep me writing, but I'm happy to report that it has. Some of the benefits: 

1) Keeping the flow going. Maybe it's just the story I'm working on, but I do find it's easier to get back into the story for each writing session.

2) More pencil on paper writing. Sometimes when I'm tired at the end of the day, I'll realize I haven't worked on my story. And I feel a twinge of guilt because I haven't filled in anything on my chart. So I get out my writing notebook (going to the computer is too much trouble because at this point I'm probably lying in bed). Since I don't have a backspace key, I just write freely about something I think might happen in the story. I know I can always fix it up later when I type it in. 

3) Experimenting with the writing process. With my previous novels, I wrote all the scenes in order. But now I have this chart. I don't want to be stuck. I want to get something done so I record it, so I just work on whatever scene catches my interest. If I don't know what comes next, I skip to the next thing that I know is going to happen. I'm not sure what this will do to the end product but I'm finding that the process is more fun. I spend less time thinking about what I'm going to write each day. (It also helps that I have a plan with some major scenes and an ending so I know where I'm going.)

Would I recommend keeping track of your word count?

I'm not sure it would work if I started obsessing about the exact number of words I wrote each day. That'd be too much pressure. But it is motivating to write something on that calendar every day. It's okay with me if it's just a paragraph or even a sentence. Of course, once I get thinking about my story, it usually turns into more.

7 comments:

  1. I think it both does and doesn't work. Producing words keeps you in a flow, and that's important. But there's other work to writing: research, planning, getting to know characters, and so forth that may not translate well to actual book-words on the page. Low word count for a day or even a week or two doesn't mean no progress.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So true! But for me, sometimes "planning" and "research" can be an excuse or a distraction, especially when I'm working on a first draft.

      Delete
  2. I love your idea about writing in a notebook when you're too tired to go to the computer. I've found that keeping track of word counts is only really helpful when I'm writing the first draft. I use ywriter, and I love how it keeps track of my goals for me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I used to write in my notebook all the time, when I was taking my kids to lessons, but I got out of the habit (they are teens now and I don't wait with them). I'd been using it for collecting ideas, tips, quotes, and journaling. But I'm so glad I "rediscovered" it as a place to actually write!

      Delete
  3. I might just have to give this a try! Keeping myself accountable is a challenge. Thanks for the idea.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Car, there are only 5 days when I didn't write something this month. A few other days have really low word counts, but I've written about half a novel. Of course, it might be a really bad novel...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I doubt seriously it's a really bad novel. :-)

      Delete

I love to hear your responses and thoughts! Your comments will appear after moderation (I've decided to enable moderation due to excessive spam).