Sandra Gerth - author of the Writers' Guide Series

How to keep track of your writing progress and why you should

Most authors I know keep track of their word count in some way. If you don’t already, here are some reasons why you might want to start.

  • writing progressSeeing your word count grow is a wonderful motivator that will keep you going. Often, you don’t realize how far you have already come while you’re in the middle of the process, so you need to look back every once in a while and see how much you have accomplished.
  • Keeping score makes you more competitive—not just in sports, but when it comes to writing too.
  • Tracking your progress provides you with knowledge about how long it takes you to plan, write, and revise a book. That’s important if your publisher, your editor, or your fans want to know how long it’ll take you to write the next book. Based on how long the last few books took you, you can give a realistic estimation.
  • Regularly checking your progress shows you whether you are on track for achieving your writing goals or whether you need to make adjustments. Maybe you underestimated how long it takes you to write a book and need to push back the deadline you set for finishing your first draft.

If you decide to keep track of your writing progress, there are several ways to do that.

  • Many writers have a spreadsheet in which they enter their daily word count and the time they spend writing each day. You can either create your own spreadsheet or download one online, for example the one that Jamie Raintree offers on her website.
  • A more visual option is signing up for a free account at Writer’s Database or StoryToolz. Both sites allow you to create a variety of graphs that show your progress.
  • You could also display a progress bar on your blog, your website, or your social media platforms. There are several free progress bars that you could use. The writing bean from the Writertopia progress meter is fun.
  • If spreadsheets and progress bars are too geeky for you, you could keep a goal journal in which you document your daily word count, your successes, and your challenges.
  • Put your daily word count into your calendar or daily planner. Mark in your calendar when you accomplished each important milestone, e.g., outlining your book, writing the first draft, or revising. That way, you can later see how long each step takes you.
  • If you are trying to write every day, put a sticker on a monthly wall calendar or get a glass jar and drop in a marble for every day you wrote.

For more information on how to track your progress and achieve your writing goals, check out Goal Setting for Writers: How to set and achieve your writing goals, finally write a book, and become a successful author.

So, fellow writers, do you keep track of your writing progress? If yes, how do you do it? Let us know in the comments.

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6 thoughts on “How to keep track of your writing progress and why you should”

  1. First of all I want to say awesome blog!
    I had a quick question which I’d like to ask if you don’t
    mind. I was curious to find out how you center yourself and
    clear your head prior to writing. I have had a tough time
    clearing my mind in getting my thoughts out there. I truly do take
    pleasure in writing however it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are usually
    lost simply just trying to figure out how to
    begin. Any recommendations or hints? Thank you!

    • I try to start writing at about the same time every day and surround it with little cues and habits, e.g., I make myself a mug of coffee, put on my headphones, turn off the Internet, re-read what I wrote the day before, and then start writing.

      Another trick is to always leave yourself a note for the next day and write a sentence or two about how to continue.

      Hope that helps!

  2. Nice article!
    Quick question, do you reread your work from the first page of the first chapter before you start writing where you left off? What about if you are already half way done, that is a whole lot of reading.

    • Gosh, no! If I did that every day, I wouldn’t get any writing done. Most of the time, I start my writing day by re-reading what I have written the day before. I make little tweaks, then move on. I only re-read the entire book once I’m done with the first draft.

  3. I have found tracking word count very satisfying, but right now I am doing a lot of prewriting work to develop my characters for a stab at a first novel and it doesn’t really count. Do I track time on task or words written in pursuit of character development? Is there another create way to track this kind of progress?

    • Personally, I track time on all the prep that I do before the actual writing. Words doesn’t make sense to me because there’s no word count goal for the character profiles. But you could do it any way that works for you.


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