For some time I only measured my word count when writing a piece of a specific length, or taking part in a challenge such as National Novel Writing Month or Book-in-a-Week. Recently I have begun to explore how measuring word count on a day-to-day basis encourages me to write more and better.
There are many benefits to being able to track what you are writing and when, but here are the three which have proved most significant to me.
I am not always a very visual person but when taking part in National Novel Writing Month I fell in love with the “progress bar”, a clever widget which shows your completed word count as a proportion of your target. Since then I have discovered an Android app called Writeometer which provides a similar function for the other eleven months of the year. The fun of watching the bar gradually approach the target encourages me to sit down and add a few more words on days when I might otherwise have set my writing aside altogether.
Setting targets and breaking them down into a daily word count goal makes it much easier to know early on when you need to adjust your targets, or your strategies for meeting them. Again, I have found Writeometer very helpful for managing complete projects in this way, but I also use the excellent Write or Die desktop edition to track my word count across several writing sessions within a day. Using both together recently helped me complete a novella in just under two weeks, which was a record for me.
Knowing What Works
Time management is not always just about fitting everything in. If you record not only your writing goals and completed word count, but also some details of your writing sessions, such as where you worked and how long you wrote for at a stretch, it becomes easier to see what habits are contributing to your successes, and which are keeping you from peak performance.
Rachel Aarons has an excellent post about how she increased her word count from 2,000 to up to 10,000 a day using simple techniques which included monitoring word count. Her results, and mine, certainly suggest that measuring your output is an important part of writing more and better.