In today’s Journal
* Quote of the Day
* The Power of Word Count Goals (and Tracking Them)
* Bradbury Challenge Writers Reporting
* Of Interest
* The Numbers
Quote of the Day
“My perfect day is sitting in a room with some blank paper. That’s heaven. That’s gold and anything else is just a waste of time.” Cormac McCarthy
The Power of Word Count Goals (and Tracking Them)
I’m a fiction writer. I’ve been actively writing fiction since about 2008 and self-publishing my work since 2016—yes, it took me a long time to get up the nerve to publish my writing, but that’s a topic for another time. I’ve always Written Into The Dark, long before I had heard that name for it, but that’s another topic also.
The topic I want to talk to you about today is word count goals—and keeping track of them. I learned about word count goals from Harvey Stanbrough and am now an absolute proponent of them.
I strongly encourage you to set word count goals for your writing and, as important as the goals themselves, to keep track of your progress toward them. Here’s why.
For me, the word count goals are to encourage me to write and to hold myself accountable for doing it. Like any tool, they only work if you use them. I’ve been hit or miss with that but now am fanatic about keeping track whenever I write fiction.
My word count goals do help encourage me to write, especially the longer I’ve tracked my fiction word counts. I don’t cheat on the numbers so they also hold me accountable. How much I’ve written—or not written—is right there in my spreadsheet.
I first got a word count spreadsheet template from Harvey. It worked beautifully, except that I’m very visual and when I looked at the spreadsheet, it just looked like a lot of numbers to me. So I finally developed one of my own.
Now, I’m not an Excel power user by any means, so my spreadsheet isn’t nearly as elegant or self-calculating as Harvey’s but I can see progress and trends at a glance, and this for me has been key.
Mine is set up weekly, Monday through Sunday, with the goal for each day (1000 Mon-Fri and 500 Sat-Sun), along with actual words written each day and tallied for the week. Below is a copy of two weeks of my spreadsheet for this year. GTG is shorthand for my current novel.
As you can see, each week stands out on its own with Date, Goal for that day, and the Actual column derives from the Ending column. I record the ending word count for my work in progress, and the calculation for Actual subtracts the Ending for the day before.
Every week is an individual snapshot that shows all my daily goals and progress toward the weekly goal. Having each week as a discreet package makes it easier for me to understand at a glance.
I wrote no fiction this year until Jan 23 so I had to bring the ending total forward from the end of 2022 to start this year. That’s the 77391 you see in the top line.
I’ve been using this format for a couple of years. But then I wanted to also see how I was doing each month and how the weekly and monthly goals translated into an annual goal. So I added some more.
I now have monthly goals which translate into quarterly goals which translate into an annual goal, all of which are at the bottom of the spreadsheet. And I can always see where I am in relation to each goal: daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annual. That visual has really pushed me to write more.
Because of being able to see all those goals and actuals, I’ve set myself additional challenges, like how many words/day do I need to write by the end of this month to beat my best month? I got a new best month that way.
But wait, there’s more. I’m not smashing my goals. I don’t make all my daily or weekly goals. I’ve never (since I’ve been tracking) met a monthly goal, or an annual one for that matter.
I hear you thinking, Isn’t that depressing? But think about this:
- Even though I haven’t met one single monthly goal in 2023, I’ve already written 104,154 words of publishable fiction this year.
- In May I beat my previous best month by over 2000 words.
- In June I missed beating May by less than 2000 words.
- And I’m 66.7% of where I needed to be by end of June to be on track for my annual goal—and catching up!
This is a long race, not a sprint. My word count spreadsheet is helping keep me in it for the long haul. A lot of Kentucky Derby winners have come from last place. Maybe word count goals and a spreadsheet to track them would help keep you in it for the long haul too. It’s pretty thrilling to see those numbers add up.
A couple of notes from Harvey
- You can find K.C.’s novels and short stories at Amazon and at all the stores served by Draft2Digital’s distribution platform (Apple, Kobo, B&N, et al. Look for K.C. Riggs.
- Um, I can’t vouch for my spreadsheet being “elegant,” but I’d be happy to share it as well. Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bradbury Challenge Writers Reporting
You can still join in the challenge at any time. There’s no cost and it’s a great way to have some fun, increase your inventory, and jumpstart your writing. It’s also a great way to get more practice pushing down the critical voice.
During the past week, in addition to whatever other fiction they’re writing, the following writers reported their progress:
- Erin Donoho “The Dancer and Her Partner” 4000 words YA contemporary
- Balázs Jámbor “Jennifer” 2600 words General fiction
- George Kordonis “Shadow” 1561 words Horror
- Alexander Nakul “Trap near the Rookery of Raging Lynx ” 2290 words Erotic Fantasy
- Chynna Pace “The Dinner Club Witches” 2586 words Cozy Fantasy
- Chynna Pace “Cue the Murderer” 1433 words, Thriller
- Christopher Ridge “The Kill Room” 2800 words Horror
- K.C. Riggs “El Dia de San Juan” 2606 words General Fiction
Good going, everyone! Keep having fun!
Talk with you later.
See “Why Can’t a Novelist Write Like a Screenwriter?” at https://www.thepassivevoice.com/why-cant-a-novelist-write-like-a-screenwriter/. Maybe a gem or two.
The Journal…………………………………… 1090
Writing of “A Midnight Sketch”
Day 1…… 1341 words. Total words to date…… 1341
Writing of Rose Padilla (WCG10SF5)
Day 1…… 4283 words. Total words to date…… 4283
Day 2…… 3963 words. Total words to date…… 8246
Day 3…… 1463 words. Total words to date…… 9709
Day 4…… 2445 words. Total words to date……12154
Total fiction words for July……… 1341
Total fiction words for 2023………… 111363
Total nonfiction words for July… 260
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 134150
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 245513
Calendar Year 2023 Novels to Date…………………… 2
Calendar Year 2023 Novellas to Date……………… 0
Calendar Year 2023 Short Stories to Date………… 4
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 73
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 9
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)……………………… 221
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31
Disclaimer: I am a prolific professional fiction writer. On this blog I teach Writing Into the Dark, adherence to Heinlein’s Rules, and that following the myths of fiction writing will slow your progress as a writer or stop you cold. I will never teach the myths on this blog.