Sunday, July 28, 2013

Writer's Resource: How To Build Your Writing Odometer

A few months ago my friend gave me a Fitbit. For those of you not familiar, it's a small device that tracks footsteps, calories burned, and time spent sleeping.
I didn't think that tracking my steps would make much of a difference. I already walk a lot, so if anything I was afraid I might be less inclined to go to the gym if I knew how much I'd already walked in a given day.

Much to my surprise, tracking my steps has had the opposite effect. I'm more active than I've ever been. Every day I try to break my step record. Lazy days have become active days, because I can't stand to see a low daily step score. Tracking my activity is probably the best thing I've done for my health in a long time.

So I started wondering if the same thing could work for my writing, and decided to make a writing odometer to help me track my progress.  I'm calling it my WritBit. Catchy, eh?  The idea is the same as the idea behind my Fitbit - track my progress, set goals, and hold myself accountable.

Here's how you, too, can create your own personal writing odometer:

 There are three basic things that any WritBit needs:

1. Progress Tracker
2. Goals
3. Accountability

We always talk about word count when it comes to tracking progress, but that's not a fair assessment.  Yes, to write a book you need to put new words onto the page. But what about when you're editing? Revising? Researching? These are all critical pieces to developing a successful story, so it's important that your WritBit takes into account ALL of your progress.

For me, I have three progress measures:
1. Total words written per week - I use a weekly measure because I simply can't write every single day given my work schedule.
2. Total hours spent working on my book per week- this includes time writing, but also any time spent doing anything that will contribute to my story.
3. Weekly words per hour - this combines #1 & #2 so I can understand how efficient I've been with my time.

For goals, it's important to understand what is achievable based on how you write. There is nothing more demotivating than an unachievable goal.  Things like NaNo don't work for me because I edit while I write. So when I've set NaNo-like goals for myself I end up failing epically, which basically makes me feel like sh*t about myself. 

Don't pick goals based on what works for other people - pick goals based on what works for you.

My weekly word count goal = 4,000 words.

Not huge, but achievable in my world.

So here's what my WritBit looks like for this week:

Total weekly word count:  2,423 (meh)
Words per hour: 807.6 (Yay! This is actually v. good for me)
Total weekly time spent writing: 3 hours (I know, I know, but it's been a crazy work week...and there were some fun parties this weekend. And So You Think You Can Dance is back on. And I may or may not have gotten sucked into Big Brother....*hangs head in shame*)

And that leads to the accountability piece. This only works if I actually hold myself accountable to the goals I set, and also understand what good vs. bad looks like. To up the stakes, I plan to post updates with my blog posts so I know the world will be watching, and judging.

And there you have it - my writing odometer.

What about you? How do you track your progress? What do you consider a successful writing day or week?


  1. I like this WritBit idea. I am also working on making realistic goals, but the larger point is to make the goals. I am one that doesn't like to see an empty goal/wordcount etc.

  2. Interesting idea. Should be fun to see the updates. Question though - do you include your blog in your word count?

  3. @Steph - For me, I've found that I need to not only set goals, but have to have some form of accountability. So I'm hoping this idea helps me get better at hitting my targets b/c I'm sharing them with the world. Guess we'll see! :)

    @Karen - that's a great question. I've been going back and forth on including my blog as part of my writing, and I think I've decided to include it. After all, it's part of my writing process. Which means my total for the week actually goes up (yay!)

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