Writing is a lonely job. Everybody’s interested in what you’re doing, you may even have a great support system but, at the end of the day, writing is about sitting down (by yourself) and putting work in.
This obviously has it pros and cons (no waiting on lazy co-workers!) but one of the hardest parts of working alone is tracking your work and holding yourself accountable. We’ll have a piece about how to set, and achieve, reasonable goals as a writer later, but for now, we’re going to talk about the tracking.
Why Use a Word Count Tracker?
I’ve been using a writing tracker for years, but it wasn’t always that way. I used to wonder daily how much I had written. Did I hit my goals? Did I spend more time on Project A or Project B, and how close were they getting to being completed?
Eventually, once I got sick of feeling that way, I committed to trying to track my writing properly. I made a simple spreadsheet and started writing down time and words written. I promised myself I’d try it for a week and see what happens. That was four years ago and I haven’t missed many days since then.
But it took me awhile to get used to using it. I realised very quickly that there were some very good reasons to spend those few seconds starting my writing tracker every day.
It’s kind of annoying that I have to open up a spreadsheet and actually fill in what time it is before I start my writing session. I’m sitting there, bubbling with ideas and I want to get started now, so why waste time opening up a spreadsheet instead. Well…
“I can’t lie to myself anymore. I can’t pretend I had a productive day when I didn’t. It’s in my face, in black and white, how much I wrote.”
When I use a word tracker, I’m making a conscious commitment to writing. It’s time to close other tabs, put my phone on silent and just get typing. It helps give me focus and structure. I know I’m “on the clock”.
It also means I can’t lie to myself anymore. I can’t pretend I had a productive day when I didn’t. It’s in my face, in black and white, how much I wrote.
Let’s be clear, this isn’t about punishment (always remember to be kind to yourself!), this is about me achieving my goals, and that means being honest with myself.
Seeing how many words I’ve written that day or week is massively motivating to me. When my word count is low, I’m motivated to write more to catch up. When it’s high, I want to keep that streak running! I want to run up the “high score”! I’m winning? OK, let’s see how much I can win by!
Call me a nerd, but I LOVE seeing my word counts add up. I love seeing little graphs that show how much I’m writing and how much I’m publishing. When I’m tired of writing and just want to zone out, I’ll take my numbers and start playing with them. Which days do I write the most? Which stories am I writing the fastest? Why is that? Etc.
I legitimately have fun using a word count tracker.
Still not enough? Chris Fox’s 5000 Words per Hour book talks about the various techniques you can use to speed up your writing, but the first step, the thing you need to know before you can implement any of those things, is knowing how many words you’re writing per hour.
How to Use a Word Count Tracker?
This depends a lot on how you want to work and what word tracker you choose. Some people like “gamified” word trackers like 4thewords, while some people prefer raw numbers in a spreadsheet they keep by themselves. All of these have different ways to “use them”, so the thing to remember is, “What do you want from a word count tracker?”.
Personally, I need something that will do something with my word count data. Something to show me graphs, progress, charts, etc. Something that will me modify it as my writing goals (and knowledge) change. I need a word count tracker that’s easy to use, but very flexible. That’s why I created my own!
Where Can I Find a Word Count Tracker?
How convenient! We happen to have one right here! 😉
All joking aside. A word tracker like the bookspry.com Writing Diary and Daily Word Count Tracker, hits all my goals. I mean, it should, I built it. But not only does it let me see my totals, it also keeps track of the amount of time I’m actually spending writing, and maybe more importantly, it shows me daily, monthly and annual totals. Which is incredibly motivating.
Other than that, we will be coming out with a list of our favourite word counters soon. Stay tuned!