Back in January, I started a Word Count spreadsheet. I wanted to see how long it took me to accomplish certain phases of my writing, and I wanted to have some accountability for how I spent my writing time. I am also a person who is motivated by stats and goals, so I thought it would be a good way to spur myself onward.
I broke my process into 3 categories: Drafting (1st and 2nd draft writing), Rewriting/Revising (3rd to 5th draft writing), Copyediting/Proofreading (anything past 5th draft). I wanted to really get a handle on how long each phase took me, because at some point I would like to be able to say, “Writing a novel from start to finish takes me approximately X hours (or weeks or months).”
The data is coming in very handy. The good news is that I can correlate my low productivity periods with things going on in my life, such as working at my daughter’s Book Fair, or having a plethora of errands and appointments to keep. The bad news is that when I hit the troughs in my productivity, I still feel the panic of “I’m not getting anything done!” And sometimes, my productivity falls and I can’t figure out why—I’m simply not in a creative mindset and I get very little writing done.
My Word Count spreadsheet shows that I can revise/rewrite/edit about one chapter in 2 hours. My chapters tend to be around 1,000 words. So I can get about a chapter rewritten a day. I am in this phase with my YA sci-fi novel, and I am just about halfway through that major revision at this point. Another 50 workdays where I can get 2 hours free and I should be at the end of this round of editing.
Another WIP, my middle grade historical adventure, is in the final proofreading stage. Days when I do this, my productivity goes through the roof. Because I don’t have to spend time rewriting and putting a lot of thought into the revision, I can churn through the words. So my word count for this phase is very high. I have had multiple days over 10,000 words.
My Drafting word count is the lowest number. Not surprising, since writing from scratch is the most demanding part of the process, often requiring deep thinking and re-thinking. I suppose if you write from a detailed outline, this part would go faster, but my outlines are pretty loose. Of course, if I did outline, the word count for my outline as I sorted that out would be considered Drafting for word count, and would be just as low.
The thing I need to remember with tracking word count is that productivity is rarely a steady state. So many outside factors can impact your productivity either by eating into your time or by sapping your energy. I also need to remember that what phase of writing I am working on will severely impact my word count stats. If you look at my monthly chart, you’ll see that March has a dismal number.
But if I break it down, the huge drop is because I had almost no Copyediting/Proofreading on my MG WIP that month—my co-author had it. So my numbers came from the more time-intensive Drafting and Rewriting/Revising categories.
Tracking your productivity is a great idea—you find out when your most productive times of day are, what phases of the writing process take the most time, and what outside factors most influence your productivity and creativity. But beware of letting the constant ups and downs of your word count numbers cause panic. Productivity is not linear—it comes in bursts and droughts. As long as your productivity looks sort of even keel when you look at the larger picture, you’re doing okay. Keep calm and write on.
Do you track word count or productivity? How do you track it? Or does the whole idea of tracking productivity give you a panic attack?