Sunday, December 2, 2012

Charting your December Writing Progress

November is over, and the writing goals we had for that month have either been achieved or.... not. We have won or lost NaNoWriMo, perhaps.

But this is a new month and time for a new writing challenge: writing steadily and daily at a more modest minimum pace of 1000 words per day, which works out to about 4 pages per day if you are comparing it to the writing paces announced by old-time writers like Lawrence Block, who claimed to average 5 words per day.

I like to chart my month's work on a nice clean document I created on my OpenOffice word processing software. Illustrated above is this month's version. (If you would like to use mine rather than make your own, you can download a PDF version.) I pin the current month's chart on the frame of my desk so it's to the left of my work area and at eye level. Other month's charts are stored--- well, pinned in a stack on a bulletin board--- to remind me of how I've worked when I'm being harsh with myself.

For each day you have a daily word count goal, and a running total, to enter. I compose my fiction using the free YWriter software, which at the bottom of the screen tells you not only the running word count of your project, but how many words you wrote that day. (The software also has you sorting out your work into chapters and scenes, and so if you get stuck you can skip ahead to some other scene you feel more ready to write.)

These days many authors consider keeping up with their author blog a part of their working day. I have put in a section called 'Blogging WC', to give myself credit for that. I write many of my blog posts offline in my YWriter software and so know the word count. You can write the number of blog posts instead.

There is also a section for notes. I'm not quite sure what I'm using mine for. Perhaps for check marks for the number of writing sessions in a day, since I'm trying to get in the habit of dipping-in to my novel more often during each day. I'm a morning writer, and when I get caught up in other activity in the morning, it usually means my writing session doesn't happen. That must change!

The important thing is to set goals for yourself that are a challenge, but ones you can meet. NaNoWriMo is a challenge that gives us a set word count of 1667 words per day (around 7 pages). If you don't normally produce that kind of output, it can be a good challenge.

But for a non-NaNo month, you are free to set yourself an easier goal. I chose 4 pages a day because I often don't have it all that easy getting to 1000 words, but it's not as difficult as 1667. I may choose slower paces yet in a future month, as well as having more challenging months.

For me, this year's NaNo was a struggle. I started a novel, got some better ideas, and deleted the few thousand words I had to start again. The second version only got to about 5000 pages--- and it needed to be scrapped and begun a third time. I still hope to get to it. Just not this month. I want to give it some time to percolate in my head for a while.

Starting fresh this month feels right. As you can see from the worksheet which presumes starting with a new novel in the running total WC goal column. (If you are creating a worksheet for a month of continuing an already-begun novel, just add your already existing word count in for the total WC goal column.)

I've been making up these charts for a while now. I think I make more progress by setting a goal each month and making a chart reflecting that. It helps keep me on-task, and the thrill of putting in my WC each day is a tiny reward.

Have you set your December writing goals yet? What in particular are you planning to work on? Do you have a good method to record your daily progress?

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