Skip to content

NaNo Prep: Setting Daily Word-Count Goals and Tracking Your Progress

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Two main things that can really help motivate you (or discourage you) when you’re participating in a marathon writing challenge are setting daily word-count goals and then tracking your progress.

Setting Daily Word-Count Goals

When you know you have a certain total word-count you want to reach by a certain date, you need to break it down into smaller, more easily achievable goals.

But before you even start looking at numbers, you need to look at your calendar.

November is always a busy month!

November is always a busy month!

If you are serious about writing 50,000 words in the month of November, you’ll have to look at the events you already have on your calendar and make decisions on what’s going to take priority. For me, because I’m not on an other-than-self-imposed deadline for the first time in nine years (between grad school and publishing), things that I want to do that aren’t writing-related are allowed to take priority—things like movies I really want to see (Thor and Catching Fire) and TV show premieres I’ve been waiting a VERY long time to see (Almost Human starring one of my two main men, Karl Urban). Then there are three very important LSU football games (though I’ll give up the Alabama game in favor of seeing Thor depending on what time my BFFs want to go). I’ve also got a writing group meeting not only to attend but for which I will prepare and present a two-hour workshop, so I need to allow time for that.

And, of course, don’t forget about Thanksgiving, Americans. Even if you aren’t hosting/preparing the meal, you still need to account for traveling (whether within your city or to family elsewhere) and time to spend with friends and family throughout that weekend. I will probably not do much, if any, writing during the four days blocked off at the end of the month (or the Sunday following) from wanting to spend time with my family those days.

Once you know on what days you won’t be able to write (for me, I’m going to say it’ll be 10 days out of 30), then you will be able to better calculate a word-count goal for each of the remaining days of the month.

So if I decide to try to participate in NaNo and get 50k words written (which would be the entire manuscript of the story I’m currently working on, which would make it the shortest complete manuscript I’ve ever written), I am going to have to set a daily word-count goal of 2,500 words—or at least one chapter a day—for each of the 20 days on which I think I’ll be able to write.

Tracking Your Progress

NaNo Tracking

NaNo Tracking

If you are participating in NaNoWriMo, their website has built in tools for tracking your writing and determining your progress. I’ve never participated officially, so I don’t know how well this works or what the interface looks like beyond the above pictured screen.

StoryToolz2If you want to track your progress during November but then also continue tracking it beyond NaNo, I highly recommend (You can click on the image on the left to see screen captures of just a few of the available features. You can also see my StoryToolz tracker for my story-in-progress in the right-hand sidebar.)

In addition to graphing your progress, StoryToolz will show you a spreadsheet of your progress (click History) and a summary of your project and progress (click About).

And, as you can see in both the cropped image on this page and in the larger, extended edition when you click through to the full image, you can have more than one progress meter going at a time. It’s very easy to pull the HTML code and add it to your website (as I’ve done). I believe there are also other options for how you can share your progress meters through other social media sites.

Of course, if NaNo and StoryToolz aren’t for you, you can always go “old skool” and track it privately in a spreadsheet on your computer.

Old Skool

If you don’t know how to set up the formulas, just ask. I’ve been doing spreadsheet formulas for over twenty years now.


How many days in November will you really be able to write?

What does that mean your daily word-count goal for the designated “writing days” will be?

How will you track your progress?

  1. Carol Moncado permalink
    Thursday, October 24, 2013 9:12 pm

    I haven’t looked at my November yet. I’ll probably shoot for a 70-75K rough draft [which I know is extra ;)].

    You can see my NaNo from last year here.

    I also do a couple on my blog. A simple line that fills up, but then there’s the FUN ones I put here. The couch potato looks different based on how you tweak the code. It’s super simple and I’m happy to share if anyone’s interested.

    7 days, 2 hours, 48 minutes [central]

    Not that I’m counting.


  2. Carol permalink
    Friday, October 25, 2013 10:21 am

    yeah, I need to get my calendar out and make a real plan and not count on the fuzzy one in my head…


Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: