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#FirstDraft60 Day 16 — Setting Goals and Tracking More than Just Word-Count

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

#FirstDraft60 | KayeDacus.comThere’s not much that can be said about setting writing goals that hasn’t already been said. In fact, I did a series on it, which you can read/re-read here.

Part 1: Setting Word-Count Goals
In order to figure out how long your manuscript needs to be, you need to know what type of manuscript you’re writing:

Novella: 20,000 to 25,000 words

Novelette/Category Romance: 40,000 to 65,000 words

Single Title/Mass Market/Trade Fiction: 75,000–120,000 words

Epic: 125,000+ words

My published novels fall between approximately 82,000 (An Honest Heart) to 109,000 (The Art of Romance) words—and a total published word count of 1,076,443 words! But a first draft isn’t a final draft, and if I stay true to the Draft Writing method, there will be lots of details missing and scenes that need to be fleshed out if not added in the revision process.

So my goal is to write a 75,000-word first draft (if I end up with enough story for a full Trade Fiction novel and not a novelette—so far, all of my story ideas have fallen squarely in the Trade Fiction category, because that’s how I’m accustomed to structuring a story—and because I signed contracts to write books that long).

To write 75k in 30 days, I’ll need to average 2,500 words per day. Which sounds like a whole lot . . . unless you look at it more like getting in a full day’s worth of calories. In addition to breaking down your full word-count to a daily average, you can break down the words needed per day into smaller chunks to be done at designated times per day. For example, waking up a little early to write 500 words before the day starts. Trying to get in 800 to 1,000 words at lunch, and then finishing up the rest of it in an hour or so in the evening.

Assignment 1: Determine what you want your final word count to be for your completed first draft—or at least the word-count you’d like to reach at the end of this challenge—and post it in the comments section along with your calculation of what you’ll need to average daily to reach it and how you intend on scheduling your time to reach the daily goals.

Part 2: Tracking Your Word Count
StoryToolz2Being a visual person, I highly recommend for word-count tracking. (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.

StoryToolz isn’t the only online tracker—they’re easy enough to find with a basic Internet search. Of course, if something like StoryToolz isn’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.

Assignment 2: Determine how you will track your word-count progress and share your plan in the comments.

Part 3: Tracking Writing and Writing-Related Activities Time
Tracking your progress isn’t just about word-count. Sometimes, you may have what feels like an amazingly productive “writing day,” yet end up with very little word count to show for it. That’s where tracking the time you spend both writing and working on writing-related activities comes in.

We typically schedule our “writing time” as the time in which we plan to be actually writing. But what about all the other time that goes into creating a manuscript? The planning (what we’ve been doing all along), the study of craft, the naming/casting of characters, the research, the plotting, the brainstorming (both along or with trusted writing friends). All of that is important Writing-related activity. And when you’re first getting started writing, it’s just as important to keep track of all of the time you spend working on developing your story as you do actually writing it.

For me, when I feel like I need to track time in order to prove to myself that I am being productive (or to see where I’m spending too much time/wasting time), I use an old-fashioned week-at-a-glance desk calendar. This can also be done in a Google or Outlook calendar on the computer or a calendar app on your phone.

But if you want to get even more technologically savvy, here’s a list of time/project-tracking apps.

Assignment 3: Decide if you want to track your writing-related time/projects and, if so, share how you intend to do so in the comments.

  1. Wednesday, September 16, 2015 9:46 am

    I have the same count goal, 75k or 2,500/day but I will be happy as long as I get a first draft complete regardless of the count. I’m writing a YA book that tends to be shorter BUT it is fantasy which tends to be longer. That should balance out around 75k, right? Who knows? I also think that revisions will have me cutting more than adding. Although I’ll add descriptions, I find that once I find the “right word” and best way to phrase the sentences my writing is much tighter and the word count drops.

    Having a finance background, I already have an excel spreadsheet that feeds into my pie charts so I can visually track my progress – I’m such a nerd.

    I also have columns in the spreadsheet for time spent and notes for the quality of the time spent. If I’m happy that I worked through a tough conflict area or other issue I want to note it whether or not I make my word counts.


    • Wednesday, September 16, 2015 9:54 am

      Oops – This is Lisa Jarvis. I posted with other account.


  2. Wednesday, September 16, 2015 10:05 am

    Great blog post, as always! It seems I’m not the only one who as word count goals and tracking writing progress on her mind.

    For anyone who would like to use a spreadsheet but doesn’t want to set one up, feel free to download my free template. It’s easy to use. Take a look at my blog post about tracking word count progress:

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Carol permalink
    Saturday, September 19, 2015 5:38 pm

    I just added a StoryToolz word count widget to my blog sidebar. Not sure how it will work since I’m actually rewriting. But I think it’s going to be a total rewrite so I’ll likely just start over on word count. I’m not sure about tracking writing related stuff. I don’t want to get so caught up in tracking that I stop working. And I could easily do that.



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