Thursday, September 26, 2013

SYTYCW 2013, Realistic Daily Word Counts and Tracking Your Writing Progress

Original image found here. The caption's all me.
So have you ever been super busy and then, on a whim, added something huge and wicked crazy to your schedule, just because it seemed like a great idea at the time?

I've been up to my eyeballs working on edits for a critique buddy, plus a promised read of a ms, my first book review for this site (it's a good one), and my next book, Small Town Love, but when I realized on Tuesday that Harlequin's So You Think You Can Write 2013 contest had just opened, I jumped on it. Never mind that I now have a really short deadline on my book: my plan was to pitch to Harlequin with it anyway when it was finished.

I just upped the timeline. Drastically.

I think it's worth the opportunity. Two other gals from the MMRWA group I belong to have also entered first chapters (best of luck to all of us!) and another member got her first publishing contract participating with SYTYCW. (Feel free to check out the first chapter I submitted, here!)

Word Counts. Duh duh duuuuuuh...
So, I crunched some numbers to figure out how many words I'd have to write to have it done in time. And then I felt a little dizzy. 3,600 words per day. I write each night from 8:30 until 10:00 PM in the camper on weeknights, spending 15 minutes of that on edits to my progress from the day before, and I can squeeze out an extra few hours of camper/writing time on the weekends when the family's not looking. My workload at my day job is also very light right now, and while it's a little easy to get distracted with the occasional front desk chaos, I can also take advantage of lunch hours.

But all that calculating and time crunching got me thinking. Whats a normal word count per day for other writers? I've never asked anyone, so I don't have any basis for comparison. Am I way crazy for even trying this? Thousands of NANOWRIMO folks seem to do it every November without any problems.

I asked Google about it and came up with this article that explained how author Rachel Aaron managed to get to the point where she could crank out 10K words per day. I thought it would be like a link to one of those "get rich quick" ebooks (I mean seriously? 10K a day?) but surprisingly, she had a very simple method and she shared it freely (though she has an e-book, too, the smart girl).

Spend five minutes outlining--sometimes even just a paragraph of truncated shorthand--before writing. That trick alone doubled her daily output. I'll let you read the other two methods in the actual article, but they're simple, and great advice.

Where am I?
After just a couple days on my accelerated (like, seriously accelerated) schedule, I'm doing well. I'm actually a little ahead of my goal, the story is running along like melted butter (I hope I didn't just jinx myself...), and I'm on track to be done just in case I go on to the next round of the contest.

But, for that, I need to stay on course. So, the other tool I'm using is one I've used often in the past: WriteTrack.

WriteTrack Screenshot

It's a super simple tracking system that lets you set goals and then enter your progress daily. There's an easy bar graph at the top of the screen so you can see if you're on target, and how far you have left to go. That's it. But I'm a visual person and seeing a number on a calculator versus laid out in calendar and bar graph form--it's just much easier to tell where I'm at. And it's free, though I will be making a donation someday if I can afford it. The creator deserves to be rewarded for this simple piece of brilliance!

So, are you entering SYTYCW? Have done it in the past? Do you have any tips or tricks to share on upping word counts and making writing goals? Feel free to share in the comments!


  1. I haven't entered the contest before but I've used Write Track. It's nice to see when you reach that goal but my problem is that my job gets in the way. I've got to find a way around that! Best of luck!

    1. Melissa - I have the same job problem! Except mine's the night job when I get home from work and have to cook and clean and, you know, MOTHER. The whole thing's a tightrope act, isn't it!? Thanks for commenting. :)

  2. Kristen, great post. I don't know what average word count is. I think it depends on the writer and the story. I tried tracking my word count, but then I'd forget and didn't back to it. I will check out Write Track. Thanks for mentioning it. Wishing you the best with your book.

    1. Thanks, Diane! I tend to wander away from WriteTrack when I get distracted and totally lose track of my word counts, too. I always come back, though. :) Thanks for the well-wishes and for taking the time to comment!

  3. Hi Kristen, I too have the 'work' problem. I work Monday to Thursday 7:30 to 6:00, so writing at night is not possible, I mean, really, I got to eat, and watch SOME television. LOL. So all my writing takes place from Friday to Sunday. Great post!


    1. It's hard, isn't it, Connie? But we do it because we love it. Thanks for commenting! :)

  4. Hi Kristen,

    Thanks for digging out and sharing that post from Rachel Aaron - interesting and useful stuff.

    It was my first visit to your page (via a comment you made on K Lamb's). Your blog has a lovely upbeat tone.

    All the best with SYTYCW comp. and increasing your wordcount.

    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to visit and comment, and for saying all those nice things! I'm so glad you found your way here. :)