Tracking Your Writing Progress

While you wouldn’t normally associate the art-driven author with something numbers-driven like a spreadsheet, the two actually go very well, together. Many authors use Excel and Google Sheets to track their word counts in an effort to improve their performance and to stimulate their productivity.

It’s a kind of psychological hack to be able to see your word counts rise each day and feel accomplished and knowing that you’re making actual progress. So recently, I decided to start tracking my own word output in an experiment to see how it would improve my daily writing (or not). As a result, I went through quite a few spreadsheets to find one that would work for me, and I thought I’d share some of the better finds.

When you start hunting for writer’s word-count spreadsheets, one of the first names that will start popping up is Svenja Liv, and rightly so, as she makes word tracking spreadsheets that are literally works of art. She also makes ones specifically for Nanowrimo, so whether you want yearly or just Nano stats, this page is it!



Some people have even turned the daily word count thing into a game called The Magic Spreadsheet, and formed a whole writer’s community around it. If you think a little gamification would improve your writing, maybe that’s the way to go for you.

If you want something more weekly and specific, then you might like Jenny Trout’s Big Damn Writing Tracker spreadsheet. It even has quotes in it to keep you motivated to write as you’re recording the wordcount from your latest round of binge writing. It’s also nice because it has spots so you can note what project you were working on to produce which words.

However, my personal favourite is Keith Dumble’s Amazing Mechanical Wordcount Tracker which I copied into my Google Drive so that I can update my word count on my phone or wherever I might be writing.

In fact, I should point out that Google Drive/Sheets will import Excel files, so that if you find a spreadsheet you adore and don’t have Excel on your computer, you can always just upload it to Google Drive to use it.

They key point is, try tracking your wordcount- you might just find it really works for you!


I signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo

Well, it looks like my July is going to look a whole lot like this…


Registration for Camp NaNoWriMo‘s July session opened yesterday, and being the fool I am I decided to sign up. I’m always looking for ways to improve my writing and do more of it, and I figure this will make sure I get at least 50,000 words done on a book this Summer. I will be publishing my second Novel- Little Gou and the Crocodile Princess in the coming months, and it’s time to get another book ready for editing. Of course, I have to finish writing it first!

So, my plan is to spend June writing/finishing short works and editing Crocodile Princess and preparing for Camp NaNoWriMo, and then dedicating myself 100% to writing something longer in July. As I’ve never even done regular NaNoWriMo before, it will be interesting to try.Β When it starts, I’ll try to update my blog on how I’m doing, maybe turn it into a bit of a journal of my experiences. We’ll see!



Productivity Hunt- Google Drive

Taking a little tip from Terry Mixon of the Dead Robots’ Society podcast with my newest writing project, I’m going to use Google Drive (aka Google Docs) for my writing this time. With it, I can write on my desktop, laptop, iPhone, or whatever computer I happen to be sitting at that can access the net and it’s all synced constantly into one document. The idea will be to harness all those downtime moments like lunch hours, killing time between classes and waiting in the doctor’s office and use them for writing time. I’ll report back on how it goes!


My Second Novel- Little Gou and the Crocodile Princess, is done!

In Summer, 2008 I started what was to be my first novel- Little Gou and the Crocodile Princess. A thrilling WuXia adventure story centered around everyone’s favorite gambler in his first long-form adventure. I wrote the first 40,000 words of the story at a rapid pace, with everything coming together like a finely crafted puzzle. It was great, it was fun, it was going to rock!

Then I hit writer’s block with the story so hard that I think it gave my grandchildren a bloody nose.

Try as I might, I couldn’t get the story moving again. All my attempts failed, and the tricks I used to plot it out produced nothing but boring crap.

So, I set it aside and moved on to other projects. I was in full audio-drama production mode, so it wasn’t hard to just let that fill my creative needs and figure that I’d return to Crocodile Princess when the time was right.

Well, after 4 years of aborted attempts, and one novel (Twin Stars, Book One) completed, I sat down at the end of July and told myself I was going to finish this thing. I’d just gotten done listening to Stephen King’s book “On Writing”, which I adored, and decided that instead of plotting it out and trying to force things, I’d follow his approach and just sit down each morning and let it flow. I started using my old laptop, which can’t connect to the net, stuck it in the basement and used that as a writing area. I decided that I wouldn’t force it, just try to feel my way through the story inch by inch as naturally as I could.

Then I wrote. Every day.

I also decided to take some writing advice I’d heard once from Podcaster Mur Lafferty- “It’s okay to suck.” (Which I took to mean your first draft will often suck, but just write it anyways and then fix it during revision.)

Well, this morning, on the last day of Summer (as we teachers reckon it) I wrote the work FIN at end of page 511 and saved it. (Then saved it again on a memory stick, and stuck it up on Carbonite to make sure it doesn’t get lost- ever!) At 96,449 words, I wrote roughly 54,000 of them in just the last month, which means I both won by NaNoWriMo standards, and have now written my longest 100% original work ever. (Twin Stars being an adaption of the first season of the audio dramas.)

Now, I will set it aside and let it sit for a few months while I focus on work, editing Twin Stars and getting it out for sale, and possibly writing my third novel. (Which will likely either be a Young Adult fantasy novel, a detective novel set in Taiwan, or a techno-thriller set in the near future.) Editing Crocodile Princess will also be an interesting challenge, because my writing style has changed a lot in the past four years, and I will have to make the two halves blend with each other. Either way, I’ve finished a novel, and now know I can do it if I try.

For now, the important thing is letting my brain rest and catching up on all the movies and other media I’ve ignoring over the past month while I focussed on writing.

And get lunch. Lunch is good.


TeaNoWriMo Results/ Writing Update

Well, I tried to make July 2012 in Teacher’s Novel Writing Month, hoping that using this month off could help me boost my creativity and give me a jump forward.

How did it turn out?

Well, with a goal of around 50,000 words for July I managed to pull of a whopping 6000 or so. Yay me! πŸ˜›

As it turned out, July was a month filled with personal issues and obstacles that basically killed my writing time. It’s odd, really, sometimes I feel I’m busier and more occupied in the Summer when I’m not at the college than I am when the college is in full swing and I’m teaching and marking!

So yeah, TeaNoWriMo ended up being a bit of a bust.

But, was it a complete loss?

Not entirely.

First, while I wasn’t up to writing a lot at first, I did get some editing done. I’m almost done my first editing pass on the Twin Stars novel, with just the very last section to go before I can get into the second pass. (Which will be the point where I start to do serious line editing and polishing.)

Second, I did get some writing done on a project which has been stalled for almost three years, and in fact I think I finally got the darn thing back on track again. I won’t mention the project name because I don’t want to jinx it, but in the last two weeks or so I’ve added another 12,000 words to it and hope to add a heck of a lot more during the month of August.

Two things have added to my productivity that I thought I’d mention.

One, which I got from the Dead Robots’ Society podcast, is that I pulled out an ancient laptop I had that doesn’t connect to the internet, stuck it in the basement, put Scrivener on it, and made it into my primary writing machine. The basement is cool, which is important because our brains work best at 22-25 degrees celsius (72-77 F), and quiet, so I don’t have any distractions. Also, since it can’t connect to the Net (most important of all!) it forces me to stay on task and keeps me from checking my mail or FB. I’ve been amazed how much this has helped my writing and kept me in the zone.

Two, I’ve been making use of one of the Pixar Writer’s Tricks whenever I get stuck- I have a blank document running in the background, and when I get really stuck, I just start writing down what won’t happen next. It’s amazing how quickly those things on the list start to become what might happen next and get things moving again. Sometimes I also alternate writing what won’t happen next with what could happen next, and do a couple lines of that to see what ideas can fall out of the tree. It doesn’t matter if the “won’ts” are silly or off topic, as long as they’re getting written down and keeping you writing and thinking. So far it’s worked almost every time I’ve gotten stuck, even if I don’t always use what got written down.

So, in August if I’m not participating much online or blogging much, please forgive me. I’m trying to get done as much as I can before September, and literally not online most days except to check my messages using my iPhone.

Keep writing!


TeaNoWriMo Update

Well, it’s been a week, so I thought I should report on how Teachers Novel Writing Month is progressing. I think I can sum the week up in one short video-

I had an idea in mind for a novel about a sleeper colony ship arriving at a new world and the problems that entailed, but apparently I was no where near as ready to write it as I thought I was. This turned into a lesson in the need for more pre-writing and less pantsing on my part. Sigh. I basically got started, hit a snag, and then spent the week trying to overcome the suddenly bout of writer’s block.

So, I think writing a new novel from scratch is out. However, as I have a few other projects that need finishing, I’ll just work on them instead and toss those onto the word-count meter to see how many words I can push out this month instead.

And next time, I won’t try something like this without a solid game plan. :-/


What do I do with my novel based on a popular podcast?

So I have a bit of a quandry.

I’m in the process of novelizing (and finishing) my epic space opera Twin Stars. Twin Stars was my attempt to do an massive space adventure story in Audio Drama format, and I produced two seasons of it for a total of 20 episodes of full cast science fiction adventure. Thanks to my actors and some dedicated fans, Twin Stars was nominated for a Parsec Award, and my podcast has had over 250,000 downloads- the bulk of them people listening to Twin Stars.

I ended up stopping the show after two (of the planned five) seasons for personal and professional reasons, but the show stops at a natural breakpoint that isn’t the end, but could be called “the end of the beginning”. I want to finish it, but it will be in novel form, and that’s what I’ve been working on.

So now the question- should I bother to even try to market it to a traditional publisher? Or should I just go directly to the self-publishing e-book route? Or, should I try something in between like a small press publisher?

My concern with doing the traditional publisher route is that I’m not sure any of them will touch it because of the audio drama. They seem to be pretty skittish about works with a history, especially one which involves new media, and technically two fifths of the story is already available for free. (Although the novelization does expand on the audio drama quite a bit, and could be considered the proper version of the story while the audio drama was the rough.) I think this would make it a tough sell, and possibly waste time that could be better served doing the eBook route.

Of course, then there’s the smaller press publishers, who might take an interest in it and help it along quite a bit. Hmmm…Still working on the first novel right now, but these are the thoughts that are bouncing around in my head as I work.