Yesterday I did a lot of talking about my goals. Remember, these are my goals, not goals I think you should impose on yourself. You need to figure out for yourself how fast you can write and how fast you should write. This is just a step-by-step look at how I do things. That’s all. I wouldn’t hold anyone to the level I write at (except myself that is)
So I set word count goals. I also track those goals to see my progress. What good is setting a goal if you’re not going to check up and see how you’re doing, right? So I’ve got an excel file that I use. You can use the Magic Spreadsheet (I’ve mentioned it before) and many people do. I think that’s great. I built my own because I love to play around in excel.
* NOTE – If you’d like a copy of the spreadsheet I use, feel free to email me and I will send it to you. You can modify it for your own needs, but bear in mind, it’s personalized. So many of the columns I have may not work for you and you may end up spending more time rearranging things when you could have built you own. If you like mine, use it as a guide to build your own.
So on my spreadsheet I track my progress. How many words did I write today. How many words have I written this month, this year, what does it compare to against last year, How far ahead (or behind) my goal am I? How many days did I spend working on a particular title?
As I said, it’s more than just a list of days with numbers next to the day. I also track what title I’m working on that day. I have a column that shows how many words I wrote, how many words I need to write that day to stay on target (for 2014 it’s 1100 words per day). I had have a field that shows how many words I should have written so to-date, and the actual number I’ve written to-date. This is the indicator that helps me understand how close I am to my goal. I like to get ahead in case something happens.
I also track the books I’ve written as well as the books I’d like to write. I track the word count, release dates, where in the process a certain book is. Things like that. I also track my short stories and where those stories are on submission. I have a tracking page for the total word count of all my stories.
Now let me pause here for a minute. Keep in mind that I started this spreadsheet at the end of 2011. I use it every single day. Almost without fail. even on days I didn’t write,I still opened my spreadsheet. But being that it’s been an ongoing, growing spreadsheet, I’ve continued to add to it. So as I felt the need to have additional data, or formatting, or extra pages, I added them. Yes, I understand that all I’m tracking seems a little excessive, but it’s part of the process that keeps me motivated. Keeps me moving forward. I have a lot of ideas, and this is one way I’ve been able to keep track of them all in one central location.
Another thing this spreadsheet does for me is it allows me the ability to inspire myself. When I don’t feel like writing, I can look at this spreadsheet and remember that there’s a lot I’d like to accomplish with my writing and the only way to do that is to keep writing. Write quickly. Finish something. Move on to the next project.
That doesn’t mean I’m just pounding out first draft after first draft. I’m going back, I’m editing, I’m adding covers, I’m doing the interior layouts (covers and layouts I need to do better, but I’m learning). My spreadsheet allows me to track everything I’m doing and see at a glance where any given title is in the process.
Now that I’m thinking about it, I need to add columns to where something is published. I’ll need to make sure all my titles are available on all vendors. See, typing up these posts is helpful.
At any rate, tracking my progress is a way to not just keep myself motivated, but to see where I’ve been. I can see trends and patterns. I can focus on the process with the spreadsheet while my creative side gets to run off and play in all the worlds I create. It gives the logical side of my brain something to do while the creative side is off…creating.
Will this work for you? Again, as I said, this is my process. It works for me. I’m a data guy and I like numbers and spreadsheets. You may be different. Maybe you don’t want to track everything I’m looking at. Maybe you just like to sit down, open word, and got for it. I think that’s awesome. If it works for you, keep on doing it. I’m just offering up my method.
So this will likely end my little series. I’m glad you were here to follow along. I’d love to hear about your process. What works for you? How are we similar? How different is my process than yours? Any feedback? Ideas? Thoughts on improvement? Let me know!
Until Next Time!
While this is part 4 of this series, please don’t look at this as writing advice. I’ve sort of sworn myself off the writing advice bit and all I’m doing is tell you how I do what I do vs how you should do what you do. There is a difference. I used to think there was a one-size-fits-all solution to writing (and programming for that matter), but there isn’t. There really isn’t one way to do things and that’s one thing that a writer needs to understand. Yes, there are some basic rules to writing, but those apply to structure, grammar, and things like that.
At any rate, as I said, this is just how I do the things I do. Take it for what’s it’s worth. All I wanted to point out is that this process allows me to sit and write with great speed. Not nearly as fast as some of my heroes like Dean Wesley Smith (who can rack up around 100,000 words a month) but I’m doing the best I can with the time I have.
Let’s talk about resolutions and goals.
I no longer set resolutions. I used to. Every year I’d resolve to do something (quit smoking, lose weight, eat better, write more, etc) but those were always vague things that don’t give me a path to accomplish what I want to accomplish. They never worked for me. Ever. Quitting smoking came when I just flat out said, “enough” and stopped one day. I’d have an occasional cigarette or cigar, but for the most part I was done.
Losing weight, eating right? I’m still working on those, but I’ve got a goal and a plan. The goal is to get back down to 200 pounds (at least) and I’ll be doing that by doing a juice cleanse and then eating a nearly vegan diet (not vegetarian, VEGAN! Raw vegan at that). I’ll be having 2 meals per week of whatever I want, but mostly it’ll be fresh fruits and veggies. Extreme? Hell yes. But that’s how I managed to quit smoking. It was abrupt and extreme. I’ll also start walking and build back up to running.
Write more. That I’ve also done. I started in 2011 going into 2012. I wanted to write more so I started blogging more regularly. The blogging would get my brain into writing mode and once I was done, I’d flip to the latest novel I was working on. During that year, between blog posts and fiction, I’d written over 490,000 words of my 450,000 word goal. It was amazing. Sadly, only 267,000 of those words were new fiction, but I’d hit a grove with my writing and I was happy. So 2013 I was going to try and up my fiction count by cutting back on the blogging and get to work on the fiction.
Well, 2013 fell apart on me. I didn’t hit my goal of 365,000 words. Life happens, as it has a tendency to do, and I needed to come into 2014 more focused with all the stress of 2013 left behind. I did, however, manage 172,000 words in the 5 months I did actually write and I can’t be sad with that result. Yes, it wasn’t where I wanted to be, but hey, I did make words happens and completed a few projects.
Now we’re into 2014. I’m still setting goals and what I’d like to do. For 2014 I plan on averaging 1100 words per day. Yes, I upped my word count goal from 2013 (1000 words per day average) so I’ll push myself a little bit more.
Let me explain first off what I’ve done. I’ve gone on and on about numbers, but none of that means anything to you, right? Well those numbers are my goals. 2012 was 450,000 words, a combination of new fiction and blog posts. 2013 was 365,000 words of new fiction. 2014 is 401,500 words of new fiction. 2015 is 438,000 words of new fiction.
Let’s break those numbers down because they’re pretty high. I’ll skip 2012 because it’s a blend. But 2013 I wanted to write 1,000 words per day. That’s an average, but obviously if I had been able to stick to a schedule, I probably would have hit or surpassed that goal. 1,000 words really isn’t that much. It’s just a matter of hitting a rhythm and a good streak of days strung together. Add a few good days in there and it gets even better, right?
Well, that was the plan. As I said, I only got 5 months of writing out of 2013 due to an unexpected move and the fact that the company did away with my job. Both of these sucked out my soul and made focusing on writing impossible.
Now look at 2014. I upped my goal from last year. I increased my goal by only 100 words per day. 100 words is nothing. That’s less than 5 minutes of typing. It’s a snap. Upping from 1000 to 1100 seemed logical to me because it’s not that much of an increase. Yes, I looked at 2013, but on the days I actually wrote, I hit a much higher word count. So I knew setting my goal a little bit higher would push me to actually write.
Then 2015, yes, I’m planning for the future, I want to write 1200 words per day. This is also a small increase and it might change. I don’t know yet. It was a 10% increase from 2013 to 2014, why not a 10% increase from 2014-2015? Should I shoot for 1210 words per day? We’ll rethink that when 2015 gets closer and I see how I did over 2014.
What I’ve done over the past few years is to plan how much I want to write. I set that goal, then I break it down into much smaller chunks and work on one chunk at a time. I don’t look at it as I need to write 100,000 words to make a book. I look at it as I need to write so many words per day to get to that goal in a certain amount of time. Looking at the smaller bits makes that HUGE, overwhelming goal look all the more manageable.
Next time I’ll talk about tracking and how I keep myself inline with the goals I’ve set. No, I don’t use the Magic Spreadsheet. I have my own spreadsheet. It’s taken me years to set up, but it keeps me on track.
Until Next Time!