Hi. My name is Joyce and I used to be a diligent word count tracker. Back when I got serious again about writing, I started keeping a daily word count to keep myself honest–I think I was influenced both by Nanowrimo and by the trend at the time amongst many of my writer friends to keep counts. I admit, there was probably a bit of competitiveness about it.
So I kept count of words by project on a daily basis, and used to break out my writing by type–not blog posts, but I tracked novel vs short stories. Then I started hitting the wall, and realized that I was focusing on quantity, not quality, and fell away from the practice.
But I still think it is and was a good thing. Why? Well, for one thing, tracking my words helped me think about where I was in a project. While this isn’t such a priority if you are writing short stories and essays, if you are creating book-length works, then it’s helpful to know if you’re in the first third or the last third, or if you’re flailing around in the middle. It gave me perspective enough to know that “okay, I’m on track,” or “Crud, I need to do something different” when working on a book. Tracking also gives me the ability to notice the difference between pacing of short stories vs novels. At this point, if I’m working on one project, I don’t really need to be tracking things. But if I do something different….
Which is why I’m tracking words again this summer. I am doing something different, working on two novels at once. Though I was well into Challenges when I started tracking, and had an existing start on Klone’s as well, I wanted to see if either project suffered.
So far, it hasn’t. The count is roughly 2x Challenges to Klone’s. But both books are at about the same place in the story. The difference is that I am shooting for Klone’s to be a shorter book than Challenges. I’m learning the pacing for that shorter book, and counting is helping with that. Plus the word count helps me realize that having two different projects at once might actually be useful for productivity because I can still run with more words out of the day if I switch projects. That’s good to know.
The other factor for summer counting is so that I can quantify how different factors may interfere with production–travel, conferences, stuff like that.
The thing to keep in mind is that word count is an analytical tool and not the end-all, be-all. If you’re using word count to quantify what you are doing and not using it as a means to analyze your production process, you’re not fully exploiting the possibilities that tracking your word count can do. That tracker can tell you a lot about your process–if you let it.
And with that, I’m off to rack up some words for the day. Tomorrow is a travel day.