GUEST POST!!! On the Tracking of Progress, by A.B. Keuser

Hey, folks! It’s me. Below we have a first for this site: a guest post! This entry is by A.B. Keuser, a speculative fiction author who, by her own words, “spends a lot of time making things up and figuring fun ways to kill people.” Here she discusses her methods of tracking her writing progress. Enjoy!!!

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I track my writing by day. It’s a practice I took up in 2013 when I decided to write 1,000,000-words in one year, and I’ve kept with it since because it gives me some really great feedback.

Much like Kelly, I keep track of my writing on a spreadsheet. Unlike Kelly, I record my numbers up in a calendar like set-up.

This allows me to pull day counts, week counts, and keep a running total.

Let’s look at March of this year:

This is what my monthly spreadsheet looks like.

The bulk of the sheet is the calendar where I record the actual numbers. I keep 3 lines for each date because I have a main item scheduled and then I’m usually juggling two other back-burner projects that I write on when I’ve met certain goals. This is why I color code them. With one quick glance, I can look at March and tell you what I worked on.

I like to keep track of my weekly w/c and my running total alongside this just to make sure I’m getting on with my bigger goals.

Below the calendar, I keep a running bar graph (At the beginning of the month, I set up the formula to collect the day’s totals and add it to the chart so I don’t have to worry about it later.) This is one of the most visual representations I have of my monthly writing. It’s quick, it’s tidy, and it gets the point across.

Why this works for me

My eyes get bored pretty easily when it comes to numbers. We’ve never really gotten along, so I use this method of spreadsheeting with colors and charts to keep me interested in said numbers.

I’m also a very self-competitive person. This year one of my bigger goals is to beat my totals from 2014 & 2015. It’s going well enough.

But one of the main things it allows me to do is know when I write, and when I should focus on other things and give my brain a break.

Honestly though, the main reason I do this is to hold myself accountable. As Kelly mentioned at the beginning of April, I post my counts every month. I’m not sure anyone really cares to see them outside of myself, but having them out there, in the open really helps me keep from slacking off.

The Big Picture Numbers

ab sheet 2

2013: 1,000,497
Average: 83k words per month.
Best month: February – 133,329 words
Worst month: December – 0 words

In theory, this sounds awesome, right? So much productivity! But I managed that by ignoring all but two editing projects. Which means I’ve still got some back burner projects from that year that are waiting around to be finished.

If you’re just looking to get words down on paper—maybe you need to empty out your brain because it’s gotten too cluttered—the way I approached 2013 is great. You just write. If something isn’t working, you shove it aside and work on something that does flow. You worry about the rest of the writing stuff later.

2014: 438,943
Average: 36,578
Best month: May 62,965
Worst month: December 5,880

This year was all around tamer. I was working on things with the intention of finishing them and getting them right. That meant I couldn’t shove them to the side until my brain sorted through their issues later. I had to get things done, and I had to get them done when I scheduled them.

I learned, from looking through this year’s records, that I can’t rely on myself to do any writing on Thursdays. For whatever reason, they’re my own personal Mondays, and that day just sucks the life out of me, writing wise. Sure I can force it, but the writing is pretty awful in edits, so I usually just don’t schedule myself any req words that day. I use it for admin things now, like finishing up blog posts and doing marketing backlogs, or outlining etc.

2015: 361,949
Average: 30,162
Best month: November – 63,624
Worst month: June – 3,260

Now, those numbers look okay, but when you look at what happened throughout the year as a whole, you get a different picture. 1/3 of the words from last year were written in the last 2 months of the year. This has a very specific reason. While the first 5 months of the year were incredibly consistent, June through October were weak sauce on the writing.

June has its own excuse, my sister got married in our home state so I spent a lot of time traveling and with everything going on, I didn’t get a chance to write outside of 4 days.

July-Oct shows a different sort of recording. It shows how badly medication can affect your writing. Make sure you’re on the right meds, kids!

What this tells me on the whole

When I look at the numbers I have saved in my yearly spreadsheets, I can see patterns, like the fact that Thursdays just do not work for me. Decembers are (usually) pits of non-writing hell. Weekends are lucky to average 1000-words/day, and usually I just shouldn’t expect myself to get there.

—fin—

And there you have it! Great stuff. How do you track your progress, fellow writers?

And check out A.B. Keuser’s books!

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