Thursday, 14 February 2013

Counting Words

The first draft of Spark of Humanity came in at around 85,000 words. I wrote it in just over 60 days, which was a record for me (that total included two weeks of not writing for various real-life reasons).

Now I don't think as writers that we should get hung up on word counts and daily totals too much. After all, I could copy and paste "the " 85,000 times, and hit my word count total - but I'd just be deluding myself.

The total isn't as important as the quality of the words.

However, as a target to aim for, I think it's a really good way of keeping yourself motivated on a writing project.

While I was writing Spark of Humanity, I started using my app, Savings Jar to "save" the word count totals from my writing sessions. This allowed me to see a more tangible progress to the project than just keeping an eye on the word count total in the word processor.

It may sound a bit crazy, as I could just do the calculation in my head if I wanted to, and say "oh, ok, I've got 53,000 words to go, so I'm 41% in to my goal", but just having that vision-board from Savings Jar there on-screen with all the calculations done for me, as well as telling me how much I needed to write each day to hit my target on time, well it really helped.

It was a little annoying working out the word count for each writing session however, so I decided to take the Savings Jar approach and turn it into a dedicated application for handling word counts.

And so Word Count Dashboard was born.

It works in exactly the same way as Savings Jar - you set a target to aim for, and a deadline date, and then you enter your project's current overall word count total each day. The app then calculates the words remaining, the % complete, as well as what you need to write each day to hit your target on time.

Of course you don't need this app (or any app for that matter - just paper and pen) to get your writing done. But for me, I found it very helpful as a motivational tool to see how much I needed to write each day to stay on target. If you miss a day, that daily total required keeps creeping up and up, and it's a stark reality looking back at you - telling you to get writing!

Again, it's the quality of the words that matters most, but for me, a big hurdle is getting that first draft complete, and I found using Word Count Dashboard helped keep me coming back each day to make sure I hit the target.

I hope it's a useful little tool for others as well.

Happy writing!