Sunday, May 27, 2012

Measuring Progress When Word Count Doesn't Work

I am a writer, and I want to be a primarily novelist. That should mean I spend a lot of time writing novels, but it doesn't always. Novels are long and hard, and lately my word count isn't where I want it to be. I often feel anxious and inadequate when I see the word counts that many other writers log day after day and month after month.

This week I have to remind myself that a lot of the other things I'm doing are still "writer things," and they count. For example, this week I wrote:

  • A 1,200 freelance article
  • A picture book draft
  • This blog post (not sure this counts!)

I also beta read a friend's novel.

I didn't get anywhere on the novelette or novel I'm supposed to be working on and I don't expect to this week. In progress: another revision on my contracted novel, revision of my picture book, critique of a friend's picture book.

But there are ways to measure productivity other than word count. Part of being a writer is revision, working on jobs that pay (like freelance), and helping other writers. Here I note that I this week I benefited from two awesome picture book critiques -- both from writers who I have not yet critiqued. We all have to pay it forward.

So I decided to take a weekly tally of what I've done instead of focusing on what I haven't.

How do you measure productivity when you're not in drafting mode? What goals do you set? 


Cynthia J. McGean said...

Great reminder! Honestly, I rarely use word count to measure my productivity. It smacks too much of making widgets on an assembly line. Instead, I think in terms of the story or the process. Have I finished a draft? A scene? An outline? Did I complete a new round of revisions? I find it helps to set goals, maybe for the week or the month. Sometimes, my goal is to submit certain pieces within a certain time frame. At other times, my goal is to solve a given problem in a piece.
As a teacher, during the school year, my goal is to write for a set amount of time every day. When summer comes, my goals become more complex.

Karen said...

I measure the time I spent doing writerly things, like what you mentioned. Try to spend at least a half an hour a day on original writing--not rewriting or redrafting or critting--original writing. Otherwise, I lose the flow. A half hour is the minimum. If I'm lucky, that time stretches.