On Keeping a Writing Log

One of the biggest problems I’ve found while playing this writing game is the actual writing bit. That is, sitting my ass down and blending some fine Irish word whisky. To that end, I’ve started keeping a writing log. A writing log, you say? What, oh you magnificent Shakespearean word smith, does this writing log entail? Well, I’ll tell you.

A spreadsheet.

Click to enlarge this bad boy

The real benefit, I’ve found, of doing this is I actually get to see the progress being made, day by day. Or lack of progress, as the case may be. Regardless, my word count churn out has increased significantly since I started keeping track of just what I’m accomplishing each day. This all comes back to another key I’ve found that unlocks my awesome and devastating writing ability–set a word count target, and stick to that word count target come hell or high water.

Plan to a point – then just start writing. The best, most well thought out plan in the world does not a novel make. I enjoy having written, I don’t so much enjoy the writing part. At least, not always, so have a solid target. Treat this like the work it is.

Commit to a daily word count based on your lifestyle/schedule. A 1,000 words a day is not unreasonable. If you have a solid enough plan, that could be hammered out in 30-60 minutes. Consider that at a 1,000 words a day, you’ll have an average sized novel in two months. That’s worth the commitment.

Or, if you can, 1,500 words a day. 2,000. Have a target, sit your ass down, and don’t get up until you’ve met that target. Hardest part about writing a novel is finishing the damn thing.

You won’t know if it’s worth your time until it’s done. What you produce may need scrapping. But it may not. Or some of those words may carry over into another, better story, which benefits from what you learned the first time.

You’ll make mistakes, we all do. But finish – don’t give up or switch projects. Finish. A bad finished novel is worth more to you than a dozen half-finished manuscripts.

And keep a log of your awesome progress.



10 thoughts on “On Keeping a Writing Log

  1. I really ought to do this. Thanks for the inspiration. I’ve been keeping a writing journal with thoughts and ideas that come up whenever I’m thinking about or actually writing. I like the goal-oriented approach to keeping track of wordcounts.

    • The data does shine, after awhile. I also just conditionally coloured the cells to fill either red or green in the total column, highlighting whether or not I reached my daily target. Might see about throwing a template up.

  2. Pingback: Sage advice about writing you've been given over the years - Page 2

  3. This is a good idea, as is setting a goal for each day. I’ve never seen the spreadsheet idea before, but it looks like a solid plan. What happens when you discard the ten pages you wrote? I’ve done that too many times. I’ll throw out ten, twenty pages in a sitting and decide it hasn’t served the plot to my satisfaction. It’s not a waste but it can be a bit frustrating!

    • I can imagine how frustrating that can be! But to each their own styles, I guess. When writing a story, I wouldn’t do a ‘heavy’ edit like that until I’ve finished the entire first draft. At most, I’ll go back and add details, or change a previous plot point, while writing, but discarding entire pages before the whole story is written, no.

      Once it is written, and I have an overview and can see the beginning, middle, end, and all the many sub-plots, then I may start discarded pages, or scenes, and write something else in that fits the narrative better.

      Basically I just write as fast as I can for as long as I can, trying to outrun that hoary cripple – self-doubt!

      • Definitely advice I’ve either been given or heard over and over — edit later. I think I habitually edit as I go, as I usually aim to get an article out in under an hour. Either that or I am a perfectionist. Probably both! I don’t delete the pages (everything is kept in a file) but I tend to re-write and re-write the scenes. My plot is possibly a little over-complex and sometimes, plot points need to be changed early as they directly affect the overall plot. I’ve only recently worked out the plot almost in its entirety. So we’ll see whether that helps with regards to going back and changing the scenes once the book is done, as you say.

  4. Great suggestion. I think seeing a visible chart of progress will fuel my desire to press forward. On a good day I can pump out 1500. My best record was 8000. Cheers, your blog is great.

  5. Pingback: Time Management Tricks for the Time-Impaired Writer – Part One | Have Scotch, Will Write

  6. Pingback: On Keeping a Writing Log – Part Deux | Have Scotch, Will Write

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