—Lysander, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, paraphrase
If I write 1,667 words a day beginning today, I will complete National Novel Writing Month on November 30 with ten words to spare. I never write exactly 1667 words each day. My first day of writing may total 2,000 words and the next three hover around 500. I skip three days and then, well, I’m in trouble. What sort of trouble? I’m behind in my word count. In 1 week, I’ve written a little more than 3,500 words and even without doing the math, I know am woefully short of one week’s worth of writing.
I always want to know exactly how many words I’ve written, if I am ahead or behind the curve and what will it take to catch up or finish early. To answer these questions and more, I create a spreadsheet. You don’t have to be a whiz at spreadsheets. In fact, you don’t have to use a spreadsheet program at all. You can devise a method of tracking your word metrics that suits you. Here’s what I track:
1. The day of the month. I use the numbers 1-30.
2. The number of words I write each day. I put a 0 down for the days I don’t write anything. To make my calculations accurate, I must be honest.
3. The total number of words I have written so far.
4. The number of words I have left to write.
5. I list my average words per day.
6. The total number of words I would have written if I wrote exactly 1667 words each day.
7. How many words I’m ahead or behind the expected word count.
8. The average number of words I have to write from now on to finish.
9. The percentage of work I have completed.
Let me give you an example.
1. The day: 7.
2. The number of words I wrote today: 0.
3. The total number of words I have written so far: 2000+501+527+512+0+0+0. This adds up to 3540.
4. The number of words I have left to write is 46,460. (50000-3540)
5. The average number of words I have written per day is 505. (3540÷7)
6. The ideal number of words written to stay on track is 11669. (7X1667)
7. I am behind by 8129 words. Yikes! (11669-3540) And when I come back tomorrow, things will be worse. I will be behind by 1,667 words more.
8. Writing 1667 words a day will not get me to my goal of 50,000 words anymore. I need a different daily goal of 2020 words. (46460÷23 starting on day 8)
9. I have written 7.08% of my novel. (3540X100)/50000.
I can use Google’s omni box to perform each of these simple calculations, a calculator or even pencil and paper. I prefer a spreadsheet because all I have to do is type in my word count for each day and the formulas in the other cells do all the heavy lifting for me.
The truth is, if I am behind by over 8,000 words by the end of the first week, I will despair of ever catching up unless I keep track of my word counts and know by the numbers shows me I still can make 50,000 by day 30. A few big days of writing over 5,000 words will make all the difference, and I can see it in the numbers. Let me just plug 5,000 into day 8. What do I have?
* A total word count of 8540.
* I’ve only have 41,460 words to go.
* I’m only down 4796 words behind at the end of the day.
* Starting tomorrow, I need only write 1884 words a day to finish.
* I’m 17.08% through my novel. Not bad. Not bad at all.
I hope neither you nor I have such a disastrous first week of writing. But if either of us does, doing Nanowrimo by the numbers will show how to recover and complete Nanowrimo successfully. Happy writing.
About the Author. Rill is a Nanowrimo winner (2007-2012), a Camp Nanowrimo winner 2012 and 2013. She blogs about her experiences with the Raspberry Pi computer.