I go back and forth about tracking words as a useful metric when writing fiction. Currently, I’m back on again.
Over the past few days, I’ve created a spreadsheet along the lines of the one Toby provided in his post on creativity and word tracking. Mine is simpler than his; I don’t have a deadline, so I don’t need to track progress toward one.
My main input is simply the length of the current draft. From that I calculate the words written that day. I’m also tracking a 5-day moving average (although I’m thinking of changing that to a 7-day moving average, to smooth out the impact of weekday issues). I calculate a “words to go” value (by subtracting words written from an estimated final length) and a “days to go” value (“words to go” divided by the moving average). Currently I’m using 60,000 words as my estimated final length–a reasonable value for a short novel, I think–but if I come up with a better guess as I proceed I can change my estimate.
I’m currently at 7555 words and my current 5-day moving average is 745 words per day, so my estimated days to completion of a first draft is 70. We’ll see.
Is this useful? I’m not sure yet. But I do know that I wrote 318 words of fiction yesterday, even though I also wrote a new Wise Bread post and was feeling a bit burned out. The fact that I’d otherwise have had to plug a zero in for words written yesterday was significant motivation for getting me to put in the time to get some fiction written.