Planning your writing day: the practical

Decide on your tracking method

I’ve already talked about the pros and cons of word count, which you can take or leave.  But if you decide the cons outweigh the pros, here are some other systems of tracking you might try:

Hours worked, of course, is a good one.  I essentially tracked this by noting when I started and stopped working, but you can also make rows of boxes to cross out or lines, or whathaveyou.  The problem with this method is that staring at your computer screen for hours doesn’t really count as hours worked—unless you are actively solving problems, but even then you need to write down your solutions and plans—so it occasionally leads you into spending the time at your desk, but not very wisely.

If you’re on outliner, you might track your progress by deciding how many bullet points you want to write in a day, or which scenes, and then cross things off your outline as you go.

You can also track your work by page numbers produced, paragraphs edited, or other quantifiable means.  All that matters is that you pick a method and give it a shot—a few weeks or so—to see if it compels you to write.  If it doesn’t, try something else until you figure out what gets you going.

Set organic goals

Regardless of the method you choose, you are bound to encounter both pitfalls and explosions while you write—things that drag you down or make you fly.  That’s totally fine, in either case.  Writing is an organic process, and just because you set one writing goal for the day doesn’t mean that you have to stick with it doggedly all the way through.

I suppose, that’s why I tend to track my progress by hours worked, because then I have room to chase a problem down, even if it doesn’t leave as many words on the page, and I also have room to jump scenes or conversations if I get the urge to write something else that day.  I find this flexibility useful because then I don’t ever feel like I failed my writing day because I didn’t write what I was supposed to write.

I also highly suggest that once you’ve hit your goal for the day, you stop pretty soon after that.

For instance, I know how many words I tend to produce on average, and while I don’t often use that as my goal marker, I do know that if I write much more than that, I’ll have diminishing returns and my focus will stray.  Sometimes, that means that I’m done writing way before my 4 hours are up.  In those cases, I force myself to stop writing and leave a little gas in the tank.

And if things are going really well?  If you’re on a roll?  Still…stop.  In fact, those are the best times to stop writing, because then you’re chomping at the bit to get back into it the next day, you know exactly where to start, and you’re more likely to enjoy the process.

Visualize your accomplishment

 I mentioned above that you can make lists to cross off and boxes to tick.  I’ve also used bar charts that I can color in as I go, usually for each completed chapter.  Most consistently, though, I leave three blank lines in each day in my bullet journal, since I write in 1.5 hour chunks with half hour breaks between, and I just fill those in with my accomplishments at the end of my writing session.

Bujo tracking

Do whatever makes you feel a sense of progress, because every day of writing is certainly that.


Historian, novelist, musician, and imagination professional.

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