Tracking Writing Progress

In How to Write a Lot, Paul Silvia provides his own progress monitoring system as an example (39–45). Since finishing the book last month, I have been adapting Silvia’s database format to a Google Docs spreadsheet that will track some additional data in addition to the data that he finds helpful. Since it has been helpful thus far, I thought I would make it available with some sample data.

Some Additional Details
Column E: I am working on estimating the average number of words that I write in an hour (including time for research), and thus far 175 seems fairly close, hence that value running down the E column. Behind this number is actually the formula =350/2—for an average of 350 words on one of my standard pages (including footnotes) and an estimated 2 hours for writing that page, though I have a sense that something like 2.25 to 2.5 might be more accurate.

Column F: An overall daily goal calculated based on =[Column D]*[Column E].

Column G: The results of a word count (including footnotes) at the beginning of the day. As the spreadsheet above shows, however, I did not start tracking beginning and ending word counts until May 29.

Column H: The results of a word count (including footnotes) at the end of the day.

Column I: A daily progress total based on =[Column H]-[Column G]. Cell I2 computes the average daily progress.

Column K: A daily progress measure against the daily goal based on =[Column I]/[Column F]. Cell K2 computes the average amount of the daily goal that is actually met each day.

Column J: The cells for each work day use the formula =IF([Column K]>=1,1,0). If a given daily goal is met, Column K = 1, or if it is exceeded, Column K > 1. In either case, this formula returns the binary value 1 (= Yes). Alternatively, if the daily goal is not met, the formula returns the binary value 0 (= No). Cell J2 then averages the values in Column J to determine the portion of the work days that meet the daily writing goal. The significant disparity between Column J and Column K appears because, as would be expected, some days have been more research intensive and other days have seen more writing.

Column L: Column L indexes how much “life happening” has affected the actual writing progress made versus the progress that was planned. A negative number indicates the number of planned writing hours that were spend on some other task(s), and a positive number would indicate additional, unplanned time devoted to writing. Cell L2 provides the total number of writing hours that actually happened over or under the planned number of writing hours.

5 comments

  1. Hi there, many thanks for sharing your spreadsheet. However, I wonder how you count the words you have written due to revisioning and editing. These are hard to track in a word processor, right? How did you handle these counts?

    1. That can be a bit trickier. But, if you have the total word count for the document at the beginning of the writing session, you can then redo the total word count for the end of the session. Then, whether you’ve added new paragraphs or added new text to existing ones, the words added will be reflected in the end-of-session total.

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