Word Count, Page Count or Minute Count? How to Track Your Progress and Get More Writing Done

Is there a right or wrong, worse or better way to track writing progress?


How do we train ourselves to be more productive, as writers? Writing productivity, unfortunately, mostly ends up being about quantity when quality is really the ultimate end measurement. We have to have a body of material to work with before we can focus on quality, though, so in many ways this order makes sense. If you actually manage to get a ton of writing done in a reasonable time span, that is.

So how can you keep track of your progress? By word count? Page count? Minute count? Is one way better or worse than the other? Is one right and the others aren’t? Let’s look at the options.

Word count and the 500-word hurdle

A lot of writers use word count as a way to track their progress. It’s the foundation of my 30,000 Words in 30 Days challenge, which you can join today if you’re subscribed to my newsletter. It’s why WriMos (writing months) are so popular among aspiring novelists and screenwriters. Giving yourself a number to look at, psychologically, just does the trick for some people.

In my experience, 500 words seems to have proven to be the magic number. No matter how much kicking and screaming it took to get myself to sit down and start writing, no matter how much I would rather be doing something else, something other than sitting in front of my computer and forcing myself to write words, the moment I hit 500, I’m good. I fall into an immediate flow state, after which I could potentially write a few thousand words in that same sitting and not look away from my work once.

You’ve probably noticed the word count widget over on the right sidebar. It helps me keep track of my novella progress each month. If it weren’t for that, I would be even more behind than I already am. It’s a direct count of how much content, word by word, you have managed to produce. Setting a daily goal to work toward, big or small, has the potential to change everything.

Counting pages? It Depends on what you’re writing

When I first started writing regularly, I was really into counting pages. This was back when I was still writing in notebooks and re-typing everything into a Word document later (some people still do – nothing wrong with that). It helped me know if I was generally on track writing a book, because I knew in general how many pages books in my preferred genre tended to be in.

There isn’t much difference between page count and word count, except that it really depends on what you’re writing. I still keep an eye on page count when I’m writing fiction, as a backup number to keep in my head. I use word count for everything else though, especially when I’m writing articles, because clients both assign and pay you by word count, most of the time.

I would recommend pairing page count with one of the other methods here, since margins, font sizes, etc. kind of make it harder to know whether or not you’re writing as much as you want to be every day. But again, it depends on what you’re working on and your personal preferences.

Tracking writing time, or losing track of time

The advantage of using time as a measurement of progress and activity is that it’s easier to fit into a busy schedule. While you aren’t always sure how long writing 500 words will actually take, you know that, in general, writing for 90 minutes in the afternoon means you are hopefully going to be writing for 90 minutes. However much you get done in that time is less important, which means you might focus a little bit more on the quality of the writing you produce than you do the quantity.

As a part-time student, part-time writer and full-time over-committer, I have to be careful with using time as a tool for keeping track of writing progress and holding myself accountable for writing consistently. Even if I only have an hour to write, and I convince myself to actually spend that hour writing, one of two things will happen: I will either procrastinate, and only use part of that hour, or I will get so sucked into writing that I will continue writing even after the designated hour is up.

If you’re pretty good at making your own schedule with designated time slots for every activity throughout your day, going by time will probably work just fine for you. Even if you only have 30 minutes to write, that’s still better than nothing. If you need to start with something more quantitative to keep you on track, though, maybe save this method for more free writing or planning out what you are going to write about tomorrow.

How do you keep track of your writing progress? What kinds of writing goals do you set daily, weekly or monthly? Don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter if you want a free copy of my 30,000 Words in 30 Days writing challenge. :)

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

Writing Productivity Tips: How to Write 5,000+ Words Per Day

Writing productivity is essential for all elements of a writer’s professional life. But where do you start?


Productivity. It’s the element all writers wish they had a firm grasp on, yet very few actually do.

In the majority of cases, writers do not operate by a typical nine-to-five work schedule. There isn’t always a set time to clock in and clock out. I started working from home this year as a freelance writer, and I’m STILL struggling to set up a consistent schedule. But it’s something I work toward every single day, because otherwise, optimal writing productivity is something I will never achieve. And my work … and my bank account … will suffer the consequences.

Writing productivity is essential for all elements of a writer’s professional life. But where do you start?

Here are eight writing productivity tips to help you write 5,000+ words every day – or at the very least, to help you get into the habit of writing more on a more consistent basis.

Set a writing schedule you can stick to

I, personally and professionally, write every day. I do this because routine is how I thrive. I know when I am most creative and what times of day I am most likely to be able to write more quality content in less time. However, not everyone can write daily, or needs to. Whether you’re literally interested in writing 5,000+ words every day or just want to write more in general, the most productive thing you can do is set a writing schedule you can stick to – and actually stick to it. You might be a Monday through Friday writer, or a weekends-only writer. The specifics are different for everyone. The point is to stay consistent, as a means of holding yourself accountable.

For those who are interested, here are a few recommended strategies for writing every day.

Focus on eliminating distractions, not ‘finding motivation’

We are all guilty of spending fifteen extra minutes of pre-writing time venturing down the deep abyss of the internet in search of the motivation/inspiration we think we need to get writing done. What you’re doing here, instead of actually engaging in a productive writing habit, is giving into the one thing all writers start out weak against: distractions. They’re everywhere. If you consistently go an hour without getting some kind of notification on your phone or desktop, there must be something seriously wrong with you. Unless you turn them off on purpose … because you know you need to write, instead of giving into FOMO.

Here’s why searching for motivation to write doesn’t actually work.

Set a specific goal for how much writing you are going to get done in one sitting

Whether you like it or not, productive writing involves a little bit of planning. Sitting down and vowing to ‘just wing it’ might be a more comfortable way to ease into your writing routine, but it’s much less likely to help you focus and accomplish what needs to get done. Set a specific goal (e.g., 5,000 words before 5:00 p.m.) that you can work toward. Once you reach it, you can then decide for yourself whether or not you want to continue or close your laptop for the day.

Here are some more tips for setting SMART writing goals.

Break up your day into 1,000-word segments

No matter how much you decide you are going to write today, this afternoon or before you go to sleep, don’t try to get it all done at once. Especially if you have a busy schedule, and don’t have large chunks of time to write thousands of words all at once. Break up your work into smaller pieces. I typically separate my writing time not in hours, but in amounts of words. Usually 500 words is the threshold we need to reach before we hit a steady flow; 1,000 words is a healthy place to stop and take a break, or move on to something else for the time being.

Busy writers, check out these helpful tips for getting more writing done during the week.

Work on more than one writing project at a time

Sometimes what stops us from getting more writing done in one day is falling prey to the myth that we can only work on one piece of writing at a time. The problem is, we’re human: we get bored. The longer you spend on the same task, the less focused you become. Use the strategy of breaking up your work into smaller segments and use that as your signal to switch to something different. Yesterday I wrote a blog post, took a 10 minute break, wrote a short paper for my graduate class, took another break, and then spent the remainder of my day following this pattern: write an article, answer a few emails, step away from the computer for a few minutes, come back, write another article. And repeat.

Learn how to effectively juggle multiple writing projects at once for a more productive and focused writing schedule.

Have an idea of what you’re going to write about before you sit down to write

Some of you reading this are cringing at the thought of planning ahead, or worse, formulating the often-dreaded outline. Why would you take your ever-expanding creativity and try to squish it into a tiny little box? If you’ve been writing for awhile, you know that ideas are always expanding and morphing. Just because you decide what you’re going to work on ahead of time, maybe even going as far as outlining your subheadings or main points beforehand, does not mean your creativity won’t still manage to surprise and delight you. This is meant to guide you and keep you on task, and nothing more.

For all my fiction noveltiers out there, here are some tips for organizing your stories without using a traditional outline.

Research, write, edit – in that order

When you try writing, researching and editing all at the same time, it slows the entire process down. Start by outlining your main points (see previous heading), researching what you need to research to cover those points and THEN filling in the content for each heading. Fiction writers should have at least a general idea of what’s going to happen in the scene they are writing, and should know if there are things they need to look up before writing. Obviously, editing should come last. You should try your best to refrain from interrupting your own writing flow to fix a simple grammar mistake.

Stop self-editing as you write, so you can have more productive writing sessions each time you sit down to crank out some serious wordage.

Take a break every hour – and have a snack

The same way our brains get tired after studying for an exam, we use up energy when we’re writing. You might feel like you could write for five hours straight without stopping, but you’re going to burn yourself out if you aren’t careful. And that feeling might not hit you today, but it sure will tomorrow. Take short, five to 10 minute breaks every hour to let your brain process some of the things it couldn’t while you were busy writing. Have a snack, too – a granola bar. A piece of fruit. Get some sugar back into your bloodstream so your brain can continue functioning.

Here are some tips for taking a productive break from writing.

We all have great writing days and awful ones. Writing productivity is all about planning ahead, staying consistent and moving forward even when it feels like no amount of caffeine could ever be enough to get you through it.

Be strong. Press on. Get back to writing.

What is your writing schedule like? How did you go about setting up and following that schedule? If you don’t have a writing schedule, how do you keep track of your writing time and progress?

This post was written as part of the Problogger: 7 Days to Getting Back Your Blogging Groove challenge. If you have been struggling to write the engaging, well-thought-out posts your blog is known for, or have abandoned your blog completely but are ready to get back into posting more regularly, consider joining the challenge today.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

Image courtesy of pixabay.com.

Stop Saying, “I’m Going to Write This.”

“I’m going to write a novel!” Great. So how’s that going?


Whenever we get a brand-new idea, the first thing we want to do is tell the whole world about it. That’s a completely normal human impulse. But we have to make it stop.

Stop. Stop saying, “I’m going to write this thing! It’s going to be great!”

Stop talking about it and write the thing!

There’s one problem with setting writing goals …

… and it’s that when you spend more time thinking and planning and talking about what you are going to write than actually writing, you’re just hurting yourself. Really. I am the kind of person who has to talk about things as I’m doing them, because I have a tendency to not hold myself accountable in my own head very well. But that’s the key: you can talk about what you are doing, as long as you are doing the thing as you are talking about it.

Do you want to write a novel? Awesome! Do you want to tell everyone you know about your idea? Eh … okay, if that’s what helps motivate you, GO FOR IT!! But it means absolutely nothing if you don’t actually sit down in a chair (or stand at your standing desk, whatever) and start writing. It is not that hard. If talking about what you want to do keeps you from actually doing it, don’t talk about it. ‘Do’ instead.

Why aren’t people excited for you, when you tell them you’re going to write something?

Because it’s hard to be excited for someone when they haven’t actually done anything yet. Honestly? If you’re looking for gratification when you haven’t even started the work yet, you’re looking at things a little backwards. You have to want to write for the thrill of it, and actually put in some effort, before it really makes sense for someone else to say, “Wow, that’s really cool, I’ll check that out.”

It’s probably best not to talk about it until it’s something you can actually promote. If you really think about it, in the case of writing, promoting something that doesn’t exist doesn’t really make sense. When you see previews of movies, for example, the movie is already made. It already has a release date. You don’t USUALLY hear about movies when they don’t exist yet. Same goes for your own writing. Focus on writing the thing fist, telling everyone about the thing second.

Talking about it first isn’t going to motivate you THAT much

In fact, it actually tricks your brain into thinking you’ve already done work when you definitely haven’t even opened a blank Word document yet. You haven’t done anything!!! Use all that excitement you have about your new idea to crank out a few thousand words as a starting point, instead of spending all that energy talking about something you technically aren’t certain you will ever start.

When you talk about it but don’t actually do it, you’re indirectly procrastinating. You’re letting yourself talk through your excuses for pretty selfish reasons (just being tough-lovingly honest as usual). Whatever those excuses are, you have to learn to get over them. You have time. You have the energy. You know what to write about. Maybe you’re afraid to start, and that’s okay, but you are never going to get over that fear unless you just take a deep breath and start anyway.

Have any questions about how to sit down and get writing? Leave them down below or visit our Facebook page. You can do this.

Image courtesy of Flickr.

April Almost Killed My Writing Joy … but It Didn’t.

Death by carpel tunnel and too many Google searches in one sitting.


I lost count of how many times, throughout the month of April, I said, “I don’t want to do this.”

Or, “I don’t want to write about this.”

Even, “I would rather be doing something else.”

I can honestly say that I don’t think this kind of thing has ever happened to me before. I have never been in a position where I had so much writing to do that it started feeling like a chore. Of course, about half the writing I do is considered work, so in some cases, the chore aspect makes sense. But this was even happening while struggling through my novella, and my ebook, and my novel.

Yes, I am aware that I’m doing too many projects at once. It is a terrible habit of mine, one that usually does not get me into trouble. This past month, though, there were multiple times I really felt like I was just making mistakes left and right. Had it been a bad idea, to start The Novella Concept AND try to finish my novel AND start freelancing? For the record, I started TNC before I was hired for my first freelance writing job. And if you haven’t figured it out already, when I make a commitment, I stick with it.

(Like the unofficial commitment I made to post on this blog every day for a year….which technically started in June 2015….and I haven’t broken my streak yet.)

School really threw me off this time. I’d never been doing as much work as I was last month while balancing graduate school. I’m pretty sure that almost killed me. (Death by carpel tunnel and too many Google searches in one sitting, probably.) I would love to say that I’m not going to run into the same problem again, but a new class starts on the 10th. However, if I can kick my butt into gear and finish writing this month’s novella by the 15th, I should be OK. Right? … Maybe.

It made me sad. To look at how fortunate I am to have all these opportunities to write and to learn, and realize I wasn’t really enjoying any of it. It was just too overwhelming. The writing especially. I started working with a few new clients at the beginning of the month, and that just puts a lot more stress on you than usual anyway. I’m busy wrapping up some end-of-semester things at my part-time job, and trying to force myself to dedicate more time to finishing my novel, but it’s just not happening right now. I am only one person, I can only write so much at once.

This was an important lesson for me though. Looking back on it now, I’ve realized my joy never really left – it just got buried. I still love to write. I love everything I’m doing, even if I am exhausted. Like the rest of the world, I make a lot of excuses. But I don’t let those excuses actually mean anything. They don’t influence whether or not something gets done. They don’t make my decisions for me. I think that is an important trait to develop as a writer. Understanding that excuses will always tempt you, but letting them stop you just isn’t an option.

Always try to keep loving what you do. There are always going to be points when it’s going to get hard. Keep pushing through it. Get back to writing!

Love&hugs, Meg<3

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter.

Image courtesy of Flickr.

Stop Focusing on These Small Details to Get More Writing Done Today

There will be plenty of time to get the facts right later.


While reading your favorite books, you’ve probably made note of the amount of detail authors include in their stories to make them truly magical. You might wonder, “How do they think of this stuff?” Some of it comes out of nowhere. Some of it comes about from deep content editing, which happens, believe it or not, after the book is actually written.

Your story might have a lot of detail, and that’s great, but be honest: are you done writing yet? You could be focusing on too many small details and not even realize it’s hurting your productivity. Some research is important here and there, yes, but here are a few things that, at least the first time around, really aren’t.


Choosing names for characters and locations isn’t something to spend all your time pondering. A name can be significant and act as a symbol, and that’s cool and all, but you’re wasting a lot more time than it’s worth if you spend even 10 minutes brainstorming ideas for names when you haven’t even started writing the story yet.

Focus on writing the story first. Use generic names. You can change them later. Yes, you’ll probably get attached to your characters and their names, and if you don’t end up changing them, that’s fine. Not everything in a story has to be a symbol. A name is more often than not just a name and should really be the least of your concerns.

Dates and days of the week

Sometimes, dates and days of the week are important to a story, and there isn’t anything wrong with that … unless you focus on that detail so much that your productivity plummets. Just go with it for now. Something significant might happen on a Saturday and you might accidentally have the chapter before occur on a Thursday instead of a Friday. It’s okay. That’s what editing and revising are for.

John Green and his editor spent a lot of time mapping out specific days on an actual calendar while working on LFA because counting days was actually a significant part of the story. It’s not very likely that this happened at any point before the first early draft of the book was written. Writing a book is hard enough without having to pour over a calendar. Write first, count later.

Random facts

We’ve all stopped writing and opened a new Chrome tab to look up something “important” in the middle of writing a story. Sometimes random facts are inserted into books for a purpose, and unless it’s significant to make a character wrong, you probably want to get them right. However, “researching” while writing a first draft, for any period of time longer than two minutes, isn’t necessary.

There will be plenty of time to get the facts right later. Promise. You’re going to throw yourself down a rabbit hole and you’re never going to get this novel done. For the good of all your future readers, just make your best guess, highlight that section or mark it somehow and come back to it later. Seriously. You’ll be glad you skipped over it.

These are not “easy ways out” or excuses for inconsistent writing. For many, the hardest part about creating a story is writing the first draft. No one LOVES editing and revising, at least not every single minute of it, but the first draft has to get done first. Don’t spend all your writing time focusing on details that don’t matte right now. You’ll clean it up later. Just write.

Image courtesy of Wise Ink.

When it Comes to Writing, The Choice Is Yours

So are you going to get some writing done today, or not?


Are you one of those people who absolutely HATES being the one to have to make the final decision? Where are we going to eat? Which movie are we going to see? It’s bad enough when you have to decide for other people. What about when you have to decide for your characters … and yourself?

Life is often just a series of choices, if you think about it. Which is great when you win no matter which option you choose (will it be pizza or tacos?), but not so great when none of the options before you seem appealing.

Writing stories is also usually a succession of choosing one thing or the other. Often subconsciously, but sometimes actively.

When you think about writing and ideas, there are always two choices: sit down and write something, or avoid writing altogether.

You can choose to think an idea over, or sit down and start writing.

Write what you know, or write what you don’t.

Play it safe, or take a risk.

Write something, or nothing at all.

We get upset when we realize we haven’t been writing as much as we’ve wanted to … and then we realize the only thing holding us back from getting all that writing done is all the times we had to choose between writing and doing something else, and chose the latter.

It’s not always that simple, though. Sometimes it is a matter of life or death (figuratively, obviously). Is that character we love and cherish so much going to live, or does he have to die? Are we going to throw in that dark twist, or veer the plot in a different direction? Are we going to write something we know our readers will like, or dare to write something many of them might not?

If you want to take your writing to the next level, you need to start by making the right choices. Choose to wake up a little earlier or stay up a little later to make more time for writing. Choose to use all your YouTube subscriptions as rewards instead of another way to procrastinate. Choose to take a few risks when you tell your stories.

Sure. All that makes writing feel more like work and less like a hobby. And it’s scary. And a lot of the time, you probably aren’t going to want to do it.

Whether you decide to keep your writing journey moving at a slow but steady pace or give it plenty of time to sit still and think over its next steps, that decision will shape not only your stories, but, basically, your whole life.

You can write … or not.

The choice, as always, is yours to make.

What is the hardest choice, related to writing, you have ever had to make? Share your story below.

Image courtesy of Wonderlane/flickr.com.

How to Actually Meet the Writing Goals You’ve Set for Yourself This Year


We’ve talked general writing goals. We’ve talked SMART writing goals. Now how in the world are we supposed to actually meet the writing goals we set, anyway?

Looking at the big picture, it’s pretty easy to set goals. You can set as many goals as you want to so you can improve a multitude of things in your life over a certain period of time.

But to promote change, to make things happen, you actually have to work toward achieving those goals. Following through is the hard part.

To conclude this mini-series, here are a few tips on how to overcome this roadblock.

Make sure it’s what you really want

Don’t set a goal just because you think it’s a good idea. If you’re going to work toward a goal, you have to really, really want to achieve it. Do you really want to write a book this year, or is that just what everyone around you is expecting you to do? Do you really want to spend all your time and energy focusing on a cast of characters that doesn’t actually exist?

If you do, then you’re much more likely to write, finish, maybe even edit that book this year. And that’s great. You will get there in large part because you really want to. If your heart’s not in it, you are going to struggle. The nice thing about personal goals like these? It’s all up to you. If you don’t want to do something, and no one is requiring or paying you to do it, don’t.

Wanting to do it is only one piece of the puzzle, though. There’s a little more to it than that.

Understand what you need to give up and make time to make it happen

The key to failing is not trying. If you want to write a book this year, and you REALLY want to write a book this year, it might seem like on the surface that’s all you need to motivate yourself to sit down and do it. But a big project like that requires discipline. It requires a deeper understanding of time and how you need to spend it in order to achieve your larger writing goals.

Instead of watching every new episode of Scandal on Thursdays, you might have to spend an hour writing instead. Some days you might feel overwhelmed and try to convince yourself you’ll just double up on work tomorrow. Don’t do that! Get it done. Take a deep breath and just get it done. You can watch the episode you missed online after you’ve gotten your work done.

Here’s a list of everything you have to give up to write a good book.

Find someone to hold you accountable

Sometimes, goals are a team effort. You might need someone to push you, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. If that’s what it takes to get some serious writing done this year, DO IT!

Whether it’s just one person or the whole world, find accountability somewhere other than inside your head or on a piece of paper. If you announce to all your social media followers that you’re writing a book, you are committing – and if that’s not enough motivation for you, what is?

We set goals to motivate ourselves. Even if you don’t meet any of your writing goals this year, what’s most important is that you tried. You made progress. These tips, in addition to everything we’ve gone over this week, should be able to help you move forward. If in the middle you realize you reached a little too far, adjust. Make it work for you.

You CAN do this. Deep down, you WANT to do this. If you need someone to hold you accountable, reach out here.

This year, make writing one of many priorities in your life. Make it count. Make it work by finding balance. Enjoy it. You are a writer. It’s what you were born to do.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.