Way back in March of 2010 I asked the question how long should it take to write a novel? The idea was that if you stick to a consistent writing pace, producing so many words per day, then after some finite amount of time you'd have a finished manuscript.
Assuming the industry standard estimate of 250 words per page, my own estimate of 20 words per sentence, and that a complete novel is 100,000 words total, if you wrote 1,000 words per day you'd have a complete first draft in 100 days or just over 3 months. Authors gauge progress towards this goal by tracking words per day.
What are some of the benefits of tracking words per day?
1. Allows a writer to gauge progress
This is the most obvious. It allows an author to monitor progress, letting him or her know when they're on track, ahead of the game, or, most importantly, falling behind.
2. It's a motivating factor
Having a daily writing goal is a great motivator. It can also have the opposite effect if one consistently misses the goal. But as long as you set a realistic goal based on your situation it can be a great motivating force.
3. It lifts a weight from you
If a writer has met their daily goal and it's still early in the day he or she may have other things they need to get to. I've found that knowing I've already accomplished my writing objective for the day lifts a weight from me. Sometimes it even helps me write even more as the pressure is essentially off at that point.
Now that I've started the weekly writing update thing again I'm keeping track of my words written. Instead of doing it on a daily basis, though, I'm going to start with keeping track of it on a weekly basis. I've done daily before and it had some downsides. Which brings me to the next question.
What are some of the negatives of tracking words per day?
1. It takes time
Not much, but it is something else a writer has to do each day.
2. It can be a demoralizing factor
This is especially so if an author begins to consistently miss one's daily goal. One failure piles onto another and pretty soon they're so far behind they're having thoughts of throwing in the towel.
3. Sometimes it just doesn't fit
There are days where instead of actually writing I realize I need to spend some quality time with my outline or working up some character profiles or other worldbuilding tasks. These things may be necessary, but they impact the daily writing goal.
You'll find many professional writers have a daily word count they meet before they'll step away from the computer. It really is the best way to maintain consistency and to know when you're falling behind. As a self-published author, I don't really have deadlines. I know I have readers who are waiting for the next book, though, so that helps keep me motivated. But in order to keep making progress I need to know where I'm at on any given day. Tracking words written is the best way to do that.