Measuring Progress

Dame Kaz

How do you measure your writing progress?

And, for the purposes of this post, I’m not talking about measuring how your writing craft might progress. I’m afraid to say that this blog post is more about quantity than quality – though of course I am not saying that’s the most important factor. Just the one I’m interested in today.

There are so many ways of keeping track of our progress – both internal and external – and often those things end up making us feel inadequate or like we’ve failed somehow. I run a lot of writing challenges (even that term – challenges – makes me feel uncomfortable) on my personal blog. I’ll be starting one soon, actually. A new writing thing to help inspire people with their own personal goals throughout the month of April. Keep an eye out for information on that later today or tomorrow.

But… yes. As I was saying, I like running virtual writing camps on my blog – getting a group of people together to state their goals and check in regularly. It can be helpful and inspiring and fun. (Well, sometimes it’s fun. Often it’s hard work! :)) And yet, at the same time, I’m well aware that things like NaNoWriMo are certainly not for everybody (and nor should they be). Which is probably why, when I do organise a KazNo sort of thing I try to make it a ‘thing’ that can be adapted for each person.

However, for the month of April I would dearly love to try a NaNo-paced writing sprint. I can carve out a gap of about 3 weeks – possibly four – to finish my poor, neglected adult UF novel. Already I can feel myself putting pressure on… myself. I’d love to write 50,000 or even 60,000 words in April, but I’m not sure I can hit those sorts of numbers any more. And, in all honesty, I’ve only ever done it once before (which was for the first draft of The Iron Witch way back in Nov 2007).

So, this April will be another month of measuring progress in wordcount, and I’m hoping that I’ll find some other crazy eccentric people to join me with their own goals. It seems that, no matter how hard I try to change myself into a writer who produces a steady number of words each day, I always end up falling into familiar patterns: late nights, binge-writing, writing in bursts and then taking a break between projects. (Although, these days, the “break between projects” is getting smaller and smaller thanks to deadlines – and I’m not complaining about that at all! Deadlines mean I am employed, which makes me a very Happy Kaz!)

It’s so important to remember that everybody writes at the pace that suits them – and that’s OKAY. That’s the way it should be. We are all different, and there are as many ways of keeping track of what we produce as there are writers. For example, Kim Harrison tries to write one chapter per day (and her chapters are long), but she works off a detailed outline and takes weekends off. Fantasy author Rachel Aaron can write 10,000 words a day for short periods of time. *gulp* I just read another blog post by a writer who somehow managed 80,000 words in a month. On the other hand, Carrie Vaughn (author of the Kitty Norville series, among many other books), aims for a solid 800 – 1000 words per day. She’s a professional, full-time writer.

(The great Michael Moorcock could write some of his earlier fantasy works in 3 days. 3 days!! Let’s not talk about that! ;))

One size does not fit all. The only person you should measure your progress ‘against’ is yourself. Are you happy with the way you’re writing? Are you satisfied with the quality you’re producing? (That’s something I’m never satisfied with!) What works for you?

This blog post clearly doesn’t do much apart from ramble, but I actually did have a reason for writing it! I’d like to know: if you’re a writer, whether experienced or just starting out, how do you measure your progress? Do you set wordcount targets? A certain number of pages? Do you measure your progress daily, weekly…? Do you keep a spreadsheet of the words you write? Enquiring minds (i.e. me!) want to know.


  1. says

    O.O Those are some big word counts! I find writing 5000 words a day (when I’m not working) a complete fluke lol
    I never thought I’d work well with a deadline, but pitching at RT has definitely sparked a fire and forced me to write my butt off. The plot’s all finished in my mind, it’s getting the words down on the computer that can be difficult :-/
    Ah writers. Why do we taunt ourselves so much?
    Great post lovely

  2. says

    If I can manage 500 words a day around my full time job, I’m happy. More is better but not always reasonable for me. There’s always the pesky social media stuff, marketing, planning and editing that also take up time.

  3. Serena says

    I’m just starting out with this writing thing, and I’m still in school, so I try to hit between 400-500 words a day. I started off with 300 words, and as I got better at fitting in writing time, I bumped it up to 400, then 500. My goal is to slowly increase my word count until I’m around 1000 words. A number which, right now, makes me gulp. O_o
    Great post Kaz, I can’t believe how many words someone those writers are doing. Wow.

  4. says

    Serena, it sounds to me like you’re doing brilliantly. You know… even some bestselling authors don’t write 1K a day. Look at the link in one of my other comments here, the blog post by Holly Black. 500 words a day – often less for her – on her last manuscript.

    A comfortable pace for me is probably 1,500 words a day, but I find myself having to write more to hit deadlines. I started much smaller though! At one time I was a member of a group called ‘Novel in 90’ and the aim there was 750 words per day – that’s 3 pages.

    Good luck and keep writing!


  5. says

    Oh wow I knew Holly Black was a writing machine but O.O That’s awesome
    I should really start keeping track of what I write when lol I’ve never been good at keeping diaries.


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