Sunday, February 21, 2010

Writing 101: Meticulous Attention to Detail

I keep metrics. Lots of them. It sucks up a few minutes every single day, but it helps my writing, my motivation, and my sense of progress.

For those who may be unfamiliar with the term, here is the definition from Wikipedia: “A measure for something; a means of deriving a quantitative measurement or approximation for otherwise qualitative phenomena.”

In short, metrics collection = measurement.

Most writers use the metric of wordcount, looking at how many words they have typed on a given day (I am at 267 words today, including these).

I suggest you begin collecting metrics. The two most important are: 1) how many words you write each day, and 2) how much time you spend writing those words. Begin recording this in a spreadsheet. Watch those numbers over the next month or two and I bet you will see them go up (this is the motivation factor).

Some other fun things your can do with them:
  • Determine which schedule works best for you--are you more productive writing in the evening, or morning?
  • Determine which environment words best--did you write more at the library, or the coffee shop?
  • Determine how long it takes you to complete a project--if you have never measured this before it will be illuminating.
  • I do not suggest you calculate your net hourly income from your writing as for most writers this will be depressing. Still, it can be calculated if you keep good metrics.

Here are two snapshots of my own metrics, and if there is interest I can post more advanced metrics advice (maybe even spreadsheet design tips...):

My daily wordcount spreadsheet (notice how it is broken up by project. I wrote 5.75 hours and produced 4.3K words. It was a good day for me):

And the summary graph for my current work in progress. This summarizes a few sheets of data, but note how it shows how I am performing vs. my goal, and how my productivity fluctuates week-to-week. If you are a clever monkey, you will also notice that the blue line the ‘real’ progress on the manuscript, and it is lagging about 2 weeks behind where it should be:


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