Measure Your Writing Progress

Writing is both a science and an art–science in that good writers research their topics and experiment with words, phrases, sentences, and paragraphs, and art in that good writers draw on their creativity to produce a piece unlike any other that reflects the artist’s view of life.

One of the things many writers aren’t very good at is measuring their writing progress.

I spoke with one author last week who said, “I’ve been pushing this book uphill for two years, and I’m ready to publish it.” The comment reminded me of Sisyphus, the Greek mythology king who repeatedly rolled a boulder uphill, then watched it roll down again. This goes on through eternity.

If you’re working on your manuscript and never seem to get anywhere, it’s time you begin measuring your writing progress and break the cycle of fruitless hours pushing your book uphill and watching it roll back down.

Be aware that progress comes in increments and not all increments are the same size nor accomplish equal work.

Have you ever bought a new car and you think your new car is unique, but as soon as you begin driving it you see dozens of cars just like it on the road? What happened is you increased your awareness and started seeing that particular color or model of car you previously overlooked .

So it is with progress. Once you increase your awareness of what to look for, you’ll start seeing your progress more than before.

Here are some progress indicators.

  • Check the clock when you start and stop writing for the session. Measure your time spent on writing, on research, on editing, on anything you’re doing to advance the writing of your book.
  • Check the word count when you start and and stop writing for the session. Subtract the beginning number of words from the ending number of words and you’ll quickly see how many words you added to your book that session. By the way, if you’ve been editing in that session, you’ll probably find you have fewer words at the end of the session and that’s progress too! Give yourself credit for tightening up your writing.
  • Check your attitude. If you’re dreading writing, maybe you need to rethink your project. Maybe you aren’t writing the book you want to write at all. Maybe you’re writing the book someone’s told you to write, but you’re not jazzed about it. Books are in print a long time. If you’re not writing a book you want your name on for the ages, don’t feel pressured into doing it. Write the book you want to write instead–then measure your progress on that one.
  • Check on your willingness to let others read your work-in-progress. If you’re not willing to share what you’re writing, one of two things is probably going on. (1) You’re not happy with your writing, or (2) you’re afraid of a negative experience–someone will either steal your writing or criticize it. If you’re not happy with your writing, take a step back and try to objectively figure out why. If you’re afraid of a negative experience, you may decide to concentrate your writing efforts on journaling or other personal writing no one will see.
  • Check yesterday’s writing before starting today’s. If what you wrote yesterday looks good, holds your attention, and makes you want to get started writing today’s stuff, you can take comfort knowing you’ve got something good going. That will energize you to get into today’s writing session.

Pick at least one of the indicators and measure your writing progress. It works.

Happy writing!


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