- by Delilah Devlin
Maybe you prefer to let the Mr. Muse set your writing schedule. And if he’s not feeling it, you wait until inspiration strikes. I write for a living so the last thing I’d do is wait for inspiration. Instead, I set goals with daily page counts. Stuff happens along the way, and maybe I can’t meet every little check box on my daily list. But one thing I do is keep a tally so that I know, over time, how productive I really am.
Knowing how productive you can be is important for several reasons, but here are a couple that have caught me flat-footed a time or two. Say you’re not yet published and want to enter a contest, but you need a new manuscript to wow the judges. Do you know for certain that you can finish it in time to enter? Or, what do you tell an editor who’s crazy about a proposal she just accepted when she asks how fast she can have it, especially when she wants it yesterday?
I’ve kept a spreadsheet that captures my daily page count since 2002. (If anyone wants to try the spreadsheet I use, just send me an email.) Taking an average of the pages written per week can help me estimate my productivity. Further, looking at periods where I wasn’t particularly productive forces me to evaluate why I wasn’t and helps me plan better in the future for those things that cause the lulls (conferences, between book rests, plotting). Keeping the chart up to date “keeps it real” for me. I can’t romanticize what I can accomplish when I have cold, hard data.
Counting pages isn’t always straightforward. Different publishers have different formats for submission they might request. For one of my epublishers, I submit my manuscripts in Book Antiqua font, 1.5 lines, rather than double-spaced, which gives me an average word count of around 300 words per page. For one of my New York publishers, I submit in Times New Roman for an average word count of 285 per page. For another, I submit in Courier New for an average of 250 words per page. I personally don’t make a distinction between formats for the tally I enter in my page counter, but you might convert your documents daily to one format to get a truer picture of your productivity for planning purposes.