Assessing Your Productivity

- 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.

7 comments

  1. Hey DD, I took a leaf out of your book a while back and now keep a daily page count. I also set weekly and daily goals. All of that has pushed me to write everyday, no excuses :)

    I started a manuscript at the beginning of February and am on schedule to finish it in about 14 days and it’s all because of goals.
    PS. This will be the first time I’ve actually finished and submitted!!

    Thanks for everything!!

  2. Congratulations!!! I’m glad my tools helped. I wouldn’t accomplish a thing without focus.

  3. Morning DD, I just started setting goals and posting my word count on my blog and that really motivates me. I just count my words on MS word or my writing software, WriteWay. Jeez, I didn’t realize you had to worry about the count and the font you use. Thanks, I’ll be watching that.

  4. Gail! You only have to worry about formatting once you start using publishers’ preferred formats for your WIPs. I have templates for some of them so I don’t have to worry about changing settings before I submit. And since I’m lazy, I also don’t reformat to some common standard font for the daily page count.

  5. I really should try something like this. I’m sure it would depress the hell out of me though. Sigh.

  6. Jordan! LOL. Between the daily page counter and the progress meters I keep up to date on my blog, they both shame me into producing. And if you ever need a little kick in the butt to get writing, I’m usually up on AIM looking for sprinting partners.

  7. I never realized that different publishing houses would have different formats and fonts and sizes. All very interesting stuff to learn.