Are You Chasing Numbers or Chasing Progress?

When it comes to setting and tracking writing goals, many of the websites and apps I’ve come across allow writers to measure their progress only by way of word counts, and while numerical word goals may be useful to many writers, I find it very narrowminded to limit users of these apps and websites to measuring progress via only word count. There are many goals writers may want to set and many types of writing where word counts will not provide an efficient way of tracking progress.

Writers working on short stories, essays, or articles may be confined to submission guidelines when it comes to word counts. Even if they are capable of writing more words per day or per week, the nature of their projects does not lend itself to maxing out word counts. Poetry writers work in number of lines. Script writers work in number of pages. It may be easier for all of these writers to measure progress by way of setting deadlines for when they wish to have certain phases of their writing process completed during the course of creating a polished project.

Writers working on long, prose-based projects, whether they’re fiction or non-fiction, may also want to set progress goals other than accomplishing word counts. Personally, I like to track my progress by chapters. Why? Because word counts don’t tell me whether or not I’m moving forward in my plotline. Just because I’ve written 1,500 words on a Saturday afternoon doesn’t mean those 1,500 words actually say anything. Because of how many limits I have on my writing time, I don’t want to waste it chasing numbers instead of plot.

Even if other writers (or website or writing apps) try to convince you that word counts matter, don’t feel obligated to measure your progress by their standards. Set goals that work for you and your writing. Measure your progress in ways that encourage you. If you don’t meet somebody else’s expectations, that doesn’t matter. They’re not the ones doing your work. Measure your progress by what makes sense to you.


One thought on “Are You Chasing Numbers or Chasing Progress?

  1. I fell into the trap of obsessively monitoring daily word count when I started writing my book last year, but I never would have finished if I didn’t decide to ignore all that stuff and just let myself WRITE the damn thing!


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