Journal

Stats and Tracking: How Do You Quantify Editing and Thinking?

Nothing prettier than a brand new tracking spread!

As a writer, I have a vested interest in learning both how my process works and where my process can improve. In order to gauge progress, I track a lot of different metrics. Word count, of course, is a big one. It lets me see how much I’m producing in raw, rough words. But I always run into a wall when I try to quantify the time required for thinking and editing. When I focus only on word count, it looks like the days I do more thinking than writing are missed opportunities, or at least breaks in the habit chain. 

But thinking is such an important part of the process, and with limited writing time, it’s inevitable that I’ll have to spend some of what time I have planning.

Editing runs into the same tracking problem. How do you quantify progress when editing? I’ve seen some talk about words removed (smart, in that in the final edit throes, it encourages the right mentality of “Trim it Back!”); some do pages or word count edited (but what if you’re reworking or adding scenes that push you end-point marker farther away? It’s not like you weren’t *working*.). 

Some people say there isn’t good way to track editing time, and that it’s a waste of time to try. (This technical writing post argues even tracking new word count is pointless, because it doesn’t measure quality, but any fiction writer worth their byline knows a lot of quality in fiction is generated through quantity, so we’ll just leave that there for the folks who have to produce specific writing for specific clients.) But I have to disagree.

Finding out how much thinking time developing a story (on average) takes, determining how much time you’ll need to budget (on average) to edit a rough draft into something tolerably readable, knowing how to set reasonable and reachable deadlines—all of that is useful information to have on hand. 

(“Average” is the key word here—no two stories are the same, and the time they take to write or develop will differ substantially, but having a ballpark for how long the process takes from start-to-finish seems like a useful metric to be aware of, if only for myself!)

I learned in my search that there’s a way to check total document editing time in Word, which is FABULOUS, but only at the very end of the process. Incredibly useful data, I think, but not so helpful in achieving my main priority: maintaining the habit chain. 

I track daily word count, but some days I need to think or edit. In order to not have gaps in my day-to-day tracking (which is startlingly demoralizing from a habit-maintaining perspective), I’ve decided to track minutes worked on those days. 

It’s the closest way I can approximate the effort of the work (30m = ~600 words, for example, which is pretty close to my usual words/hour), without relying solely on undependable word count metrics. 

Because thinking *is* work, and I don’t want to undervalue that time compared to new words. New words are great, but they’ll always need a solid application of time and brainpower to make them shine. 

^ ^ ^

Fellow writers! How do you quantify editing and thinking time in order to escape the endless pursuit of new words?

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