[Most of this post was previously published on The Ink Ladies Blog on August 21, 2010. It has been mildly edited for updates.]
been busy, believe it or not. As I drown in slip-sliding paper falling
toward me and my fingers on the keyboard (most of which I could shred,
once I extract the odd computer disk, wedding announcement, and hardback
book from the pile), it occurs to me that I could share how I keep
track of my word count as I write.
understand, this can be as complex or as simple as I want to make it. I
can use the Excel chart my friend J. Scott Savage sent me several years
ago that nags me incessantly, or I can add and subtract words as I
write and edit, or I can keep a simple running tally at the beginning
and the end of my writing day. I kind of like the simple style nowadays,
so I'll tell you how that last thing works.
love the 9.5 inch by 6 inch one-subject notebooks for this task.
They're not so big as to be in the way, and not so small as to disappear
amidst the rubble on my desk. I open it up and draw three
equally-spaced lines down the page. This gives me two sections of
columns to fill up.
the left-most column, at the top, I put the date. I can put anything
else in the nature of notes in that column, like the times I start and
end, the scene or chapter I'm working on, and how many hours I work. I
see I have a notation saying slippery elm bark and chamomile tea. Ha! I
know what scene that one was!
second column is where I put the beginning word count opposite the
date. If I'm starting fresh, this is zero. If I want to, I can add the
word count when I do a save, when I get up for lunch, or what-not (I
usually only put down the last three digits, or hundreds). The last
figure I put in that column is the final word count of the day, unless I
want to do a total of words written underneath it. I finish the day
with a horizontal line drawn under all the notes for the day, in both
The other section of two columns is for when I get to the bottom of the page. You knew that, right?
How do you find your word count at the beginning and end of the writing period?
you're writing your novel or other kind of piece in Word, click on the
menu item called Review, then highlight all your text (Ctrl+A). In the
far left section, look for Word Count. Click it, and you'll have a rough
estimate of your words. I say "rough," because it will count every
asterisk (*) and Chapter Heading, but it's good enough for starters. Do
this again when you quit for the day, and you have the second count.
if you want an even simpler method, just look at the bottom of your
Word document, on the left. If you have Word 2010 or newer, the word
count is already there for you.
you can use the software program I use. I bet some of you chimed in
with "Scrivener," but no, what I use is similar but FREE! It's called
yWriter5. It, too, gives me the total word count of the project at the
bottom of the main window (as well as words written that day when I'm
finished), so I check the word count when I begin and when I end, and
put those numbers in my notebook at start and end of day. Actually,
since I belong to a couple of accountability groups, I also note the
total words written that day in my notebook so I can report.
and its antecedents were written by novelist and computer programmer
Simon Haynes of Australia. He couldn't find a writing software that
suited his needs, so he wrote it. He updates it quite often, sometimes
to meet suggestions of users, but it's a lean program written to use few
resources of your machine. It even runs off a flash drive, so it's
You can find yWriter5 at http://www.spacejock.com
(Hal Spacejock is the hero of Simon's futuristic sci-fi series). There
are several other useful programs to be found there, as well as a link
to the how-to wiki created by the folks in the next paragraph.
software is free, not only no-cost, but free of nasty surprises like
virii, Trojan horses, and other malware. There's an active community of
users in a Google group who support each other. The old hands answer the
questions of the newbies, and Simon occasionally pops in, too.
really like yWriter5, not only to keep track of my word count, but for
ease of writing a scene at a time (which is about all my brain can
fathom at one time).
How do you keep track of your word counts?