I’ve gone through all kinds of logs, tracking everything from the number of minutes I sat in front of the computer to the number of pages I revised while writing. What I have now appeals to my accountant’s soul.
I put the date, the name of the file I worked in, the page count when I started, the page count when I finished, the change between the two, and the page numbers of the pages I actually worked on.
Seems a bit much, doesn’t it? Yet this is the simplest form that has worked for me. There are days when I have spent all day working on a story and felt like I hadn’t accomplished much, but discovered when I did the math that I’d covered a lot of pages. That makes me feel better. Other days, particularly when I’m revising, I may have reduced the total number of pages, but have worked on a fair number of actual pages.
When I’m fully in gear, I try to cover a certain number of pages in a day. I’ll push out each page when the going gets rough looking for that page count. So long as I keep it reasonable, I find it helps motivate me. For me reasonable is 2 pages a day when I’m ditzing around, 5 pages a day when I’m working well but not geared down, and 7 pages a day when I’m in my “writing cave”. Keep in mind each page is 500 words long. If I happen to get in the flow, I could rack up as many as 20 pages.
I find focusing on page count much more motivating than focusing on time spent. If all I do is track how many hours I BIC-HOK I’ll end up feeling like I wasted my time, regardless of how much I got done. However there were times in my writing life when I really needed to focus on the time spent in front of the keyboard because I was not yet any good at making myself do it. Only when I found tracking time spent counterproductive did I stop keeping track of it.
I have several years worth of logs, and can now see a number of patterns in my writing habits. After a rejection has come in, my page count tends to be a bit thin. When I’ve won a contest or particularly pleased my critiquers, I might see an upsurge. More significantly, page count when transitioning between books or on revisions tend to be quite different from when I’m geared down on a rough draft.
I can also recommend making hash marks, at least on a rough draft. There is something thoroughly satisfying about being able to make a mark each time you get to the end of a page. It also helps you pace yourself.
There have been times when keeping track of pages written undermined me. I focused too much on producing pages and not enough on the story and ended up blocked. Patricia McLinn gave me some great advice once when I complained about it. She said to forget how many pages I was writing, and simply try to get down one scene a day. The change in focus worked like a charm.
However, trying to log scenes didn’t get me anywhere, and I was soon back to my regular log.
I’m sure for some people logs are a waste of time. If you aren’t disciplined enough to write down the pertinent info as it occurs, or if taking the information down prevents you from getting into your story, then logs are probably not for you. But if you can make yourself do it, you might surprise yourself with how well you are doing.