Tag Archives: stats

A Year of Writing Statistics (or quantifying my obsession).

I am by nature a disorganised, lazy person. As such, I have always found that I work better when I try and impose order on my chaos. I prefer having hard deadlines to nebulous ones, because it forces me to to meet them (or not). I love Google Calendar, and have multiple calendars set up. I use lists a great deal. And, when I lost 20+ kilograms it was because I counted calories rather obsessively and tracked my exercise and diet using an app on my iPhone. Keeping statistics has always helped me because that way I can actually see whether I am making progress or not, and it gives me a measuring stick that I can use to see whether I am ahead of where I need to be–or falling behind.

I have always tried to do the same with my writing. I keep a record of submissions and deadlines (I used to use Duotrope, but I now use an app called StoryTracker), but it was hard to find something to record daily writing stats that met my needs. One of the people in my writing group created an excellent spreadsheet to use during NaNoWriMo and I adapted that to use in other months, but it wasn’t quite as customisable as I needed (more the fault of my Excel skills than the spreadsheet itself). I also helped develop an iOS app to record writing stats and targets, but in the end it didn’t get the necessary uptake to make it worthwhile for the developer to continue to work on it (again, my fault for not putting enough time in to publicising it).


In late 2014 I was given a great opportunity to do the novelisation of a Canadian movie. I only got the chance because a number other people were unable to do it, so by the time it got to me the timelines were pretty tight–well, very tight. After watching the movie and reading the script I had about 15 days to produce a 75,000 word draft which, as you can imagine, is a pretty high pressure deadline. I am going to go into the details of how I managed this in another post, but one of the key things was making sure I met a daily word count.

Around the same time, I had found another spreadsheet that seemed to do the things that I wanted to do and I used to help keep on top of my daily goals. After writing non stop for 15 days I had some pretty cool stats, and I decided that I would continue to record them, and try writing every day–no matter what.

I set myself the following rules:

  • A day ended when I went to bed. I do most of my writing between 10pm-2am so I would count that early morning time as part of the day I started on.
  • I didn’t count words written as part of my day job as part of this spreadsheet. As I spent most of that period as the editor of a fortnightly magazine–and writing about 50-60% of the content–I estimate that’s about 100,000-150,000 words I haven’t counted.
  • However, I  counted blogging and writing related tasks because they are words I felt I have to write as part of being an author.
  • When editing a manuscript I would take the ending word count minus the starting word count as the word count for the day, not just changed words.

So, onto the graphs and stats!

Overall Word Count 29/11/14 to 29/11/15 – 224,053 words


I have divided this into five sections, most of which are self evident. The “Writing-Misc” is stuff to do with the business of writing, which I will break down further a little later on.

Drilling down, there is some useful information:

Daily Breakdown

So, in the course of a year I managed to write over 80% of days, which I am pretty happy with. Add day job stuff and I am writing pretty much every day! Only taking days I did write I averaged almost 750 words a day, but even the actual average of over 600 words a day isn’t too bad–though not amazing. My goal for the coming year is to get it up to 1000.

For a sense of perspective you can check out this fascinating list. I feel better knowing I am beating Hemingway, but I plan to work through Lee Child and end up as Stephen King.


I am not sure how useful the above graphic is, but I may as well throw it in.

Now to breakdown the category statistics.

Novels –  143,316 words


Backcountry made up the bulk of the words here, and created a really strong foundation for the rest of my year. It did nearly kill me, though–you can see why below.


If you are wondering what happened on the 13th, I had a rapidly approaching deadline for a commissioned short story! I will talk about the writing process in another blog post but, as tough as it was, that fortnight or so gave me the confidence to believe that I really could write fats and reasonably well when I needed to. Incidentally, on the 14th I set  my record for most words in a day – 8156.

I had promised myself I would never put myself in a position (through factors I could control, though I’ll take any opportunity I get if I can make the deadline even if it is a killer) where I had to write that many words in such a short time (or at least do my best to avoid it), but my trip to the States late last year (where I didn’t get much writing down through September at all) meant I had to do something similar towards the end of they year. 

The “Secret Tie In” project is in the final stages of edits and I hope I can announce it soon–but for now it will have to wait. And it is not easy to keep it secret, it is probably my biggest piece of writing news yet!

Secret Tie In

The “Secret Young Adult” is a collaborative novel I am working  on, and is going along slowly but surely–the first ten chapters are out with some test readers and I am nervously awaiting their feedback. More to come on that one soon, I hope!

Short Stories – 37,778 words

I had a good year for short stories, ending up with five stories (if you count the one performed at Conflux, which I certainly do) being published. However, most of them were either written in 2014 or revised versions of older stories.

Short Stories

The flash piece was called “Guardians of Her Galaxy” and performed as part of the amazing Cabinet of Oddities, and the Poe piece found a home as “Sympathetic Impulses”. The Dystopia story will be part of an upcoming Pozible campaign.

The Tie In story is neither fish nor fowl, the anthology it was slated for has been put on hold, but I remain hopeful.

The rest, well some of them are stories I didn’t finish in time to submit, while others have been been kicking around for far too long. My goal is to either finish them or chuck them out completely if they aren’t worth the time and effort.

Blogging – 12,997 wordsBlogging

I’ve tried to be a lot more consistent with my blogging this year, but the majority of posts have been guest posts, either as part of the excellent (due to the contributors, not as a result of any work on my part!) “Paying for Our Passion” series or as part of my goal to help promote other people’s work.

Despite the fact that we are still way behind (mainly due to me), I did manage to get some posts done for the “New Who Conversations“, as well launching a review series of Supergirl with the wonderful Tehani Wessely.

The saddest one is the “Blogging – Guest” segment–I haven’t been a guest on very many blogs at all!

Writing – Misc – 15,496

Ah, “misc”. It really does cover a multitude of sins.

Writing Misc

I’ve gradually been working my way towards a Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing. At my current rate of progress I should be finished around 2020, but it is something I would like to finish, if only to prove to myself I can.

Generally I don’t count critiques if I am using comments and track changes, this was one that I had to do a broad assessment, and I think I was trying to preserve my writing streak.

I have applied for a number of writing related jobs this year, and for some I had to do some writing exercises, so that goes down as well.

One of the things you discover when you start getting more work in the Tie In field is you just don’t just get an idea and start writing. In most cases you first need to pitch an idea (generally a paragraph or two outlining the concept) and then, if it interests the publisher enough, you go on to do a chapter by chapter outline. 

As a “pantser”, this came as a rude shock to me but it has actually been really beneficial in showing me that outlining and preparation can actually help. I can write a lot quicker when I am working to an outline–that pain at that start pays off as you start to get closer to the deadline!


So, how did I do with the writing every day? Well, for a long time, I did pretty well. I made a rule that I couldn’t go to bed until I had written something, anything. I didn’t really set a minimum word count, I just made sure I got something down. It didn’t matter where I was, or how I was feeling, I always managed–even on my trip to New Zealand (Norman Cates–who shared a room with me) could tell you a story about that!).

I finally broke my streak on the 22nd of August, after 266 days of consecutive writing. If you look at that date, it is a few days into Worldcon in Spokane. I have to say, it was a relief to finally end it. If I am honest, it had become a bit of a millstone around my neck. I found myself becoming anxious if it looked like I was going to struggle to find time to write on a particular day. I would stay up later than I should have, procrastinating before writing. I often didn’t care about the quality of the writing, as long as I got something down.

But, saying that, there were a number of positives to come out of it. It got me in the habit of writing regularly, and it gave me a whole heap of stats to play with–and learn from. It showed me what I was actually capable of if I applied myself properly. And it gave me a reference point that I can compare against the same time next year, and see how I am going.

As you can see, it was novels that kept me really busy. Because they paid advances and had a guaranteed income, I had to prioritise not only the novels themselves, but the pitches an outlines and revision that come with them over short stories that were not a sure thing or blog posts that might not get many readers. A good problem to have, though!

This is obviously a fairly limited examination of the stats, as I am not sure how much interest there would be in going deeper. But, I am happy to expand on anything covered here–or anything that is shown in the stats that I haven’t noted. You can post your questions in the stats, and I’ll either answer there (if simple enough) or look at doing another post.

Weighing your words

Some of you may know, after being unfortunate enough to have to have sat through my conversations on the subject, a while back I lost about 20kg. It was a very interesting experience, not without its struggles as I battled my natural inclinations towards laziness and gluttony. While I have taken a few backward steps I am very much back on the fitness trail and working hard.

While writers and exercise may not seem the most natural combination, it’s interesting that some of the lessons I learned during the massive lifestyle change I underwent when I started trying to get fit, and many of the things I found helped or hindered me, could just as easily be applied to my writing.

You need to set yourself measurable, and realistic, goals

When I first started trying to get fit, I had some unrealistic expectations about how much weight I could lose a week or that I could go from doing very little to suddenly running a marathon. A few months of the new regime disabused me of that and I started setting more realistic goals, more about the things I could control such as how many exercise sessions I would do in a week, rather than uncontrollable likes specific weight loss amounts.

It’s the same with my writing. I can’t really control how many sales I make or awards I win, all I can do is set goals of how many words I want to write in a given week or specific markets that I want to target. Those are the goals that I can set for myself, that don’t depend on other people. If I fall short there is no one else to blame but myself.

Track your stats

The biggest factor in my weight loss was almost obsessive calorie counting. I tracked what I ate and how many calories that added up to, and I tracked how many calories I burnt with exercise. It was a simple equation, if I burnt more calories than I took in, I would lose weight. I also tracked what I was doing in regards to exercise, how many hours a week, how many kilometres I ran or weights I lifted. That way I could plan to get better.

With my writing I do something similar. I track how many words I write and how many submissions I am making. This allows me to keep track of how I am going. Am I making progress? Am I letting my writing slide? It is a hugely beneficial practice. I am not a naturally organised person so I do struggle at times, but there are lots of tools out there to help (forgive the plus, but here is a great word count tracking tool that I helped design).

You need to measure your progress

There is only one way to know if you are getting anywhere and that is to track your progress. I would weigh myself every week at the same time, so I could see how I compared to previous weeks. I would see if I was running further and faster, whether I felt fitter. As long as there was a general improvement I was happy.

It’s the same with my writing. Am I writing more words, or sending out more submissions? I keep track of acceptances and rejections, and keep an eye whether I am moving up the ladder of markets. That way I can see that, yes, I am making progress.

There is always a reason not to exercise, or to write

Whenever I thought about going to the gym or going for a run, there was always a reason not to. I was tired, I was unwell, I’d had a hard day at work, there was something else I had to get done, I was sore, it was raining outside. And so on. There was always an excuse not to exercise. The same with eating, there was always a reason why today was okay to over indulge.

The same thing happens with my writing. There is always something else I could be doing. There is always another link to click in Wikipedia, another funny video of a cat in sunglasses to watch, another Twitter conversation be had. But, if writing is important to you, if you are serious about it, you will find the time to do it.

Getting started is the hard part

I can’t even begin to count how many times I have sat around knowing I should be going to the gym or heading out for run, putting it off as long as I can, only to find that once I got started it really wasn’t as bad as I had imagined. It was that initial need to find the motivation that I struggled with, not that actual doing.

For me, it is the same with writing. I can spend literally hours getting started on that first sentence, but once I get going I never have any trouble going on. And there is the same feeling of achievement at the end, whether it is completing a session at the gym or hitting “save” on a short story, knowing that you pushed through that initial roadblock – or the feeling of disappointment in yourself if you failed to get motivated enough to start.

Being accountable to others will help keep you on track

Looking back, the most successful and ongoing exercises habits I have made have been ones where other people are involved. Whether it is running with a partner, working with a personal trainer or even playing basketball, I find that having other people around makes me step up. When I am running by myself it is much easier to slow down because no one sees that, while when running with a partner means that I want to look good. Pride is a great motivator! And when i play cricket I don’t want to be the weak link in the team, so I push myself to do better each game.

With my writing, I have a group of people who I tell what markets I am planning on subbing to, so when I don’t I know that I will have explain why I didn’t. It means that I can’t just decide I can’t be bothered to do so. I’ve also been fortunate enough to gain a great mentor through the AHWA who I don’t want to let down. And, I am a member of a few writers groups, people who get to see my writing and I don’t want to be submitting pieces of a substandard quality to them. All these things make me try even harder than I would on my own.

Surround yourself with others on the same journey

As I got serious about getting fit I discovered that there were other people around me, and at work, who were doing the same thing. We were able to talk about the high and lows of the journey, give each other tips and just generally encourage one another to keep persevering. They spoke the same language, of calorie burns and carbs and, most importantly, I could talk to them without boring them silly. Talking with them left me more motivated to keep going on.

It’s the same with writing. All my friends are very supportive of my writing, but I avoid going on about it too much (honestly, I try!) because they aren’t on the same journey and I don’t want to bore them. I love being around other writers, people who speak the same language and understand the highs and lows and the struggles and striving that go into writing. I can get tips on how to do better and talk about the things do and don’t work. And, I go away refreshed and motivated to keep on achieving.

When you do fall short it isn’t the end of the world

It is easy to get discouraged when you are trying to lose weight or get fit. When you do your weekly weigh in and the scale goes up, or when you go way over your calorie limit for the day it can be rather depressing. And, if I don’t exercise for too long or slack off when I do, I can get down on myself. But, really in the scheme of things it isn’t that big a deal. There is always a chance to do better next time.

It’s the same with my writing. When I miss a deadline, or get a rejection, or have a story ripped to shreds by my writers group of course there is a little bit of feeling sorry for myself. But, I try and shrug it off and move on as soon as I can, resolving to learn from experience and not make the same mistakes as I did last time. I know that if I keep learning I will keep getting better.

In the end, you have to be doing it for yourself, and for the right reasons

When I was on my fitness kick I realised that I had to be doing it for myself. Not for what other people thought, or to compete with others. There was always going to be someone fitter or faster or with washboard abs. If other people were the measure of my success I was always going to fall short. Instead I set my own goals. I wanted to be able to wear all the clothes that were sitting in my wardrobe feeding moths. I wanted to be able to get through a game of basketball without feeling like I was going to die. I was doing it for my sake, not for others.

It’s the same with my writing. I can’t use other people as my goal posts, there will be other writers who make more sales than me, or less. I can’t make editors or publishers buy my stories, and I can’t pin my hopes on awards. All I can do is make sure that I am making the most of what ability I have, that I keep producing words and that everything I send out I am proud of. I know if I keep doing that, then I will feel good about my writing. Everything else that happens will be a bonus.