Update on Word Count and Time Tracking

I’ve been tracking my writing time since the beginning of the year. It’s interesting to see the data and the averages over time that go with it. As of today, I’ve written just over 70,000 words and spent 165 hours doing it.

My time tracking spreadsheet says that I’ve spent an average of 1h 54m per day writing. Looking at the data, one thing stands out. I’ve only been measuring my “first draft” writing time. Revisions, editing, and story planning aren’t being counted.

My year-to-date summary, as of last Sunday.

One of my goals has been to increase my writing time. I was sabotaging myself by measuring just one aspect of “writing.” One reason these activities haven’t been getting counted is because they don’t have a word count value attached to them. If an edit takes two hours and the piece is 150 words shorter, how do I measure that?

If I’m going to track something like this it should be accurate. Until now it hasn’t been. I’ve known this for a while, and I was getting lax with tracking any time at all.

I found the answer in a writing podcast. The host, Mur Lafferty, also keeps a spreadsheet, and was giving herself word count credit for editing time. Her rule of thumb is each hour of editing is worth 400 words. That sounds about right to me. So after thinking about it, I’m going to do the same.

If I’m going sit at the computer writing and doing its related activities I want my “timesheet” to reflect that. But I also know a lot of editing time for things like blog posts don’t take an hour. So I came up with a formula that calculates the WPH equivalent value for the time I record. Doing this by hand would be tedious. That’s the reason I’m using a spreadsheet. So it can do the math based on my input.

This is how I picked my time to WPH equivalents.

  • Editing: 400 WPH. Looking at my average WPH since the first of the year, this seems about right. It’s a little slower than my average, but editing isn’t as concentration heavy as writing.
  • Coding: 500 WPH. Coding is a high concentration activity for me. Writing with that same focus would easily account for 500-700 WPH. This only counts for coding that is related to a writing project. It also covers the time needed to verify all the code in an article.
  • Plotting: 200 WPH. This is the time spent with a notepad outlining or planning scenes. I’m going with half of the editing number because this is more time intensive. Besides, time spent here allows me to write faster. So the actual WPH when I’m writing will be higher.

I changed my calculation cell to factor these in when I enter my times. The end goal is to make my weekly summaries accurately reflect the time I spend on writing projects.

I also played with using one of the various time tracking apps. It was worth exploring, but the benefit/hassle ratio broke the wrong way. Using an app doesn’t make sense when the spreadsheet is just an alt-tab away. I want to keep my writing machine running smoothly with the fewest moving parts necessary.