Screenshot of the "Fake-Married to My Billionaire Boss" Scrivener file

Counting my words with Scrivener

One of the parts of being an author I’ve always struggled with was productivity in terms of word count. I’ve accepted the fact that I’m a slow writer. It’s fine! I just need to spend more time writing, is all.

Because I’m kinda dumb sometimes, it never occurred to me to keep track of my word count and maybe set word count goals. I knew I could do this on Scrivener, the writing software I’ve had since fricking 2014 and which I love dearly (I’m not even exaggerating), but I’ve never used the word count features properly until last month.

In October, I switched my Patreon billing settings so new patrons get billed exactly a month after they first sign up and then on the same date for each succeeding month. Previously, everyone got billed at the beginning of each month, no matter what day of the month they signed up. This got me thinking that maybe I should be more consistent with my Patreon content. I used to just post rewards whenever, just so long as they all get posted within the month. Since changing the billing settings, I thought it would be better if I posted weekly and on the same day, if possible. Honestly, I wasn’t sure if I could do it, but I guess promising my patrons this made me more motivated.

In the beginning of November, I checked my word count for the previous month. Turns out I had written 6,976 words in October.

October 2022 - 6,975
September 2022 - 3,839
August 2022 - 3,788

Okay, it’s not super great, but if you look at my word count for the previous two months — 3,839 in September and 3,788 in August — it’s still a vast improvement. In this business, you gotta celebrate the small wins.

Then November happened and my word count was even better: 11,615.

November 2022 - 11,615
October 2022 - 6,975
September 2022 - 3,839

For a lot of authors, 11k+ words a month is no big deal. But it is for me! I’ll take it, thank you very much.

December’s word count wasn’t that much of an improvement but it was still almost 1k words more than November: 12,371.

December 2022 - 12,371
November 2022 - 11,615
October 2022 - 6,975

(The 2nd and 3rd columns are just the word counts written on the manuscript section of the Scrivener file and the words copy-pasted to the manuscript from somewhere else in the file, so for the purposes of this blog, you can ignore them.)

It’s January 2023 now. I had already surpassed December’s word count by a lot: 19,662. I have no screen shot for this because this number is the combined word count of three different manuscripts, while the word counts of the previous months were of just one: Fake-Married to My Billionaire Boss. I won’t be divulging the titles of the other two manuscripts I’m working on this month but I can tell you that one of them is a non-fiction title (904 words), and the other is fiction (10,805). That means I wrote 7,953 words for FMMBB in January. I expect (hope!) I can achieve 25k words in total by the end of January. I’ll probably blog about it here. Stay tuned!

How did keeping track of my monthly word count help me write more words? First, knowing how many words I’ve written in the previous month just naturally pushed me into trying to exceed that number in the current month. It also gives me an idea of the level of productivity I can achieve within a period of time. Last year, I only had a very informal goal — exceed my word count the previous month. But what if I set actual goals and actually plan ahead?

Apart from keeping track of my monthly and daily word counts, Scrivener also lets me set a deadline for the completion of my manuscript, set a total target word count, and tell me how many words I should write in a day in order to stay on track.

I tried doing this once during a NaNoWriMo attempt one year, but I generally don’t use the Project Targets feature on regular days. Until now! A week or two ago, I set a target word count for FMMBB. Since then, every time I open up the manuscript, I can check “Show Project Targets” (under the main menu item “Project”) to see how many words I should write today.

Show project targets in the Scrivener menu

As you see below, I set the manuscript target words to 80,000. The blue progress bar is a visual representation of how far along I am, based on the total words in the manuscript, which is 53,196 words. Apart from the manuscript target, Scrivener also shows me my session target. It’s calculated that I should write 541 words in this session (I have one session a day), and showing me that I’m almost halfway done (260 words) with that blue progress bar. It also displays the deadline I’ve set (March 15, 2023) and how many days are left before the deadline (50 days).

Project targets: Fake-Married to My Billionaire Boss

To configure your manuscript deadline and other settings, click on the “Options…” button. You’ll see this.

Screenshot: Draft target

I honestly don’t know what an overrun is but I just put in 2,000 words. The deadline I set is March 15 of this year. Honestly, this is quite an ambitious target, and I don’t expect I’ll be able to do it, but I can always change that deadline anytime I want. I’ll probably evaluate my progress and adjust my goals sometime in February. But for now, we’re going for March 15. Scrivener is telling me how many words I need to write today to achieve that deadline because I set it to automatically calculate from draft deadline.

I didn’t specify what my writing days are, so I think Scrivener is just assuming every day is a writing day and is telling me I need to write 541 words per day (see session target, the image before the one above this). I’m probably not writing every day, but Scrivener will adjust that number depending on my progress. For instance, if I write 5k words in that manuscript this week, the next session target will be less than 541. If I decide in, say, February, that I want the manuscript to be 90,000 words, I just need to change the target settings and Scrivener will adjust my session targets accordingly. I like math, but it’s pretty nice having my writing software automatically do calculations for me.

I hope this was useful to all of you Scrivenerers (?) reading this. If you’re interested in this amazing app, you can get it on the website of the manufacturer Literature and Latte (this is not an ad, I don’t get anything if you buy it). You can try the software with all the features for 30 days — that’s 30 days of use, not 30 days from when you install it. That means you can take your time testing it with your writing process. I recommend that during your trial period, you take advantage of free resources online. These three YouTube videos should help you get started:

I have one other blog post about my use of Scrivener in my writing, and may post more in the future. You’ll find them all under the nifty #Scrivener tag.

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