Keeping Track

NaNoWriMo comes with some lovely stats pages so you can see where you are and where you should be by now in your wordcount.  But I realized that I'd forgotten my own personal tracking method which works as a surprisingly good motivator.  I figured I'd share it here (nearly halfway through the month--go figure) in case anybody else might benefit from it.

My amazing high-tech word count indicator and motivation device consists of a sheet of graph paper from a pad I picked up somewhere for cheap and still haven't used up.  There are fifty lines to a sheet and forty-one squares to a line.  I mark off a block of forty-by-fifty and notch it at intervals of four along the top and intervals of ten along the side.  Each time my wordcount advances by twenty-five words, I put an X in one of the squares.  Four boxes adds up to one hundred words and each line of forty adds up to a thousand.

Twenty five words isn't much.  Twenty five words can be something as simple as:
"Can you take me back?" she asked.
"I can, in theory, yes," he said, "I'm not entirely sure that would be the best thing for you." 
 Which is actually twenty-six words, but I didn't want to cut things off abruptly.  But that's the beauty of this technique--each time you nudge things forward by twenty-five words, you wind up adding just a few more words and then, hey, it's only a few more words to the next box checked off and then, oh look, you just wrote three paragraphs.  Or you wind up plowing through an entire scene and when you come up for air you realize that you have a lot of boxes to check.

I suppose you could give yourself little rewards after you check a certain number of boxes, but I've found that the simple act of checking off a wee box on a sheet of paper does nicely in terms of pinging my brain's reward system and providing me with a sense of progress.

By the way, even if you're already a good ways into your NaNovel, it's not too late to use this technique.  In point of fact, I just drew up this year's sheet this very morning (and man, did I have a lot of boxes to check to catch up on!)  I may be posting pictures of my progress periodically, at the very least on Twitter and possibly here.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some words to write and boxes to check.


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