A Gift: My Madness

To you, dear reader, I offer a gift: my own special brand of craziness, wrapped up in a little spreadsheet magic that I use to keep track of my writing progress.  As I’ve explained before, at this stage of the game, I’m not really writing prose so much as pumping out words — trying to get the story out on the page before going back and making more sense of it all.  Toward that end, a few chapters back I created a spreadsheet into which I input my daily word and paragraph count to see if I’m on track to finish by a particular date.  I thought I might make this freely available, in case anyone else is as uncreative and nuts as I am and would find such a thing useful.  It’s in Google Docs here, where you can check it out and download it if you’d like (under Google Docs->File->Download).  The spreadsheet’s gone through a few iterations, and the most recent — the workbook “Chapter 5” — is the latest and greatest in dissertation-nerdology.  Here’s a picture:

Here’s how it works:

  1. You fill in the targets for “Word count goal,” “Paragraph goal,” “Deadline,” and “Break Days remaining before deadline” (how many days you will not write between today and your deadline)
  2. Every day, you insert a new line under the previous day, adding the date, the total word count, and the total paragraphs for the chapter you’re working on.
  3. Use the “fill down” function (ctrl-D in Google docs; Edit->Fill->Down in Excel; Insert->Fill down in Numbers) to copy the formulas from the “Rate” column from yesterday’s row into today’s row.
  4. Repeat steps two and three every day, and remember to change the “Break Days” entry as you burn up your non-writing days.  I do this on Mondays, since I take Sundays off.

Basically, if it’s in green, it’s a user-entry line; if it’s in orange, it’s a formula that you shouldn’t touch.

As you make those additions, these other lines will change automagically: current words and paragraphs/day rate; days to word and paragraph goal; completion date at current word and paragraph rate; and average words and paragraphs per day for deadline (the rate you must keep to hit your deadline).

Obviously, you’ll need to delete my entries for step one, as well as my entries for May 31-June 15.  But don’t delete May 29/30 — just change those dates and entries to match your own work.  That will keep the formulas intact.

If you’re anything like me — you poor, poor soul — this sort of constant reporting will serve as a perverse motivator to keep moving, dammit, no matter how stuck you might think you are.  You have to be willing to put up with less-than-perfect — okay, outright shitty — prose, all in the name of progress.  It’s odd, it’s uncreative, it feels a little dirty, but it works for me.

So there you go — use it, toss it, link it, whatever.  Merry early Christmas.  Don’t say I never got you anything.

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