Evaluating the Usefulness of Novel Progress Reports: Two Months In

Over the past two months, I’ve completed a weekly check-in on my novel progress during the week. Now that I’ve completed the weekly progress report eight times, I want to check in on whether it’s helpful to my writing process or time that would be better spent writing.

I’m revising, so I’m working on a blend of (outlining and) writing new scenes, expanding and combining existing scenes to reflect a changed outline, and simply revising already written scenes.

What I’ve Accomplished in Two Months of Novel Revision

Word Count: Feb-Mar 2017

  • Starting word count (Feb 2017): 129,679
  • End word count (April 2017): 130,544
  • Total words written: 12,967
  • Total words removed in revision: 5,177
  • Average words written per week: ~1,625

Hours Writing: Feb-Mar 2017

  • Scrivener: 55.5 hours
  • Outlining and editing: 21 hours
  • Total hours working on novel: 76.5 hours
  • Average hours per week: 9.5 hours

Comparison with Past Writing

Year-to-Year Comparisons

In Winter 2016, I was drafting new content, with the goal of finishing my first draft. Winter 2017, I’ve been revising and motivating myself with weekly progress reports. Additionally, I have a spreadsheet that I get to check off after having written for 30 minutes each day.

  • In March 2016, I spent about 22.5 hours in Scrivener drafting new content. That’s slightly less than the 26.5 hours I spent in Scrivener in 2017. Additionally, I also spent 14 hours editing and outlining in March 2017. That’s 18 hours more writing and editing time than the previous year.
  • In February 2016, I wrote in Scrivener for about 22.5 hours, and about 1.5 hours plotting. In February 2017, I spent about 27 hours in Scrivener, as well as 3 hours outlining and editing. That’s about an extra 1.5 hours of writing time.

My average writing time in Winter 2016 was 22.5 hours in Scrivener each month. My Winter 2017 averages were about 26.5 hours. I also spent about 8.5 hours per month editing and outlining in Feb-Mar 2017 versus 1.5 hours per month in Feb-Mar 2016. That’s about 4 more hours of writing per month and 7 more hours of editing.

Trends in writing Time for Winter 2017

In January 2017, I spent about 16 hours writing (I don’t think I was tracking my offline time, because I know I was working on my chapter worksheets). In December 2016, I spent about 18 hours writing.

Both February and March were an improvement from the previous two months, although it must be accounted that December and January are typically low writing output months for me after the strain of NaNoWriMo. I also had a bit of adjustment to do because I took a break on my novel for the month of NaNoWriMo and wrote a completely different project (the outline for a graphic novel adaptation of The Little Mermaid).

Compared with Goals and Records

  • NaNoWriMo is a record of my maximum monthly effort. In November 2016, I wrote for 49 hours (not on this novel); November 2015, 58 hours (working on this novel). In March of 2017, I spent 40.5 hours working on the novel (26.5 hours writing new material).
  • My goal is to spend an average of about 10.5 hours per week (1.5 hours per day) writing or editing. In Feb-Mar 2017, I averaged about 9.5 hours per week writing.
  • Over the past eight weeks of progress reports, I set goals for what I hoped to accomplish the following week. I only completed all the goals one time.

The Verdict on Weekly Novel Progress Reports

Weekly novel progress reports appear to be helpful in increasing the amount of time I spend writing, although not by an enormous amount. Combining revision with new writing appears to use different writing energy / brainpower that allows me to increase the amount of time I spend working on the novel.

The outcome over two months is good enough for me to continue the experiment. I’ll keep up weekly progress reports for the next month or two and do another check-in. I will also think about ways to improve the process or make it more motivating.

Although the end goal of the weekly reports is to produce the beta draft of my novel, I also want to establish what is a reasonable, sustainable writing practice for myself. What I can accomplish during the burst of NaNoWriMo has proven unsustainable, although useful for pushing through a large chunk of work or single project. The weekly check-in will also help me learn to set reasonable expectations for my progress.




About Tracy Durnell

Seattle-area graphic designer and SFF writer inspired by the Pacific Northwest, crafting a sustainable and intentional life.

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