A Simple Trick On How To Keep To Heinlein’s Rule #1

Let me share with you an effective tool which I used, to keep myself on track with “You Must Write Every Day”, adhering to  Heinlein’s Rule #1. 

In my previous posting about Heinlein’s Rules for writers who wish to succeed,  the cardinal rule for writers is Rule #1, where Heinlein said that “You Must Write Every Day”.  I know, I know, one of the writing rules which we are taught is to Avoid Repetition and I am doing just that, repeating the YMWED, but I cannot emphasize enough how important that rule is to us writers. The YMWED is like a  mantra to us writers.  YMWED is the cornerstone which writers must have in order to build themselves a successful profession.

In the previous posting which I mentioned above, I made a suggestion to writers about setting a weekly target in their writing regime. I even suggested starting with setting 7000 words a week. It is just an arbitrary figure and of course, you have the liberty of fixing any number you find comfortable to start with.

The secret, really, is to have some kind of tracker in your writing regime, a tool to goad or prompt you, effectively, into keeping your YMWED mantra. Never underestimate the power of tracking. Any successful rollout of projects of any kind has some form of tracking in them, and your writing project would definitely benefit from having a tracker in it.

Never underestimate the power of tracking. 

For those who have used a fitbit tracker, you will definitely attest to the tracker’s ability in keeping you on your toes as far as your daily steps or exercise target is concerned. When you go on a long distance journey, you would find a way to track the distance you have made, cheering you all the way until you reach your destination. For me, Waze, the GPS navigational app, is my milestone tracker, cheering me on with the miles meter that gets lower as minutes passed me by,  while I drive, heading to my destination.  Likewise, in our writing endeavor, a good cheerleader, a tracker is a must, to keep us on target in our journey. We are all,  a creature of habits. The key to forming a habit, whether good or bad is the same; A trigger, the behavior and then the reward which seal our tendency to repeat that process which eventually turns into a habit. In the case of our writing, we have the YMWED as our trigger, and then the writing part in responding to YMWED and finally the reward when we could see how far we have moved day after day, week after week.  The tracking milestone provides the incentive, some kind of psychological reward that prods us to repeat the task the next day.

When I decided to write back in 2015, I found difficulty in working toward the first draft of my project. That manuscript seemed elusive and unattainable.  Of course, part of the reason was also that I was fairly new to what a writer needs to do and I was busy learning the ropes and whatever not in the story crafting journey.

I have read and heard from many authors about the importance of having a daily target or even a weekly one. James Scott Bell, a successful and prolific writer advocated in setting the weekly words target because by doing so, writers gave themselves some room for maneuvering as far as meeting the words goal is concerned. Even Stephen King recommended the weekly target if I am not wrong.  I could not agree more with both the authors’ wisdom of doing a weekly rather than a daily one.  Divide the weekly target evenly by the number of days you would write in a week, preferably at least six days, and you will get your average daily words count target.

Early in 2016,  I decided to create a spreadsheet to help me, in tracking my word count in my daily and weekly progress. Using the Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, I drafted a simple worksheet to track my words and that was the time when I found better traction in keeping my weekly words count on target, or in other words, finally getting traction to my progress in writing.

My third book – Griffin’s Dream, a horror genre novel will be released on 31st October  2017 in conjunction with Halloween celebration, was tracked using the same spreadsheet.  I have captured and attached a snapshot of the MS Excel sheet here below as an example on how I track my word count for that particular project. BTW, pre-order for Griffin’s Dream is at USD$0.99 and is available from many Online Retails.  If you love to read fiction in the horror genre, pre-order the book at the price of 0.99. The price will revert back to $4.95, the day after the launch date which is 1st Nov 2017.

Now, going back to my thoughts about words count and tracking, regardless of whether I am inspired or not,  the tracker is there to keep me on the ball,  striking away, faithfully on the keyboards, making sure that I am on target or even beating the target. That simple spreadsheet helped me tremendously with all my three completed projects and I will definitely continue to use it for all my subsequent works. You should give it a try to validate for yourself the virtue of tracking your word count. 

In the spreadsheet, I just need to enter:

  1. The words target for my Novel;
  2. The weekly words target;
  3. The starting date for my project.

From the first 2 entries, the spreadsheet will provide a rough estimate on the number of weeks for the project. With the start date entry, the spreadsheet will provide a rough estimate of the ETA of your first draft.

Then every day, you just need to enter the number words you have completed into the designated field marked by the date. Then at the end of the week, you get a tabulation on whether you meet your weekly target or not. In the spreadsheet, you will also see how far off you are from the words count target. At times, you found yourself far ahead of your goal, giving you a reason to smile in your journey.

In the spreadsheet, you will also get an overall summary of how far off you are from the total word count target for your Novel.

I have ported the MS Excel sheet to Google Spreadsheet so that I am able to share with anyone who is interested to get a copy of it.

I will do a full tutorial post on how to input and interpret the spreadsheet with regards to the writer words count tracking in a near future.

The video below provides a glimpse of how the spreadsheet works and how to enter words count goal. I am happy to share with you my google spreadsheet if you are interested.  All you need to do is just pop in your email address in the signup bar at the bottom of the page. Kindly share the post via tweeter or facebook with your friends who might want to make use of the free tracking spreadsheet. The spreadsheet is absolutely free. I spent hours learning how to use google sheets and also some of my time in porting my MS Excel sheet to Google Sheets. I did that with you in mind, thinking that you too might find the spreadsheet useful as I do. The spreadsheet is meant for personal use and not for sale.

In my previous posting, IMLI, I have warned new writers to be careful as they meander through their journey of getting their creative projects out into the world. As in many industries, the peripheral or adjunct mercenaries are very shrewd and industrial in providing all kind of services or tools that promise you huge success, but in reality, are small in their deliveries but great at burning holes in your pocket. Notwithstanding, there are many great successful writer-philanthropists whom one can trust and are helpful in giving their fellow writers tribe a helping hand with the great value materials they put out on the internet, for free. Yes, for free. A few of such kind and great persons I would like to highlight are  Joanna Penn from the Creative Penn website;  Mark Dawson from  Self-Publishing Formula; Mark McGuinness from Lateral Action; Jeff Goins from Goins writer website.  They are successful and humble souls that had in a way show me that helping others, especially writers, is a good way to trudge along the lonely journey of writing-hood.

I can also send you a copy of the spreadsheet in original MS Excel. Send your request to admin@lucasmichael.net or via the contact form.

Cheers and Happy Tracking!

Lucas M.


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