Here is another little tool I use to help move my writing along.
This is not for everyone, I know, but I'm a bit of a measurement freak at times. When I'm tackling a big project, I need to see my progress somehow.
Writing a novel is a big project. Here's what I use to give a visual guide of how I'm doing. This is done in Excel. There's a table of data, and a graph.
First off, I need to explain how I write. I don't find it easy to find my way around a 400 page document, so I break it up into easy chunks. Ghosts wound up split over 13 separate documents. I give each document a meaningful name related to the story at that point, then prefix it with a number to ensure the documents appear in the correct sequence.
This makes it more difficult to keep track of overall word count, which is where the spreadsheet came in originally. There is a column for each document, where I keep note of the separate word counts. This is then easy to total up.
To turn it into a graph over time, I create separate rows showing the word count on particular dates. So as not to have too many rows, I usually create a row per week rather than per day. This shows how the word count rises over time - the red line in the graph.
But progress is more meaningful with a target to aim for. So, I have a "Target" row showing where I want the word count to be at some point in the future. It is then a simple formula to work out what the target should be on any given day, which automatically populates the target column, and produces the blue line on the graph.
You can see, I started off badly and have been slightly below target ever since. But I don't feel too bad about it, because I'm still on course for a reasonable word count by the end of the year. I'm pitching short of full novel length for a first run through, because I find it easier to add words in where scenes or characters need development, than to trim out later on.
I find measurements like this can be a double-edged sword.
If I'm doing reasonably well, and I've got some momentum going, then seeing the chart climb helps keep me on the straight and narrow. I feel good when I'm on course, and I can kick myself into making the extra effort to keep it that way. This worked for me while I was drafting Ghosts, and it seems to be working now. That little chart helps draw me back each evening, even if I only have the energy to add a couple of hundred words. I stay in the habit of writing each day.
However, if I'm not feeling the love, then no amount of graphing will motivate me, and I'm more likely to get depressed at the targets I'm missing. This happened when I first started Tiamat's Nest. I drafted some scenes, started tracking with the aim of completing a draft in a few months, then ran out of steam.
I don't believe in becoming a slave to targets, so the best thing to do in that case is acknowledge that this is not the right time, and set it aside. That's what I did with this WIP three years ago, and now I'm back with a vengeance!