Tuesday, January 29, 2019
My feeling about that is: if the changes are improving the story, then it’s still progress, not backsliding at all.
The trouble is that it can feel like you’re taking steps backwards if you only focus on one way of measuring progress. And that can be dispiriting.
I think it’s important to be careful how you choose to measure progress, and to pick measurements that make sense. And those measurements will change depending on what you are doing.
For example, while I’m working on a first draft (like I am right now) then word count is a useful measure of progress. It is certainly one that I use, and which I (usually) find motivational as I discussed last time.
Even there, though, you could easily choose other measures of progress. If you are a detailed plotter, for example, then you probably have all your chapters mapped out, so you could measure progress by how many chapters you’ve finished drafting. I don’t work like that, so that measure makes no sense for me, which goes back to the “pick measures that make sense” part.
But when I get into edits and revisions, word count is not a good guide. Instead, I start tracking how much of the manuscript I’ve worked through in the current revision round. Different task, different measure.
When setting myself targets, I prefer to think first about what I am trying to achieve - what is the goal, or the benefit I’m striving for? Then I ask myself, how will I know when I’ve achieved it?
That may be enough for a fairly short task, for example: by this time next week I will have completed X. But if the goal is going to take weeks or months, that’s when measurements of progress come in handy to keep me on track. Then I ask one more question: how can I tell how well I’m doing? This last question should give you clues as to what to measure if you want to track progress over time.
Yes, targets and measurements are powerful tools. Used well they can provide great motivation, but a poor choice can crush you.