Michaeline: New Year Prep

Two Japanese men pounding rice cakes.

Pounding out the details for a Happy New Year.

Today, my family is getting ready to pound mochi and clean the house from top to bottom in preparation for the Japanese New Year on Wednesday. And I’ve been getting ready for a fresh start in my writing career this past month, too.

Obsessed is more like it – I’ve decided that what I really, really need is a word count meter to help keep me on track with my writing goals. I loved using the one at the National Novel Writing Month site, but that’s only available during November.

After much thought and hours on the Internet (that could have been spent writing!!), I think the best approach for most people is an old-fashioned one: get a small, cheap, free calendar, and a packet of gold stars. Pencil in your writing goal for each day, and leave space for a cumulative total. When you meet your goal, give yourself a gold star. Erase the goal, and write in your real total for the day in pen, and add it up to see how much progress over the month. What could be easier than that?

Unfortunately, I tend to lose stuff, so I wanted something I could keep on the computer.

I found this very pretty “goal thermometer” from Svenja Liv. Now, I don’t know what price you pay for free, but I like the look of it. You could paste it onto your blog, or keep a cumulative page on your website. You do have to keep returning every day to recalculate your progress. I’m not sure how you’d put it on your own computer – it doesn’t seem to be an intuitive copy-and-paste image.

Oval word meter for January 2014If you want something for your computer, a good old spreadsheet might be the best option. I found clear, sensible instructions from Nerds and Nomsense. Then I looked in multiple other places to find a way to make my own goal thermometer. I finally gave up – my Excel runs in Japanese, and the instructions I found are in English. Somewhere, I’m missing something. The best I could do is this chart at the left. As my word count grows, the second oval should grow to match the first oval (or surpass it! Yay!).

January 2014 writing goal table graphicAs I stumbled around, trying to find a way to make my chart match my imagination, I came across this chart from Chandoo.org. I don’t know how to manipulate it very well, but I came up with five writing goals for January, and managed to create this chart. We’ll see how it works!

The big danger is being so perfectionist in the administrative details that one runs out of actual time for writing. My tools aren’t perfect, but they are good enough for me. I feel like I’ve got a clear shot at writing without excuses for the first quarter of 2014. (-: At least until the cat needs vacuuming on January 3rd.

Only three more days until the New Year! That’s lots of time to get things ready.

P.S. If you know of any easier, better ways to track your goals (especially on the computer!), I’d love to hear them. And of course, we all love a good disaster story, so feel free to share those, too (-:.

14 thoughts on “Michaeline: New Year Prep

  1. This is why I love Scrivener. I set a daily goal and it resets itself (if I choose) each time you log out/log in, or you can reset it manually. It also keeps track of your overall goal (say, 80K words for a short novel-length book). I’ve been using Scriv since last year and love it…oh, and when you hit your daily goal, it pings you with a message telling you so!

    • (-: I’d love to hear more about Scrivener in 2014. It’s been in business quite some time, hasn’t it? I don’t think I’d get it for the daily goal thing, but if it has a lot of nice extra features, sometimes it’s really worth shelling out the cash instead of trying to find cheap/free options — some of my solutions may be free, but they sure did take a lot of time to research!

    • Awesome! I use Scriv and that would be perfect for me. I’ve been thinking in terms of so many new scenes a week as a goal, but I like this idea and will take a look at it. The things I learn here…

  2. As soon as I Finish The Damn Book (THE goal for 2014), I’m going to treat myself to a new lap-top. I’m planning to switch to Mac and Scrivener – it looks great and if Justine likes it, that’s good enough for me.

    What happens after the mochi is pounded, Micki?

    • Mochi: well, some of it gets cut up and stuck in the freezer, some of it (the end pieces) get baked in the oven until crisp and puffy, and then are dipped in soy sauce, and the main event is the savory soup served New Year’s morning which features a big, chewy slice of the stuff. Mmmm! (Especially since many of the “lucky” new year’s foods are very miserable eating.)

      Oh, and a portion goes to the gods . . . . I’m not sure what THEY do with it, but it’s crusty and moldy by the time they are done with it, so after that, it’s compost.

      re: Scriv and Mac — well, I’m going to have to ask some questions of you guys who use it, then! So many creative workers seem to swear by Macs . . . .

  3. I am notoriously low-tech—as low-tech as I can get—and what I do to keep track of word counts and goals is 1) make a daily goal, say, 500 words, 2) look at my word count every day when I begin, and when I am +500 from when I started, I know I can stop, although I don’t have to. Very simple! Nothing to download! Free! And the words just add up. Very satisfying.

    • (-: I need to see the words adding up. And a goal in sight. I wish I could be satisfied with the writing itself, or even just seeing the word count at the bottom of the page. Short stuff, no problem. I can get lost in a story. But that longer stuff? I do better looking back to know I did it before, and looking forward to see I’ve still got stuff to do (but there’s an end in sight).

  4. btw, I just saw Quentin Tarantino on David Letterman last night–a rerun, I’m pretty sure. He writes by hand! Although he owns a computer. He says computers are okay for deleting and sometimes revisions, but to write drafts, he goes longhand every time. I don’t go that far, I write on computers, thank you, but you have to admire the simplicity of it.

    • An friend of my husband’s is the son of a famous writer. A couple of years ago I talked to the friend about his father’s writing process. His father writes longhand, with a fountain pen, in a hard-backed notebook. I asked what he did about revisions, and the friend said he didn’t have them. He thought words were too important to choose casually and change around later. He didn’t write them down until he was sure that he had the precise words he wanted, and that he was putting them exactly where he wanted them to be.

    • Wow from here, too. The guy must be able to hold a tremendous amount of stuff in his head . . . .

      I used to write long-hand in high school, and found the process of typing the manuscript out was very beneficial. But in college, my professors said, “You don’t have time to write in longhand!” And, actually, I find it almost as easy to type as I find it easy to drive. Very little thought required as to pressing fingers down on the keyboard. I do like to write longhand, but if I write fast enough to keep up with my thoughts, I often can’t read it five minutes later . . . .

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