52 Weeks of Writing: Week 32—Tracking Words Between Nanowrimo Months

52 Weeks of Writing: Week 32—Tracking Words Between Nanowrimo Months
Photo by Andreas Fickl / Unsplash

I've tried to start this week's post three times. Maybe five.

I'm no good at this whole blogging thing. I have no idea how to do it in 2023, when things have moved on from the days of Open Diary and just writing whatever happens to be going on in your life. Now it's all about engagement and timing and conversions.

So, let's start with the big issue I've been trying to resolve in my writing this week.

All the way through Camp Nanowrimo, it's easier to stay motivated with the external pressure of updating the website every day and seeing the numbers go up and the little badges unlocking. But the moment that ends, either by meeting the goal or getting to the end of the month, suddenly I feel like I should be doing pretty much anything else other than writing.

Scroll back in time to 2003-5, I didn't worry about other people and what I was doing with my time. Or at least, not as much. Once I was single again, I felt free to just be myself and do what I wanted with my time. I could write for hours and hours.

Back then, none of the big sites that help world-building and writing existed. Imagine if 4TheWords and World Anvil had been around back then. I'd have eaten that up.

Of course, the other thing about 2003-5 is that I was in my twenties, and there's something about being in your twenties that the sense of responsibility hasn't kicked in yet. These days, what with a cost of living crisis, having a house and bills and all the extra things that 2023 requires, it's much harder to think of writing as a thing I'm allowed to do.

The other problem is that I'm autistic.

The thing about being autistic is that you never know what the right thing is to do. I spend a lot of time and energy into figuring out how I'm supposed to be. I'm aware that I'm operating in a social world I don't understand, and I have to put effort into pretending to understand it, and applying all the rules I've learnt to try to do what's expected of me.

I'm terrified of other people's judgement.

It's been a big part of how I live and who I am for my entire life. I copy other people to fit in, so I don't stand out. I discovered early that standing out comes with devastating emotional and social costs. The constant bullying because I didn't operate on the same wavelength as everybody else, the parents and other adults around me telling me that I was getting it wrong all the time.

Huh. Let me pause there. This whole 52 weeks of writing is turning into 52 weeks of learning to be autistic in the world, I guess. Hello, welcome to "I'm 44 and I have no idea who I am", the blog series.

So let's summarise this week a little. I did a lot of pro-editing, which means learning a lot of random things. I've earned enough money this week to relax today. After the end of Camp Nanowrimo, I realised it might be helpful to have an external measure of writing progress, so I went looking for trackers.

There's a bizarre absence of such things, at least as far as I can tell. You'd think, given that there's now such a huge number of writing courses, writing books, writing resources, writing seminars, and writing festivals and we are, as Cicero says, all writing novels, that word trackers would be more common.

I struggled to find anything that matched what I wanted. Possibly they exist and are everywhere, and I just didn't find what them because I wasn't searching in the right way.

Eventually, I came across a thing called WriteTrack. It's free, although they do survive on donations. It allows users to add weights to each day, so that if you expect a day to be hard work, you can give this sort of day a score to reduce the word count.

This is incredibly helpful, especially for anyone who falls into any kind of spoonie category. Every day gets a score out of 100, and it's possible to plan ahead with high scores for good days and low scores for bad days. Scores can be adjusted in advance or on the day, which makes it extra flexible.

This means that, if you wake up and the day is bad, you can lower the score and the words are redistributed automatically to other days. It's also possible to have multiple projects running at once, although of course that affects word distributions in ways I haven't yet explored.

WriteTrack has effectively solved the problem of how to keep writing even when it's hard, when I feel like I shouldn't be writing (which is a lot), and when I need encouragement to enjoy it again.

The only other notable thing this week is that my orders of The Story Engine and the expansions to the Deck of Worlds arrived. I want to devote an entire blog post to this, to explain how they work and how they might be useful, whether you write fantasy, science fiction, or any other genre.

I'm such a sucker for anything to do with writing, and these days there are so many options to explore. Very often I end up sending off for things or signing up for things, then getting overwhelmed and deciding it's all too much so I don't take advantage of the thing.

This time, I've decided to devote some extra time to learning how to use and integrate the Story Engine and Deck of Worlds into my life. They're delightful, and well-made, so I'll do a whole blog post on them when I've had more time to play.

That's all for this week.