Z is for Zero – the word count no one wants to see!

Filling the page is not always easy . . .
Filling the page is not always easy . . .

When writing, keeping a tally of your daily word count can be a great tool to keep up the momentum.

My first experience of this was last November, during NaNoWriMo where the aim is to write 50,000 words in a month. To achieve this you need to write, on average, 1667 words EVERY SINGLE DAY. The great thing about NaNoWrimo is that they have an easy to use online system which allows you to input your total every day. It’s really inspiring to see the various totals change – words written, words to go, percentage of completion, daily average etc – and as I described in the post that I wrote on completion of that challenge, I missed having that incentive and I am yet to find a method that works as well.

What are your Word Count Tools?

I did ask other writers if they could recommend any blog plugins or phone apps that have similar word count tools, but aside from creating a spreadsheet (I HATE SPREADSHEETS) there doesn’t seem to be anything else available. As I am about to undertake another challenge (15k in May) I thought I would use this post to ask again – do you have any suggestions as to online tools I can use to record word count, and get other useful data from?  I would love to hear your suggestions.


Of course, recording your word count seems trivial in comparison to actually achieving a word count! For me, the main consideration is to at least write SOMETHING every day. Overall targets and daily averages are good, because they allow you to break it down in to more manageable daily chunks – ever mindful that if a day is missed, it will only increase the amount you need to do the next day, or the next.

If you want to keep your writing momentum going, any daily word count is positive – just make sure you avoid that big fat zero, and eventually you will reach those 2 words you are longing to write . . . The End.

The End?

And on that note, I want to bring to a conclusion my A-Z Blog Challenge for this year and thank all of you who have got involved, written your own posts, commented, followed, liked and shared. If you missed any of my posts, or just want to see how the whole thing panned out, you can find an amended list of my A-Z content here.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this post, and your comments on the challenge as a whole. Did you find it useful? Will you continue to blog regularly now? See you all next year?

Author: Wayne

29 thoughts on “Z is for Zero – the word count no one wants to see!

  1. Good morning Mr Kelly, this is my second A-Z challenge, and I’ve had as much fun, if not more this year. Writing the posts has been as challenging as ever, but deadlines are good, as long as they are achievable.

    We all have the same amount of time in a day, but its how you use it. Instead of reading a magazine, you write, instead of fifteen minutes in the shower you take five. You get up earlier, or drop in your bed later. Planning in advance, even if only a day, is key in my opinion.

    Regarding the word count tool, I was going to ask you, as I’ll need one too! Looking forward to the BIG reveal tomorrow. 😉

    P.S. I hate spreadsheets too!

    1. Morning Maria – completely agree – time is more flexible than you think.

      I’m not sure it will be a BIG reveal – you’ve got Lynne’s hopes up now! Let’s just call it a making the 15K In May Challenge official. I will read your post later tonight – as it’s fiction, it requires more concentration and focus!

  2. Oops! I’ve just put a comment about word counters on Y.. not worth reading as I have no idea either..
    It’s been a great AtoZ and I’m glad that I met even more great writers this year. Personally, I’m convinced some peoples days are longer than others.. and don’t forget time changes too.
    Well done on finishing the AtoZ’s with another great post and I’ve particularly loved your musical ones.
    Maria’s mentioned a BIG reveal? What else have I missed?

    1. Don’t worry – I replied to the Y one anyway. Yes, time is elastic and some people seem to be able to stretch it further than others! Thanks for the kind words – I’ve enjoyed your blog too. I’m afraid Maria is over-hyping the ‘big reveal’ somewhat – I’m just going to go public with my goals for 15K In May. It’s hardly likely to trouble Reuters!

  3. I just use a spreadsheet. It has all those sorts of columns (average words, how many I have to go, a cool graph etc), and I modify it for goals etc. No other great ideas. Though I do have a widget for wordcount on my blog too. Not as many details (just wordcount), but it’s fun too.

    I’ve loved reading all your posts throughout the A to Z challenge. Thanks!

    1. Oh, you Sci-Fi writers love your spreadsheets! I bet you’re good at Maths too? It looks like I may have to go to the dark side and try to set something up in Numbers or Excel *rifles through drawer, looking for old Maths exam papers*

      Yes, I saw your wordcount widget, I think I’ll have to grab one of those too.

  4. You can obsess too much over word counts, it’s what you write that’s important. I think you’re right when you say write something everyday. That said they can be a useful tool.

    Good luck with your next challenge and well done on completing the A-Z. To use an old cliché – it’s been a roller coaster of a ride.

    1. You’re right, Sally – content counts – but I just find it a good way to make sure I sit down and write, and I am desperate to at least finish one draft! Just one for a start! Hope your hand is better.

    1. You too, Beth – thanks for visiting regularly. Been great to read your stuff too – look forward to seeing what you get up to after the challenge has finished.

  5. I’m an excel gal, and a 9-time NaNoer. I also have recently been really enjoying 750-words.com, which shows me with a big white box the days I’ve failed to meet my goals.

    Congratulations on finishing A-Z!

    1. Hi Jessica – thanks for reading and commenting and for the tips on word count. I will definitely check out what you have been up to and 750 words.com.

  6. My primary word count tool is Microsoft Word’s tally. Whenever I start a novel, I also start a Word document with the days of the next two or three months, and at the end of every day’s writing session I’ll add the new word tally from the novel. Sometimes I’ll calculate the words written that day and add it on in parenthesis, but I can usually eyeball that I’ve made my word minimum. There’s a big psychological comfort to seeing my progress splay out across the lines of the document. That’s all I do, though. It takes a couple minutes to copy and paste days, and then a few seconds each day to throw the new count into the document.

    Congratulations on Z-day, Mr. Kelly! And good luck on your 15K hike through May. That sounds like a reasonable goal to me.

    John at The Bathroom Monologues

    1. Cheers John. To be fair, that seems like a perfectly straightforward way to do it, in lieu of fancy online Nano-type tools. I think I’ll try the same thing – it isn’t Wiswell Patented is it?!

  7. Congratulations on reaching Z!

    I love your image for this entry. One of my favourite books is ‘I Capture the Castle’ by Dodie Smith and near the end of the book when the MC is trying to get her father to start writing she says something along the lines of ‘Just write something! Write ‘The cat sat on the mat’ if you like, just write something.’ And so, he did. Seventeen times, I think, maybe more. Your image reminds me of that scene.

    Good luck with your 15k in May!

    1. Thanks, Natalie. It was actually my attempt at ripping-off The Shining, but I’m too lazy to do it properly and just copied and pasted it a few times! Thanks for following the challenge – been great to meet you.

  8. I just use the word count in the manuscript….am I missing something here? I know it’s not the same as the NaNo word count graph but you have a total count all the same…? *confused face*

    1. Hi Dee, be confused no more! Yes, I use the total word count anyway, but I like to be able to easily see my daily tally without having to remember my starting point or do the maths manually each time.

      The great thing about the Nano system is that I can have a quick writing session, type in my total word count and it automatically updates my daily amount, graphs, words left, days left etc etc. it looks like John Wiswell has suggested the closest thing to what I’m after. Obviously you realise that this is all just long-winded procrastination on my part? I’m running out of excuses. Just need to crack on!

  9. I so agree about keeping with the word count. Knowing when to stop your novel and knowing how to cut your words to meet the required count (in most cases that is keeping within 100,000 words) is important. Like some people outline to stay on track, it is indeed important to watch your word count.

    I enjoyed meeting so many wonderfully talented writers for this year’s A to Z Challenge. Happy Writing until Next Year. The End.

    1. Thanks Kathy – yes, for me it’s just about ensuring I keep the momentum going and measure my progress. Just launched my 15K in May challenge, so I’ll keep you updated on my progress.

  10. Wayne, I’m so pleased to have found you and your blog through this challenge. I’ve enjoyed your posts, I love your music, and I appreciate your Tweety support! Now that the insanity has drawn to a close, I’m looking forward to catching up on the posts I’ve missed, both on your blog and on others’.

    Regarding the word counter, I wonder if one of those mentioned on this site might help: http://tiaross.com/progress-meters/. She links to sixteen counters–hopefully one of them will do the trick.

    1. Hey Kern – the feeling is mutual. You had a great theme and loads of interesting links. Looking forward to staying in touch. Thanks for the link to the counters – sure I’ll be able to find something on there.

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