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Looking back on 5 years of writing goals

by Nov 27, 2015My Writing, On Writing: Craft and Commiseration0 comments

Ah, the end of November. When young woman’s fancy turns to… spreadsheets!

I’m not joking. I actually started getting this gleam in my eye as I realized the month was coming to an end. I was just positively itching to start working on them.

spreadsheetsMy crippling addiction to spreadsheets is well documented but if you’re just tuning in, I make a LOT of spreadsheets in an effort to organize / control / gameify my life / career / hobbies. I’ve even one to tell me if I “have it all” from mathematical standpoint.

And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it. I spend all of last night making one to track all the productions my plays have had and I’d love to tell you that I did that on the only evening I took “off” this entire month because I needed to figure something out but, the truth is, I just did it because I wanted to. I’m sure they’ll be uses in the future but, for now, all I wanted was to see the pretty graph of how many productions my plays have had go up up up because it makes me happy.

But the real reason I associate the end of November with spreadsheets is that’s when I always redo my biggest spreadsheet, the one that tracks my writing goals for the year and all of my various projects across genres.  After a full year of working with it and wanting to change little things and not being able to do that without breaking everything, the chance to start fresh with a whole new system really gets me psyched. I always used to get the urge to redo the system in November which is one of many reasons I changed my writing year so that it starts in December.

(Listen, if the fact that I’m a huge nerd is coming as a shock to you, you have not been paying attention.)

But as my writing year still has a few days left in it and I’m still not entirely sure what I want to do with next year’s spreadsheet since I’ve changed how I work, I decided to do a little warm-up spreadsheet taking a look back at the last five years.

Yes, it was all the way back in 2010 that I first decided to set a (math challenged) writing goal for the year and instead of looking at the goals I set and whether I missed or hit them each year, I think it’s better just to look at the results. First let’s look at the totals for each year (understanding that 2015 isn’t over yet).

year by year


The first year, I didn’t count blogging as part of my writing but I kept track of those word counts anyway. Since I counted blogging every year since then, I just added that back into 2010’s number to reflect the way I track things now.

Two things jump out at me right away.

  • The first is Holy Fail, Batman, when I look at 2012-2013. And though I know that 2012 was that crazy year when I had whooping cough, lost both my grandmothers, was sick with a challenging pregnancy and a bunch of other life stuff and 2013 was the year after my daughter was born when neither of us were sleeping ever and my brain was tapioca, I still feel totally bummed out about those numbers. I would like to think that it would never happen again and that now I’ve got a better system that would survive even if life went to heck but then I also think I’m too hard on myself and I did pretty well those year considering. Motivation is hard, yo.
  • The second is, DANG when I look at this year’s word count and the year isn’t even over yet! What’s funny is that, when you average it all together, this year already makes up numerically for the two off years and it’s not even over yet which is pretty cool.

But the real reason I did this was to look for trends and patterns in how I write in order to help myself in the future and I have to admit I didn’t really find any. Look at this graph of my monthly writing totals (again, missing the end of Nov & start of Dec of this year):

month by month

The only thing I learned from this chart is that NaNoWriMo makes me really productive but, uh, I didn’t really need to spend hours on a spreadsheet to tell me that! Other than that, I’m kind of all over the place. There’s a little dip in the summer months, I guess, but there’s certainly no trends I can really hook into to use in the future.

But it was nice to look at all those numbers and to realize that, if you remove the outliers I’ve been pretty consistent. All the jumps above prove that no matter how much better I’ve gotten about writing regularly, I really do still binge write like I’ve always done and never did develop a consistent writing habit.  But as the growth of the total word count over the last few years shows, it’s not something I need to fix as it’s still yielding results. Apparently binge writing is just how I work!

The one thing the graph above doesn’t reflect is that I’ve made a big shift in how I write in the last two years. Previously, over 50% of my writing was blog posts and journal entries while less than half was work on my plays and books, fiction and non. But in 2014 67% of my writing was on projects and books and so far in 2015 projects and books are 72% of everything I’ve written. What that means is that, even looking at the years where my numbers were consistent with now, I’m writing more, well, useful writing that I can publish and sell and less babbling to myself than I did in the past. All of this is good stuff.

The biggest take-away of all, though, is that setting a yearly word count goal for myself and my writing career and, five years into this journey in the midst of the biggest writing month AND year of my life, I know it’s all because I started taking a hard look at how and when I write back in 2010. It’s allowed me to make tweaks and changes I never would have realized I needed to make otherwise and truly taken me to the next step in my writing life and that’s pretty darn great!



  1. Manage multiple writing projects & keep your word count on track with this writers yearly goal system - Hillary DePiano - […] as needed because there’s plenty of breathing room. And before you put on your scoff pants, take a look…

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Hillary DePiano is a playwright, fiction and non-fiction writer who loves writing of all kinds except for writing bios like this.

Books and Plays by Hillary DePiano