My Word Count Histograms

As of yesterday, I have written for 251 out of the last 253 days. This morning, as I was glancing over my writing metrics, it occurred to me that an interesting chart could be produced by collecting my daily word counts (for fiction) in a histogram. The result for the last 253 days looks like this:

Histogram

In case it isn’t clear how a chart like this works, each bar represents a range of word counts. The first bar represents days where I wrote less than 100 words. The last bar represents days where I wrote more than 2,000 words. The height of the bar represents the number of days my writing fell into that range. So, for instance, on about 50 days, I wrote between 500-600 words. On about 8 days I wrote less than 100 words. And on about 14 days, I wrote more than 2,000 words.

Looking at the data this way allows me to infer a few interesting things about my writing habits. For instance, I know that I can write about 1,500 words in one hour. What the histogram tells me is that, in the last 253 days, I rarely write for more than one hour each day. You can tell this because there is a big dropoff after 1,200+ words. It looks like there are only 23 days in which I wrote between 1,300 and 1,900 words–about the word count I’d get if I wrote for an hour or slightly more.

The bulk of my writing falls into the 500-600 word bucket, which is about what I write in 20-30 minutes. This reinforces what I have been saying all along: being able to write in short chunks of available time has been one of the key factors in writing every day for me. (In the not-too-distant future, I’ll have better data on this as I have started track the time I spend writing in addition to my daily word counts.)

There is a jump at 2,000+ words. I’ve written more than 2,000 words on 13 or 14 days. I will guess that these days involved one of two things: either I was pushing to finish the first draft of my novel; or I was writing a second or third draft of a story. I tend to write more on days when I am working on the second or third draft because I’ve already written the first draft and know where the story is going. I don’t have to pause to think about what is going to happen next.

For folks doing NaNoWriMo this month, if you are sticking close to your daily target, you would expect to see a flat histogram, one in which your daily range is almost always falling between 1,600-1,700 words without too much variation.

Once again,  a chart like this can be useful in future planning. If, for instance, I discovered that I had an extra half hour available each day, I’d expect that the tallest bars would shift to the right a bin or two. And, of course, coupling this data with the “timesheet” data I am collecting should produce even more useful (and interesting) data.