Scrivener’s Word Target Display

Screen Shot 2014-01-23 at 10.01.38After using a scientific method to calculate the optimal daily word target which I should be aiming for, I’m now challenged but happy. It’s called trial and error, and it’s taken two novels to work out, but now finally I feel as though I’ve nailed it.

Some writers apparently write without a target and just let it flow but this never worked for me. I was perpetually stressed about not writing enough. I never felt creative because I was always worried about how many words I’d used. I was starting to write things in as many words as possible, just to extend the word count. Obviously, this is not recommended.

Once you realise that you need a word target, you then need to select the optimal amount of words per day. This again can be hard to do. It depends so much on personal writing styles. If you’re a fast writer and you just blitz a first draft out, then you’d want a higher word target than someone who writes methodically.

I started far too high. I was eager to get it done and chose more words a day, so that I’d reach the end quicker. This doesn’t work. I started on 5,000 words a day and was miserable every day with my lack of effort. Needless to say, I didn’t stick to the target and it fell by the way side.

Next up was 3,000 words. I’d written a novel by then and knew a bit more about what was realistic. I would stick to this sometimes but then life would get in the way and I’d miss a few days. Result: more miserable days than content ones.

Eventually, I’ve landed on 2,000 words a day. This works perfectly for me. It’s enough to leave a sizeable indent every day in the manuscript but it’s small enough to provide flexibility and ultimately, achievability. I’ve also extended this target so that actually the target is 10,000 words a week, which means I can absorb life’s little quirks that crop up and still stay on track.

I’ll talk about the Progress Principle in more detail on another post, but the theory states that the more progress you can visibly make towards a goal the more motivated you are. It’s important that you don’t restrict your creativity with an unrealistic target.

So, once you have the target, this is where Scrivener’s beautifully simple Word Target Display comes in. When you’re in your manuscript in Scrivener, go to Project/Show Project Targets. A little box will appear with Manuscript Target and Session Target. You can configure the amount of words and all sorts of other options. The other neat thing you can do in Scrivener is when you use the Full Screen Composition Mode, the target comment box still appears which means you can have no interruptions and can still keep an eye on your target.

I’m a stickler for the target, so once I’ve hit it I pretty much finish within 10-20 words. If you’re mid-flow then it just means that you’ve got an easy start the next day… and who doesn’t love an easy start.

Until next time…


11 responses to “Scrivener’s Word Target Display

  1. Great tip. I adopt a similar approach with regards to knowing what I can do, but I work with both a daily count (and the brilliance of scrivener is that you can get into detail about which exact days you are going to write on) AND a target date for completion (usually the first draft). I then adjust the date based on knowing what I can do ‘normally’ (based on 90 mins, 5 times a week I average about 1k a day) to see where it ends up. That helps ease my frustration as I have a realistic completion date when I started out. Something I’m going to try and figure out how to do, is working out to what degree the number of words I need to do daily changes against that date as I get ahead or fall behind. I’m hoping positive progress will motivate me and negative will allow me to analyse what is causing the delays and take action. But its important I do that over a period of time like a month. Judging myself by each day never works and just p1sses me off.

  2. I am just getting started using Scrivener, and really appreciate you tips and clear instructions.

  3. All, another tip, not entirelly unrelated, calling up the word target display is a three finger combination affair, as is calling up, say the “idea pad” display (in Scrivener still). I very much recommend (if you have an iPad that is) using an app called “Actions” and create “buttons” for those actions. So, you write in Scrivener on your Mac, and you have the iPad next to you paired with your mac and whenever you need to call up one of those displays, you tap on the corresponding button to display it, and once more so that it disappears. You can control all sorts of stuff like this without having to remember all those 3 or 4 finger combinations… It helps with the concentration…

  4. No need for three fingers. You can customize the menu bar to add a clickable target. (View>Customize Toolbar)

  5. Pingback: The Progress Principle Applied To Writing | Michael J Holley - Writer

  6. Pingback: Scrivener’s Word Target Display | Everything Scrivener

  7. Pingback: Scrivener is the #1 App for All of my Writing Projects | Writing It Right For You

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