I'd like to suggest: More comprehensive progress tracking

Hi folks,

I’ve just been looking high and low on the net for an application (looked for both Mac and Windows apps) that is designed to track the progress of a book writing project. About the only thing I turned up was the tracking features built into recent versions of Storyist. Whilst a little more comprehensive than what Scrivener provides, it’s still not quite what I am looking for… and besides, it’s in an app I don’t need or want.

I did come across spreadsheets that help to track progress. I’ll be using one of these in the mean time, as it was the best I could turn up.

Here’s a rough overview of how such a feature set might look, if built directly into Scriv.

  • Ability to set a Project goal as a date and/or a number of days from now (either way, it’ll figure out and display the equivalent in days or date, depending which one the user enters).
  • Ability to specify target word count for project (feature exists already)
  • Ability to time the current writing session. Currently this timing is fixed to when the project is opened and closed again, but I think it would be more convenient to be able to just turn off and on a timer (a good example of this is in Storyist). This time should be user adjustable… adding or subtracting time, and even sessions, in case one forgets to turn off timer, turn on timer, etc.

Scriv would take the data collected from goals and sessions and produce some useful extrapolation into the future, showing things like:

  • Avgerage words per minute
  • Highest wpm
  • Lowest wpm
  • Hours required to complete project by set goal at current wpm or words per day.
  • Show estimated number of pages (feature already exists) for target word count
  • Every writing session is logged. One can manually add / edit these session entries, within limits so as not to throw off the statistics. This log can be viewed.
  • Data is also display in graphs.
    ** Perhaps a piechart showing the total project target size, and the chunk that is complete so far.
    ** A graph showing required words per day, and actual words per day

That’s about all that I can think of off the top of my head, at this late hour. As I said, this is a rough outline of the feature suggestion I am making.

I found a lot of people coming up with all sorts of spreadsheets to track their writing goals etc., but most were rather rudimentary solutions. I found no software that performs this function, and yet I don’t believe it would be all that hard to create, especially if being built into an existing writing app that is already “aware” of ones writing, word counts, session lengths, etc.

I think that having something like this built into Scriv. would make it stand out even more above all the competition.

I would be happy to provide copies of some of the better spreadsheets I found. They may give some useful insights into the sort of tracking writer’s are trying to accomplish for themselves, and what sort of output might be useful.


Sorry, but I see this sort of thing as falling well outside the scope of Scrivener. Although I’m know some writers like setting timed goals or tracking statistics of their writing, much of this isn’t really part of the process of writing (regardless of what other software may or may not do) - especially things such as tracking average wpm and plotting graphs about such things.

This would be much better left to third-party utilities in my opinion.

Thanks for taking the time to make suggestions though.

All the best,

Thanks Keith,
I appreciate you taking the time to respond, and I understand you don’t see the need for such features.

I think the key aspects of what I have suggested would be relatively easy to incorporate into Scrivener, and I would be very surprised if it was not of use to a wide range of writers. For that reason I am going to attempt clarifying what I have outlined.

We seem to differ in terms of our opinion of how useful it is for a writer to track their writing progress. You see, contrary to what you’ve expressed, I am under the impression that personal motivation through “seeing” ones progress, and meeting targets and at times strict timeframes (to produce a work for publication or production, or to fit in with editing and publishing timeframes, etc.) are of immense importance to the serious writer
(when I say “serious” I mean any writer who is writing professionally for publication / production).

In terms of the graphs and things… sure, they would simply be “nice” additions to the crux of what I have suggested, and by no means necessary.

I would be rather surprised to meet professional writers that don’t have an interest in keeping an eye on their progress over time. I am wondering how else to they manage their workflow and fit in with deadlines? Is my writing workflow so different? :confused:

Skipping the few “niceties”, the crux of what I am recommending is:

It looks to me like you already have the foundations of the above-mentioned in place. The only real addition would be to accommodate more flexible timing the current session, rather than it being based on the somewhat arbitrary measure of when one opens and closes the project file. Does that not imply I have to close Scrivener (or at least the project file) and open it again to get a real impression of what I wrote in a session? One of the things I love about working on my Mac is that I’ll leave my work environment running for days on end, not closing and opening my primary apps or even the files I have open.
All we’re talking about is a button the starts, stops, and pauses a session, and then a log in which a record of these sessions is made.

I wonder if you missed my point, whether I didn’t make it clear enough, or whether you fully understand it and simply believe it’s not a feature a professional writer would need or find useful? If the later is the case, I wonder why you bothered to include the Session Target feature? I find that feature incredibly useful.
What I am suggesting is to simply make that existing feature (which I must assume you think was worthy of inclusion in the first place) a little more useful, but recording the data it produces into a log/journal.




I did understand your suggestion, yes, and as I say, there are no plans for these things. This is perhaps the second or third request for this we have had, and we have many professional writers using Scrivener, so I don’t think it is something that is essential to most writers, no. Beyond setting yourself timings and using a timer, I’m not sure what detailed targets and wpm tracking and suchlike would really achieve - looking at graphs and a history of how many words you wrote on such-and-such-a-day won’t really help you get a book written, but that is just my humble opinion.

Regarding your specific request for an improved session target, this has been on the “maybe” list for some time, and is one thing I may consider in the future. As for your question about why including it at all, I’m not sure I follow you there. Obviously it is useful to set a word target for a particular session, and to set a target for an entire draft; I’m not sure it follows that therefore people will want to track how many words they write a month ago last Thursday, or how many wpm they have averaged over the last six months, as they add nothing to forward momentum. As I say, minor enhancements to the session target I can understand though. That said, do note that there is a “Reset” button so that you can reset your session target any time if you leave your machine on for a long time.

Thanks and all the best,

You wouldn’t need the kind of detalied tracking you suggested, frankly I think it could easily become a derailment from writing.

While it’s a nice feature I seldom use even the existing tracking in Scrivener. Sure, you would want to keep track of progress, but that isn’t as hard as you seem to think. At the end of a week simply ask yourself how many useful pages you have produced. You seldom need more tracking than that.

Thanks Keith,
Yes, I have since discovered (noticed!) the reset button. That certainly helps.

I am content to assume my workflow is different from most other Scrivener users and perhaps most other writers. In light of this I’ll continue to do my tracking in a spreadsheet.

For me having a clear understanding of my writing progress makes a huge difference. Perhaps if I was writing fiction it would be different. There one has a story to tell, and to some extent the story has to take as long as it takes. In the case of non-fiction, however, I typically know/determine in advance the size of the book I intend to produce, and if I can easily assess how many hours of actual writing producing the first draft is going to take me, I can then extrapolate that out and say “Well, if I spend X hours a day working on the first draft, I am going to need Y number of days, give or take a little”. I can then plan all other aspects of the process (editors, etc.) and my life accordingly.

Thank you for your time.

All the best…

Thanks for sharing your experience Erokar.
I appreciate you wouldn’t need the kind of detalied tracking I suggested, and that for you it could easily become a derailment from writing; and that you seldom need more tracking than simply asking yourself how many useful pages you have produced.

Speaking for myself, the only way I have experienced such progress monitoring becoming a derailment from writing is when it is more than a brain-dead thing to do. If it takes time, and fiddling around, then (in my experience, I can’t speak for anyone else) it can become a distraction. That is actually the primary reason I thought it would be great if it was built right into the app I am writing in, and thus is done automatically.

I use the existing tracking feature in Scrivener every time I sit to write. I appreciate we differ in that regard.

I currently have 7 books mapped out for writing. Three of which I am actively working on. At least two of which will be published later this year. Within reason, I have a predetermined idea of how many words/pages each book will be. In my case, it helps to have an accurate and objective view on my writing progress over time. This gives instant perspective on the current project, and helps with future planning, using the hindsight such writing progress records provide me with.

With my regards…

One thing that has been added to the latest beta is the ability to set a deadline date, and to have the session target automatically calculated from this deadline. The session target is now persistent if the project is opened on the same day, too.

Other tracking features - average wpm tracking and suchlike - are outside the scope of Scrivener.

All the best,

Thanks Keith. Sounds great. Much appreciated.

I’ll track how much I write in each session (and how long the session was) on a spreadsheet, and that’ll also give me the average, which will then let me know how many 1 hour (or whatever) sessions I’ll need to reach my target. :smiley:

And just to clarify, I wasn’t saying that any of your other ideas were bad regarding tracking, of course. It was just that I would rather keep Scrivener’s targets a little simpler, and I think your ideas would make a great standalone application, something that could plug in to the OS X text system or be used as a service. I know from the other thread that you haven’t been able to find anything like that, though, so I do understand the request. If I ever get a spare week, this is the sort of side project and code challenge that I enjoy, so you never know, one day I might have a crack at that standalone app myself if nobody else does it. :slight_smile:

Thanks and all the best,

::collapses in a fit of hysterical laughter::

Well I can dream, can’t I? :slight_smile:


Just been trying the new feature. Perfick!

Inspired: Granted, my answer was a bit categorical, and I was thinking of fiction writing, where the number of words don’t necessarily indicate how far you’ve gotten. Each to his own.

Thanks Keith. Yes, I think it would make a sweet standalone app. After the many (too many) hours I spent looking for such a monkey, I came to two conclusions: 1) there is no such app out there, and 2) there is a considerable number of writers who would likely use such an app because they are currently using (time consuming) spreadsheets, and other hashed together solutions for this purpose.

It’s almost moving me to learn to code! But I spend enough time in front of the computer as it is. If I find a spare week or two in my travels, I’ll be sure to through one your way! :wink:

@Erokar: Yes, I suspect fiction writing is quite a different process from what I go through. I’d love to enter into the world of fiction, in order to convey the information I put forth as non-fiction in different way. So far I’ve avoided going down that path. I get brain freeze (writer’s block, I suppose) just thinking about it. 8)

One idea that just came up in another thread is that, were Scrivener to support AppleScript, this could all probably be achieved through a script that took the information from Scrivener and placed it in a spreadsheet automatically. My plan is to implement AppleScript for 2.1 - it’s a big job and it’s slated as the major enhancement for 2.1 - which I hope to start work on towards the end of the summer (although with getting married and buying a house over the summer, it may slip back…). But once Scriv has AppleScript support, as long as I expose all the targets and counts, all it would take is an AppleScript and a spreadsheet app that supports AppleScript to automate the process.

That said, learning to code is great fun, and if there’s a program you want that no one else has yet created I think that would be a very cool thing to do!

All the best,

Keith, Indeed… if all the word count data is exposed via AppleScript then this would most likely do the trick. I have no idea how Excel interfaces with A/S (if at all), but certainly something could be whipped up with Apple Numbers. I look forward to it…

Later in the year I may end up entering the world of coding. Primarily because there are a few things I want on my iPod that don’t yet exist (as far as I can tell), but who knows… that might get me into learning to write code for an OSX app too. We’ll see… I am hoping someone beats me to it. I did code my own e-commerce system many years ago because there was nothing affordable that did what I wanted at the time. I was slow, but got it done. Might be time to brush the dust off of my propeller cap.

I was thinking tonight after my session counter reset for the sixth day in a row (I have set a target for the word count and a deadline date.) I love the fact that it adjusts the session targets on it’s own.

One thing that i think may be useful (and it’s been suggested in this thread, I think) is if somewhere in the Scrivener bundle the software would keep track of what the session target was, as well as the session word count at the time of an automatic reset (at midnight) or a manual reset…

Just my thoughts.


I think this is something that I’d prefer to include in AppleScript, when I finally get time to implement AppleScript. That way users could put together ways of getting the data out of Scrivener and storing it however they want. (I was hoping to make AppleScript the focus for 2.1, but with Lion and various other things, AppleScript has been pushed back to 2.2 - I’m still hoping to look at it later this year though.)

Thanks and all the best,