Looking for writing project tracking app

Hi folks,

I am looking for an app (or a comprehensive spreadsheet, but would prefer an application) to track all aspects of progress on writing projects. I am aware of the Project Stats and Project Target features on Scriv and these are great, but as far as I can tell they only provide snapshots at that moment.

What I am looking for is something that will allow me to plan out a project over a period of time, taking into account such things as Word No. target, words written each day, time spent writing, days required to reach goal at current words/day average, etc.

I have found a few spreadsheets that do some of these functions to varying degrees of satisfaction, but I’d love to have one comprehensive application to do this in.

I’ve looked high and low for this, so I am not holding my breath for someone to come up with a suggested app, although I remain hopeful.

I’ll also post some of this info into a feature suggestions for Scrivener, as I think it would be great to see it have a more comprehensive project planning/tracking system.

I’m sure I’m not the only writing wanting to keep track of writing targets and to monitor progress… so I’d be very happy to hear about how other writers are doing this.


I don’t know of any such applications (and the attempts to create surrogates with spreadsheets suggest that they don’t exist). The closest I’ve come across are applications designed for freelances, but they tend to focus chiefly on submission tracking - which as I understand it isn’t what you want.

That leaves you with:

  1. Spreadsheets, as you say: as you may have found, there are quite a few templates in the NaNoWriMo forums. They require a little tweaking to enable them to deal with timescales of longer than a month, but because they use Excel or Numbers they’re very powerful and flexible tools and easy to adapt.You could probably make a simple template for Bento, Tinderbox or OmniOutliner in a similar way.

  2. Scrivener itself: the author and Scrivener user AndreasE recently posted a link to his Writing Masterlist template here. Again, easy to adapt if it’s not quite what you want. I know of a writer who used to use MacJournal like this.

  3. Handwriting in columns in a notebook: there’s a lot to be said for the satisfaction of writing up your record by hand at the end of the day.


I’ve built several of these over the years, in various spreadsheet packages. It doesn’t take long. In my experience, as with so much of what gets posted on the L&L forums, it was just Another Way To Avoid Writing, ie marginally more fun than doing the ironing or the washing up, but a displacement activity. Any wordcount tracker, by design, has no concept of quality, and it has no concept of fit for purpose. I can write at NaNoWriMo speeds (double, in fact) but it is usually of execrable quality.

Of course, if you are a tremendously disciplined and regular writer, knowing that you will produce 300 edited or 500 unedited words per hour, and can’t possibly hope to finish the novel until somewhere around teatime on April 3rd, 2017, then that’s useful, to a point.

Where I had some success was in making it as simple as possible - I made a 100 blobs on a piece of paper, and coloured them in each time I wrote a thousand words. Visual, simple, effective. Where I have multiple projects and I’m using this method, I normally use traffic light backgrounds (ie green = completed, orange= in progress, red=to do… you can extend your key as much as you like).

Anyway, that’s just me… (

Thank you Hugh and “monkquixote”.

Hugh… sounds like you came to a similar conclusion as myself. For now I’ve ended up tweaking a spreadsheet that was intended for NaNoWriMo (something I’d never heard of, BTW, here in New Zealand).

I suggested to Keith the idea of adding some basid tracking into Scriv. but so far he was against it. I found that a little hard to understand, :confused: as really I was just suggesting that Scriv. have the ability to record/journal the writing sessions it is already set up to track (with the Session Target feature); allow the user to denote the start and end of a session (rather than it being determined by when one opens and closers Scriv.); allow the user to edit whatever is recorded. I figured if some basic WPM calculations were thrown in there it would be useful, along with being able to plug in a deadline date to see how much writing one has to do each day to reach it, at ones current average WPM). Basic stuff, but data I find useful to have on hand as a writer, and find it tedious to have to track myself.

I figured it would allow the writer to effortlessly track his/her progress (however arbitrary that might turn out to be in some situations) without it becoming a procrastination “technique” (which fiddling around with spreadsheets may invoke).

Anyway… looks like I’ll run with the spreadsheet system for now.

Hugh, I’ll check out that Master Template you posted a link to. Thank you.

Personally I think spreadsheets are an under-rated and often overlooked weapon in the writer’s armoury. Not only, as I say above, are they powerful and flexible: they are also “additive”. If you discover you’d like an extra function - forecast time for writing your first draft, for example - it’s a relatively simple matter to graft that on. Not that I’m for or against what you’re suggesting above - I haven’t really thought about it - but you couldn’t do that with a dedicated application whose features are clearly circumscribed.

Please don’t petition for features by complaining about my decisions to other users in other threads - I’ve answered your queries in the dedicated thread you created to ask for tracking features, so please keep all discussion about your suggestion there, and keep this post dedicated to finding other tools that will do the job:

Complaining about me or my decisions to others is not likely to make me come around to your point of view. :slight_smile: It’s also worth remembering that most people (myself included when it comes to other programs) have a tendency to think that their way of working (or planned way of working) is typical, and therefore that their suggestions must be wanted by everybody. And yet to me, for instance, the idea of “some WPM calculations”, or graphs plotting your progress over time, seems a pointless distraction and just another way of procrastinating, avoiding the writing itself - planning to work, checking your progress, rather than actually writing. And this is coming from the king of procrastinators - goodness knows I don’t want any more ways of procrastinating at my disposal!

The current tools in Scrivener already do all most writers could want here (although perhaps minor tweaks could be made to the session target as I mentioned in the other thread): if you need to write 50,000 words in 60 days, for instance, you set a Draft Target of 50,000 and then use the system calculator (no, I don’t think Scrivener needs to do everything) to work 50000/60 = 833.333 words a day, so you could set a session target of 834. Or, let’s say you don’t write weekends and so you only have 52 days to do the actual writing - that’s 962 words a day. After that, all you need to do is use the session target and don’t stop until you’ve got your 962 words for the day. If you don’t restart the program the next day, just hit “Reset” to reset it to 0. If you don’t make your 962 words for the day, well, that’s not Scrivener’s fault and you may have some recalculating to do. :slight_smile: (Now, a feature where you set a deadline to your word count and Scrivener worked out how many words-per-session and adjusted it accordingly if you failed to make your target in a session? That I can see being useful and might consider. But not WPM graphs and suchlike.)

As I say, though, please keep this thread dedicated to other software, and if you wish to debate my decisions - which you’ve already done anyway - please do so in the other thread.


Quite so. You can use spreadsheets to track different strands of a story, with a scene per row, and plot strand per column (or vice versa) or for most anything to do with planning a book where you need a 3 dimensional approach.

Keith, I am sorry it came across that way for you.
I have no complaints about you, and was not making one. I think you’ve created a fantastic writing tool, and I appreciate you took the time to consider my suggestions. From my perspective, I was simply sharing with Hugh that I had suggested this feature to the developer (you) and that you were against the idea. My other reason to share that with Hugh was to elucidate the context around my now looking elsewhere for other solutions, despite the fact I think Scrivener could easily handle keeping a record of how many words were written in each session. It was a statement of fact. Nothing more or less was intended. Please accept my apologies if that was not obvious. I’ll look over it, for my own insight, and consider how I might have expressed those thing differently.

I couldn’t agree more. No complaints coming from me. 8)

I agree. Thus, as expressed on the other thread, I am quite content to accept and appreciate the fact you don’t see any need for such features.

We’re not too far apart on this Keith. As mentioned in the other thread, the graphs were not the crux of what I was requesting. I’d go so far as to call such a thing eye-candy, yet easily generated eye-candy from underlying data (once collected) but not vital. I’d happily do without graphs, etc. My saying WPM lacks clarity on my part. What I meant, and what is more useful (to me) is to know how many words I typically write in an hour. For instance, since recording my writing progress, I’ve determined that I can easily write (on a draft) 800-1100 words every 25 minutes. I write in 25 minute chunks, with a 5 minute break. So that 2x that per hour, gives me 1600 to 2000 words per hour.

I was happy to notice the reset button this morning. :slight_smile:

After seeing how much you’ve emphasised this point, I think perhaps it has derailed the crux of my actual request. I have taken the time to clarify what that is, and to essentially retract the parts about graphs etc. Please let me know if that is still not clear for you (on the other thread).

Agreed. Will do. It is not my intention for this thread to be about Scrivener. That would only be a distraction for the topic at hand. Cheers… :slight_smile:

Thank you. Yes, it looks like a spreadsheet is what I’ll run with.
I’ll may post a link to the spreadsheet I come up with, once I have it up to scratch.

Hi I don’t know if this programme is what is being looked for.

Sonar is a manuscript submission tracking program. This program tells you which market has each story, whether a story has been sold or rejected and which stories are gathering dust instead of earning their keep. You will be able to view a list of all your stories and then filter them in various ways (e.g. only show stories which are available to send out). You can add markets, stories and submissions and best of all it’s completely free!


regards Grandad7

Thanks for your understanding, Inspired, and for clarifying with good humour, it’s appreciated. :slight_smile:

Blimey, that’s a lot of words! Technically I can write that many words mechanically, but when composing, what about all the staring into space, or banging your head against the desk? (Or is that just me?)

Grandad7 - that looks very useful, although I think that is mainly for MS submission tracking whereas the op is more after tracking the actual writing process to help with planning future projects.

I use Omnifocus for planning and set reminders in iCal to nag me about my plans. I’m so serious about this that I re-do the whole plan if I miss a deadline (doesn’t take all that long; these are simple plans.) I do this for any project I’m working on, not just writing projects. Bento will do the same thing as Omnifocus.

Head-desking doesn’t count since you don’t progress toward your daily words goal. That’s why I always bang my head on my keyboard. It’s productive and painful.

You could build an amazing project tracker with Tinderbox (eastgate.com/Tinderbox/). But you would have to be somewhat (a lot?) skilled as a programmer or be really, truly in procrastinaton mode. You would be able to make little graphs, big graphs, have a star burst if you broke your record (seriously); you could make it send you affirmations if you didn’t quite meet your goals; it could give you a list of everything you have to do today, the next three days, and next week…or 7.5 months from now. I can’t do this, and was absorbed in procrastinative mode for two months, writing little (and big) labels on colored rectangles, and moving them around, and reading the forum, etc. And the solution came to a major problem that oppressed me for years. Not just in my head, where it might have evaporated, but right there where I could see it typed out in blue on yellow. And I immediately went back to Scrivener.

(This isn’t to say that I would leave off using Tinderbox. Quite the contrary. It works very well for me in the stage where almost any bit of structure, even a mind-map, or anything resembling document page is inhibiting or threatening. Writing a couple of words on a little blue label and pushing it around on a sunny yellow background kept me going for those two months, and I’ll always go back to Tinderbox when that writing uncertainty occurs.)

An idea from Tinderbox for a dashboard is below. You can do amazing things with it, highly structured or floating in the mists.

Thanks KB. I am happy we’re on good terms. I think your software rocks… extremely so. :smiley:

  1. Yes, that is a lot of wpm, I suppose. And yes, I do have periods of staring into space (glad to hear I’m not the only one with that writing technique!) in which case my WPM goes down big time… although if I am staring blankly or dreamily for more than a minute or so I’ll pause my 25 minute timer (I work by a Pomodoro system, for those who are interested in useful approaches to productivity). Keep in mind, I write non-fiction and on topics I am deeply familiar with… so I can literally site and write non-stop. Once past 1st draft I then have to do the more laborious stuff like filling in references, checking up on accuracy of names, quotes, etc., and so on. My WPM drops to almost zero during that phase, as it’s mostly research based… so I suspect that would bring my overall WPM down to something much more on par with what I am guessing you might be use to.

Thanks KB… I had previously seen that app and you are correct in your summation.

Thank you Grandad7 for the tip though.

@Linn: I’ll take a look at Tinderbox. It’s not something I am familiar with. :bulb:

@Robert: Yes, bashing my head on the keyboard at does at least move me toward me word goal for the day :mrgreen:

Do you have one of those little Official Tomato Timers? :slight_smile: I’ve always wanted one, even though I work better in a slightly longer interval than 25m.

Nope… I’m all digital. I have Pomodoro on my Mac, and also a pomodoro timer on my ipod touch.
On the mac I am tending now to use either Vitamin-R or Concentrate, as the Pomodoro app needed some improvement. I bought it, as it was the first one I found, so I may switch back to it with future releases.
A nice ticking tomato could be useful though… but I travel extensively giving workshops and lectures internationally and the less I have to carry around the better. The iPod Touch is my multi-function device.
Regarding the 25 minutes… all of the above mentioned apps let you select any time you like. Some cut off at 1 hour from memory. My routine when in super focus mode is 25 on, 5 off, 25 on, 5 off = 1 hour. I get a heck of a lot done in that hour when I use this routine.

Have you looked at this comparison list?

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison … t_software

Thanks Druid,
If you know of any particular application on that list that is suitable for something as simple as tracking WPM, deadlines, and progress on writing projects please let me know.
Looking at that list makes my mind boggle! :open_mouth:
I suspect project management software is not suited to what I am looking for, but would be happy to know if you’ve got experience which differs from that.


I know I’m missing something here, but I keep thinking you could do this with a spreadsheet or filemaker. Also, as I said earlier, Omnifocus can be set up for any type of goal you want, and it syncs into iCal which will nag at you, if you want that. If you’re looking for a way to reward and motivate yourself by tracking, why not just make a big chart and hang it on the wall, then enter it in when you finish each day?