NaNoWriMo Preparation: Word Trackers

During NaNoWriMo, it is important that you track your word count or time as part of the self-discipline and goal-setting aspect of the month-long event. There are many tools available to help you keep track of your daily goals, adding up to the hopeful 50,000 words or 30 hours, goals we’ve set for participating members of Writers in the Grove.

When tracking your word count with NaNoWriMo, just remember you always enter the total of the words so far, not the total for the day’s word count, to their calculator. Their system will calculate the increase from the previous day for you so you don’t need the specific word count unless you are monitoring the daily word count for your own needs.

How to Find Word Counts

Tracking your writing time is easy. Just check the clock or watch, or set a stop watch or use the one on your smartphone.

Counting words should be easy, but some programs make it a little complicated. The key issue is that these word count calculations are based upon the entire document, not the words you wrote during that day’s session(s).

For NaNoWriMo’s word counter, this is idea, but if you wish to track your own word count daily, you need to determine how many words you wrote that day. Once you enter the number into NaNoWriMo’s word counter, it will estimate the daily total based upon the new total word count subtracted from the previous total word count. Sometimes you skip a day and total the two days together before entering it onto the website, or wish to calculate it daily, so the following will help you find your word counts, be it a total or for the day.

If you are not using Scrivener, there are two options for finding your daily word count.

  • Create, write, and save one file per day. You may merge them later, but it makes keeping the word count easier. Note the word count in the file before you save it and close it. It will represent a good estimate of the words in that document.
  • Write in one file. At the end of each writing session, note the total word count. Subtract the previous session count from the new total to determine an estimate of the words produced during that session.

Some programs will allow you to select what you’ve written and right click to report the word count for that selected block.

Let’s look at the specifics for finding the word count for Word, WordPerfect, and Scrivener.

MS Word  - Word CountMS Word: If you will be writing in Microsoft Word, the word count is in the status bar at the bottom of the screen/window for the entire document. If not visible, right click on the status bar and check the box for the word count. If you have an older version of Word, check the help files or online to find the word count.

WordPerfect: If you are using Corel WordPerfect, the word count is found under File > Properties > Word Count. You may also add the word count button to the toolbar by customizing it, or use the word count macro.

Scrivener: Scrivener by Literature and Latte is the powerhouse tool for writers and a sponsor of NaNoWriMo. There are templates designed specifically for NaNoWriMo to help you develop your novel and writing during the event. You may set up writing targets and project goals for word counts, and find the word count for each document within Scrivener easily, and in many ways.

Scrivener - Example of Outliner Word Count.

Here are some articles to help you learn how to set project and writing targets and word counts.

If you write with another program, check their manual for where to find the word count.

Word Count Trackers

Most of the word count tracking tools also track hours. To track hours, you can do it manually on a piece of paper, working toward the minimum total of 30 hours for the month (writing a minimum of one hour a day), or create a spreadsheet that totals up the hours as you go.

The easiest way to track your word count and NaNoWriMo progress is through the NaNoWriMo site. Log in and use their word tracker to not only track your count, but compare it to others in your community and globally.

NaNoWriMo Novel Dashboard Panel.

Sign up or log in and go to My NaNoWriMo > Dashboard and create a new novel. You do not have to be truthful with the title or synopsis, but make it represent the genre and topic you are writing about to help you remember it in the future. At midnight on November 1, you will be able to start adding your word counts and watching the stats shift day by day.

NaNoWriMo Dashboard with Word Count and Verifier.

When adding your word count to NaNoWriMo’s word count tracker:

  1. Find the total sum of the words you’ve written to date, not the daily total.
  2. Go to the top bar of NaNoWriMo when you are logged in and click the Words So Far drop down.
  3. Replace that number with the current total word count number you’ve written to date, not the daily total.
  4. Click Update.

The web page will then open to your statistics. There, you may edit your daily totals if you made a mistake or wish to update them.

I also recommend you use a backup, one that meets your writing goal needs.

My personal favorite word count and progress tracker is one of the annual word tracker spreadsheets developed by Svenja Gosen, a writer, artist, and illustrator. These beautifully designed and artistic Excel spreadsheets feature various ways to track your writing project by the month. The designer keeps coming up with beautiful designs every year. More than that, these are detailed spreadsheets that give you goals, targets, and chart your course as you write your book, giving you a clear, visual representation of your progress.

nanowrimo spreadsheet example by Svenja Gosen.

To use these, go to Svenja’s web page of spreadsheets and download the one with the design and color scheme you like. Open the downloaded file in Excel and save it with an appropriate file name such as the title of your novel and the year, or NaNoWriMo2016 if you will only use it for the writing event.

Switch to November and change the word quota to 50,000, and start adding your word count and hours after each writing session.

The spreadsheet will automatically chart and graph your progress.

Here are some other free tools, forms, trackers, and spreadsheets to help you track your progress, not just during November but all year around.

There are also now a variety of word count tracker mobile and tablet apps, and if you feel brave and have the time, consider creating your own word count tracker with Nerds and Nomsense or with Jenn’s World.

Remember, this is a competition with yourself, helping you work on your own writing self-discipline and goals. This is a test of your will power, confidence, endurance, and creativity. Take care comparing your achievements with others. Some people will type faster, some slower, and some will get to the 50,000 or 30 hour goal faster, some will take longer than the single month. It doesn’t matter.

This is about testing yourself, breaking old habits, and learning new ones. It is about the writing. It is about the story(s) you want to tell. It’s about you.

Just keep writing.



    1. Excellent. Thanks for sharing it. I’ve worked with a couple of other trackers that cover multiple years, and I really like seeing the progress on one or more NANO projects over time. Makes me feel like I’m accomplishing something. LOL! So I look forward to an annual tracking format. Thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s a good point, I’ll keep that in mind. I’m working on a larger scale tracker with another writer that tracks projects in general, not just Nanowrimo, that most likely will be done by the end of April. It’s intended more for that purpose and the point of that one is even more along those lines: see what you have accomplished and where you can do better. I’ll let you know when it’s ready and you can take a peek if you feel like it.


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