Assessing the In-Progress Health and Productivity of a Written Work


In the modern world, there are immediate feedback mechanisms telling us how healthy something is while actively using an object. This includes “dummy lights” and gauges in various moving vehicles, dashboards for computer applications, and more.

But what can the poor writer do to assess the health and productivity of the piece that they are writing? Some of the challenges of doing this are discussed below.

Project Management

The discipline of project management can answer thoroughly these questions:

  • Are all the tasks needed to publish a written work completed?
  • Were they completed on time?

This is useful if you have external publishing commitments to meet rather than self-imposed deadlines. But it may limited in judging the health of the work itself.

Personal Health

Checking your blood pressure, weight, and frequency to raid the medicine cabinet may give useful guidance on your personal well-being. Health factors could contribute to the quality of your writing. But at best, it is an indirect measure.

Those Darn Metrics

Many writers measure progress in words written per day. There are millions of articles on this topic.  This may be a good measure of productivity depending on your writing style and consistency. I find that I average 1500-3000 words a day and have gone faster depending on the book and topic. Ghosts vs. Robots was written at 4000-5000 words a day due to the energetic nature of the subject. A more emotional work like Saving Eddie may just be 500-1000 words a day.

What I am beginning to find more useful is analyzing the scenes written per day. I try to write one scene in a book in one sitting.  (A scene would be something like taking a trip in a time machine. If may be part or the whole chapter.) Writing it this way in “one take” makes things become self-contained, consistent,  and continuous. If I can get one-two scenes done a day, that is considered successful.

Yes But What About Quality/Health?

So far I have talked more about productivity than quality. As noted, quality/work health is a hard thing to measure in any endeavor.

Many have proposed some key objective measures. This  could be such factors such as number of grammar mistakes, vocabulary level, readability level, number of mechanical problems, consistency and type of style, compliance to writing formulas and techniques, genre rule compliance, character development and uniqueness, use of surprise elements, number of overworked clichés, freshness of approach etc. But while some of these measures can be objective, others would require sophisticated computer rules to detect and weigh.

A simple test may be to read aloud to five prospective customers and see their reactions. Alternatively, let them read it on their own and evaluate it. Lacking an audience, a periodic self-evaluation after putting a work aside may help.

In the End

When all is said in done, metrics will get you only so far. Metrics may not look at a work holistically, review its subtlety, or analyze it at multiple levels simultaneously. Trust yourself. Trust your writing process. And don’t stop creating.