It’s been a while since I did a techie post, but this is a topic that came up on Twitter the other day in conversation with my fellow Angry Robot author Matt Forbeck. We’re both using the word-count tracking features of Scrivener but in slightly different ways, so here for Matt’s edification (and anyone else’s!) is a quick tour of how I use it.
I like tracking word count. Writing is such a slog sometimes, and it’s good to see yourself making actual progress. I guess it all dates back to my first NaNoWriMo in 2006 – the whole point is to hit a word count target (in this case, 50k) and not worry too much about quality because, heck, you can edit it later. However I now find word count tracking to be even more useful in the revision phase of a project, helping me keep an eye on scene length and pacing.
Scrivener has a number of word count tools:
- A live word count at the bottom of the main document screen, that increments as you type
- A per-document word count target, set using the target icon in the bottom left of the same screen
- A Project Statistics window, showing total word counts, pages, etc for the whole draft and for the selected document(s)
and probably some other features I haven’t found yet!
I used to use spreadsheets, which had to be manually updated by copying the word counts from each document’s total. They were fun, but time-consuming to maintain, especially if I was juggling scenes around. A few months ago I realised I needed something that was less hassle and most importantly, didn’t take valuable time away from the actual writing. I poked around in Scrivener and almost by accident discovered that not only could you show word counts and targets in Scrivener’s outline view, but it would create cumulative totals for each folder. It did almost everything my spreadsheet could do, with zero extra work on my part. I was hooked!
In the picture below you can see my outliner setup for The Merchant of Dreams, the second book in the Nights Masque trilogy (note that I’ve blurred out the scene titles to avoid spoilers!).
I got this view as follows:
- In the menu bar, go to Group Mode and select the lefthand option to show the Outliner
- On the far right of the column headers you’ll see a double arrow symbol (>>) – click on that and select ‘Word Count’, ‘Total Word Count’, ‘Target’, ‘Total Target’ and ‘Total Progress’.
Voila! You now have a “spreadsheet” view of your manuscript, totalled by folder. Note however that if you want to see the total for the whole draft, you’ll need to insert a dummy top-level folder and drag all your existing folders into it – if you look at the Binder in the screenshot, you’ll see there’s a ‘Draft’ folder inside the ‘Manuscript’ one. This is because the outliner can only show documents inside another folder, not the folder itself.
The outliner preserves its state independent of other views and hierarchies, so you can flip back and forth between editing individual scenes in the normal document view, opening up your folders in the Binder, etc, and still come back to exactly the same view when you click on the Outliner button.
So there you have it, Scrivener fans – how to obsessively manage your word counts without resorting to spreadsheets. Enjoy!