Not gonna lie: one of the reasons I most love doing NaNoWriMo is watching those little bars inch above the line on the graph.

I liked it so much that I learned how to use Excel specifically so I could create my own chart for keeping track of words. If you are interested in learning how to do your own, read away – if you want a clean copy of my Excel workup, drop me a line and I’ll email it straight to you.

Here’s what my current WIP looks like:2017-02-16-1

So the pictures are from Pinterest (go figure), and the cover is my creation in Photoshop with Pinterest source material (who’da thunk it?). Those are the modifications I normally make from project to project (insert/picture – choose picture, resize to fit). The rest is pure Excel data nerd-er-y.

The “Date” column keep me writing every day, or at least on track. “Goal Total” gives me a bar to jump over. “Total Word Count” is where I type my triumphant word count. The “Words of Interim” column and the “Percentage” column change automatically with every input in “Total Word Count”. I use the “Notes” column to pen in plot points.

I input the dates as I need to (here’s an Excel hack for ya’ll – if you put in three data points, highlight them, hover your cursor over the bottom right corner and it will change to a little +, click and drag that + down for as long as you want the data to be extrapolated. In human terms: put in two dates, highlight them, hover for the +, and drag until it gets to the day you desire). Ditto on the “Goal Total” column.

You don’t have to do anything for the “Total Word Count” column but put in the numbers as you write them. Most word processing programs have some kind of word count function and you can punch it into the cell corresponding with the day.

Now, if you’re doing the Excel wizardry from scratch, it’s gonna get a little complicated. Strap in. You want columns “H” and “J” (on the chart pictured – yours might be different) to be actively and automatically changing as you input data into the “Total Word Count” column (above, the “F” column). Your first cell in the “Words of Interim” will be something like =F4, the next down will be =F5-F4, the next down will be =F6-F5, and all the way down the line just like that. The cell of the current count minus the previous day to equal the difference.

On to the percentage column. The first cell will read something like =F4/D33, the second =F5/D33, third =F6/D33. The current wordcount-of-the-day divided by the total goal reveals the percentage. Ta da!


Now for the final touch of wizardry: the graph. Highlight the data in columns “D” and “F”. This will have two colors, your word count stacking up against your goals. Go to the insert tab at the top, pick your column of choice and a floaty window of a chart will appear. You can drag and drop it to wherever you like, change the colors to suit your fancy, and alter the size to fit where you will. I changed mine up to look as understated as could be.

If all of this seems like too much Excel math, feel free to drop me a line and request a clean copy emailed directly to you.

How about you? Are you a pantser, plotter, plantser, charter, free-spirit, or something else altogether? Do charts help you? Do they freak you out?

Comment below and let me know!