Last week, I read the book Marketing for Writers Who Hate Marketing: The No-Stress Way to Sell Books Without Losing Your Mind by James Scott Bell. It's the next book club read for the Insecure Writer's Support Group on Goodreads. Although it offers the usual advice about websites, mailing lists, ads, and other traditional marketing tools, Bell puts writing quality first. In fact, he not only suggests you focus on improving parts of your writing craft such as plot, character, dialogue, voice, and theme (there were a couple of others mentioned; I think setting was one, but description oddly wasn't), but he recommending setting goals of improving them by a set percentage every year. That was the part that really got my attention.
At my day job, we set Key Performance Indicators that are measurable--say, getting a certain score level on an audit, or updating/reviewing all documents in our quality system every year. I'm not sure how you would measure improving your plotting by 10% every year. Adding more plot twists? Spending more or less time on plotting? Getting feedback from beta readers, editors, and readers? Bell is supposed to answer question from the Goodreads group, so I should submit this question and to see what his answer is.
One of Bell's other suggestions is for something much easier to track--writing quantity. While many other people have recommended tracking your daily word count, this book finally pushed me into setting up a simple spreadsheet to track mine. My minimum is 500 new words every day, while targeting 1000. Tracking my word count does motivate me to maintain better focus during my writing sessions. It worked well until the weekend, as I was busy all day Saturday bringing Alex to and from a party, grocery shopping, baking three loaves of bread, making two pizzas, and cooking another dish for the week. By the time I had a chance to write, I was physically and mentally drained. Sunday we were at the Renaissance Faire until late, so the only writing I'll do is whatever I can manage after I finish this post.
Before I head off for another writing session, I'd like to ask what you think about measuring writing quality. Can it be done, or, as in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, must we leave quality undefined? Do you track your daily word count? If so, do you find it helpful? Feel free to answer in the comments.