Novel Biographer v1.0

Anyone who has ever embarked on the great journey of writing a novel will know that, even though there are rewards and highlights aplenty, it is for the most part a gruelling and lonely road. For endless months your head will be overflowing with a world that no one else knows or understands and you will be dogged – constantly – by fears that your work is of no value, that you’re just churning out garbage or aren’t making enough progress. Talking with friends and other writers of course helps but there’s never going to be anyone else who quite understands exactly what you’re going through – no one to tell you need to write more or to slap you on the back for hitting your targets. This is where the Novel Biographer comes in.

The Novel Biographer is your page, your sidekick. It is the Sancho Panza to your Don Quixote, the Sam Gamgee to your Frodo Baggins, the Boy Wonder to your Dark Knight. It is there to faithfully record all of your progress so that when things start to get tough, it can look back and show you just how far you’ve come, show you some statistics about how well you’re doing and distract you with some colourful graphs. Or alternatively when the lure of television or eBay calls, the Novel Biographer will have no qualms with telling you to buck up your act and get back to work.

Okay so I still haven’t actually said what it is. The Novel Biographer is an Excel Spreadsheet. No wait – come back, come back – it gets better! All you have to do is fill in some basic details – when you’re going to start writing, your target deadline and target number of words and chapters. The spreadsheet will then format itself into a nice simple form for you, which you can fill in with a running word total every day you write. The Novel Biographer will then keep track of this seemingly simple data and start building up statistics and charts illustrating your progress. It will set targets for you and let you know whether or not you’re hitting them. All you have to do is remember to update it and it will reward you with a world of lovely statistics!

Here’s what it looks like:

You can download and start using Novel Biographer right here:

Novel Biographer v1.0

Please bear in mind this is only the first release of what is a deceptively complex application so please bear with any bugs you might encounter. Feel free to let know any glitches/oddities you do come across, things that don’t make sense or any suggested improvements!

Published in: on December 18, 2010 at 6:59 PM  Comments (12)  
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12 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. This is very impressive. I track my word count, my daily goals vs what I achieve, but I’ve never charted any of it! I’m very fond of spreadsheets and use them to track nearly everything in my life 😉

    I’ll definitely try it out for my next re-write. (I’ll be doing plotting and back story from my first draft during the next 2 months, then start the re-write.)

    • Hey Cathryn – yes I’ve only been tracking word count by chapters and the day that I write which only gives you a limited amount of information. I’m eager to start writing something completely new so I can try this bad boy out from scratch!

  2. Very cool little spreadsheet you’ve got here. I shall have to give it a whirl. I anticipate it can be used with short stories as well, n’est-ce pas? (Being that I’m more likely to start work on some shorts in foreseeable future than my next novel project, which is on a backburner awaiting the end of grad school.)

    • Hey Stephen – I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t use it for short stories. In fact it doesn’t even have to be used for fiction – you could use it for essays, saving money, anything that’s cumulative, quantifiable and has a target!

      I am thinking the most obvious application of this will of course be NaNoWriMo.

  3. Ooh this sounds right up my alley. I already track (very roughly) via spreadsheet, but I’ve never worked in any charts. I’ll give her a whirl! Sounds like this will be useful.

    • Thought you’d like this Mrs Bazelli! I’ll be interested to see people’s results with using the tool – I am tempted to write a little novella or something so I can test it properly!

  4. Hmm. So there’s what seems to me to be an odd bit of logic in the file… It looks like one is meant to enter the total cumulative wordcount in your project each day, and then it calculates the wordcount written for that day. I guess it seems backwards to me because I’d expect to enter the wordcount I completed today, and have it calculate my total cumulative. I’m guessing you did it the way you did, though, because assuming the entire document is in a single file, it’s easier to hit the Wordcount button once at the end of the day than to figure out which parts are new and find the wordcount for that…

    • Now it’s interesting that you raise that point because originally I had built it so you did put in the number of words you wrote each day rather than the total. But as you suspected – it then occurred to me that it’s easier to just look at the total word count and put that in. I did sway between having two ways of entering the data but that was just going to be horrific to implement and confusing for the user. If I find that people would prefer to end a daily count instead of a total then I’ll be having to rewrite it – or maybe have two different versions.

      • Yeah, two implementations in a single file probably wouldn’t be advisable… but two separate files depending on your preferred method of entering might make sense.

        I’ll have to see how it goes in actual practice, though. I was just fooling around with it, didn’t actually put in real data yet, just dummy examples. That method, I kept thinking first in terms of how many words were written on a day; but it might be that in practice this implementation actually makes more sense…

        (Either way, I can change up the implementation myself if I decide I’d like it the other way; at least for the time being.)

      • That confused me as well. I entered the daily word count (since it is the first column) and wondered why the total was not updated. Perhaps one easy thing to do to indicate the way it works is to switch the order of the columns: Running Total, and words. Also graying out the word count column or disabling input to that column, would make it easier to figure out.

        I always worked with daily word counts, but yeah, I can see its a lot easier to just input a running total.

      • That’s odd that three people now have gone through exactly the same thought process – entering a daily count rather than a total seems to be more obvious even though it involves extra calculation! But yes switching the columns around and maybe adding another colour does sound way to go.

        Thanks for the feedback so far!

  5. […] my readers may have happened across David Sharp’s (of “A Wee Adventure“) “Novel Biographer“, an excel spreadsheet built to track your wordcount progress when writing a […]

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