Wyl Menmuir writes novels and short stories. His first novel The Many was long-listed for the ManBooker Prize 2016 – one of the most prestigious writing prizes in the world. In this video, he explains the benefits of tracking his writing progress and why it’s a vital part of his creative process.

The benefits of tracking your writing – transcript

Monitoring your progress

Monitoring your progress sounds like the antithesis of the creative process. I struggled with the idea of it when I first started to write my first novel The Many. I wondered whether it would take away some of the mystique and magic of it.

However, I think that the act of tracking my writing was one of the things that helped me to get to the end of a manuscript that I was happy to send to my editor.

I think it’s because it’s hard to see the progress you are making when you’re writing something as long as a novel.

If like me, you’re not prolific – you’re not always bashing out thousands of words – quite often you’re making loads of tiny incremental changes and as a writer it doesn’t feel like you’re making a lot of progress.

Read how Wyl Menmuir used an early prototype of Prolifiko, then called Write Track, to monitor the progress of his first novel The Many. There’s a great data visualization of his process in The Guardian and here’s what we can all learn from his experience.

What I track

So I track two things: the number words I write each day and the days I write.

In The End of the Affair, Graham Greene describes his writing process. He writes: “over 20 years, I probably average 500 words a day for five days a week. That means I can produce a novel in a year and that allows time for revision and the correction of the typescript.”

When I read that I thought if it’s good enough for Greene, it’s good enough for me. So I measure my writing in ‘Greenes’ – in blocks of 500 words.

I also track the number of unbroken days I’ve worked on the novel. It might seem a bit childish, but when I see the row of crosses in the diary or stars on the screen – then it encourages me to continue.

Finish what you start

Once you’ve got a streak going, you don’t want to break it. The trick is to trick yourself into continuing – even when you really don’t want to and when you think there’s nothing useful you can add to the novel. Because even small progress is some progress.

When I get to particular milestones – usually a round number on the manuscript – 20,000 words, 40,000, 50,0000 – then I’ll treat myself to a beer, a long run or maybe a surf. Marking those milestones is another way of making sure I continue – of making sure that I finish – and that’s the key thing.

I found that monitoring my progress helps me to finish what I’ve started – I’m doing the same thing now as I write my second novel.

It takes a few minutes to set up. it takes the effort of putting a cross in a box – but it’s as simple as that. Give it a go – it works for me.


If you like this video on the benefits of tracking, check out Wyl Menmuir’s other videos:

How to finish your novel

How to find writing inspiration

How to beat your writing blocks


Write smarter, not for longer
Want ideas, inspiration and tried and tested tips to support your writing life? Join our newsletter, Breakthroughs & Blocks.

Thanks! Now check your inbox.