Friday, December 1, 2023

Do Your Track Your Writing Projects?

by A.C. Williams @ACW_Author

What was the first novel you wrote? What year was it? How many words was it? How about the second novel? Or the third? 

You may or may not have seen the trend that started growing in social media circles a few months ago where authors post their publication histories. Maybe some folks felt like it was just showing off, but that’s not what it was for me. 

The intent of the trend was to demonstrate that a successful author usually has written many “unpublishable” novels before their actual debut. I don’t think we can underscore enough how important that is to realize.

I’ve discovered that it’s very easy for authors to compare themselves to each other. This is common in most artistic pursuits, but with authors I feel like it’s particularly challenging. It takes so long to write a book. It takes so much time and effort to create the material and then you still have to promote it, get it published, and then market it—all while carving out time to write another book. It feels like a lot, because it is a lot. And it’s very tempting to look at another author who seems very successful and think they have it made. 

I guarantee they are struggling just as much as you are. Believe me, you don’t want their life. 

All that being said, though it was valuable to see the struggles and challenges some of my favorite authors had gone through on the road toward publication, the whole trend made me ask myself a different question:

Do you track your writing projects? 

Maybe for some of you who have recently started writing, this question doesn’t feel important. Let me assure you: This matters enormously! 

As I sat down to share my own novel writing history, I was astonished at how little detail I had on the books I had finished in the past. Granted, I started writing seriously 30 years ago (no, not an exaggerated number). I thought I’d always done a pretty good job keeping track of what I wrote and when, but apparently my memory isn’t as sharp as it used to be. 

When I first started writing, I only thought it was important to count the books I’d written that actually got published. And to a certain extent, that’s true. When you’re talking about a C.V. or your publication credits, you need to focus on the work you’ve done that has actually been published. 

But at the same time, you should never diminish the value of the work you did before you got published. For instance, my debut novel (Nameless: The Destiny Trilogy Part One) released in 2014, but I completed my first real story in 1994. Twenty years prior. And I promise you that there was no way I could have written a story of the quality necessary to publish until I’d had 20 years of practice. 

Maybe 20 years sounds like a long time, but when you’re learning a craft or a trade, it’s really not. And you have to remember as well that in the early 90s, there weren’t as many resources to train young writers as there are now. And, frankly, I grew up in the Central Midwest, a region that values practicality above artistry. Writing books ain’t practical, y’all. So when it came to learning how to be an author, I was very much on my own. 

In all those 20 years that passed between my first book and my debut novel, I wish I’d kept better records. I know the majority of what I wrote, I think, but I really can’t remember.

Don’t misunderstand, though. I don’t want to keep track of my projects so I had something to show off when the next great social media trend hits us. Not at all. I want to keep track of my projects so that I have a roadmap to remind me how far I’ve come in this journey. 

It’s easy to forget. Authors like shiny things, and as soon as we finish one manuscript, usually we’re off writing a new one. And if that previous story doesn’t get picked up, we usually shuffle it to the bottom of the pile and forget about it.


Everything you write teaches you something. About the world. About craft. About your own heart and creativity. Don’t discount it or diminish its worth simply because a publisher hasn’t picked it up yet. Regardless if the industry considers it “publishable” or not, you invested a long time getting those words on the page. And that isn’t meaningless.

So keep track of the words you write. Use a program or an app. If you bullet journal, make yourself a word count tracker. Just don’t take the words you’ve written for granted. They matter now, and they will matter more in 30 years. Trust me on that.


Award-winning author, A.C. Williams is a coffee-drinking, sushi-eating, story-telling nerd who loves cats, country living, and all things Japanese. She’d rather be barefoot, and if she isn’t, her socks won’t match. She has authored eight novels, two novellas, three devotional books, and more flash fiction than you can shake a stick at. A senior partner at the award-winning Uncommon Universes Press, she is passionate about stories and the authors who write them. Learn more about her book coaching and follow her adventures online at

1 comment:

  1. Your record of tracking past works matches mine perfectly. I would add that you could record your efforts in getting published too.