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Tech Talk: Create Tables to Track Your Writing Journey (you’ll be thankful you did)

Last month I talked about how to set up your word counter for Scrivener, especially for all you Wrimo peeps. How did you do this month?

If you’re working with Scrivener software, you may want to consider creating a table (see below) with NaNoWriMo’s targets each day and include space for you to fill in where you’re at on your writing goals.  One year later, I can’t remember the details of each and every day of my journey but I am so grateful for the journalling “notes” I took.  It allows me to stop and reflect on what I was doing at the time, and what my productivity levels are.

2012 NaNoWriMo Productivity Chart

Side note: I would’ve sworn I’d had a 10,000 word day at some point but the numbers don’t lie. 😦

While I don’t recommend creating a table within Scrivener to cover a full 365-day period (check out my recommendations for year-round word trackers here), it can be a useful exercise for a short period of time. Creating tables in Scrivener can be a bit tricky though.

Step 1: Finding the Table Menu

Step 1-find the table menu

Go to FormatTableTable. Once you’ve clicked the “Table” option, a pop-up window will appear with all of your default table options (see below).

ex. a. the default table settings

Step 2: Change the default settings

What I’ve found works best, is to change the rows first by using the up arrow to the right of the number displayed for rows (Default: 2).  It’s going to allow you a maximum of 25. After this hits ’25’, then click the columns section and adjust to your preferred column number.  You can go back and tweak the rows to create more if you desire.

For my NaNoWriMo word tracker table, I used 6 rows and 33 columns.

step 2- change the default settings

Step 3: Changing the Border Colors

When you’re satisfied that the table is the correct row and column size that you’re looking for, close the pop-up Table box, and highlight the entire table.

Once it’s been highlighted, open the Table menu again. We’re going to change the border’s background colors.

Step 4 - change the border background color

The black box to the right of Cell Border is the default color for your table. Unfortunately, when Scrivener creates it (at least in mine), it only creates a black border on a couple of the rows/columns (called “cells”). We want it to do the whole thing.

Click the black color box to display the Colors palette (the box with all of the crayons).

Click on any other color than the one that you want. You should see your highlighted table in the background automatically change to that color.  Now, click the color you actually want (ex: black) for the table to refresh and now display the correct color.

Note that you can also change a cell’s background separately if you want a table header to have a particular color (ex: the “November” header is peach).

Close all boxes and return to your table.

Step 4: Resizing Your Table

By dragging the vertical column lines in your table, you can resize the columns and make them thinner or thicker.  Since most of mine were just numbers, I shrunk most of my columns to about an inch width and expanded my “Notes” column to maybe 4 inches in length (see below).

step 4 - resize your table

At this point, your basic table is finished.

Step 5: Add In Table Headings, Column Headings and Cell Labels

You can play around with the text alignment (ex: center align for “November”), fill in the dates, the target totals, and the headers in each column.

Step 5 - add in table headings

Step 6: Changing Cell Backgrounds and File Icons

I decided to go with a nice teal color for the cell background and I changed the name and icon of this file to “Productivity” (see below).

step 6 - changing cell background and file icon

And here is what the finished table looks like:

productivity table finished version

Got any questions?

Leave a comment below and I’ll be glad to walk you through any steps. 🙂 This tutorial was done on a Mac computer so steps may vary with the Windows version.

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Lauren Miller is a Midwestern born writer with a passion for Jesus, the written word, and dogs. She has two decades of experience in the library field and reviews books for the Historical Novels Review (UK). She likes to spend her free time enjoying period films, discovering new reads, and being surrounded by other people’s pets. Lauren, her husband, and their wily Maine Coon (who isn’t quite a dog) live in Missouri. You can learn more about Lauren’s writing at

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