A Free Tool Called Pacemaker, and How I’m Using it to Encourage Myself to Write
I love tools. Cool, new, shiny tools. Sometimes, I get so excited by the coolness of a tool that I forget what I’m supposed to be using it for. Instead of pounding in nails with that perfectly-balanced framing hammer, I’m swinging it around my head and alternating guttaral war cries with humming the soundtrack of The Last Samurai.
A couple of weeks ago, I came across a free online tool called Pacemaker, that seemed like the perfect way to help me plan my next big writing project. What it actually did was provide me a fantastic procrastination opportunity for the next half hour as I rang the bells and blew all the whistles.
But in the process, I discovered a very helpful tool. I also received a bit of unexpected encouragement that I would like to share with you all.
First, a quick look at the app.
As you can see, you fill in things like the name of your project, type of project, estimated word count, start and end date, and it generates a graph to break down your word count and build a schedule to help you finish on time.
Another thing I love—automatically-generated graphs. I’m weird like this.
But the one in the above example is kind of boring. That flat line is the result of telling the program you want to write the same number of words every day. Let’s take a look at what happens if you play around with some of the other options.
Now that is a tasty graph, right there. I set the word count plotting tool to Random, which has the program giving you random word count goals every day. One day you’re writing 500 words, the next you’re writing 1,200. Not for the faint of heart.
My personal favorite is the Biting the Bullet option, which starts you out with large daily word count goals that get smaller and smaller as your project progresses.
Scrolling down, we have even more options.
We see another graph, which will chart your progress as you begin your project, and compare it to your original plan as you log your word count.
There are more options for customizing your workload–you can make it heavier or lighter on weekdays, and reserve extra days for the end of your project, just in case you fall behind. These advanced options are what really impress me about this program. It’s so dang well thought out.
If you switch the display to the calendar option, you get a really cool and tangible breakdown of your project.
And this is where the inspiration part comes in. In my initial procrastination-laced session with Pacemaker, I switched it to calendar view, and then it hit me what a very small amount of words it takes a day to actually write a novel in, say, a month. Seriously, look at that.
I know, this is nothing revolutionary, nothing you haven’t heard before. It’s the age-old “how do you eat an elephant” metaphor.
(Answer: One bite at a time.)
(More realistic answer: One bite at a time, until an important internal organ ruptures and you die, because an elephant is way bigger than your tummy and trying to eat it was really stupid.)
Your novel is your elephant. And the cool thing about a graph like this is it gives you a visual of just how many bites you need to take. There’s your whole novel, contained right there in one page on your computer screen. A little less impossible. A little less daunting.
Maybe, if you’re like me, seeing something like this could alleviate a little of that overwhelm-ment you’ve had going on at the prospect of writing your novel, whether it’s your first or your fiftieth, whether you’re cramming for NaNoWriMo or just hoping to finish your story before you’re as old as George R. R. Martin.
Or maybe you’re not like me at all, and it doesn’t have any kind of effect like that at all, and you’re just sitting there wondering why in the world I’m making such a big deal out of a blue calendar. In that case… hey, Pacemaker is a pretty cool tool and you should check it out.