About six months ago now, I began the process of creating a tracking log in Excel that would allow myself and other writers to track our writing progress on a daily basis towards a set monthly goal. Originally a byproduct of the request by another writer and initially intended to help those that participated in Camp Nanowrimo in April, it has since then evolved to become a tool that can be used to track all your writing throughout the year, regardless of month. Its evolution is ongoing and there are many exciting features yet to come.
Today, however, I’m setting sail on a slightly different, although related, journey: the creation of The Online Writing Log.
For several years, I’ve been looking for a convenient way to track my writing online and/or through an app. Although I have tried numerous solutions, I just never found one that quite works for me. Incidentally, my participation in the Monthly Writing Challenge on Twitter inspired me to pursue this further.
The solution seemed obvious for someone like myself with programming and web design background: just create my own app. Although easier said than than, that became my plan over a year ago. The problem has always been the lack of time: even though I’m comfortable learning a new programming language to build a webapp, I just don’t have the time to do it. Understanding the ins and outs of what langauge is best and to actually learn it takes time. When you have a family and work full time, there are only so many hours in a day not taken up by those two (oh and writing).
Then, back in May, I discovered Bubble. Bubble is a visual programming language which doesn’t require any prior programming skills to use. It’s a completely web-based drag and drop user interface. You don’t write any code at all and yet it’s powerful enough that in just three days, one developer created a fully functional Twitter clone.
Since the first month was free, I figured it couldn’t hurt to give it a try. If nothing else, at least I gave it a shot.
My goal was simple: create a web-based app that allowed me to do the following:
1) Set a monthly writing goal.
2) Track all my writing sessions, just like the spreadsheet.
3) Display the data in a visually appealing yet simple to understand way.
After thirty days (and a few additonal days), my conclusion was that, YES, it is possible. This after spending less than 10 actually hours working on the prototype (excluding tutorials, videos etc. to properly learn how to use Bubble). Below, you can see the video I recorded of the prototype app in action. Yes, it’s ugly but it works.
The Next Step
For right now, I have a few short term goals: recreate the prototype with a proper user interface, add some additional features that the spreadsheet contains and start using it to track my writing progress. This phase of this project already begun in early July. As I’m writing this, it’s August 1 and I’ll be logging my own writing as I add the finishing touches to the app.
In a couple of weeks, I’ll be making a demo account available so you can check it out yourself.
Long term goals depend a bit on what I find on my continued journey. I have some rather grand plans, including an online social component, leaderboards, badges and challenges, most of which should be fairly easy to accomplish with Bubble.
I’d love for you to join me on this journey, even help influence what features I end up adding to the app and then, of course, beta test it. After all, I’m not building it just for myself. It’s an app for all writers, young and old, published and not published. If you’re a writer, this app is for you.
My plan is to post updates as they happen, to provide a detailed account of my progress as well as my challenges. To avoid clogging up this website with daily updates, I’ll be posting updates on the Patreon site I’ve setup for this project (yes, hosting a webapp isn’t free, incidentally, so any support is appreciated, even just $1/month), with the occasional post here.
I’ve also setup a separate Twitter account for the Writing Log (spreadsheet and webapp) as well as a Facebook page. The idea here is to keep things in one place to make it easier to provide updates as well as for users to find out when new releases are available. All the resources are listed below. I hope to see you there.
Patreon – https://www.patreon.com/thewritinglog
Twitter – https://www.twitter.com/thewritinglog
As a last little tease, here’s a taste of the work in progress on the dashboard:
What do you think? Is this something you’d use?