Charts, and Graphs, and Tracking! Oh My!

(I'm running late this morning because of staying up until the wee hours to work on blogs.)

If given the chance, I’d be happy to spend most of my time creating ways to keep track of the things I do rather than doing them. It took me years to realize that I’m a very visual person. It helps keep my thinking clear when I can see an overall view of things. It also helps me remember things if I see them in writing.

Not only do I make the charts and graphs, but I keep them current with information so I know where I am pre-writing, during writing, and after writing. Give me a task or schedule, and I’ll make a chart or table or graph to track it.

Computers have made tracking easier, quicker, and less likely to get lost in a pile of papers. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on bookkeeping or tracking or plotting software. Nearly everything you need is probably already on your computer. It’s like having GPS in your car or on your cell phone. You can easily and quickly find out where you are and how to get where you’re going.

There are three basic programs I use: Microsoft Word, Works, and Excel. You might be surprised by how I use them.

While While Writing
(I keep a copy of each for each manuscript I start.)

  • Calendar (Word Calendar) -- to keep my timelines straight.
  • Characters (Word table) -- so I don't have to go looking to see what the waitress's name is.
  • Daily pages written (Excel) -- especially helpful during BIAW ;)
  • Age Chart (Works Spreadsheet or Excel) -- to know when main characters were born, went to school, had a major event in life, and at the time the story opens.
  • Proposal Page Count (Word table) per 3 chapters: #pages, date completed, #words for rough draft, 1st round revisions, 2nd round revisions, requested revisions pre-sale.
  • Status (Word table) – from submission through sale date
  • Storyboard (Word table) – my plotting device
  • Timeline chart (Word using Drawing) – for series

After Sale

  • Page count table (Word table) per chapter--A longer version of the Proposal Page count from chapter 1 through 12 (my usual book length)
  • Page goals (Word table) – for each chapter: date to be written, date started, date finished, date revised (final revision before submitting) and a check-off box
  • Percentage written (Word table) – broken down in increments of 5%, with #pages, #words, total running word count, date reached, in what chapter reached.
  • Running totals (Word table) – more detailed version of the running word count.

Completed Books

  • Completed book checklist (Word table)
  • Working Calendar (Word Calendar) -- to keep me on track when finishing a book. Call it my Goals Calendar
  • AAs/Galleys (Word table)


  • Response time charts (Word table) -- for tracking length of time between submission through responses and payments
  • Book Title, Submitted As, Hero Name, Heroine Name, Sold Date, On Sale Date
  • Yearly Pages Written

And those are only the tracking sheets I use most often. There are a few more old ones that I rarely use, but I’ve kept them, just in case. The above are tweaked and changed when needed, and, yes, I keep the information in each current as I work. That’s how I know where I am and how much it’s going to take to get me to the end of each project, whether a proposal or the finished book.

After creating a few Word tables, you can set them up quickly. You'll need an overall idea of how many columns and rows you need. Excel can be used for more than numbers! And Works comes standard on most computers and can be substituted for Excel when only text is used. The Calendar template is just one of many templates to use with Word.

Combine any of the tracking devices above with those Starla has shared, and you can have a much easier path to follow to your next book, and you'll always know where you are in your writing.


Joan Vincent said...

On first reading you blew my mind, Rox. How do you do it all?! And thank you for all you do for WARA and the members individually too.

I'm very impressed with your lists and will print this out. While I do some of those you mention there are a few I wish I had been keeping over the years. I didn't keep anything those first years I was writing, not even when I was published. Didn't in fact until I returned to writing in 2000.
I've never used Word calender or tables so I will have to experiment with them when Excel won't do what I want. And again, Wow!

Roxann Delaney said...

Hey, Joan, I didn't create those all at one sitting! It's taken a few years to make them, and they're often revised or tweaked. I keep a blank copy of each, then copy to the folder that contains the manuscript files when I start a new story. All I have to do then is fill in the info as I go.

I didn't keep good records when I first started, either. I, too, wish I had. I did leave off one, and that's my "sale chart" table. It shows the date a submission is sent to my agent, when she passes it on to my editor, if and when my editor passes it to the senior editor, and then goes on and on from there, including when copy edits arrive, the deadline and when returned, when advances arrive, and pretty much everything that happens from beginning to seeing the book on shelves. It's a full page, each submission having its own column, and I have several pages, among them a lot of rejections. ::grin::

How do I do it? Well, you see, I don't clean, I don't cook, I don't sleep. Or at least it seems that way sometimes. LOL

Making a table in Word can take a little practice. If you need some help, let me know. I can whip up a table faster than you can say 'mashed potatoes."

I think the Calendar Wizard is standard with Word. When you click NEW for a new document, on the right side of the page you'll see your options. Templates are at the bottom of that list. Choose General Templates. The Calendar Wizard is under the Other Documents tab. You choose the style you want, the month and year to start and end. Play around with it a little to get accustomed to it and find what works best for you. I've used it so much, I can make changes in how it looks. I've come to rely on it more heavily as time goes by and the brain retains less. ;)

Joan Vincent said...

Rox I tried the table feature in Word 07 and it was fairly easy--probably due to my work with tables in FrontPage. I can see this feature as very useful--thanks for pointing it out.
I also did the calendar template but it won't go prior to 1900. I've used PrintShops calender for years. It would have been nice to have it in Word.
If I can develope your attention to detail I'll save myself pain in the future.

jammer5 said...

Argggg . . . now I gotta go back and start all them lists. But they are good . . . make that excellent . . . ideas :-)

Nina Sipes said...

Wow, I'm in awe. I thought I was a list maker. Ha! Comparatively, I snooze at the wheel to you and Starla and the others.

Joan, I don't know why you want to go before 1900, but the solution is fairly easy. The calendar repeats every so many years. I don't recall off the top of my head what the repeat pattern is exactly, but the calendar does. Anyway, if you find out, then it would be a fairly simple matter to subtract back to the year you want.

Roxann Delaney said...


Try this link. You can plug in a year and get a list of years with the same calendar.

Roxann Delaney said...

Here's the same link, but this time it should be active and you can just click on it.

Roxann Delaney said...


Not everyone needs to be as excessive as I've become. Start with a basic or two. Maybe a character list and daily pages written, if you want to see how your progress is going. And maybe a calendar to keep track of the timeline. The rest you can deal with as you go along and decide what you might or might not need.

Don't be overwhelmed. Use what you need only. If you discover you don't need to keep track of something, don't do it. Time should be spent on writing. I just have a bad memory. :)

Roxann Delaney said...

If anyone wants a copy of a blank chart or one that shows how a particular one works, let me know and I'll send in an email.

Just remember that what you'll see is my way. You get to figure out what your way is and works best for you. In this case, change is good. :)

Reese Mobley said...

Dang, girl. I'd need a list just to keep track of all the lists. lol. I only wish I were half as organized as you or Starla.

Pat Davids said...

Okay, I'm seriously dizzy just thinking of such organization.
See Pat's head spinning around.

Penny Rader said...

Thanks for sharing with us, Rox. I'm visual, too. I love charts, etc, but I'm not so good at creating them. I have been learning a bit about excel at work, so I'll be printing out your post and see what I can come up with.

Starla Kaye said...

This was wonderful, thanks for sharing, Roxann.

I've never tried calendars in Word before, truthfully, didn't even know it had them. I make calendars all the time for other organizations I belong to, but I've always used Publisher. This is really much easier.

Roxann Delaney said...

Wonderful? That's questionable. Excessive? Definitely!

The key is creating and using what you need. Not everyone is as paranoid as I am...or as lazy. ::grin:: When you find yourself hunting for the same information over and over, it's time to make a tracking sheet.

Roxann Delaney said...

Starla, I used to use Publisher for all kinds of things. I loved it! Then someone borrowed my disc and now can't find it. Of course no one owns up to borrowing it. Kids! I think I may install my old Publisher 2000. I'm sure the other will appear as soon as I do. LOL

I change the Word Calendar to suit. I use the Boxes & Borders template, then make a few changes. I make the numbers of the dates smaller (12), align them to the left, then border them all. It's 3 clicks. I can even put 2 months on a page, but it takes some time to resize and move each one.

Whatever works best, I always say. :)