(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
- 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 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.