Wednesday, May 22

Getting Organized

Getting Organized

I was wondering what I could blog about today--for some reason when I only blog once a day it's twice as hard to come up with a topic! (Which goes to show that the more one writes the more one can write.)

So I would like to do something a little bit different and share one of the most useful tips I've been given as a writer: use Excel and Google Calendar to get organized.

If you're all ready organized, ignore this, and of course you don't have to use Excel, you can use any spreadsheet program, the same goes for Google Calendar. I like Google Calendar because it's easy to sync with my iPad calendar and it's simple to get alerts mailed to myself. Bottom line: use what works for you.

Using Excel And Google Calendar To Get Organized

I have Chuck Wendig to thank for this tip. He's the one who wrote about using Excel to get and stay organized in several of his blog posts.

I'm not talking about using Excel to help outline a novel (which it's great for; Chuck Wendig writes about that in this post and I talk about it more here and here), I'm talking about using Excel to help plan your days, weeks and months, to help set and keep your writing goals.

So, here's how I'm currently using Excel to stay (somewhat) organized:

1. Make a list of all the projects you want to complete in the next 12/24/36/48 etc months and give each one a tentative 'finish by' date. 

Some of these projects you're already working on, some of them, perhaps, are almost finished, some of them are just going to be ideas you want to work on, or maybe you just know you want to publish (say) two books every year for the next few years and that each book should be about 80,000 words in length.

For each project it helps if you have an approximate word count to shoot for. This can be adjusted later, but it helps to have something to work with, even if the figures are tentative.

2. Figure out how many books you'd have to sell at what price to meet your minimum financial goals.

I've written in detail how to do this elsewhere:

- How Many Books Would You Have To Write To Quit Your Job?
- Writing Goals Versus Writing Dreams: How To Get From One To The Other

What this hinges on is deciding how many books/novellas/short stories you want to write per year. That is, how many words you want to write per year. Let's say you want to write two 80,000 word novels per year, so you want to write 160,000 words per year.

Let's say that you think some of the words you write won't be used, so lets talk about this in terms of net and gross words. I use the rule of thumb that if I want to publish, say, 20,000 (net) words a month I should plan to write 40,000 (gross) words that month.

So, let's say you think that in order to publish 160,000 words per year (/two novels) you'll need to write 320,000 words that year.

((1) and (2) can be done in any order, but the two go together like a hand in a glove.)

3. Examine what you've written down for (1) and (2), above, and adjust your 'finish by' times accordingly.

The idea is to break things down so that you have a certain number of words to finish each year, each month, each week and each day. Your project start by, finish by, number of words, and so on, dates can be recorded in Excel but I find it handy to break writing objectives up.

So, for instance, if I want to write 320,000 gross words a year, that works out to about 6,200 words per week or about 900 words a day. Plug this into Google Calendar and send yourself a prompt every day, perhaps a couple of times a day, reminding you of your word count.

Don't be discouraged if you fall behind, just do the work you can and keep going.

Clear as mud? (grin)

A couple of weeks ago I started using this method and it's reduced my stress since now I can see at a glance what my goals are and where I am in meeting those goals.

How do you keep track of your writing goals? What programs have you used? What methods?

Photo credit: "This caught my eye" by Nina Matthews under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.


  1. I don't do so well planning yearly goals, but I do use Excel to keep track of my monthly goals. I love to make graphs showing my progress, that helps me stay motivated. (And graphs of my sales, and anything else I can think of.)

    The problem I find with yearly goals, is that writing is only half the battle. Then you have to edit. And this is what chews through my time! Where do you fit in editing around your writing?

    1. "I love to make graphs showing my progress, that helps me stay motivated."

      Me too! I love graphs.

      "Where do you fit in editing around your writing?"

      Great question. I was hung up on that for a while.

      It's easy to measure words written per day but I found it much more difficult to quantify work done editing. How does one measure it?

      Here's what I'm doing now, I'm measuring goals accomplished purely by two things: 1. words written per day and 2. words published per month.

      Generally I do my writing (and by writing I mean writing new words) in the morning. I try and get at least half my daily word count done before I even _think_ about looking at my email. Then, later on in the afternoon or evening (afternoon is better for me) I'll go back and try to get the other half done. If not, then I do it in the evening.

      Ideally, evenings are left for editing. If I don't get the editing done then I don't beat myself up, I just get up earlier the next morning so I can do my daily word count sooner and so have more time for editing.


      It's really a huge juggling act filled with last-minute trade-offs. (grin)

    2. Yes, it's much harder to measure progress for editing as opposed to writing.

      So is the novel you're editing the same one you're writing, or a different one? I find it so hard to work on more than one novel at a time! I can't really read more than one book at a time either, just not good at splitting my attention like that. So when I'm editing, that's what I'm doing, not writing at the same time.

    3. "So is the novel you're editing the same one you're writing, or a different one?"

      Different! Yes, most definitely a different one. I find I need to write a draft from beginning to end without even _thinking_ about editing it. Then I put the draft away for a few days and come back and edit.

      Everyone's different. I find that by working on two or three stories at the same time I can give myself a few days between edits to clear my mind and approach the story with fresh eyes.


Because of the number of bots leaving spam I had to prevent anonymous posting. My apologies. I do appreciate each and every comment.