Words on a Page Writings about writing

How to use a spreadsheet to track your writing

Working on a spreadsheet

When most of us think of spreadsheets, images of number crunchers and bean counters probably come to mind. They usually conjure those images for me.

While spreadsheets don’t have a lot to do with actually writing, they’re more than a financial tool. Writers can use spreadsheets in some interesting and very useful ways. So useful that they can increase your productivity.

What can writers use spreadsheets for? Here’s how I use them:

  • Track queries and submissions
  • Keep on top of earnings
  • Record the progress of a larger writing project, or one on which you’re collaborating with others

Intrigued? Read on.

Tracking queries and submissions

This is the task that I most commonly use a spreadsheet for. My spreadsheet for doing this is simple. My tracking spreadsheet lists the:

  • Publication
  • Editor
  • Title or subject of the article
  • The date the query was sent
  • The date a reply was received
  • Whether or not the pitch was accepted
  • The dates on which the finished article was sent and was published

The spreadsheets I work contain multiple worksheets — on one spreadsheet, I can have several years worth of queries. This helps me track my progress.

Tracking earnings

This is pretty much a no-brainer. In fact, it’s this sort of thing that spreadsheets are designed for. The way I set up an earnings spreadsheet is simple. It lists the publication or client, the date an invoice was sent (if applicable), the date the payment was received, and the amount of the payment. Of course, I total all the payments at the bottom.

I usually have a spreadsheet for a single year. Each spreadsheet has multiple tabs — one for article writing, one for corporate work, and one for earning from blog advertising.

Staying on top of large projects

Maybe you’re writing something big, like a book. A spreadsheet can help you keep track of what you’re doing and where you are. You will have to remember to update the thing, but that’s all part of the discipline of writing.

With, for example, a book you can set up your spreadsheet to track:

  • The chapter you’re working on
  • The status of that chapter — in progress, draft, pending
  • The target page or word count
  • The current page or word count
  • The estimated date of completion
  • Any supporting notes you might have

That structure will vary depending on what you’re writing.

With a collaborative project, the concept is the same. You might want one worksheet on a spreadsheet for each person involved in the project. The individual worksheets can list the work done, the status of current work, the estimated completion date, and any notes.

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