Writing Spreadsheets: 7 Ways a Simple Spreadsheet Keeps You Organised and Motivated

In June 2014 I had my first piece of writing published. It was a piece of flash fiction called ‘What We Do In Our Sleep’ published in the 2014 National Flash-Fiction Day Anthology Eating My Words, and I was absolutely thrilled to have my first taste of publication. I had another piece, ‘Me, But From The Future’, published in FlashFlood as a part of National Flash-Fiction Day in June too. You can find the details of both of these stories in the Publications section.

That was a year ago, and now I have 15 pieces of writing published or scheduled for publication. Now I don’t know if this number is good or not, but I’m very proud of myself and very happy with my current rate of success, mainly because 13 of these pieces of writing have been published or accepted for publication in 2015. That’s an average of two pieces of writing a month.

There are lots of things that have helped me to achieve this: reading publications to assess what they like to publish, writing, rewriting, editing, reading, reading, reading, and more reading. That, of course, contributes, but over Christmas of 2014 I made a spreadsheet to keep tabs of my submissions. I’d heard that one of my creative writing tutors did this and thought, hey, if I want to get more of my writing published then this must be something that can help me.

There are 7 ways keeping a simple spreadsheet has helped me with my writing, and if it can help me then hopefully it can help you too:

  1. I know what writing I have sent out for consideration and where I sent it. This is important to know because many competitions and calls for submissions do not like simultaneous submissions.
  2. I know when I should hear back from the editor of the journal or magazine, or when the competition results should be announced. This is good to know in case I need to chase up publications where I haven’t had an email of acceptance or rejection.
  3. In the case of a rejection I put a little red box by the story but this is a great thing – it means I know that this piece of writing is available to submit somewhere else, and I usually have somewhere else lined up. This means I can get the rejected piece, after another once over, back out there.
  4. In the case of an acceptance I put a yellow box by the story and a little star and this makes me feel fantastic every time I check out my spreadsheet. It’s also pretty motivational – it makes me want more little stars on my spreadsheet.
  5. If the submission is active then there’s a little green box, and this means I’m waiting to find out if the piece of writing has been accepted or rejected, but also tells me I cannot (in most cases) send it out to someplace else.
  6. My spreadsheet can shame me into submitting writing. That sounds weird, but basically, as I record the date I send submissions, I can see if I haven’t submitted something for a while. Now of course life and studies and other things get in the way, but when I see I haven’t submitted something for a while it inspires me to do so. If it’s a case where I don’t have any writing “ready” to submit, it encourages me to review my writing, or write more!
  7. By recording where I’ve sent writing I can see what I have sent to places before. I tend not to resend the same story to a publication; they’ve read it once, and didn’t like it, so they’re not likely to want to read it again.

Now it doesn’t have to be fancy, and it doesn’t need to be able to do anything incredible – it just needs to be simple for you to use and contains whatever information works best for you.

I’m really intrigued to know if any of you writers also keep a spreadsheet to track your submissions, or, if you don’t use a spreadsheet, what do you use? Is it helpful? Is this helpful to you?

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2 comments

  1. *clears throat nervously* Yes, I have a spreadsheet and I don’t know how I managed without it. It’s a spreadsheet of two halves (well, sheets); one to track where things are, and one to track opportunities coming up. I like your traffic light boxes, might have to steal that!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ooh! I like the idea of a sheet to track upcoming opportunities. I currently use sticky notes on my desktop screen, which I update regularly, and reminds me every time I switch my laptop on that there are deadlines approaching!

      Like

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