The joy of spreadsheets

Spreadsheets reveal the fruits of your labours

After a word processing package, a writer’s best software friend may well be a spreadsheet. True, they’re not seen as sexy or as creative as certain bespoke applications I could name (but won’t, as I don’t have a sponsorship deal!). However, when you get a basic grasp of how spreadsheets work, basic formulas and the meaning of GIGO*, a good spreadsheet can save you time and free up your thinking.

Providing you keep the information up to date, a spreadsheet can give you a detailed overview of your writing empire, o that you can see at a glance how you’re faring financially and which of your many strings is twanging a good tune.

Here are some of my favourite uses for a writer’s spreadsheet:

– Tracking submissions, while adding in a simple formula will also give you a prompt date for following up or for giving up.

– Displaying your freelance pitches, submissions, successes and clients by category. Why? Because it will give you a clear indication of what you’re good at and whether you’ve knocked on the same door before (and with what effect).

– Money. My trusty – and far from sophisticated – spreadsheet can tell me which types of writing are the most lucrative for me, and the average payment for a type of job (e.g. blog writing, article writing, ghostwriting, branding, editing, etc.) and which invoices have yet to be sent or remain unpaid.

– A library overview of which pieces I’ve written, whether they’re sold or unsold, the word count, and – for sold pieces – whether and when any second rights are available.

– For novels, I can keep account of the word count per chapter, and the key events it contains. If I want to change the sequence of events it makes it easier for re-plotting.

– Novel email lists for updates or new announcements.

Once the worksheet is set up and any formulas configured (that sounds way more complicated than it actually is), it’s simple a case of updating the s/sheet with any new or changed information. Hey presto, you can concentrate on writing!

* Garbage In Garbage Out. But you knew that, right?

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