by Janis Patterson
Okay, I’ll come clean. I’m a spreadsheet junkie. I use spreadsheets for everything – keeping track of chapter lengths/daily writing deadlines/publishing schedules/royalty payments – just about everything except what to have for dinner and when to do the laundry. While accurate and useful spreadsheets can be a pain to set up, once they’re in place they help my usually scattered mind keep at least a minimal grip on what’s done and what has to be done. Some of us need all the help we can get.
In my latest publishing blitz the spreadsheet has proved incredibly helpful. Nine books released one every two weeks over four months makes for one unbelievably complicated project. Every book is in a different place with editing, the formatter and the cover artist.
After almost being lost in an avalanche of sticky notes, scribbled-on napkins, various emails and an admittedly imperfect memory, I started a spreadsheet. One line per book, and – currently, which might change! – 34 columns of actions to be taken. Add a rainbow of color-coding, and I can almost see each book’s progress and current situation at a glance.
Of course, it would have been so much easier to start out with this system instead of having it grow organically. For one thing, I wouldn’t have to be digging around in a basketful of sticky notes, scribbled-on napkins, various emails and an even more than usual undependable memory in order to make an accurate history. On the other hand, though, there was no way that starting out I could have predicted half the things that happened and/or were necessary.
It has been an interesting journey.
I cannot recommend enough that anyone who wants to get organized in any field of writing think about spreadsheets. There are writers who keep track of the flow of their story – POV characters, turning points, various character traits – all kinds of things. I haven’t gone that far yet, mainly because my writing style is different. I just write with only the sketchiest idea of what is going to happen – a minimal skeleton of a story, if you will – and as for my characters…! Most of the time they simply walk in, announce their name and tell me to start writing. I could no more change them (major characters, that is – not one-line walk-ons) than I could learn to speed-type accurately with my toes. And – I say this from sad experience – Heaven help me if I try to change their name from the one they like. One time I tried that and the character simply shut up. Wouldn’t do or say anything and was unbelievably obstinate until I started calling him by the name he liked. Then the book went like cream and was one of my best sellers.
So – spreadsheets can definitely be a writer’s best friend. I would be terminally confused without them.
Now – an update on my publishing blitz. Yesterday was Release Day for THE FAIR AMAZON, a traditional Regency Romance. On July 30 my release will be THE JERUSALEM CONNECTION, a contemporary romantic suspense. Here’s a peek at the cover for THE FAIR AMAZON –