With that in mind, I know no one will be the slightest bit shocked when I confess that I also love spreadsheets. Oh, the organizational options! The endless array of tables, charts, and graphs at my disposal! Is there a more satisfying way to track your life? I think not.
(Before you write me off as a total weirdo, let me just say that I run my own business as a massage therapist, and Microsoft Excel has saved my life. Seriously. I use it to manage my finances and keep my books and organize my tax info for my accountant, all of which you have to do when you are a sole practitioner and have no one to do it for you. So my love of Excel at least has a practical, real-world foundation.)
I started using Excel in my writing life last year, and believe it or not, it wasn't my own idea. I found this great guest post by Delilah S. Dawson on terribleminds (warning: utterly NSFW), which laid out in clear steps a great, easy way to organize and manage your querying process (scroll down to #10 on the list).
I know I'm biased, but if you're planning on querying, I highly recommend you take her advice to heart (all of it, but especially the spreadsheet stuff). Tracking who you've queried, what they said, or how long you've waited for a response, is a complicated and serious business - not to mention essential. Who wants to query their dream agent only to find that they already queried said agent two months ago and that this agent was reading a partial of their novel and now they've gone and humiliated thesmselves? Right. Nobody. So, take my word for it: use a spreadsheet. It'll help.
My recent forays into non-fiction have proved I also need to use spreadsheets there if I want to have any hope of getting published. As of today, when I created the second of these sheets, I now keep two running so that I can track what the hell I'm doing. The first one is a list of places to submit pieces to: journals, websites, blogs, etc. My column headers are: Publication, Tone/Style Sought, Topics Sought, Submission Guidelines, Deadline, Pieces Read?, Name of Piece To Submit, Date Submitted, and Response. Each row is a different publication.
Simple, really. If it seems too complicated, consider this: I've been researching places to submit to for a few days at most, and I already have over forty options - and that's only the tip of the iceberg. I can't remember which ones want flash non-fiction and which ones want subversive essays under 3000 words and which ones only accept poetry essays over 8000 words, so now I have a spreadsheet.
Today, as I was trying to figure out what I actually need to be writing, I also realized that I need a spreadsheet to track my pieces. Again, I know I'm anal and maybe a little bit crazy, but I'm used to dealing with one book. One. Now I have fourteen pieces at various stages, from brainstorming only all the way up to polished and ready to go. You try keeping track of all of those without a spreadsheet. I've been doing it for weeks, and it ain't pretty.
So I made a new one. The fact that I may have geeked out while making it is unimportant. What's important is that I know have a simple, easy way to track my pieces, too. This one is even easier. The column headers are: Title, Theme (so that I remember what the piece is actually about), Stage, Length, and Possible home.
And now I'm so organized. I love it. I'm in heaven.
What about you? How do you keep track of everything you're working on?