Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Organizing Your Writing Part I - Tracking Your Submissions

As the new year comes along, it is a time for re-organization.

I'm not a very organized person myself. I used to be, but somehow, instead of gaining wisdom and grow to be more orderly, I seem to be going in the opposite direction, becoming messier and more disorganized.

So while I don't normally do the resolution thing, I do want to manage my writing work better next year and would therefore like to put a system in place for organizing my writing work.

I'll start with tracking my submissions.
If you're solely a novelist then you probably don't need as much tracking as those of us who also send short stories and articles out. But if you're like me and submit to magazines both short fiction and non-fiction pieces, you lose track of your submissions pretty fast.

I'm not very good with paperwork, so the famous index card method doesn't agree with me, not to mention that cross-referencing is a bit*h when it comes to index cards.

An Excel spreadsheet, I decided, would be the easiest thing for tracking my submissions. Excel allows to sort and order data so that I can not only track the submissions but also track one particular work to see how many times it was submitted, where and when, or I can track one particular publisher to see how often I submit to that market. I can also see what months I was more productive, or how many submissions I still have out awaiting response.

- Tracking writing ideas
- Organizing the writing process itself

Any other organizations and order required of us that I'm missing?

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Anonymous said...

Nice post! This is a really good idea. You don't want to keep submitting the same story to the same publisher that already turned you down or even worse, is still evaluating your work. Thanks for the tip!

MaryAn Batchellor said...

You're more organized than I am. I keep big white envelopes for each project and scribble on them in sharpie.

Melly said...

Fred - a new you?
Thanks. If you ever want to see me spreadsheet, just say the word. Maybe I should put it up anyways, just so people can tell me if I'm missing something.

Maryan, that's the first I've heard of that. Sounds too complicated for me. I would have no place to file the envelopes, not to mention finidng anything in the pile that I would put them in :)
As it is I hardly have a paper trail other than paper rejections, which are becoming fewer as we move into electronic submissions more and more.

Benjamin Solah said...

I'd much prefer to file something on the computer than in print or anything. My desk is a mess and I often lose stuff and nothing is ever organised.

I download a program called 'Sonar 2' a while ago, but because I haven't got anything out to submit, I haven't had much use of it. It can be found at

Cavan said...

For tracking submissions, I just scribble the story name and market onto my calendar. This way nothing gets lost because, you know, I don't keep a lot of trash on my walls.

Paul Darcy said...

I use Quattro (spelling?), the anti-Microsoft software. I also write using Wordperfect 11, because I can't stand Word. I actually hate Word - but different word processors and programs could be another post to explore.

So, a spreadsheet is what I use to track submissions. I use a tab (or you can use a separate spreadsheet) to track each story. When I get a return it gets logged and then the story is sent out again. Easy to keep track of what stories are rotting (not sent out) and which have been out too long.

I'm an engineer. If I wasn't organized - well would you want to drive over that bridge I designed?

Just kidding. Spreadsheets - all the way.

Anonymous said...

I would like to see the spreadsheet that you use. Posting it would be great or just email it.

I changed my picture since I took the quiz to find out which of the Endless I am from the Sandman comic...and I was bored with the other pic!

kate said...


I can't give you any suggestion about keeping organized in your work. It seems to me that excel spreadsheet + a reminder would do the required job.

Melly said...

Benjamin, thanks. I've never heard of this, it's a great little program.

Cavan, that sounds like a fool proof method...

Paul, have you tried OpenOffice? I downloaded it once but never got around to actually using it.
Tab for each story? Doesn't the spreadsheet get slightly large? :)

Fred, see my new post. And thanks for the suggestion.

Kate, I wish I had your organization skills. Maybe you can set up a system for me?

Deborah said...

I'm trying to get organized myself. I've recently bought a neat little program called NoteBook from Circus Ponies, which has a 30-day trial and ultimately costs $40USD. You can use it as a project manager, a research tool, or whatever you want.

As for the word processor, I broke down and bought NissusWriter because I am so sick of Word, which is nothing but overpriced bloatware. I've yet to experience a crash (knock on wood, please).

lee pletzers said...

Or you all could get Power writer, which has everything you need. The perfect writer's word processor.

I used to use a spreadsheet for submissions, but now use a notebook and a trusty pen. One page for each short story or article out there.

Melly said...

Deborah, I must admit I haven't heard of either software, please let us know how that organizing program's working for you (although I tend not to buy software if I can avoid it).

Lee, haven't heard of Power writer either. My goodness, I feel out of touch here.
I guess that at the end of the day whatever works for someone is the best thing for them. I find many use one tab, or one page per story. I'll have to reconsider the practice then, thanks :)

kaolin fire said...

A few months behind the post, but I'm trying to promote -- I built the site for myself, but would love to have more people using it. The goal is not just for tracking where you have submitted, but also for keeping track of where you plan to submit a given piece, just in case. I'm also open to suggestions on how to improve the site, what functions or features to add, etc. :)