Monday, June 18, 2012

Story Tracker Spreadsheet

First off, I apologize for the lapse in my web presence, updating this blog, and visiting and commenting on all the blogs I follow -- it's been an extremely hectic week!

I do have several things I want to post about in the next few weeks, including the first-ever guest post on this blog that I'm really looking forward to, so I am hoping that my schedule slackens a little and that I have time to more regularly update this blog. 

But for this post, I wanted to touch on something that arose out of my last post (geez, over a week and a half ago!).
Anyway, I was asked in the comments of my last post about the Story Tracker spreadsheet I use, and if I would post a template.  Well, I'm always eager to help other writers however I can, so I'd be glad to.  Here's a link to a copy of the spreadsheet I put together to track my stories (I've entered a few 'sample' lines to show you how I use the sheets):
It's nothing radical, and admittedly, much of the information I put into my spreadsheet t is redundant to what I record with Duotrope.  (And if you're unfamiliar with Dutrope, I would really recommend checking it out -- it's all kinds of awesome!  Try it out, and then once you grow to like it, slip them a buck or two to support all the great work they do. )

Yeah, I'm probably a little OCD on all this record-keeping, but I like to tack my stories and I dig spreadsheets.  In fact, I also have an entirely different spreadsheet I use as a writing log.  In it I track my daily word-count production against my monthly goals -- usually just to make note of the huge amount I fall short by...

But back to my Story Tracker spreadsheet:  It's an MS Excel file with two tabs -- one to track the stories I've written, and one to store ideas for future stories.  

The first tab is the Completed Stories tab, and it looks like this:

I enter a new line for every new story, new version, or new submission, and update the status as needed.  The breakdown of the columns is:

Piece Num:  A reference number for the story I've written.  Initially I used to just track everything by title, but then I went and renamed a story and it made me realize that I needed some way to keep it associated with its previous versions.  So I added this column just to tie related stories together regardless of title.  When I create a new story unrelated to the others, I add a new Piece Number.

Ver:  Version number.  I increment this for every 'substantial' rewrite I do of a story. 

Sub:  The Submission number of a given version of the story.  I increment this every time I send out (or self-post) a given version.

Title:  The title of the story

Length:  Word Count.

Date Completed:  The date the version is 'finished' with final edits and is ready to post or submit.

Status:  What is the submission's current status.  I try to limit this to a set list so I can easily filter on this column to see all the current submissions that are out, etc.  My list is the following six categories:

Unused:  The story's 'done' but I haven't submitted it or posted it anywhere.  I may eventually send it out as is, or revise it at some point, but the Submission Number stays at 0 as long as it is unused.

Self-Posted:  I've posted it on my blog or some other site (writing prompt site, etc), without having to have it 'accepted' by anyone.

Submitted:  The submission is out and I'm waiting to hear back on it.

Rejected:  The story was turned down.  I'll either keep the story unchanged and resub it somewhere else (with a new line and Submission Number), or revise it into a new version depending on feedback and my own review.

Accepted: Accepted but not yet published

Published: The story has been published

Status Date:  The latest date something happened regarding the submission's status.

Location:  Where the story was submitted or self-posted.

Notes:  Info and notes about the submission.

I use the sort and filter features of Excel a lot.  I can filter on the status to find all the unused stories or to see all my rejections, filter on a given publication to see everything I've sent to them, and so forth.  I can also sort by date to put things in chronological order, or maybe to count my completed story word-count for a given month, or whatever.  But my usual sort order is ascending by Piece Number, Version, and Submission, as shown above.  This puts all the rows related to a particular story together in sequential order.

The other tab of the spreadsheet contains my Writing Ideas.  It looks like this:

This is pretty simple.  It just serves as a spot to keep all my ideas together.  I'll give a new idea a number, a genre, maybe a working title, and jot down the basic concept.  Then when I'm wondering about what to write, I can sweep through this list and maybe take one.

Once an idea gets used, I'll update the Used column, and then when it gets 'completed', I'll change the working title to the completed title (if needed) and add a new entry in the other tab to track it now that it's a story.

So there you go.  Maybe this will help you, maybe it won't.  Maybe I'm too spreadsheet-happy and making things too complicated.  Maybe you find this ridiculously constrictive and detail-obsessed and think it will completely stifle your creativity.  That's ok -- I know it's not for everyone.
But if you think it can help you, feel free to take it with my best wishes and use it however you like.


KarenG said...

My husband would love this. He's not a writer but he likes making spreadsheets for everything he does.

Jennee Thompson said...

Wow, I really need to check this out. My desk kinda looks like the one in the picture, only my desk is smaller!

Thanks for sending me positive words and encouragement on my blog earlier today. It helped tremendously!

Gina said...

This will be all kinds of useful. Thanks, Chris! I will surely get a lot of good use of it!

Nicole said...

Awesome idea! Thanks for sharing the details of how you set it up.

Milo James Fowler said...

So organized, Chris! You da man. And Duotrope? Holy cow, I'd be lost without that site.

Chris Fries said...

@Karen: LOL -- Sounds like he and I could definitely relate.

@Jennee: You're more than welcome. Hang in there -- writing is tough!

@Gina: I'm happy to share it with you and I hope it's useful for you.

@Nicole: Thanks and you're very welcome!

@Milo: Thanks! Yeah, Duotrope is a fabulous welth of info! I'd never be able to keep finding new places to get rejected without them. lol!

LTM said...

You know, I don't use any of these story writing tools. I've tried before, but I got so distracted trying to figure out the software, I completely forgot what I was trying to write--LOL!!! :D ahh...

But whatever works, right? No worries about being busy. We all know how that is! <3

Simon Kewin said...

That's cool, thanks for sharing. I'm a bit OCD about this myself. I actually wrote some software years back to do the job for me. A bit clunky but I still use it most days.

Mina Lobo said...

Excellent record keeping, Chris! I also use Excel for tracking submissions, but I use a different doc for each story, and I keep it pretty simple, in terms of column headers. I just need to know to whom I sent a query, from which agency, when I sent it, when I got an answer, and what that answer was. And when, as has been the case of late, the answer's "No," it's very simple to track, really. ;-)
Some Dark Romantic

Tonja said...

Great that you found something that works for you. And very generous of you to share. Is it weird that I need a gantt chart to track the timelines in a historical fiction series? I know you can do that in Excel, but I think I'm going to use Project.

Chris Fries said...

@LTM: I totally get it, Leigh. The spreadsheet thing is definitely not for everyone. Thanks for the comment!

@Simon: Wow -- that's very cool. What code did you write it in?

@Mina: That's a really good system, Mina. And I absolutely understand the "no" thing, lol!

@Tonja: I don't think that's weird at all. Actually a Gantt chart sounds like a great tool! I think it would work for any piece where there's significant timeline stuff to keep track of. I can see where it would be really useful for the novel I've been working on (forever). I may steal your idea... ;^)

Simon Kewin said...

Chris - VB6. Prehistoric now but it does a job. I keep meaning to work on a shiny replacement system but havn't got round to it!

Chris Fries said...

@Simon: LOL -- I'm a fellow prehistoric. Done a lot of work in VB6, but now my coding days are few and far between.

Simon Kewin said...

Chris - I'm an evolved higher-life form too: I do a lot of C# these days ...

kaolin fire said...

Just to mention if you like (still-free) online tracking systems, there's (which has a csv-export so you can still play around with it in a spreadsheet...). :)