Archive for 'fun with Excel'

The tricky part
by Jessa Slade on April 26th, 2010

Currently working on: Packing for the Romantic Times convention
Mood: Frantic

For me, coming up with new ideas is easy and fun.  There’s no stress or strain since they coalesce out of the ether with no particular effort on my part.  They tend to be quick to capture — only a page or two and their essence is on paper.

Prewriting is also fun, if not quite so easy.  A dozen to 20 pages of notes and the fill-in-the-blank charts that I like take about a week to compile.  Having the bones of a real story is quite satisfying, and when I see it all charted out, it looks all tidy and pretty, like a clean, dry, assembled skeleton.

And then the wet work begins.

Putting flesh on the skeleton, then plumbing the vascular system so blood flows through its veins, and finally zapping the monster with the lighting bolt of creativity gets messy.  Very messy.  There’ s a reason mad scientists wear full-length aprons and goggles.

Getting down the 100,000 or so words of a novel can be daunting, even if you’re crazy.  I like to keep track of my progress so that I can have a good, solid grasp on just how daunted I should be.  Here’s a screenshot of the Excel spreadsheet I use to keep an accounting of my daily word counts.  It shows the end 2/3 of writing FORGED OF SHADOWS, my June release.


I track my daily word goal, my actual word count, and then I use Excel’s mathematical formulas to make the numbers dance so I can see my percentages and the number of sessions I have left until The End.  I also keep notes at the end to encourage (or castigate — mostly castigate) myself as necessary.  As you can see from the mass of red in the middle, I spend a lot of time being behind.  Frustrating!  But in the end, I finished my first draft three days early.  Yay!

I recently decided the 85,000-word first drafts I aim for are too scary (plus I usually end up going over and then writing too long in my final drafts) so I’m breaking my next goal setting into 3 months of 25,000 each.  That will give me a 75,000-word first draft.  And you should see how fast the “percent done” column fills up when there’s only 25 writing session per spreadsheet.  Inspiring!

If you’re a writer, here’s a link to a shared version of the new spreadsheet I’m using.  If you have a question about how to work the document, ask in comments and I’ll try to help.  I converted the Excel spreadsheet to a Google Docs format, which seems similar…  I hope all the formulas work. 

More importantly, I hope your formula –whatever it is — works for you.  Whether you’re a writer or have some other creative or work project, how do you keep yourself moving forward on long projects?  Do you have a favorite reward for yourself?  I usually eat cake :grin: