12 Books in 12 Months, Week 2: Author Spreadsheets

Hey guys, welcome to week 2 of the 12 Books in 12 Months challenge. Only 50 more to go after this, guys! We made it to an even 50.

Well, if you’re keeping track of what I currently set down as my goals for this challenge, then I should have completed another 15,000 words this week, 3,000 words a day for each week day. And once again, I’m happy to report that I made it. I even worked some extra hours today, Saturday, to get a little ahead. So in the end I wrote ____ words, which combined with last week’s excess, puts me exactly ____ words ahead of schedule.

I’m really thrilled with that, and I’m excited to see where it takes me. I’m also beginning to this that this first book I’m writing might not be as long as I thought it would be, so that could mean I start working on the following book earlier than I thought. Which it would be great if I had some extra time at the end of this challenge for say…a 13th book? Is that unlucky?

Anyway, for this week’s tip, I wanted to discuss the author spreadsheets that are a part of my writing life. Now I know spreadsheets aren’t for everyone. For some they can be extremely intimidating. But that being said, I think there are some uses for spreadsheets that you really should use if you want to be a productive author. I’m going to give you some insight into what I do, so you can maybe use some of those ideas in your own writing.

Track Your Words

This is the first, and in my opinion, the most important use for spreadsheets as an author. If you want to improve your writing productivity, you must track your words. Now, what that looks like can differ from person to person. Here’s what my word tracking spreadsheet looks like:

author spreadsheet for tracking word count

I have a separate tab like this for each book that I write, and I start a new one with each book. Here it is broken down by column:

  • Date: This one is obvious. This is the date when I do the writing. Sometimes I’ll have several writing sessions in one day, so I’ll create a new row for each writing session.
  • Words Written: This one is also obvious. I count up all the words I wrote in that session and mark that down.
  • Time: This is the length of time I spent writing. You’ll notice that most of them are 52-minute sessions, and I’ll probably have a video next week or in the future discussing why I write in 52-minute sessions.
  • WPH: Then we get to the fun part. This column contains a simple math calculation that determines how many words per hour I’m writing. It does using the data I provide in the previous two columns.
  • Word Count Total: In this column I have it calculate how many words I’ve written up to that point, so this increases each day.
  • Percentage Done: In this column, I have another math calculation that, using my estimated total word count for the book, tells me how much of the book I have completed.
  • Days Left: This was just a fun addition I added that tells me how many days it will take to finish the book, assuming I continue at my rate of 3,000 words per day.

Now the screenshot I’m using here is from June, and what I do at the end of every month, I add up all the words I’ve written in that month and plug them into another spreadsheet. That creates some graphics that look like this:

author spreadsheet with bargraphs

The bar graph shows much how much I’ve written in that month. You’ll notice that the bar for October, which is all the way at the end, is already pretty high, and it will get much higher by the time I finish the month. The second graph tells me my average words per hour for that month. And for the most part I average around 1600 words per hour. Sometimes more, sometimes left. And my all-time high for a writing session was 2001 words. That was a good day.

So why do I do this? Well, this is a great way to train yourself to be productive. It can help you increase the rate that you can write, and it can also help to challenge yourself to do better. I got in the habit of doing this after reading Chris Fox’s book, 5000 Words Per Hour. Now I’m no speed writer, but I can already tell that my rate has improve overall. And it’s just nice to see what I’ve done.

Track Your Challenges

So another spreadsheet that I have is geared towards this 12 Books in 12 Months challenge. And honestly, I don’t think this challenge would have been possible without this particular spreadsheet. Here’s a screenshot:

author spreadsheet for tracking the challenges

Now this is a much bigger spreadsheet than just this screenshot. It extends down for 365 rows, or the full year. And what I’ve done is I managed to plot out all 12 of the books that I am working on for the year. This not only helped me to determine if it was even possible to succeed at this challenge, but also helped me understand what goals I had to hit every day to reach that overall goal. That’s why I do 3000 words.

So here’s my breakdown of each column:

  • Book Scheduled: This just tells me what book I’m currently working on, and down below this it shows me all the other books I’m scheduled to work on in the future.
  • Date: This is simply the day, you’ll notice that some of these rows are grayed out, and those just represent the weekends, to help me visualize each week better.
  • Daily Wordcount: This is where I put my total wordcount for the day. So I add up all the words I wrote across the different writing sessions for that day, and put the number here.
  • Total Count: This takes everything I’ve written and tallies it up to give me the total up to that point.
  • Goal Wordcount: This is where I put my goal wordcount for each day, which in almost every instance will be 3000 words, though you’ll notice I don’t have a goal for weekends, because I generally take those off, or at least I’m scheduled to take those off. Weekends are kind of a buffer time for me where I can get caught up if I need to or work on other things.
  • Total Goal: This is where I put the total amount that I should have written by this day, assuming I hit all my words each day.
  • Words to Goal: And this is perhaps the most important metric here. This tells me how many words I have to write in order to be on track for my goals for that day. You’ll notice that it’s mostly in the negative, and all that means is that I’ve actually exceeded my goals for those days, which is good. I want that number to eventually be as far into the negative as possible. That way if something happens, I have that buffer to fall back on.

And those are the two main spreadsheets that I use to track my word count and my 12 Books in 12 Months challenge. I also use spreadsheets for a lot of other things in my writing. I use them for book ideas, to keep track of characters and chronology, as well as to track the money and expenses that I’m making through my book writing business. That last one is important, and will probably have its own video someday. But I won’t get into it for this episode.

Regardless, I hope this has taught you that author spreadsheets are super important in a writing career. And it’s really not as intimidating as you think once you get into it. I use Google Sheets, which though not quite as powerful as something like Microsoft Excel, it’s much more approachable for those of you who have no idea where to start.

Be sure to leave any questions that you have for me in the comments, and I will do my best to answer all of them.

See you next week!

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