Keeping Track


here was a time when I jotted when and what about my writing on a calendar. When I submitted something, I noted it, but it was easy to flip past submitted dates and due dates with other notes the pages. When I did college papers, I was encouraged (demanded in some classes) to use the alleged tried and true 3×5 index cards for notes. Blah, ba, ba, bid, blah… [I lost too many to make the system work for me and when I taught junior high and high school classes, I didn’t require a specific system of note taking.]

My first serious attempt at a novel was a story based on research I did for a historical geography class. I had pounds of notes (none on 3×5 cards) and copies of book pages from the university library. Internet search was as available as voice radio in the 1800s. It was fun developing a teenage boy who could read and write his native Russian and had listening knowledge of Spanish in an era when only the rich or politically connected were exposed to education. Why I dropped the project is another story.

My first published novel An Odyssey of Illusions had three major characters and over 70 minor characters. Several of my readers had trouble knowing who each was, their relationship to the main character, as well as when and where they fit into the story. I’d spent several months drafting when I discovered I’d given two characters the same name. I went page by page and entered each name and relationship to my primary guy into an Excel spreadsheet. A simple sort gave me a list of names and relationships up that point in the manuscript. As a new character came into play, I simply entered and sorted and had no more duplicates, but I found a few variations in the spelling of some names not caught by spellcheck.

When I picked a name for the first character name I would use in Echoes of Nam, the second thing I did was set up a spreadsheet. I added a historical event and location sheet also. When I decided to make a name change, I made the change on the spreadsheet, then made a find and replace in the manuscript.

Consistent time and place is important too. History buffs would know immediately that the TET wasn’t in 1967 etc. Neither would a citizen of Portland, OR, question having a character in the story with a Goose Hollow apartment.

Is it important to keep track? Absolutely! Did Dennis Rodman go to Korea before or after President Trump’s trip to the Middle East and Europe? The events are in correct order in Nescient Decoy.

When I worked with church finances, I used QuickBooks. Benson Tech Write is my business, so I bought my own copy and started making entries to match my writing. My version of QB was eventually no longer completely supported by my upgraded equipment. I wasn’t bringing in a best seller income from writing, so a new version seemed impractical.

I use a simple Excel spreadsheet for in/out money related to writing. It’s easy to tell that it’s cost more than gain to write. [But remember IRS does not allow more deductions than income.]

Because I’ve started to do more flash fiction and that type of writing, I added a spreadsheet for when submitted, accepted, and rejected for each. That seems to be working, so I’m adding a due date for projects by name and publisher.

And, I only have to open one file to keep track of all of the above, so at the end of a day or session, I open it note my time spent on a project and add 15 minutes to my admin column and if asked, I can tell how much time I’ve spent on what.

If anyone can explain where I was going with “Thursday Report,” please let me know. Yes! I left that line here on purpose!

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