Two of the most important to-do items for a writer are keeping track of submissions and finances.
Having good systems in place in the beginning will make things run smoothly. Here are a few tips about submissions. Next writing blog, I’ll talk about finances.
In the pre-digital world, I used a notebook and a pen to track submissions. When the computer came along, I had some difficulty switching from paper to laptop. But I used the same format I’d been using to make tables in Word. You can, of course, use Excel, but I use Word because I integrate several things in a Word document for each piece I write.
As I write my story or novel, I create a separate document to make notes. Here I put descriptions of characters, odd spellings, any research I need to do or have done, a timeline, if necessary, and other details I don’t want to forget. This is particularly important if you think you may have a series. I simply title this page “<name-of-story/novel> Notes.” That way it shows up right under the name when I open a piece to work on.
After the novel or story is written, I need to keep track of where I sent it. I use a template I made with the following columns: Sent To is for the name of the editor, agent, or publication/publisher I sent the piece to. Date, obviously, is date sent; Returned is when I received an answer. Time Frame is the amount of time it took to get that answer. Comments is for any information the person who replied cared to give me about what I sent.
Now, I’m not done with this handy Notes page. Underneath my table, I have the following to remind myself of what I need to do after I fill out the submission table:
CHECKLISTS for short stories—did I enter the info into these checklists?
__Stories Sent out List (A separate table in Word for short stories with: Name of Story; # of Words; Date Sent; Where Sent.) In this table I list all stories I have polished that are ready to submit.
__Publication Form (Another, separate document for each publication) Name the file after the publication name. Title the page with that name, then have a little section (not a table) with: Words (for their word count requirements); Reports (for timeframe they say they will report in, if known); and Pays (if they do, how much). Then a table with Title; Date Sent; Date Back; Time Period; Type of Rejection (form, personal comments, etc.). I use a template and make a new Publication Form for each publication I haven’t yet sent anything to. This only takes a couple of minutes.
Next comes the AFTER PUBLICATION, SENT TO list for everything I get published that is ready for people to read/buy. I rarely announce acceptances. I wait until the piece is available for immediate purchase/download. Not even one day ahead—people forget, and you’ve lost readers.
__General email lists if I think the people on them will be interested (list each one separately)
__Special writers email lists (list each one separately)
__Goodreads (if a book)
__Add anyone/anyplace you can think of to this list
Seems like a lot of work. In the beginning, it will take some time to set it all up, and if you write a lot of short stories, will take getting used to. But once you’ve used the system (tweaked mine or made one yourself), it becomes routine and only takes a few minutes to make the new pages and fill out the information.
Your future self will thank you, over and over again. Because no matter how good our memories are, as time goes by, we do forget important details. That can be embarrassing if you send the same story out to a place you’ve already sent it to, not to mention the wasted time. In the end, this will save your time. And your sanity.