Writer Project Files and Production Schedules – SQUIRREL!

Kris Kathryn Rusch wrote a great post called “The Business Rusch: Popcorn Kittens!” about the exciting possibilities of going Indie. That the writer can write to what they and the reader wants, not to what an editor, agent, or publisher wants.

Heady freedom, but it comes at a price. As she mentioned:

“Each time I realized I could write this project, I got distracted. Then a moment later, I realized I could write that project, and I got distracted all over again.  This weekend, a writer who hadn’t heard the popcorn kitten analogy described the experience using her dog as an example:  She’d be working along and then—squirrel!—she’d get distracted like her dog would outside and then — squirrel! — she’d get distracted all over again until her brain became squirrel, squirrel, squirrel.”

This happened to me in early 2010. I might have even mentioned it on this blog.

The possibilities. They’re almost endless! And if a writer isn’t careful they can get caught up in the possibilities SQUIRREL! and not actually write. To become paralyzed because there are so many directions to go.

How does one make a decision on what direction to go? What is a writer to do to tame the squirrels?

That’s right, it’s time to plan a little and take control.

For me the solution was a hybrid project file/production schedule. I started an excel file and put in the following columns:

  • Project Status (planning, outlining, writing, first draft finished, revising, ready to publish, published)
  • Title
  • Series
  • Number in Series
  • Universe
  • Universe Stage
  • Intended Publishing Order
  • Intended Publishing Date

Some may not need columns for Universe, but as I write in 4 different universes, it was a useful reference and filter to have.

Once I had the above put in and started populating the fields I realized what a good quick resource this was. So easy to see information about each story. So, I added the following columns to make it even more informative:

  • Story Length (short story, novella, novel, and so on)
  • Length (finished wordcount only, to be updated once revision is finished.)
  • Genre
  • Subgenre

For a long time the above kept me on track. I looked at the “Intended Publishing Order” and “Intended Publishing Date” and off I went!

Started on project one. Finished. Then started on project 2. SQUIRREL! As each project went through the various stages of completion, the “Project Status” was changed. If needed, I could filter by series or universe and see what other books I had planned and add those to my 1 1/2 year publishing schedule.

Then in February I started publishing and realized this same sheet was just as useful in keeping track of other key data. And so the following columns were added:

  • Date Published
  • Published by? (for those who may work with more than one publisher, as I sometimes do)
  • ISBN assigned

Again, a valuable reference. It is concise, can show at a glance what projects are at what stage, allowing the writer to make good decisions on story project priorities. Such as if a new idea comes out of nowhere SQUIRREL! and is written fast, meaning the production schedule needs to be changed. What other stories are near its completion status? What can be put off so it can be brought forward? What are the intended publishing dates of the other projects?

The project file can help you determine all of it.

It takes a little time to set up for the first time, to gather all the information and bring it together in one spot, but once it is finished it does not take much upkeep.

Has it worked for me? Oh yeah! I always know the next 2-5 projects I’ll be working on. It’s kept me so focuses that with some stories, I was able to publish them 3 months early. I’m having to adjust the production schedule of other works as I now have openings in 2011.

I hope the above will help a few other writers gain back control and avoid writing paralysis.



J.A. Marlow

Writer Project Files and Production Schedules - SQUIRREL!My latest novel, The String Weavers (The String Weavers – Book 1), is now available at online retailers everywhere.

Kelsey Hale thinks she’s just a typical mixed-up teenager. Everyone feels that way, her teachers assure her. Yet, strange things happen to her, like food disappearing before she can eat it and hearing music no one else hears.

Then a giant flaming bird drops an alien at her feet. Well, good grief, how can you ignore something like that?

Abducted from Earth, the only planet she’s ever known, Kelsey finds herself thrust into the middle of a deadly conflict among alien worlds and parallel universe. She must not only survive herself, but also find a way to rescue her father from a dangerous group with unknown motives.

In the process, she’s confronted by a hidden secret about herself which will shake the very foundation of who and what she thought she was.

And connecting it all are the mysterious Weavers.

A 97,100 word science fiction novel.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords

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Writer Project Files and Production Schedules - SQUIRREL!

6 thoughts on “Writer Project Files and Production Schedules – SQUIRREL!”

  1. I feel very lucky because I’ve never been affected by squirrels when it comes to my writing. I get an idea and I go with it until it’s done, then I ask my muse for a new one and she hands it to me.

    • Then you are very lucky. I get new ideas all the time while still working on other projects. Yes, I just go and make notes on the new idea and then return to what I was doing, but it can be hard to keep track of all the little beasties!

  2. I am with Alex on this one. Still, if my muse throws something at me, I write a note, put it aside, and continue with the WIP.

    I also like your excel planner. I have one on book info for uploading to Smashwords. including book file location, blurb file location, cover file location, ISBN, price, etc. 🙂

    • I should mention this wasn’t only about the Muse. It’s also about the possibilities of the opportunity itself. A writer can literally work on anything their heart desires. It can sometimes be hard to know what direction to go for the next few projects!

      Great other suggestions for columns. 🙂 Ah, put links within the excel file to the hard drive location? So far I haven’t needed to do that as my writing folder is highly organized, but one day I might need it!

  3. As a forester, I love squirrels. I call them the sperm of Mother Nature. Alas, in my writing, they do get in the way sometimes — I’ll definitely use your Excel sheet to keep track. It’s an Excel-lent idea.


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