Organization Saves Time, Part Two

In today’s Journal

* Quotes of the Day
* Organization Saves Time
* Part Two: Post-Publication Organization
* Of Interest
* The Numbers

Quotes of the Day

” In order to go on living one must try to escape the death involved in perfectionism.” Hannah Arendt

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor.” Anne Lamott

Both quotations as reported at The Passive Voice

“Give the reader no reason to put down your novel.” Kathryn Craft of Writer Unboxed

Organization Saves Time

Yesterday I posted “Part One: Pre-Publication Organization” of this two-part post. If you haven’t read it, I suggest you do so now.

Although these two kinds of organization are not dependent on each other, they do complement each other. For just one thing, if you have your pre-publication files organized, they will feed directly into your post-publication files, which is mostly your inventory spreadsheet.

So here’s part two. Take it from me, doing this is both a lot easier and a lot more important than you know.

Post-Publication Organization (The Inventory Spreadsheet)

If you haven’t set up your inventory spreadsheet yet, just bite the bullet and do it already. And if you don’t have very many works yet, count yourself smart for starting early. It’s much more time consuming to add everything after the fact.

But if you do have more than a few dozen bits of IP floating around—novels, novellas, short stories, articles, essays, poems, collections, blog posts and so on—it’s never too late. You just might need to take a few days off from everything else in order to get everything organized.

But trust me, after you’ve done it, you’ll sleep better.

Okay, before I forget, the original version of this post is a follow-up I wrote to Dean Wesley Smith’s “The Power of Having Inventory” at I recommend you read his post first. He will have a slightly different take on what to do and how to do it.

The rest of this post is all about my own experience and what I recommend.

My own inventory is incomplete, but it’s as complete as it’s going to get other than adding new IP as I write it.

In my original post, I wrote that it’s “mostly complete” and that “I started keeping it from the very beginning.” That isn’t strictly true.

Actually I only started keeping track of my IP from early 2014 when I started writing fiction in earnest. But the articles and essays I wrote for The Writer, Writer’s Digest, The Explicator, the now-defunct ByLine Magazine and many others are not listed on my IP inventory. And of course they should be.

Also missing are blog posts I wrote in the years before 2014 (I started blogging about the language back in the mid-1990s) and all of my individual poems. Over the years, I’ve written thousands of poems. Some were award-winning, some were later set to music by others, and most are included in one collection or another. The poetry collections (though not the individual poems) are now included on my inventory spreadsheet.

So a lot of my stuff remains unaccounted for. Which is fine. Maybe one or more of my heirs will want to track it all down and get it organized, but at this point I really don’t care.

I do at least have the archives of this Journal as well as all of my nonfiction books and audio lectures on a separate spreadsheet. It’s all IP.

I offer all of this as a cautionary tale: Especially if you’re just starting out, learn from my mistake and list everything. And do so with an eye toward licensing it someday: all of it.

My own inventory spreadsheet was practically an accident. Many people have an “I love me” wall or shelf, a place where they keep their plaques or trophies or other marks of achievement.

My inventory spreadsheet was originally only that, a kind of “I love me” wall. It was a place where I could see at a glance not only what I’d written, but when I’d finished it, the publication date, the Amazon Standard Identification Numbers (ASINs), ISBNs, etc. It was a quick glimpse of accomplishments.

That initial master spreadsheet also encouraged me to create my Annual Production spreadsheets. I’ve kept one of those also for every year since 2014. But whereas I update the inventory spreadsheet after each publication, I update the production spreadsheet every day.

In my inventory spreadsheet I don’t use any formulas. Not one.

In my annual production spreadsheet, I use formulas to let the software perform the ongoing calculations.

On it, at a glance, I can see what I wrote in a given month, what dates I started and finished a piece of writing, and my word count totals for the day and month and year. And of course, all of that motivates me to write even more.

It’s partly because of the catalyst of that production spreadsheet that today I’ve written 73 novels, 9 novellas, and over 230 short stories.

All of those are on my master inventory spreadsheet. I also have a separate spreadsheet for novels and another for short stories, but those aren’t essential. I update the master every time I finish a work. I update the others when I think about it or want to do a count.

I still haven’t added my individual vignettes or flash fiction stories to my spreadsheet either, and I probably won’t. I encourage you to do so with your own work though.

Once it’s set up, an inventory spreadsheet is a massive time saver. What goes into a spreadsheet? Look at Dean’s post to see what goes into his. His and mine are different.

My overall master inventory spreadsheet includes

  • the fiction or nonfiction or collection title,
  • the author name (for when I use pen names),
  • the genre and series (if applicable),
  • the word count,
  • date finished,
  • publication date,
  • the D2D (Books2Read) universal link,
  • the eprice and paper price (where applicable),
  • the ASINs and ISBNs (ebook and paper, again where applicable), and
  • other distributor and purchase links.

For publication of short stories or articles through traditional mags, all of that information is included (as applicable) plus the date rights revert, how much I earned on the license, etc.

Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? Yet it takes only a few seconds to hop over to my inventory spreadsheet and add another piece of IP when I finish it.

Finally, it’s also a good idea to glance over your inventory from time to time. The title of a poem or other work might lead to another new short story or novel. That has happened to me several times.

As you probably know, most of Hemingway’s catchy titles came either from the bible or from other people’s poetry.

So even if at the moment you see yourself as a hobby writer, I suggest you create and maintain an inventory spreadsheet. You never know what a catalyst it might become for you and how much it might help simplify things when you become rich and famous.

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

See “Taylor Swift announces…” at Want a free master class about managing and licensing your IP? Study Taylor Swift.

See “Follow the Energy of Denial” at It isn’t what you say, it’s how you say it.

See “Citigroup Center Stilts” at From friend KC Riggs, who writes “Ideas are everywhere.”

See “Ecuador’s Lasso declares state of emergency…” at Political turmoil with a dash of organized crime. Ideas are everywhere.

The Numbers

The Journal…………………………………… 1240

Writing of Blackwell Ops 9: Cameron Stance (novel)
Brought forward from earlier start…… 4087 words

Day 1…… 1595 words. Total words to date…… 5682
Day 2…… 2101 words. Total words to date…… 7783

Writing of Rose Padilla (WCG10SF5)

Day 1…… 4283 words. Total words to date…… 4283
Day 2…… 3963 words. Total words to date…… 8246
Day 3…… 1463 words. Total words to date…… 9709
Day 4…… 2445 words. Total words to date……12154

Total fiction words for August……… 14299
Total fiction words for 2023………… 128846
Total nonfiction words for August… 8920
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 158820
Total fiction words since August 1…… 14299
Total words for the year (fiction and nonfiction)…… 287666

Calendar Year 2023 Novels to Date…………………… 2
Calendar Year 2023 Novellas to Date………………… 0
Calendar Year 2023 Short Stories to Date…………… 4
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)……………………………… 73
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)…………………………… 9
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)……………………… 221
Short story collections……………………………………. 31

Disclaimer: I am a prolific professional fiction writer. On this blog I teach Writing Into the Dark, adherence to Heinlein’s Rules, and that following the myths of fiction writing will slow your progress as a writer or stop you cold. I will never teach the myths on this blog.

4 thoughts on “Organization Saves Time, Part Two”

  1. Thank you for going into more detail, Harvey! I’m on the right track with my spreadsheet, but you highlighted a couple of things I’d missed.

    One question – do you separate your story folders by category, length, or similar? Like all your shorter works in a “Short Fiction” folder, or maybe a “Western” or “Thriller” folder? Or are they all lumped in under “Fiction”?

    Inquiring minds want to know!(tm)

    • Great question, Peggy. The short answer is Yes. (grin) I’ll go into more detail in tomorrow’s Journal post.

  2. An additional reason that occurs to me: “You never know . . . how much [an inventory spreadsheet] might help simplify things” when it falls to your executor to begin dealing with your estate.

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