The Magic Spreadsheet – Or, How I finally figured out how to write consistently


Vision 72


The Magic Spreadsheet –

Or, How I finally figured out how to write consistently


Val Griswold-Ford

The words of Valerie Griswold-Ford

Copyright © 2013, Val Griswold-Ford, All Rights Reserved




There are literally thousands of writing books out in the world, all promising to give you the “right” way to write a best-seller and make money. However, the only consistent advice that they all share is that in order to write anything, you have to write. Consistently.


Ask most professional writers, and they'll tell you they write on a defined schedule, whether it's mornings, evenings, or somewhere in between. And most of them write every day.


That was the part I had a problem with for the longest time. I have a full-time day job, a family (just cats and husband, but still), a house that doesn't clean itself (sadly!), and a social life that I enjoy too much to give up. And I need to eat and sleep at some point. Who has the time to write EVERY DAY? Not me.


Or so I thought, anyways. It's also why it took me nearly two years to write my last book. I'd binge-write on weekends, if I was lucky. And even then, a binge for me was maybe 5k. Then I'd have huge swaths of writing droughts. It was awful. Especially since I'd come in to Forward Motion and see people's word counts for the day. I'd see all the writers I follow on Facebook and Twitter talking about what they'd written. And each post was a reminder of what I wasn't doing: writing consistently.


That all changed in December of 2012, when I was listening to an episode of Mur Lafferty's “I Should Be Writing” podcast. She was talking about something one of her classmates at Stonecoast had created to help them write every day. (Stonecoast is an MFA writing program, and if you don't listen to ISBW, then I highly recommend you check it out. Mur is one of the grand dames of podcasting, and her program is full of invaluable information and interviews for writers at all levels of their career.) It was called the Magic Spreadsheet, and the concept sounded more like a game than a writing tool: you wrote 250 words a day. For every day you wrote at least 250 words, you got a point. You also got points based on how many days in a row you wrote.


So on Day 1, if you wrote 250 words, you'd get 2 points: 1 for making your word count goal, and 1 for the day. The next day (Day 2), if you wrote another 250 words, you'd get 3 points: 1 for making your word count, and 2 for the day. And so on. And once you hit 495 points, you'd level up to Level 2, when your daily word count would go up to 300 words a day.


“This isn't a writing tool; it's a game!” I thought when I heard it. “But hey, I like games. I'm a little competitive. Maybe this will break me out of the funk I'm in.” So on January 1, I signed up for the Magic Spreadsheet.


Since then, I have written over 55,000 words in 2013. FIFTY-FIVE THOUSAND. I've finished and submitted a short story to “Every Photo Tells...” that is now nominated for for a Parsec Award. By the time this article is published, I'll have finished the rough draft of my first novella, and am diving into a high fantasy novel and a series of paranormal romance books.


Yeah, ME. Also, I should be over 50 days in a row writing.


It hasn't been all sunshine and roses, of course. I floundered in March, broke my streak and started again in April, broke it again in late May by going into the hospital, restarted it again when I got out of the hospital. And still going strong.


Is it a magic bullet? No, nothing is. But it clicked for me and the other 300+ people that have signed up for it. It's created a habit for me, enough that when I went camping last weekend, at a medieval event with no power and no Internet, I STILL got my words written every day, because I had to. My little Alphasmart Neo stepped up to the task beautifully, and I updated the Spreadsheet when I got home.


So, if you are looking for something to kickstart your writing habit, why not try it? Just 250 words a day. You can do it.


Magic Spreadsheet link: 


I Should Be Writing link: