26 January 2020

Record Keeping

Two weeks ago, Travis posted his spreadsheet method for keeping track of his writing and his submissions. I can see how his method works for him.

My system developed gradually as I saw the need to record certain information, therefore it became a conglomeration of Word documents. But then, authors go about their writing differently, so maybe authors keep their writing records differently. In any case, here's a brief look at my system.

Naturally, I have a Bibliography document. This allows me to at least consider myself as a semi-successful, short-fiction author on the commercial side of writing and serves to collect some handy-to-have statistics. And yes, there are some duplicate entries from one document to another.

R.T. Lawton
(as of 01/17/2020)

11/1976   1 "Dead End Alley" Easyriders Magazine ($250) [aka Pockets/ R.E. Silverman] 
                 NOTE: DEA agents weren't allowed 2nd occupations, thus the double alias.

05/1977  2 "...to ashes,...to dust" Easyriders magazine ($225) [aka Pockets/ R.E. Silverman]

10/1984  3 "Jeffrey" Time Out & Recess [aka Arthur Twillinger/R.T.]

12/1984  4 "Peer Pressure" Time Out & Recess [aka Arthur Twillinger/R.T.]

NOTE: Yes, I did write 22 children's stories for two different state-wide elementary school newspapers at the same time as writing three biker stories, but I had to be careful writing on two different levels simultaneously because there are some words bikers don't understand.

*   *   *  skip to end of document  *   *   *

09/14/19 9 Holiday Burglars, KDP Paperback (all stories previously published in AHMM

09/22/19 31 Mini-Mysteries, KDP Paperback (31 mini's, plus 1 previously unpublished "And the
               Band Played On" as a bonus story.

11/01/19 137 "A Loaf of Bread" #7 PU 40 AHMM ($370)

12/01/19 138 "The Job Interview" Mystery Weekly ($35.86 minus $1.88 fee)

Bought, but not yet scheduled:  "Reckoning with your Host" #6 SA 41 AHMM ($360) + "A Matter of Values" 42 AHMM ($430) + "A Helping Hand" #8 PU 43 AHMM ($410) + "The Road to Hana" 44 AHMM ($340) + "Gnawing at the Cat's Tail" #7 SA 45 AHMM ($340)

a total of 143 published short stories
(and below this line is a list we'll skip of published writings in other categories, such as cowboy poems, articles, etc., plus a compilation of short story statistics.)

Some of the number codes above are easy to figure out, some aren't.  For instance, "A Loaf of Bread" is the 137th published short story, the 7th in my Paris Underworld series and the 40th story bought by Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine.

The next document is my SUBMISSION LOG kept in 4 year increments. It keeps track of when and where a story was submitted, what happened to it, when the contract and check came and when the story got published. This document lets me know how long some processes take and if something is overdue. Here are some samples of entries:

10/01/19  "The Job Interview"                                         Mystery Weekly
  10/02/19  e-mail acceptance, signed e-contract
  10/03/19  payment via PayPal
  12/01/19  published
11/12/19  "The Release Factor" #8 SA                             AHMM # 903457

01/17/19  "The 14K Assassin" #9 SA                               AHMM # 994625

Any time there is a blank space between the lines above, that means there is pending action and my eyes are quickly drawn there.

Lastly, there is an UNSOLD STORY TRACKER where I can tell at a glance which stories are still in inventory and who rejected them. Here's a short example:

WAS: "Taking Down the Room"                                        AHMM, EQMM
WAS: "Slipping into Darkness" (long version)                   MWA anthology
WAS: "Down in Jersey"                                                      Deadly Ink
SOLD: "Slipping into Darkness" 750 word flash sold to  Flash Bang Magazine

WAS: "Mom's Day"                                                            AHMM
NOW: "Mum's Day"                                                           Weekly News

"The Queen"                                                                       Blue Cubicle Press (casino issue)

If an anthology or other call for submissions comes out with a short deadline, I can refer to the above document and instantly know if a story languishing in inventory has the right ingredients for their writer's guidelines.

Those three record-keeping documents are the main ones I'm concerned with. However, I do have a tendency to make lists and also keep various writing statistics. For instance, a list I'll skip showing here is my AHMM stories sold, how much was paid for each one (with a running total) and the word count in each story (with a running total). I only made this list up in order to use the stats as a means to argue my point of view in a blog article I wrote a couple of years ago about short stories vs. novels.

So, there it is. I'm open to any and all ideas. It may not be a glamorous side to writing, but how do you keep your writing records?


  1. Very good system, interesting article and what an amazing career! 143 published short stories. Wow! I am envious. Congratulations on so much fine writing!

  2. Cool. I have a master doc file of everything written and published. Novels and short stories. I have an excel file for everything unpublished which lists rejections. Works for me.

  3. I've started various files over the years, both in Word and Excel. And they're good and helpful. The problem is I don't keep them up to date sometimes cause so many other things take precedence. It seems like you're good keeping up the data input and I envy you that, R.T.

  4. Interesting, RT. You obviously have a system that works well for you.

    I have a Word file showing stories published, stories pending (accepted but not yet published), stories submitted (but not yet accepted/rejected), and stories written but not yet submitted (along with market possibilities for those). I also have a file that's a chronological record of all activity. Like Paul, I sometimes let other things get in the way, but I try to keep these files fairly current.

  5. I have a Word file that's my bibliography; an Excel file that has different spreadsheets (by date, by acceptance/rejection, by piece, by place); and a long, long Word file that is a hodge-podge of ideas that I jot down and haven't used yet. Thank God for search engines. Oh, and I have another Word file where I copy all my submission letters so that I can check how often I've said the same thing.

  6. I second what Paul said about keeping records up to date. It’s tough for me too, but you obviously have a handle on it. And congrats on all those published stories. Inspirational.

  7. So are so good staying up to date!

    >different levels simultaneously because there are some words bikers don't understand.

    My buddy at the biker bar says, "What means that word simu… simul… That there one."

  8. William, thanks for the kind words. If I wasn't such a slow writer, I'd try to compete with John Floyd, Michael Bracken and the revered Ed Hoch. Those guys are short story giants.

  9. O'Neil, Paul John and Lawrence, It's always good to read your comments and see what new stuff I can learn from you.

  10. Eve, of course as many stories as you've sold to AHMM, your electronic submission letter could now read as simple as:

    Dear Linda,

    Attached is "xxx x xxx" the eighth story in my Small Town South Dakota series.



    As it is, your submissions to AHMM now go straight to Linda and skip any First Reader. My last wait for reply time was down to ten months. I see they no longer have a reply time stated on their web page.

  11. Leigh, sometimes it's so easy, it almost takes the fun out of it. But then, we always tried to make our own fun where we found it.Hidden microphones placed inside a large gift that goes on the mantel. Drawings in a t-shirt shop for free shirts and hats where the winner gets his photo posted on the winner's wall in the shop and we get everybody's name, address and telephone number off the drawing ticket slips. Naturally, the winners were those who sold us drugs that week. What can I tell you?

  12. Bless you, R.T. I know this is the way it works for you, too! And Rob. And Paul. And Janice... I'm in such good company here!

  13. All this time I've known you, and you never told me that you wrote children's stories! Wow, you truly are a man of mystery, R.T.! (If that even IS your real name...)

  14. Wow! I need to get organized!!! This is fabulous!


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