Posted On January 18, 2013 by Print This Post

Mad Organizational Tips with Lynne Silver

When you think of the new year, you think of new calendars, fresh plans to conquer bad habits and start new ones, and  a whole twelve months laid out before you with no mistakes. Lynne Silver is a chapter sister of mine from the Washington Romance Writers and she always seems to have her act together as she juggles writing, motherhood and marriage. Well, now I know why . . . .

( Note: If you want to see a bigger version of the spreadsheets, just click on them and they will open in another window)

It’s a new year, and I’m guessing more than one of you made a resolution to be September 2012 (5 of 11)better organized in 2013. Am I right? Organization is a daily challenge for me. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I suffer from Executive Dysfunction, a fancy modern term for being disorganized.

How do I cope? I create lists, and not just scrawled lists on the numerous scratch pads on every surface of my house, but on spreadsheets. Don’t get me wrong, I am NOT a true technical person. That’s right, I can think of loads of other people who know more about Excel than I do. But for what I need to get my life organized, a simple spreadsheet goes a long way.

I use spreadsheets for everything from keeping track of royalty statements to my weekly meal plan.







Not only does this spreadsheet help me keep my grocery costs lower, it stops the 6:00 blank stare into the pantry. I know exactly what’s for dinner. Bonus, my husband does 90% of the grocery shopping, because he knows what to buy. Including the family activities also helps me plan. I know if basketball practice is on Wednesday night AND my husband is out of town, I’m not making a fancy dinner that night. Frozen pizza it is.

Setting up the spreadsheet
The first thing to do before creating a spreadsheet is to decide what information you want to organize and how you might want to sort it eventually. There’s a cool little geek term called GIGO when it comes to spreadsheets and databases. It means Garbage In, Garbage Out. The better you set up and organize your spreadsheet, the better it will serve you later.

For example, I can’t tell you how many times, I’ve seen a spreadsheet with loads of data in one cell. This drives me crazy. It means you can’t sort. When making a spreadsheet, each cell should be one data point. Let me repeat that. ONE CELL = ONE DATA POINT!

To illustrate my point, see the spreadsheet below. I created a master Excel spreadsheet for each blog tour I do. I divide each tab up by my book titles. A tab is just what it sounds like.






Then, for each book, I can create a spreadsheet of possible guest blogs and promotional dates. It helps keep me organized of where I’m supposed to be and when.

blog tour


By creating a heading for each bit of information, I can sort by date of the post. I can also see if I need to follow up with someone who hasn’t returned my request. I created a similar spreadsheet when I was querying agents & editors. I was able to keep track of the status of all my queries.

A few months back, I got together with a group of writers to form a motivational writers group. We wanted to ramp up our productivity, and I created a spreadsheet to help keep us on track. Thanks to Google docs, we were all able to open the same spreadsheet and update it ourselves. We could also see our word counts add up quickly, due to an easy formula that adds columns of information.

Some of the authors wanted to track additional information such as time spent writing or pages versus sheer word count. The spreadsheet made it easy to do, but you’ll notice I created additional columns for that information. If the others had simply put all the data into one cell, we would not have been able to add up our totals so easily to see that Candy seriously kicked butt. (If the math looks off, it’s because I had to hide some rows in order to get a good screen shot)

Spreadsheets are an amazing organizational tool, I highly recommend in keeping both your personal and author life sane.

Happy New Year!


What do you do to keep yourself organized? Have you tried methods before that didn’t work and why?

On Monday, Adam Firestone will be with us. Don’t miss it!


conqueredmatch_msr[1]Conquered Match, Book 2 in the Coded for Love Series, out now from Ellora’s Cave

When genetically enhanced soldier Ryan Lopez learns his beloved wife Thea has betrayed his team by going to the news media and spilling Program secrets, he takes responsibility for her punishment the only way he knows how—seducing her until she’s begging for release. But the more he takes control of her body, the more he tests both their limits, and realizes he’s never fully understood his wife’s dark desires. It will take every bit of Ryan’s enhanced strength to prove to them both that the woman he loves is also his conquered match.



By day, Lynne Silver lives the suburban soccer mom life; volunteering with the PTA, doing laundry and working. By night she enters the sensuous world of alpha males and passionate heroines.

She calls the nation’s capital home and lives in an old fixer-upper with her husband and their two sons. When not writing romance, she reads it. Lots of it. Over and over and over again, preferably with a bag of M&Ms in hand. She is represented by literary agent, Jessica Alvarez of Bookends LLC



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22 Responses to “Mad Organizational Tips with Lynne Silver”

  1. Thank you for having me today. Though I am laughing a little to be called organized by Robin Covington. She makes me look like amateur hour.

    Posted by Lynne Silver | January 18, 2013, 5:50 am
  2. Hi Lynne,

    Wow, very impressive. I have a calendar. It stretches my attention span and skills.

    Mary Jo

    Posted by Mary Jo Burke | January 18, 2013, 6:44 am
  3. Thanks for stopping by Mary Jo. Don’t sell yourself short. If you use Word and comment on blogs, you can use a spreadsheet! But if the paper calendar works for you, go with it. That’s been my lesson over the years, don’t add technology just because… If you have a system that works, keep it.

    Posted by Lynne Silver | January 18, 2013, 7:34 am
  4. I’m feeling more organized already! I use Excel to keep track of a variety of things, since my brain tends to clear things out of my head before I’m ready! I’ve even used a spreadsheet to help with editing/revising a manuscript — with columns listing each scene, and which POV, and what the scene is trying to accomplish. It makes it easier to see what info might have been overlooked, or where I need to add a scene, etc. I hadn’t thought about the sort feature very much — but now I will!

    Posted by Donna Cummings | January 18, 2013, 7:46 am
  5. Donna, thank you for stopping by. I love spreadsheets for plotting scenes or revising scenes. Such a great tip!

    Posted by Lynne Silver | January 18, 2013, 7:54 am
  6. Wow, you are REALLY organized! I’m envious. I think the closest I’ve come to this is just creating separate file folders. LOL Will definitely keep these helpful hints in mind.

    Posted by Shelly | January 18, 2013, 7:54 am
  7. Lynne, as someone who has benefitted from your organization skills, I say thank you. That motivational writers group really was a huge help and what I like most about your spreadsheets are that they aren’t too fussy and don’t induce stress. Congrats on your newest Coded For Love release, too!

    Posted by Carlene Love Flores | January 18, 2013, 8:50 am
  8. Morning Lynne!

    Well isn’t this coincidental! I was just thinking yesterday I needed to look up on the internet how to make a spreadsheet like the one my group used for nano. It took your word count and made it into a graph, and showed how many words you had left to reach your goal.

    Is there a favorite place on the internet you like to go to find formulas to use for your Excel spreadsheets? Or do you design the formulas yourself?


    Posted by Carrie Spencer | January 18, 2013, 9:05 am
    • Thanks for stopping by Carrie. As I said before, I am not an Excel expert. I used to be pretty good at inserting graphs & charts based on data points, but I haven’t done that in a while. I tend to use basic Sum equations that I have memorized.

      Full disclosure: my husband used to work for Microsoft, and sometimes when I have excel questions, he forwards them to the Coders who code Excel. (Talk about overkill!) Then they send me back these very very complicated formulas that I cut and paste and don’t dare edit.

      But mostly the Excel help is pretty good, if you click on the little ? icon in the top corner.

      Posted by Lynne Silver | January 18, 2013, 9:09 am
  9. It’s easy to keep lists if you don’ t work full time outside your home. It’s a different story if you have two small kids and have to commute long distances to get to work. It would never work for me. I feel for mothers who have to go the extra mile just to keep somehow in control. And yes, I’m envy sometimes that I couldn’t and can’t stay home. That’s the biggest resentment I have. With time, maybe it will get easier. It’s a touchy subject for me!

    Posted by Anna Labno | January 18, 2013, 10:10 am
  10. Love this post!

    REALLY love the spreadsheet you use for motivating your writer friends. I need to find one of those groups!

    I’m using Google Calendar and a paper calendar this year to see which is more effective. Plus, I’m tracking my goals on my blog on an almost daily basis…this is helping to keep them foremost on my mind so that I don’t get distracted by day-to-day stuff.

    Posted by JB Lynn | January 18, 2013, 11:44 am
    • JB, thank you for your comment. I love that you can add various events and holidays to Google calendar- want all UK Bank holidays, there is! Easy peasy.

      Tracking goals on a blog is a great idea. It’s in a place you can’t lose, and it’s public for accountability. Let us know which calendar you choose in the end.

      Posted by Lynne Silver | January 18, 2013, 11:55 am
    • Oh, I also forgot- for my writer’s motivational group, we created a private Facebook group for just the of us. We cheered each other on, and kept including links back to the Google spreadsheet.

      It was great, because most of us were on Facebook regularly anyway, so hosting the group there was one less website to remember to visit.

      Posted by Lynne Silver | January 18, 2013, 11:57 am
  11. I can do spreadsheets when I have to, but I don’t normally use them to organize my own work. You’ve given me food for thought here – thank you! Normally I write lists and stick post-it notes on my calendar. The problem, of course, is when post-its come unstuck!

    I know I CAN be organized, and I have certainly juggled several big projects simultaneously – just not this month. Since I moved last fall, getting organized again has been an uphill battle. I was SUPER organized from January – September and then I guess my brain just crashed. 🙁

    Time to reboot and start 2013 with a new plan!

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | January 18, 2013, 12:12 pm
    • Becke, you moved!! That’s a huge unheaval. I’m glad my spreadsheets have given you some inspiration.Good luck!

      Posted by Lynne Silver | January 18, 2013, 12:27 pm
      • Yes, we’d been in our old house almost 20 years and we’d accumulated a LOT of junk! I decluttered enough stuff to qualify for a reality TV show – I can’t believe we now fit in a 2-bedroom condo.

        But the drawback is that after clearing out so much, when I can’t find something I don’t know if it’s because I gave it away or PUT it away someplace I can’t remember. My brain is like a sieve!

        Posted by Becke Martin Davis | January 18, 2013, 12:41 pm
        • I’d say you should have a spreadsheet of everything you own and mark what’s keep, donate & trash. But that would be insane. Even for me.

          Posted by Lynne Silver | January 18, 2013, 12:58 pm
          • LOL! I gave away over 1,500 books and cleared out 20+ bins of correspondence and my kids’ old school papers. I couldn’t have logged it all if I tried! Or possibly I could have, but it would have taken 20 years to do it! I told my husband, if we ever move again we need to set up video cameras all over the place to record what we’re doing and where we put things. That would have been soooo helpful this time around!

            Posted by Becke Martin Davis | January 18, 2013, 3:51 pm

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