A Writer’s Spreadsheet

By Milli Thornton

Milli, I want to let you know how much I adore writing for you, simply because of the sheer enthusiasm you have for what we’re all doing. I’ve come to thrive on it, I want you to enjoy what I write and that gees me on soooo much. — JM Merchant

The email was entitled “I have articles!”

MY EYES NEARLY bugged out of my head recently when I received this photo as an email attachment.

Jo Abram, a contributor over at my travel blog, said in the email:

Evening Milli,

Thought this might interest you. This afternoon I decided to make a list of articles I could potentially write for you. I printed off a blank table so I could think on my way to work. Attached is a photo of the result, completed on the bus on my way back from work.

I have a total of 36 articles I could write for you and that’s only up till today; I’m sure there’ll be more added to the list over the coming months so you’ll never be short of content from me!

~ Jo

Next, Jo compiled her handwritten list as a spreadsheet (so I can nominate the order in which I want to publish the stories) and sent it with this note: It’s gone up to 41 on my walk from bus stop to house!

It’s a good thing Jo gave me her latest story (Cape Reinga, New Zealand and the Awesome Bus) only a few days later. No editor with a breath left in her body could receive a dream list such as this one and then wait around while it grows cobwebs. That would be too cruel.

Jo on a glacier hike, Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand

Jo (who writes as JM Merchant) has had a meteoric rise at Milliver’s Travels, from zero to staff writer in a few short weeks. Jo is the only one so far who read my Travel Writer Crash Course (ten minutes of reading, hint, hint, and you don’t have to be a world traveler) and then followed through by sending me a query.

Within a short time, she had her first travel story published on Milliver’s, and was working on her second. After appearing twice as a guest blogger she qualified to join the staff. Jo composed her list of 41 story ideas from a trip to New Zealand plus some trips and outings in her home country (the UK).

That said, I need to get busy with my own version of a writer’s spreadsheet. For weeks now I’ve been meaning to switch from an online list-maker (that wasn’t working for me because in the heat of the moment I would never remember to login) to a notebook where I can record my writing ideas

My new ideas notebook

by hand as they hit me. That’s what I do by default anyway, scribbling them on whatever bit of paper comes to hand at the time. It was a mess.

Jo has inspired me to get all my ideas into one notebook. I’ve got the various categories marked with Post-It notes and I’ve started copying in all the stray blog post titles, screenplay notes and what-have-you.

Thanks, Jo! You’re an inspiration to me, in more ways than one.


JM Merchant writing on Milliver’s Travels

Travel Writer Crash Course

Milli Thornton



Milli Thornton is the author of Fear of Writing: for writers & closet writers. She is owner of the Fear of Writing Online Course, where her mission is to put the fun back into writing. Milli blogs at Screenwriting in the Boonies and Milliver’s Travels and coaches writers individually at Writer’s Muse Coaching.

18 Responses to A Writer’s Spreadsheet
  1. JM Merchant
    Twitter: jmmerchant86
    October 4, 2011 | 4:06 AM

    You give me too much credit Milli!
    Nice post though 🙂

    • Fear of Writing
      Twitter: fearofwriting
      October 4, 2011 | 1:04 PM

      Ha. Knew you would say that. But I only reported the facts as I know them.

      (Good thing I took out the two paragraphs of praise that would have really spun you out. :D)

      • JM Merchant
        Twitter: jmmerchant86
        October 4, 2011 | 7:40 PM

        *sticks fingers in ears* lalalalalala!

  2. Lois
    October 4, 2011 | 8:30 AM

    Speaking of Milliver’s Travels, I’ve been to three local places lately (one was actually an event) that I could write about. I’ll have to read that Crash Course soon! 😀

    • JM Merchant
      Twitter: jmmerchant86
      October 4, 2011 | 9:32 AM

      Do it Lois! Do it!

      It’s so cool seeing stuff you’ve written beautifully formatted on MT, and you know you’ll get Milli-lovage for it too 🙂

  3. Lois
    October 4, 2011 | 10:10 AM

    Don’t I know it? 😀

    • Milliver's Travels
      Twitter: millivrstravels
      October 4, 2011 | 1:08 PM

      Hey, are you two talking about me behind my back?

      Kidding. I loved this little conspiracy. And, Jo, WHEN (not if) Lois gets published on MT, you’ll deserve some kinda reward for inspiring her to go through with it. 🙂

      Lois – all three of those local places/events sound like stories I want. “Give them to me, I needs them, my Preciousssss……” 😀

      • Lois
        October 4, 2011 | 1:20 PM

        Milli, I’ve got to write them first. 😉 I’ve got photos, so that’s a start, right? And I need to do a little research on one of them…maybe all three. But don’t worry, I won’t let myself get bogged down with that. 🙂

        Maybe I can write the rough draft for one of these during this month’s 10K Day! 😀

        • Milliver's Travels
          Twitter: millivrstravels
          October 4, 2011 | 1:26 PM

          Yeah, I love that idea! Write one of them during this month’s 10K Day. (That will be alongside Jo, who will be doing the same – right, Jo? ;))

          Having photos is the perfect place to start! That’s always how I start. Sounds like you’re shaping up to be a traveler writer. 😀

          • Lois
            October 4, 2011 | 1:29 PM

            Thanks, Milli. I look forward to it! 😀

          • JM Merchant
            Twitter: jmmerchant86
            October 4, 2011 | 7:46 PM

            Of course I will Milli *whistles*

            I’ve got a half finished one for you on my desktop, but my producer’s just thrown another distraction at me, she’s asked me to help her read through a huge pile of prospective scripts for her new film venture.

            How can I pass that up???

            • Boonies Chick
              Twitter: fearofwriting
              October 4, 2011 | 7:52 PM

              I’m jealous!!

              (And now you might have to be a guest blogger over at the Boonies after an experience like that.)

  4. Patti Stafford
    Twitter: pattistafford
    October 4, 2011 | 10:17 AM

    You mean post-it notes scattered all over the place is not organized? I’m in trouble. LOL. I’ve been telling myself for months (okay a lot of months) that I’m going to jot all of those notes into a notebook. But, I digress, they are still in numerous stacks all over the house. {sigh}

    Kevin is really organized. I keep telling him he should organize me and my stuff. He won’t touch it. It must be really bad if an OCD neat freak won’t fix it for you. LOL!

    • Fear of Writing
      Twitter: fearofwriting
      October 4, 2011 | 1:13 PM

      Pattikins, a woman after my own heart. But, as I was saying over on Taryn’s blog, I can change. Might have to go to SNA (Sticky Notes Anon) meetings for a while, but I’m determined to beat this addiction that’s been CONTROLLING MY LIFE.

      Gasp. Where did that outburst come from?


      Here’s Taryn’s post if you want to see her cool sticky note fetishes:


  5. Taryn
    Twitter: tarynblake71
    October 4, 2011 | 5:14 PM

    Milli, I love the pic of your notebook, and I’m so glad you posted about Jo’s marvelous spreadsheet idea! Right now, my post ideas are in a fairly contained place — a folder full of printouts from 10K Days and a Moleskine — but the notes for any particular post idea tend to be here, there, and everywhere within those containers.

    When I think I have enough scribblings to get started on the post, I go through the printouts and Moleskine and mark each page that has ideas on it with the same color small sticky note. Then I transfer all the ideas into a word processing file to write around.

    One neat list of all the ideas might make me feel miles more organized.

    • Fear of Writing
      Twitter: fearofwriting
      October 4, 2011 | 5:44 PM

      Taryn, you certainly do know how to make use of sticky notes! I know one thing that would inspire me about your system is just seeing all those ideas with sticky notes all over them (from a “Gee I feel like a colorful genius” point of view). But, yeah, it can get overwhelming. Good luck processing yours into one neat list. Come back and let me know if it works! 🙂

  6. Fear of Writing
    Twitter: fearofwriting
    October 4, 2011 | 5:50 PM

    UPDATE FROM FOW HQ: I was determined to use today’s post about Jo’s spreadsheet to get my new ideas notebook done. And I did! I’ve also decluttered and dusted my desk.

    I feel super-organized now for the next phase of my latest screenwriting project, which is reliant on me being able to keep a handle on my three blogs, three twitter accounts, assignments for coaching clients and getting the bills paid on time. Now all my ducks are in a row (except for an In tray that’s still bristling with STUFF – but that’ll be next for the hatchet job :D).

    • JM Merchant
      Twitter: jmmerchant86
      October 4, 2011 | 7:44 PM

      Wahoo! Way to go Milli! You seem to be on a super-productive streak right now. 🙂

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