Tools for Writers: Butt kickin’, goal setting spreadsheet, free to use

Now that the curtains have closed on NaNoWriMo for another year, you may find yourself in the post-NaNo, pre-holiday slump. Persevere, dear friends! I’ve created something for you to help keep that old-timey NaNo feeling of panicked word production persisting throughout the year (sorry for the alliteration).

It’s a Google spreadsheet that– wait, where are you going? Come back! I promise, not all spreadsheets are boring, some can actually be useful, I swear! Especially for writers who are trying to keep on track and hit deadlines.

This spreadsheet is actually based on the ‘stats’ page in NaNoWriMo but you needn’t be a former NaNo participant to get use out of it. So, you’ll need to do a couple things to be able to use this spreadsheet. First, make sure you have a Google account. Then you can go to the Butt kickin’ goal tracker so you can pwn your novel! spreadsheet. You’ll need to make a copy of it so that you can edit it for yourself. Do that now by clicking on File –> Make a Copy. This will save it to your Google Drive.


Just start out by filling in the project targets, the start date, end date and what you would like to achieve in that time. The other fields you see here are automatically calculated.

There’s even a message that pops up if you’re ahead of your target or falling a bit behind.


To the left, you’ll see a string of dates in one column and a corresponding target number in the next. That number is your cumulative goal for that date, in other words, where your total word count should be by that date.  The third column, labeled “Actual” is the one you actively fill in each day. It’s important to remember that this is a running total, not just the words you wrote today.

For example, you can see that on December 1st, I wrote 2600 words (I wish) and then on the 2nd, I have 4500. That means on the 2nd I wrote 1900 additional words, bringing my total to 4500. Sorry if this seems like hand-holding.


Finally, we come to the chart. For NaNo-ites, this is where the real action is. This is your visual representation of where you are on that golden novel highway… though based on the steep grade, you may want to drop it down a gear or two. Think of it as a highway to heaven. Heavenly, first draft goodness.



That’s it, it’s pretty simple but hopefully it will help you on your path. If you have any questions, just hit me up here, or over at twitter, @nmhall. And if you find this useful, give me some link love on Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, Google+ or whatever other flavor of impersonal digital socializing you prefer.

Drone World – Amazon and the drone delivery network

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos announced this past Sunday (12/1/13) that his 21st century version of Wal Mart has been considering using drones to deliver small packages within 30 minutes to certain households. In an interview with Charlie Rose, Bezos guessed that this system might be in place in the not too distant future.

“I know it can’t be before 2015, because that’s the earliest we could get the rules from the FAA. My guess is that’s, that’s probably a little optimistic. But could it be, you know, four, five years? I think so. It will work, and it will happen, and it’s gonna be a lot of fun.”

Rightly so, this caused a degree of ridicule from all sectors of the web, here’s Charles Stross pointing out why this might be a bit far fetched-

That being said, I recently enjoyed a TED Talk with Andrea Raptopoulos about using a very similar delivery network to bring food and medicine to inaccessible parts of Africa. Companies are developing this technology… so why not one of the largest companies on earth?

James Ball at The Guardian helped to deflate the enthusiasm for it and bring a little bit of reality to the situation. Calling it little more than click bait, he sees it as a distraction from the very real stories about  the Panorama investigation which concluded that working conditions in Amazon’s factories could cause mental and physical illness, or the story that in spite of £7 billion in UK sales, they have paid no UK corporation tax.

Ball goes on to state that this was little more than a cynical ploy to boost Cyber Monday sales by getting their name into a major media outlet. This is, I think, Amazon’s reason for having Bezos do the Charlie Rose interview. The technology is incredible, and I do believe that after 2015, when the rules on these devices are relaxed by the FAA, we’ll see a lot more businesses start to use drones. For good and ill.

Here’s the clip that aired on 60 Minutes

For the writer’s toolbox – QueryTracker

This one probably lands squarely in the ‘no-duh’ category for most writers who have considered, or are succeeding at, the traditional publishing route but it was new for me. And hell, if it’s new to me then there are probably plenty of others out there who haven’t heard of it yet either.

qt QueryTracker is an online database for people looking for an agent or publisher for their book. I discovered it recently in an online workshop run by Carrie Cuinn (thanks Carrie!).  She’s also running a workshop at the end of October about plotting short stories that I may end up taking as well, find out more here.

I’ve only just begun to poke around QueryTracker but I like what I see so far and for a free membership, you can’t beat the price (premium option available). There’s also a fairly active forum and a blog that gets updated pretty regularly.

What to do with books that really are garbage?

Apparently thrift stores in the UK are having a hard time offloading copies of 50 Shades of Grey because no one is picking the book up off their shelves. The best seller is overwhelming thrift stores as more people buy and then donate the book.

The worst part is that because of the glue used in the binding, they’re not recyclable, meaning that they truly are trash. For a book that sold 5.3 million copies in the UK that’s a lot of waste.

A non sequitur that amused me was this quote which doesn’t mean the same thing in the US,

But now the country has amassed a “paper mountain” of unwanted copies of EL James’s erotic novel, suggesting that readers are bored with the “mummy porn” trilogy.

“Mummy porn” could be the next great genre… forget sparkly vampires! We’ve got dusty mummies!