Use Google Sheets to Capture Your Writing Ideas and Article Plans
I write articles in Google Docs. When finished, I copy and paste their text into Medium and sometimes into my blog. This powerful and user-friendly tool is available in a web browser on laptop and desktop PCs and apps for smartphones and tablets. Recently, I started to use another free Google tool, Google Sheets, to capture and track writing ideas and articles from conception to completion.
The beauty of tools like Google Docs and Google Sheets is that whatever you create is automatically saved to the cloud. Then, you can access and edit the documents and spreadsheets from any PC, smartphone, or tablet connected to the Internet. Also, you can share documents with other people you designate as editors, commenters, or viewers.
In this article, I’ll show you how to create a simple spreadsheet with Google Sheets to track your writing ideas and stories. This concept can be adapted easily to other spreadsheet tools such as Microsoft Excel and Apple Numbers.
How to Get Started with Google Sheets
Google Sheets is a free cloud-based spreadsheet application. It is part of the Google Docs Editors suite that includes Google Docs, Google Slides, and other tools.
With Google Sheets, you can create spreadsheets, save them to the cloud, and view and edit them from almost any device. You can share your spreadsheets with other people and control whether they can view, comment on, or edit their contents.
To use Google Sheets, you will need a free Google account. Create one here if you don’t have one.
After you have a Google account, learn how to use Google Sheets. You may want to dive right in if you’re a seasoned computer user. But if you want to learn how to use the tool first, here are a few tutorials to choose from to get started:
- Get Started with Sheets, by Google
- Google Sheets for Beginners, by Railsware Academy
- How to Use Google Sheets: A Beginner’s Guide, by Ben Collins
After you have a Google account and a basic understanding of using Google Sheets, you are ready to create a spreadsheet to capture writing ideas. Follow these instructions to create a spreadsheet and worksheet to document your thoughts:
- Open Google Sheets.
- If you have not yet logged in, log in with your Google account name and password.
- Start a new spreadsheet by clicking the big [+] sign icon. A new blank spreadsheet will appear.
- Type over “Untitled spreadsheet” in the upper-left corner with the name “Writing Planner.”
- In the bottom-left corner of the spreadsheet, rename the “Sheet1” worksheet to Ideas. You will capture writing ideas in this worksheet.
Next, do the following:
- Set the value in cell A1 to “Idea Name.”
- Set cell B1 to “Idea Date.”
- Set cell C1 to “Idea Description.
Now, the Ideas worksheet of the Writing Planner spreadsheet is ready. Whenever you have a writing idea, you can enter a short name in the next available row in column A. Enter the date in column B and the description in column C.
You can edit the Google Sheets Writing Ideas spreadsheet in a web browser on a desktop or laptop PC or even a browser on a smartphone or tablet computer. But for a better editing experience on a smartphone or tablet, install the Google Sheets app.
Capture and Track Articles
While many article ideas will result in a single article, if any at all, sometimes my ideas spawn many potential articles. To keep track of each piece related to an idea, create an Articles worksheet in the Writing Planner spreadsheet.
To create the Articles worksheet, open the Writing Planner spreadsheet. Then, follow the general steps in the section above. But click on the [+] sign in the bottom-left corner of the screen to add a new worksheet. Rename it from “Sheet2” to “Articles.”
Next, in row 1 of the Article worksheet, add the following header names in columns A through I:
- A — Idea Name
- B — Article Title
- C — Article Description
- D — Possible Keywords
- E — Article Concept Date
- F — Article Completion Date
- G — Article Status
- H — Notes
The column headers in row 1 should look similar to the screenshot below. The worksheet contains sample entries for articles as well.
When you have an idea for an article, enter the Idea Name (initially captured in the Ideas worksheet) in the next available row in column A. Then, complete the values in the other columns when relevant. For example, you might immediately add a working title in column B and describe the article in column C.
While the header names are self-explanatory for most columns, here are definitions for columns D and H:
- D — Possible Keywords: Medium allows writers to enter up to five keywords when submitting an article. Use this column to store possible keywords that you will enter at publication time in the hopes that they will help readers find your article.
- H — Article Status: This column describes the phase of development of the article. Enter values such as Concept, Outline, Writing, Completed Draft, Editing, and Completed. But enter values that make sense for your writing workflow.
Now that you have created the Ideas and Articles worksheets in the Writing Plan spreadsheet, you can use them to capture ideas and track work on articles from conception to publication.
While I use Google Sheets and Google Docs in my work, feel free to use these ideas in whatever spreadsheet software you prefer. Microsoft Excel, Apple Numbers, and many other products would work well.
Also, add, change, or delete worksheets and columns as you see fit to support your writing process and workflow. For example, you could add a Research worksheet to track information sources for articles.
As you can see, you can use Google Sheets or other spreadsheet software to track writing ideas and article work from conception to completion. Also, you can access the spreadsheet wherever you are from just about any PC, smartphone, or tablet computer connected to the Internet.
About the Author
Randy Runtsch is a writer, data engineer, data analyst, programmer, photographer, cyclist, and adventurer. He and his wife live in southeastern Minnesota, U.S.A.
Randy writes articles on public datasets to drive insights and decision-making, writing, programming, data engineering, data analytics, photography, wildlife, bicycle touring, and more.
If you love birds and other wildlife, check out the article, Beautiful Birds on a Brilliant Morning.