What is the Magic Spreadsheet?

by Doc Coleman on June 2, 2013 · 11 comments

in Writing

No one can tell you what the Magic Spreadsheet is. You have to experience it for yourself. But darned if I’m not going to try.

Since coming back from this year’s Balticon, I’ve had a number of people ask me “What is the Magic Spreadsheet?”. So I looked back over my past posts to point them to an answer, and found that I don’t really have a post that addresses that question well. So, it is time to give that a try.

The Magic Spreadsheet is a tool for helping writers get into the habit of writing daily. I’m not sure who created it, but Tony Pisculli and Derek Chamberlain are two of the prime movers behind the spreadsheet. EDIT: I have been in informed by none other than Tony himself, that Tony created the spreadsheet back in December. Mur Lafferty is the one who coined the name “Magic Spreadsheet” and popularized it through her I Should Be Writing Podcast. Travis Gramkowski Senzaki created the amazing live leaderboard for the spreadsheet. Derek Chamberlain and Mark Lindberg have been incredibly helpful in managing the transitions every month and in hunting down glitches and fixing problems. And now you know, the rest of the story! End EDIT. The Magic Spreadsheet makes a game of writing and awards points for getting in your daily writing and exceeding your daily goals.

How does this work? Well, as a Magic Spreadsheet newbie you start at level 1. At level 1 you have a daily writing goal of 250 words. When you complete your daily writing, you go to the Spreadsheet and enter your words for the day. If you made 250 words, you get 1 point for each day of consistency, plus a point for reaching your daily goal. If you write 500 words, you get 2 points. One thousand words gets you three points, and two thousand words gets you four points.

So that is how it starts. But the fun thing is when you start building writing chains. When you have managed to write every day for a few weeks and you’re getting a point for every day in your writing chain, there is a lot of incentive to keep the chain going and to see how long you can keep writing every day. 100 day writing chains are a major milestone.

The other thing that happens after about 30 days of writing is that you get enough points to level up. You don’t HAVE to level up, but if you’re serious about your writing, you will probably want to. What does it mean to level up? When you level up, you increase your daily writing goal by another 50 words. So at level 2, you’ll be writing 300 words a day. At level 3, 350 words a day, and so on. If you’re at higher levels and you only write 250 words, you’ll still get points for the day, but you’ll take a penalty to your consistency points.

Still have questions about the Magic Spreadsheet? Well there is a community on G+, and another on Facebook where you can ask your Magic Spreadsheet questions and find out how you can get a slot on the spreadsheet to call your own. The Magic Spreadsheet has become very popular, and has run into some limits. Where can you find the Magic Spreadsheet? Currently it exists as a spreadsheet (duh!) on Google Docs, and in the past few months it has run up into the limitations of Google Docs for the number of formulas in a given spreadsheet. The spreadsheet has a number of tabs, breaking out groups of writers by where they heard about the wonders of Magic Spreadsheet. Tabs are named by the month, and then a code for the origin. So if you heard about Magic Spreadsheet on Stonecoast, you’d look for JunSC. If you heard about it on I Should Be Writing, you’d look for JunISBWone, JunISBWtwo, or JunISBWthree. Yes, lots of I Should be Writing listeners, here. There is also a JunGplus tab. You’ll find me lurking about half-way down the JunISBWthree tab.

And that, my friends, is what the Magic Spreadsheet is. That is also about 600 words of daily writing. ;D

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Orion June 2, 2013 at 5:34 pm

Thanks for the details and I’m glad to have helped (at least in part) to getting you closer to leveling up. 🙂


2 Doc Coleman June 2, 2013 at 5:45 pm

Well, if my post is popular enough, I’ll have a tab for Swimming Cat Studios followers. 😀 Now back to editing…



3 Adam Gallardo June 3, 2013 at 1:19 am

Tony created the spreadsheet. It was part of his third semester project at the Stonecoast MFA, though a lot of talented people have jumped in to help him maintain and improve it.


4 Doc Coleman June 3, 2013 at 2:08 pm


Thanks for setting me straight. I tried to find some kind of definitive history on the Spreadsheet, but wasn’t able to. Keep me honest!



5 Anna Stewart June 3, 2013 at 10:41 am

Really wish I’d found your post yesterday. I was so proud of myself for figuring out how to sign up at all (and that took me longer than I’d like to admit)…now to find out I signed up on the wrong tab! Lol! Oh well…there are worse sins I suppose. 😉 But thank you…you’ve answered a few questions for me here. 🙂


6 Doc Coleman June 3, 2013 at 2:11 pm


Hey, the important part is that you’ve signed up! If we ever move over to a database driven version tabs won’t matter. Glad you found the article useful anyway. Seems like a number of folks are giving it a look.



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