River’s NaNoWriMo 2016 Debrief, Part 2: What Gets Measured Gets Managed

Welcome back to my NaNoWriMo 2016 Debrief!  Today we’ll continue the series with a review of my stats.  I really think that tracking one’s stats is a good way to improve productivity.  And it works in any field, not just writing!  So even though I didn’t do a very good job, I’m excited to be writing about it – though that might just be because I’m a bit of a nerd who loves over-analyzing data. (This is why I did well on research projects in school, haha.)

But wait just a second first!  Before we get started, I want to alert you to a change-of-plans: Originally, this was going to be a two-part series, and today’s post would finish it.  However, part 3, tentatively titled “NaNo’s over! Now what?” doesn’t really fit in with today’s topic and feels like it deserves its own post, so it will be posted next week instead.  Sorry for the sudden decision!

By the way, if you missed Part 1 (which covers all the fun mistakes I made) you can find it here. 🙂

Now that that’s out of the way, are you ready?  Let’s go!

The Stats: What Gets Measured Gets Managed

So, I’ve been determined to improve my productivity.  I thought that the only thing I needed was more time to write.  But when I gained more time to write over the summer, I didn’t actually write much more than I did before.  Since time wasn’t the answer, something was missing, and I gave myself another goal for NaNoWriMo 2016: Find it and fix it.

Stuff happened. . . mostly research, because I like to research the heck out of something before I try it, if possible.  Lots of the same old stuff: To be a good writer, then put your bum in that seat and write, goshdarnit. But as I said, that wasn’t working; I’d already hit the upper limit of my writing skills using that method.  Something had to change.

That’s when I remembered something from a long-ago management class!  Apparently, managers have a phrase:

What gets measured gets managed.

Basically, if you know what you’re doing, you know what you’re doing right and where you can improve.  If you never measure it, you’ll never know what you can do better. . . and then you’ll just struggle more. 😦

So I decided to track everything I could think of during NaNo.  I made a spreadsheet with spots for daily word count, total word count, hours spent writing, and the time of day that I was writing.

Here’s a screenshot of my spreadsheet:


Simple and effective! Spreadsheets like this are very easy to create.  Of course, with a little more effort you can make them prettier with headings and all, but this worked for me. 🙂  For NaNo, I tracked just the essentials, but you could definitely track other things as well.  Doses of coffee – pieces of chocolate – times your cat jumped on your keyboard – all the important things, haha.  In all seriousness, you can track anything you think might be helping or hindering you – including cat-based interruptions. XD

You can see that I wasn’t entirely faithful to the project.  I often forgot to fill in the time I finished the writing session – usually it was quite late and I was tired, haha.  And of course this is from the early part of the month, so you can see all the health days I took when I got sick. :*) Still, the data I did collect was very helpful.

Here’s a quick graph of my word count:

nanowrimo-2016-word-count-graph(It’s not nearly as nice as the official NaNo graphs, but there you go.)*

It looks nice and impressive until you realize that the upper limit is 25k.  *le sigh* Also, growth was steady – there are a long periods of inactivity around the beginning/middle of the month – that was when I was sick.  I had a good start at the beginning of the month, sort of stalled in the middle, then really hit my stride the last week.

*(Of course, if you sign up at the NaNoWriMo site, it will track your word count and make a pretty graph for you. . . but I’m afraid it slipped my mind until the month was over. . . (;一_一)  . . . and I made my own spreadsheet instead.  Oh well! Next year!)

I can also tell you that my lowest daily word count was 0, my highest was 3k, and my average was 743.  (The average just for the days I actually wrote was 1k.)  Here are some other things I learned throughout the month:

  • On good days, I averaged 3-5 hours actually writing (vs staring at the blank page and/or looking up more music to listen to).
  • On bad days, that was often spent banging my head against the plot wall.
  • Apparently, I tend to write more in the afternoon and evening vs the morning: Even if I started working on my project early in the morning, it would just take longer to get the words flowing. (Interestingly, it’s also late afternoon as I write this.)
  • I tend to write about 2-3 scenes in a good writing session.  Any more than that and my brain feels like mush!
  • Scenes tend to average around 650 words.  I’m not sure why?  Maybe that’s just what a scene feels like to me?
  • Zeros look really sad in a spreadsheet and bring the average down a lot. 😦

The Analysis

Tracking your stats is all well and good, but what do you do with all the data you’ve collected?  You analyze it, of course!  Numbers in a spreadsheet will be far more helpful when you decide what those numbers mean and how you can improve.

In my case, using the data I collected during November, I learned these things:

  1. I can probably average 1k+ a day at my current skill level, without changing anything.
  2. I should probably arrange my schedule so my writing time is in the afternoon/evening.  Easier word flow = less frustration = more productivity!
  3. 2-3 scenes = a good writing session.  I should probably take a break after 2-3 scenes to refresh my brain (and also eat chocolate).
  4. If I can continue to write 2-3 scenes every day, that’s about 1300-1950 words – which is coincidentally very close to the NaNo daily goal of 1667 words!  So that’s good.

If you feel like you’ve hit the upper limit of words you can write per day, then why don’t you try tracking your stats for a while?  You might learn something about yourself, like what time of day works the best or how much you’re actually writing in a session.  And everything you learn, you can apply to increase your productivity!

* * *

And I think we’ll end here!  Honestly, I’ve only hit the  tip of the iceberg on the subject of tracking stats; there’s so much more we could cover, but it’s outside the scope of this post (because I haven’t tried yet, haha).  One month is a good starting point, and I’ll probably continue tracking in the future so that I can see my improvements over time and figure out other ways to improve. ^u^  Of course, I’ll also be looking for other ways to improve my word count, too.  If you think of anything, let me know!

Don’t forget that I’ll post the final part of this series next week!  I’ll probably post it on Monday or Tuesday, so check back then – or you could follow my blog (pokes sidebar) or my Twitter account, @Rivers_Reverie for an update as soon as it’s posted.  Whatever floats your boat!

See you next week!

#Sketchtember Musings

Thought I’d emerge from my NaNoWriMo cave and post something!  Though I cheated a little, as this is a compilation of thoughts I had while doing #Sketchtember.  Even though it is a different style than my normal posts, I hope you will enjoy it anyway. ❤️

On Monthly Challenges

I actually decided to do the #Sketchtember challenge as a sort of warm-up for NaNoWriMo.  Yes, the two are different art forms, but the concept of a month-long stamina challenge was the same, so I thought it would help.  I think it’s safe to say, though, that I didn’t have any idea what I agreed to.

Even before #Sketchtember, I sketched pretty much every day or every other day, depending on my free time.  The opportunity to sketch every day, not just for “free time” but as a sort of job was really liberating because now I didn’t worry about taking time away from work. (Or at least, not as much.)

Kimono watermark version

On Sketching Daily

On the other hand, having to sketch and post every day quickly became a chore. . . until suddenly it wasn’t.  Somewhere in the fourth week, it went from being a chore to a habit – and an enjoyable habit at that!  I think that was what prompted me to challenge #Inktober as well.

Fox n Mouse Sketch Watermark version

On Pen & Paper vs Digital

Having switched over from traditional sketching to digital, I can say that they are very different experiences.  Pen and paper feels more organic. . . there’s only so many times you can erase before the paper shows it, of course, and there’s the texture of the paper as well.  If you draw lightly and build up, you don’t need to worry about drawing a ‘perfect’ line first try; the texture helps disguise the series of small lines.  And maybe it’s just that I’ve sketched more traditionally, but it comes more naturally to me than digital.  I can be happy with a sketch more quickly, anyhow.

I haven’t sketched digitally in a while, so I relearned a lot of things this month.  Like, digital sketching tends to take more time as layers and the eraser tool appeal to the perfectionist within me.  GIMP has no limit on layers (just what my computer can handle without slowing down, haha), so the “sketch” part itself may take 3-5 layers: skeletion/gesture, blocking out, adding detail, hair and clothing each have their own layer.

And since there is no physical limit on erasing (digital paper doesn’t pill or fray), I tend to redraw the same line over and over until it looks perfect. This is why some of my digital #Sketchtember posts are more like inked drawings than sketches!

Rainy Day watermark version

On Style(s)

I think I mentioned this before, but it feels like my style changes when I sketch digitally.  I don’t know why. . . .  No, that’s not true.  It’s at least partially because of the tool.  With smoothing pen options and  the pixelation, the lines don’t always come out the way they would on paper.  (Maybe I need to look up some more pen sets.)

It’s also partly because I’m more likely to have reference pics when I’m working digitally.  When I’m already at the computer, it’s easy to pop open the browser and look up a reference. . . but when I’m drawing traditionally, I draw mostly from imagination. (That’s another way of saying that I’m too lazy to get up and go to the computer, haha.)  So maybe my poses are more realistic digitally.

Though, this isn’t limited to purely digital sketches.  When I scan a paper sketch in and work on it digitally, the style tends to change then, too.  So maybe we should just call it the inking effect.


On Improvement

It seems that every time I sketch something, I think, “Oh, this part or that part was hard!”  Especially when I need to sketch hands.  It’s a little discouraging to feel my shortcomings so often. TT_TT  But in truth, the times that I think that are occurring gradually less frequently, and it feels like I’m getting a little better at sketching each day.  While I’d love to have amazing art abilities overnight, this steady improvement is good too.


Do you have any interesting “musings” while you do challenges?  Please share in the comments below!

#Sketchtember Day 30: Sign

TeaserAlmost done~!

Whew, it’s the last day of #Sketchtember!  And it looks like River and Cloud are working on something. . . but it’s not quite ready yet!  So please wait a little longer~

Today’s sketch s wonderfully meta, as we continue to work on our webcomic!  Hopefully we can announce the title and launch date soon.  In the meantime, keep an eye on this blog and my Twitter as we head into Inktober~!

#Sketchtember Day 29: Magician

Cards 1 sketch watermarked

Do you dare to see what’s in the cards?

More of Miss Magician for #Sketchtember!  She’s so fun to draw, she might show up a lot during Inktober too. . .  I mean, just look at that smirk!

I’m not entirely happy with this sketch either.  I know how I want to draw, but my skills aren’t good enough yet. . . . it’s a little frustrating.  Gotta level up fast!

EDIT: Forgot to mention that I used a reference for this sketch!  Another great Sailor Sakky pose: http://senshistock.deviantart.com/art/Sailor-Funhouse-1-105038483

#Sketchtember Day 28: Cards

Cards 2Pick a card, any card.

I wanted to draw this girl again before #Sketchtember is over. . . so here she is, offering you her cards!  Which will you choose. . . ?

Today I tried to vary the line with a little.  Not sure I quite ‘got’ it yet, but practice practice!

#Sketchtember Day 27: Coven

Hexx Coven conceptWitching hour? Please.  Our time lasts much longer than that.

This sketch took several hours, and I’m still not quite happy with it. :/  Oh well.  The important thing is that it’s (kinda) finished, right?

(I started color tests for this piece also, so I may post that tomorrow, depending on how it goes.  🙂 )

#Sketchtember Day 26: Witch

Witch sketch watermark versionA wizard duel? Count me in.

Today’s art for #Sketchtember was originally an idea for an outfit, rather than a character.  But. . . by the time I finished drawing, her character was decided.  orz

The inspiration was “witching hour” and “circus”.  Not that she’s a circus witch; more that her outfit should have a faint feeling of a circus, of fantastical, amazing things, and some of the design is influenced by circus-y things.  Like her skirt, which evokes the Big Top stripes.

As I was drawing, I thought that she looked a little like a stage magician. And she sort of evolved from there: A sassy girl who works as a magician by day, but (surprise surprise) is literally a witch and monster-hunter!  (Or something like that.)

Only four days left, and then it’s Inktober. . . !