Staying on Track

Something I struggle with is maintaining a consistent workflow on my personal projects. If there’s a real-world consequence for me missing a deadline, that’s a great motivator for me! Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to convince my brain to apply that to my comics and writing. At least not when I’m still in the more nebulous planning and drafting stages.

Sure, I’ve given myself the vague goal of “Finish something to the point that it’s ready to post here by the end of the year.” But if I want that to happen, I need to keep myself on track when the only guaranteed reward is knowing that I finished something. As much as I would love for that to be enough, it simply isn’t.

Don’t get me wrong. Finishing a story and putting it out there is satisfying in its own right, but I will kick and scream the whole way there. Writing is hard. Art is hard. Allowing myself to just have fun with it can be hard, and there are often roadblocks in the form of self-doubt. I need to trick myself into getting to the end of the road.

One of the ways I’ve been trying to keep myself working is by tracking my progress in a journal. I have monthly calendars where I track my word counts, and I have logs where I track my writing sessions.

An April calendar that includes space for individual project word counts and total word count per day. A side bar lists the month’s projects and goals, which includes Blythe vs. the Werewolf (Goal: complete page by page script) and Blog Posts (Goal: 4 to 5 posts)
(My April word count tracking calendar)

Even though I’m tracking my words this month, I’ve been putting a lot less stock into that lately. Achieving a specific word count rarely means that I’ve actually finished a story. All too often I find myself spinning my wheels on a draft, even as my word count grows. And I haven’t weaned myself off of word tracking! I think it has its merits. It just hasn’t worked for me.

April writing session log. It includes five columns to record: Date, start time, end time, project, and word count.
(The April writing session log)

In the last year, I’ve started keeping track of not only my word counts, but my writing sessions. I record the date, start, and end times of each session, the project I worked on, and the number of words written. I like this approach because it shows me how much time I’ve put into a specific project’s draft, and how often I’ve worked on it. I’m trying to build a habit and consistency, and this is a good way to track that.

The monthly calendars work well for tracking daily word counts, but I want to move away from word count goals in favor of scene by scene or chapter by chapter goals. It’s just a more tangible way for me to track my progress, especially when it comes to comics where the word count doesn’t really mean anything.

A log with four columns for: Task (including items such as outline, character design, and draft), Date, Start Time, and End time
(Blythe vs. the Werewolf Project Log)

Project Logs

What I’ve experimented with in the past few months is creating progress logs for specific projects. They’re a better way for me to see how said projects are coming along since progress is tracked on a task by task basis rather than by word count. I’m still using my calendars and monthly trackers for word counts, but I think I’ll be moving away from those completely in the future.

Strange Company and Blythe vs. the Werewolf each have a project log, though with slight differences since the former is illustrated prose and the latter is a comic. The two share common tasks, like outlining, drafting, revisions, thumbnails (which will be part of the revision process for BvtW), art, and formatting. BvtW, though, has two sets of tasks: The prep and the pages.

On the left: A task checklist with four columns for Tasks, Deadlines, Start Date, and Completion Date 
On the right: Page Progress checklist with a column for page numbers, and four more columns for Thumbnail & Pencil, Ink & Letter, Shade, and Format
(Blythe vs. the Werewolf Task Checklist and Page Progress Log)

My BvtW prep checklist includes:

  • Outline
  • Script
  • Thumbnails (revisions)
  • Character design
  • Setting design
  • Cover art

My four main tasks for the BvtW pages are:

  • Thumbnails to pencils
  • Ink and lettering
  • Shading (though I may count this as part of the inking process since I’ll be using a single gray tone)
  • Formatting

I’ve given myself deadlines for all of my prep items, though I’m still trying to work some out for the pages. The overall deadline is the end of September as—if all goes well—I plan on posting the first half of the comic on October 1st. I may need to do some test pages in order to figure out how much time I’ll need for pencils and inks.

So where am I as far as progress?

I’m in the scripting stage of Blythe vs. the Werewolf this month. I’ll continue working on character and setting designs through the month as well (which means upcoming posts on those!)

The draft is going fairly well! I was slow to start, but the more I write, the more I’m figuring out how to solve the little problems that came up in the outlining stage. Just gotta remember to count my progress by completed scenes over word counts, which is challenging after years of participating in NaNo events. In any case, I think it’s coming along at a decent pace!

I’ve got a plan, and whether or not I’m able to stick with it will become more apparent in the next few months. I’m tempted to try streaming my work on the thumbnails and the actual pages, just for that extra sense of accountability. I’ll have more on that here if I decide to do so.

Whelp. Back to it!

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