How to Make Your Own NaNoWriMo Word Count Tracker Using Microsoft Excel

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

December 4, 2012 -- 6:39 a.m.

Since I found the NaNoWriMo website's tracker to be such a helpful motivator, I decided to create my own using Microsoft Excel. This is what it looks like:

It doesn't look as pretty as the NaNoWriMo version, but it only took me ten or fifteen minutes to do. It's been a while since my linear programming classes, so there's probably a simpler way to do this, but here's the instructions if you want to copy what I did. I tried to keep the instructions really simple for those of you who aren't as familiar with excel:

You'll need four columns.

1) The first is for days of the month. If you don't manually want to type in the numbers, you can type 1 in the first box. Then, in the next box down, write =A2+1 (or whatever box you used). Select that box. You should see a little black square in the lower right corner, almost like one of the dark pixels from one of the old video games. Click on that square and drag down to fill your column up with your formula. If you've done it correctly, each box should have numbers rising consecutively (day 1, 2, 3, 4, 5) etc. Stop when you've reached the appropriate number of days in the month.

2) The second column is your daily word count. I like being able to see how much I write a day besides how much my total word count is, so I can monitor whether I'm being consistent and look for patterns that might help me figure out how to increase my productivity. Leave this column blank for now.

3) The next column will be your total word count for the month. It's a running total. If you're writing all in one document, you could just be recording this yourself using Word's automatic word count feature, but I like to write every chapter in a new document so I'm less tempted into endless revisions on my book. This can make keeping track of total word count a little difficult, since you're looking at totals over multiple documents.

For that reason, my total word count is going to be a sum of all my daily wordcounts. To create this, I start by setting the first box of column C to =B2. In this case, that's zero, because I took a break after NaNoWriMo to celebrate finishing a winner. For the next box down, you want to sum the old total (zero) with the new total (anything you added in day two.) So, an easy way to do this is to type a formula summing the two cells. In this case, SUM(C2, B3).

Now click on the corner of the cell and drag the formula down the column. Excel will automatically change the cell number for you, so that cell 3 (C4 in this example) will automatically read SUM(C3, B4).

4) The final column is your daily target. You don't have to follow NaNoWriMo's 50,000 word target. This can be anything you want. But I figured I might as well stick with 50,000. 50,000 divided by 31 (the days in December) means I should be approximately doing 1613 words a day. So for these cells, you start with 1613 in the first cell, and every cell thereafter should be +1613. In this case, I wrote =D2+1613. Click and drag down.

5) Test to make sure everything's working by putting random numbers in the daily word count boxes. If your word count total changes appropriately, you've done everything you needed to do.

Voila! You have a bunch of columns with numbers in them. If you don't want the graph, you can stop now.

But you want the graph, don't you? I decided to use a scatterplot graph because it's easy to make and easy to read.

1) Highlight columns A, C, and D. You don't need column B for this one. To highlight multiple, non-adjoining columns, hold the control key down and click on the column letter at the top. This should highlight the entire column.

2) Go to the tab menu at the top and click "Insert." In the middle of the menu, there will be a variety of graphs to choose from. I chose a scatterplot with smooth lines. If you chose the right columns to highlight, it should create a graph with days on the bottom and number of words running up the side with a smooth slope of your goal in the middle and another line with your progress.

3) The default this produces is an ugly graph. I like mine neater, so I right clicked on the axis and hit "format axis", then used it to format the maximum on each side (so I wouldn't have extra days or words along the sides) and also set my word count axis to thousands. If you get to the axis format menu, that stuff's fairly self-explanatory, so I'm not going to walk through the steps with you. I also changed the graph's format from the default to one with axis titles and a main titles, but your personal preference may vary. I deleted the axis title on the left by clicking it and hitting backspace because I wanted the graph nice and big instead of wasting space on a redundant label.

Like I said, this is not especially pretty or fancy, but it's functional. The graph looks wonky now since the total's so flat, but by the end of the month, my plateau should be more of a jagged blue mountain. And it's really easy to do. My instructions probably make things look way more complicated then it actually is. And if you want to make it cooler, you can make every column a different color, or use the conditional formatting button in the home tab to make your boxes red when you're below your goal and green when you're above it. (Hmm, that's a good idea. I'll go do that now. *Click*)

If you run into any problems or have any questions, feel free to leave a comment. There's a moderator queue to stop the spambots, but I do glance and sort through the comments every once in awhile. I'll do my best to help.

Edit: Oh, I just remembered. If you want to make copies of your sheet for next month, make sure to do it now, while the sheet is clean. If you try to copy the sheet at the end of December, you'll have to delete all your word counts. Easier to do it now while your cell values are still blank.


Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

November 30, 2012 -- 6:29 P.M.

Update, NaNoWriMo, And Bragging About Wordcount

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

October 28, 2012 -- 2:25 p.m.

Well, it's been awhile since I posted. Life has been hectic. My laptop got bathed in soup and I ended up in Seattle for a family emergency. Otherwise, things are going pretty well. The school I was going to decided to discontinue the grad program I quit, so I'm definitely not going back. Which means I have to decide to do new things. If I'm going to try for another grad degree, I'm going to try to find one that lets me move slowly. The bottom line is that writing is my first love. Any program that asks me to spend 50-60 hours doing something else is just going to make me miserable. I'm not sure how many part-time statistics masters degrees are available, but since I need to do some undergrad work to brush up my math skills, I'm not going to worry about that right now.

Unfortunately, Utah doesn't consider me a resident because I never bothered to get my vote registered. I know I should have for the local voting even if the bigger elections go straight R, but the local decisions Provo's city council and mayor have made depress me so much. Not only the actions they've made, but the willingness to make actions without considering their costs. When they decided to build a rec center, they only consulted biased sources. Nowhere in any of their presentations did you see comparisons to other local rec centers. No figures on how much the Orem one ended up costing and how much it would be used. From my calculations, it would have been cheaper to buy everyone in Provo passes to the Orem center for the next ten years or so than to build one in Provo. Or buy them a Gold's Gym pass. The local gyms were afraid that the rec center would cut into their business--which it will--and so the Provo city council promised that they wouldn't have things that would compete with the gym. So what does that leave the rec center with, other than an over-sized swimming pool? The marketing was also really shady. "Your taxes won't rise!" No, but they won't drop either. And to build the center, they demolished both the city's teen and senior centers, which, from the plans, they intend to include inside the senior center as one room. (Teenagers + old people. Best combo ever!) I didn't hear any comments from the administrators of the teen center in the process about how their stuff would be positively/negatively affected by the change.

Maybe the whole thing will turn out to be a big success instead of another iProvo. But even if it is a good idea, the process was really crappy. It points to the quality of the Daily Herald, Provo's newspaper, that the reporters never questioned any of the data. My grandfather was particularly incensed because the city council claimed 80 percent of Provo residents would use it at least once a week (based on a mail survey *SMACK!*) but the plans included a parking lot that wouldn't accommodate nearly that many people. That suggested to him that the Provo city council knew their numbers were absolute bunk but presented them as fact anyway.

Oh well, I shouldn't be fighting old battles. Especially since the battles are old enough that I might be misremembering the facts. (Huh--spell-checker doesn't consider misremember a word? Who programmed this thing?)

All my family crises seem to be mostly averted. The first draft of the two-year behemoth I was calling "Wyrmborn" is almost finished. The name of the book is "White War" for now, which is a much better title. Over August-October, I've broken out of my rut and written some 62,000 words. Not too shabby at all. At this rate, I should finish draft 1 by the end of November. I've signed up for nanowrimo under the user name 'Vegetathalas' (don't ask, it's a long boring story.) to help me in my quest. Not sure how long the book is total, since I've discovered the secret to productivity is to store my chapters in different documents so I don't go back and endlessly rewrite stuff. This means it's going to be quite a pain to put everything together. But that means I should have a draft I can bear to show people out by January. Yay!

After that, my tentative plan is to give Skin Farm one final revision and then start writing grouping/querying it. I know the YA post-apocalyptic market is pretty oversaturated, but I like Skin Farm enough that I can't bear to let it sit in a trunk without even trying to get it out there. I wish I had understood more about writing plot and my own personal writing process when I started that thing. I could have had it done ages ago.

After that, it's time to start on a new book. I've plotted out a YA superhero book about a girl mechanic who suddenly gains the power to control vehicle engines, but I'm sort of reluctant to write it because I know nothing about cars and it would mean a lot of research and finding someone with mechanic-y know-how to alpha read and point out all my mistakes. Either that, or I could go back to my first book and re-write it as a YA fantasy with a stronger plot, keeping the same characters but giving them clearer motivations, making the magic system more understandable, and starting out with one main conflict instead of the, like, thousands I introduced. Basically, simplifying. Also, making the Empire more hateful and the rebellion more effective. Or I could write something entirely new. I could even try my hand at short fiction.

We'll see what I feel like after I get the other two books in order. It's always possible that I'll have a book contract by then and so I'll need to start writing sequels. (Hey, a girl can hope!)

Fanciful Modeling (Scam!)

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

July 23, 2012 -- 12:19 p.m.

Oi! It's been a long time since I've written anything. I've mostly decided that blogging takes up energy that could be better used on my book, so I'm focusing on that. So don't expect many updates from me. I thought of reviewing the Dark Knight Rises--which I very much enjoyed--but lost my enthusiasm after the shootings. And the comments boards of articles that deal with the shootings. Some people have no respect. My heart goes out to all those poor people in Colorado. My prayers are with you.

So why am I posting? Because I got an email this morning. I couldn't find any Google hits on the subject, so I'm putting up a warning just in case something like this wends it way into a gullible person's inbox:

We're emailing you to let you know that we're currently looking for new models. We noticed that you have expressed interest before in becoming a model. Our agency is the perfect place to get your start into the modeling world! 
If you're interested in applying to model with our agency, please send us a brief description of yourself - your hobbies, why you want to get into modeling, etc. - along with information to contact you should you be accepted. Also, please send photos with your application. We would appreciate it if you sent a few photos in a modeling type style. Please send us at least one photo from at least one of the following: nude, swimwear (both one-piece and two-piece is acceptable), or underwear(lingere is preferred, but not required). 
If interested, please reply to, with the required information and photos. Also, all of our models must be 18 or older. If you do not meet this age requirement, please disregard this message.  
Thank you, 
Loriane Varner 
Modeling Agent Coordinator
Obviously this is a scam. The agency is asking for nude pictures instead of head shots, there's some sloppy grammar (ie, 'into' instead of 'in' in the first paragraph), I got this out of nowhere (I'm 28--not exactly a prime demographic for new models), and Fanciful Modeling has no website and operates out of a yahoo address. All this makes me believe that Fanciful Modeling is, well, fanciful.

The question is: What do the people doing this want? Are they in it  just out for free amateur pornography? Or after the photos are sent, are they pushing pay-for-hire services? I am half curious enough that I almost want to send them a fake photo and see what happens, but my email is on too many other spammer's lists already. Ah well, I suppose stuff like this is more interesting than Viagra ads.

I'd recommend anyone who is contacted by a modelling agency by email check out this scam warning from the federal trade commission.

Avengers Avenge (Minor Spoilers)

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

May 27, 2012 -- 10:00 p.m.

Just went and saw Avengers Friday. I loved it. It was a lot of fun. It was very Whedon. I don't think it's possible to handle an ensemble movie more deftly. I wish they'd give him X-men. I liked the subtlety of some parts of it (subtlety not being the usual operative word when it comes to big explode-y things) and the character interactions. The actors were all awesome. Loki was lovin' it. The action shots were cool. Everyone felt like a defined character, even if that meant they had to scream out what trope they were representing. "LOOK AT ME, I'M A MAVERICK PLAYBOY WHO HAS TO LEARN HOW TO BE ABLE TO OPERATE WITHIN THE FRAMEWORK OF A TEAM!" It was done in a good way, playing on conventions audiences know and love.

But...what was up with the Hulk's internal character arc? It was built up that the Hulk doing his Hulkin' was going to be this huge, dangerous, horrible thing. And then it was a horrible thing, because he put his beatdown on the damsel in distress. But then at the end of the movie, he can somehow control his greener self? Why? What was the turning point? Or does the magic wand of Robert Downey Jr.'s charm just heal all ills?

Maybe it's explained in the canon material. I'm not very familiar with the Hulk, though the movie's Bruce Banner made me want to be.

Anyway, it was a fun movie, partly because it never took itself to seriously. Probably my third or fourth favorite comic book movie ever (I'd have to rewatch the Spidermans). But with all the hype around it, I expected another Dark Knight. Instead, I got a superlong Buffy episode. With superheroes. Which is a good thing.

Hmm...superlong Buffy episode with Superheroes SINGING. Hmm. (*Calls Hollywood*).

PS: It's funny how Scarlett Johansson managed to get herself pinned by wreckage in such a way that her butt shows off to best advantage. Curious how falling rubble is selective that way.

There and Back Again

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

May 24, 2012 -- 4:19 A.M.

Not much news. I got back from a trip to Washington D.C. for my younger brother's graduation a few days ago. I'm still recovering from travel and from the fact that I was spending eight to ten hours on my feet every day, which is not something I'm used to. We took my grandmother, who is disabled on a trip, in a wheelchair. It's the first time we've used it, and I gained a whole lot more sympathy for the disabled rights movement. I didn't consider myself particularly unsympathetic before, but I certainly was unaware. To all the conservative articles complaining about small businesses losing money because they had to sand their ramps down an eighth of an inch, I say SCREW YOU. Because sometimes that eighth of an inch matters. There were several times where pedestrians had to stop and help me push my grandmother up a sidewalk because I was literally not strong enough to get her up over a crack. And the steep grades constantly made me afraid that my, err, rather full-bodied grandmother was going to roll over the top of me if I lost my balance. It was nice that so many people were willing to help, or go out of their way to make sure my grandmother had good opportunities. It was a really fun visit. I especially loved the Library of Congress, which had fantastic architecture and some really cool Aztec and Incan artifacts.

The real tragedy of the trip is that, after going through a security checkpoint at one of the Smithsonians, I was looking for a bench to sit down and redo my camera case properly, but I couldn't find one on my level and so I went down the stairs and my camera slipped out.

There are few things so discouraging in life as hearing your thousand-dollar camera going BOINK-BOINK-BOINK down uncarpeted marble stairs. My lens broke, but the camera itself seems okay. I'm pretty sad about it. The lens will probably cost $300 or $400 to replace. You'd think they'd realize the need for benches after security checkpoints.

I'm trying to pick up momentum on my book again after the trip and managed to write 3000 words today, which is something, but I'm finding it hard to find my enthusiasm. The main characters are good, but the side characters are...problematic. I realized that *VAGUE SPOILERS* I'm using a disabled character as a throwaway sacrifice to further an abled character's storyline and one of my other side character's story arcs can be reduced to "you need to accept child abuse because it's for everybody's good!" The trouble is, I intentionally was playing around with tropes here--IE, 'the women who is stuffed into the refrigerator is a man this time' and 'how much free will does a hero who sacrifices himself for the community ala Harry Potter and every other fantasy messiah out there actually have?'--but there's a rough line between undermining/reversing a trope and just feeding into it. Then again, how much time/word space can you devote to every idea? It's tough, really. It's easy to criticize, but a lot harder to produce work that responds thoughtfully to criticism. Over-analysis of one's own work can be quite paralyzing, but I don't see how it's possible to produce something that's high quality in terms of intellectual stimulus without this kind of thought.

I'm hoping all this will iron itself out in the narrative if I just force myself through. I've seen a lot of blog posts offering criticism on works, and authors' responses to criticism, but I've never seen a post by an author about how to write while keeping criticism in mind. Oh, there's the "be more aware," which is all very well, but there has to be some stepping stone between awareness and producing strong work.

I don't really know what to do about it. And I think the "ignore it because someone will be offended no matter what you do" argument is intellectually and morally bankrupt, so that's not good advice.


Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

April 7, 2012 -- 7:56 p.m.

The good news is that I found out what was making me sick. The bad news is that I didn't figure it out soon enough. I got so far behind on homework, I felt like I couldn't make it up and decided that I wasn't happy anyway so I dropped out of my program. I'm too emotionally stressed right now to deal with school.

So what was making me throw up and giving me horrible rashes? It turns out that the oil cap on my engine had come off and soaked everything in oil. Those fumes have been burning intto my car vents and my sinuses every semester. So every time I drove anywhere: to school, to the doctor's, to anywhere, I was making myself sicker without realizing it. It wasn't until I went from fine to throwing up after five minutes on the road that I put two and two together and realized I was only getting sick in my car.

So why didn't I smell the burning fumes? F*** if I know.

It took me longer than it should have to figure it out because I had the flu beforehand, and I managed to skip a period and so when the next one hit, I was swept away in a monthlong tidal wave of blood, stomach cramps, and bits of chunky flesh being puked out of my sensitive areas. So it's not as if I was particularly healthy even outside of the car.

At any rate, I seem to be fine now, and without school, I now have more time to devote on my writing. Which I've naturally frittered away on playing computer games, reading tons of books, and catching up on my podcasts. I saw Hunger Games and thought it was very well done, although they screwed up the bittersweetness of the ending. Woody Harrelson made an excellent Haymitch, and Jennifer Lawrence did with her face what it took Suzanne Collins pages of words to do. Hunger Games is going through the traditional internet joy curve where a bunch of people talk about how awesome it is and then wave two of critics say, "nah, it's not that awesome." But I think it was just about as good as can be expected of any translation from book to screen. And for the people complaining it's not violent enough, I wonder: what movie did you see? Blood spurting everywhere a la HBO's Game of Thrones is much less disturbing than the suggestiveness of the camerawork, which leaves the grisly details up to your imagination.

I would feel better at condemning the idiots who were annoyed at Rue's race if I didn't recognize my own weakness in that area. I didn't catch that Rue was black until the second read through. I'm not sure how much of that can be attributed to 1) the book's tendency to rip you through at thriller speed and not linger on any detail for very long, 2) My own internal tendency to think of every fictional character is like me (white and blonde) unless otherwise noted, 3) Collins' repeated mentions that Rue = Prim, and since Prim = blonde/white, Rue = blonde/white. But I thought the actress playing her was freaking adorable. I wanted to pull her out of the screen and play with her hair. (In a sisterly way! Not in the weird I-wanna-touch-black-people-without-permission way that NK Jeminisin reports some people seem to do at sci-fi conventions)

The other Hunger Games-related kerfuffle is the documentary "Bully" R-rating compared to Hunger Game's PG-13 (how they will be able to keep that rating for books two and three, I don't know). Apparently killing kids is okay, but swearing means "mature only."

Granted, movie ratings have always been on the arbitrary side, but you got to admire Bully's marketers. If they'd bleeped a couple of words and released the movie as it was, it probably would have gone the same way as most documentaries--largely unwatched. But by generating a controversy, they get articles on it everywhere, politicians speak up about it, and it probably ends up with an enlarged audience share. Free publicity is always good.

Am I cynical? Yes. Am I right? Probably.

Hugo Nominees

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

March 11, 2012 -- 7:33 p.m.
I'm still feeling sick. But my scab thingy is gone, at least.

As a member of last year's worldcon, I got to nominate for this year's Hugos. I'm not going to go into all the entries, but if you're looking for a good set of stories to read, here are links to ones I nominated.

The Paper Menagerie, by Ken Liu. A short story about a Chinese mother and her Americanized son's relationship, illustrated with the help of magic origami. Made me bawl like a baby.

Younger Women, by Karen Joy Fowler. A short story that hilariously asks, "Why would a vampire fall for a teenage girl, anyway?" This one is really short so GO. READ. NOW.

The Man Who Ended History, by Ken Liu. Again. The man's a writing machine. He's already got a double-Nebula nomination in two categories, and I can't see how he doesn't get at least two nominations for the Hugo as well. How often does that happen? This novella is another WWII time-travel-ish story (there's that time-sucking nexus again...) but instead of visiting Hitler, this story is about Japanese atrocities, such as the "Asian Auschwitz". It's written in the style of a movie script, which I think is awesome.


Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

March 2, 2012 -- 11:23 p.m.

I'm having a bad day. I failed a midterm. Not surprising really, since the computer deleted five hours of my work and I didn't find out it'd gone missing until a half-hour before the test was due. But still, so frustrating. You can spend thirty hours on a project and still fail...

I had three midterms in the past week and a half. My body is breaking down. My stomach is cramping all the time, and a mysterious, six-inch long scab developed on the underside of my arm. (See the lovely image to the left) Isn't it ucky? It hurts to move my arm. Hurts to type. Ironic, that if I quit school, I lose my medical insurance, but if I continue, I might get sicker if my ailments are due to stress. I don't know if they are. Probably. And the sicker I get, the further and further I get behind...

Happy thoughts. The semester is almost over, and then it's summer break and maybe I won't have to constantly be disappointed in myself. Happy thoughts.

Mathematical Representation of a Good First Chapter

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

February 13, 2012 -- 2:28 p.m.

I ditched homework and went to LTUE this weekend. It might have been a mistake for my GPA (I completely failed to put together proper spider charts for my linear programming class) but it was still fun. Mostly, I listened to authors reading excerpts from their work because I thought the opportunity to network with other authors in a less-crowded format would be a better career investment than hearing more from panelists that may or may not be specific to me as an individual.

The highlight of the reading for me was, surprisingly, hearing Natalie Whipple's excerpt from her upcoming YA book, Transparent. Very good stuff. I liked the other excerpts I heard, but for some reason, this one just hit all my buttons. Maybe it was the mention of having chocolate-smelling breath as a super-powered mutation :)

I sat down afterward and tried to figure out why it engaged my interest. Usually, when I read the opening of a book I like, I've had it in front of me so I can point to specific paragraphs I like. But Transparent isn't due out until 2013, so I couldn't do that. But in a way, that makes things better, because certain things stuck out in my memory, making it VERY clear what hooked me.

Since I was also focused on my upcoming data analysis (statistics) midterm, I automatically created an interest equation that represents my own personal hook regression. In other words, this is the mathematical representation of whether the first chapter of a book hooks me or not. Pretend that I know how to make blogger do Greek letters coefficients:

B1symapthiccharacter+B2UpFrontConflict+B3CoolSettingDetails + u = Y

Where Y is a dependent variable (outcome) which equals my own personal hooked-ness. If you want, you can record it as a binary with a 1 of hooked and 0 of non-hooked, or you can just consider it a continuous number with the higher outcomes equaling greater hookedness.

OR, in less math-speak: having a high Y is good for a book. And the higher the factors inside the equation, the higher the Y.

Let's break down the independent variables one by one.

1) The sympathetic character variable. It's an index made up (roughly) of the following components. Everyone's personal sympathetic character index will assign different weights to each part of the index, but I think, in general, each person will have a significant number of the following factors involved in their unconscious enjoyment of a character:

a. Competence at something cool (in this case, robbing stuff while being invisible). Note: if the character is incompetent/unintelligent, this will end up being the only negative number in the index, since all other variables are strictly positive/zero. And what is one negative number multiplied by x positive numbers? A negative number! In non-math speak, it doesn't matter how awesome your character is in all other qualities, if she's stupid or incapable, I will have a low Y. In fact, I will end up hating the book MORE the higher the other numbers. An author will actually be worse off if an otherwise awesome character is incompetent than if a mediocre character is mediocre.

b. Character's "outsider" quotient. This includes the character's is emotional/unusual physical pain and their relationship to society and its authority figures. So, characters who don't fit in well will generate more sympathy.

c. Character's sex. While I first thought about this as a binary o=male, 1=female variable, I realized that, in reality, it's going to be an index of feminity/masculinity with characters that fall into the masculine stereotype being harder for me to sympathize with. This indicator may be reversed for male readers, esp. if they're into action novels. I strongly suspect that my own personal utility equation involves a positive interactive variable of female*competence, which means the effect of female competence is drastically higher than the components of either femaleness or competency on their own terms.

Other components of the index that weren't as present in Transparency's case (or at least not in as great quantities) but would definitely add to my enjoyment:

d. Character's sense of humor (This was minimally present in the reference of chocolate breath as a super-power).

f. Character's "sameness" w/ reader's self (i.e., how much is this character like me? Is she a bookworm? A gamer? A math geek? I guess there was a little of this going on, but it mostly is absorbed by the "outsider" variable.)

g. Some mystery about character or their history. (Again, I don't think there was much of that here, except that I wondered about the scientific rationale for turning invisible.)

So, those are the factors that go into the sympathetic character index. The variable UpfrontConflict is less complicated. In this case, the conflict was twofold:

1) The first chapter involved a robbery, which included conflict with the people being robbed.

2) The chapter hinted at future conflict w/ the character's father--a promise fulfilled later in the excerpt when the father uses his own superpower to manipulate the protagonist into doing something she didn't want to do.

Probably, the variables should be separated out into internal and external conflicts, but I don't necessarily think the coefficients would have any statistically significant difference from one other, and most of the time, a good author will layer both into the same situation. This would make it hard to detect whether one or the other would be sufficient on its own, because in books where you only have one or the other, you are also likely to have a confounder present (the dreaded variable BADWRITING). Hmm, could you strip that out with some sort of instrumental variable? I'll have to think about that.

The third and final factor going into the overall equation is Cool Setting Details. This is pretty self-explanatory. This is what draws me to genre work. Maybe other people read for the characters, but I'm all: "Give me more about the evolutionary history of that man-eating shrub you mentioned on page 41, BITCHES."

I also think this variable is what distinguishes the medium-level-novice from the expert-level-novice, both of whom are in the pre-published, larval state. People who are past the beginner-novice stage can usually create characters who tick off some of the traits on the character interest index in their first chapter, as well as produce some kind of conflict. But very frequently, they forget the setting details that make me hunger to read more. In other worlds, the intermediate novice will begin their book with a fight scene using an outsider character that has a sympathy-inducing DARK and TRAGIC past. But the focus of the scene will be on the sword-fight, which will be generic enough that it could appear in any book from Conan to Game of Thrones, with a little tweaking.

So, in other words, great sympathetic characters + conflict + good setting details=great hook.