In the end, I think my last post begins to ask "at what point do we say 'I've made progress on this project'," is it when you've written a given number of words or pages? Is progress measured by units of meaning (ie. paragraphs, chapters, or sections)?
I'm not sure that there's a great answer to this quandary, and I think that the social scientist inside of me gets a little too giddy at the prospect of thinking about the possibilities and challenges of various metrics.
One thing that I've been doing recently is using subversion or SVN to manage basically all my files.
Subversion is a program that, mostly programers, use to track and organize code incrementally as it develops. This is important because if a programer is working on fixing a problem, of connecting, say widget a to command b without needing script c, and then later decides that they liked script C better than anything they come up with, they have a back up of the earlier program. With a program like subversion, one or two commands and everything is back to the way it was.
Now, if there are even two or three programers ("writers") working on the same project, you can imagine how being able to track who has added what and when on a really atomic level, can be really powerful.
One of my problems with backup is that I would always backup files and then six months hence when I actually needed something that was backed-up, I wouldn't have a clue where what I needed was. Or worse, I'd know what the file was called, but I'd have four versions of it, and none were the right version. SVN fixes this.
But this creates another possible marker of progress: the commit. Every-time you send in your files to the subversion repository it's called a commit. Commits are all numbered (and dated, and tracked with a message describing what is contained in the commit). So in a vague way you can sort of see how much work is getting done by tracking the number of commits. It's certainly not foolproof, but I have had weeks and weeks where I've done maybe 10 commits total, and weeks like today when I'm averaging like 4 commits a day. I dunno. I mean it's not perfect, but it does reflect my state of mind. I don't tend to do a commit unless I think I've crossed some threshold of accomplishment.
That's worth something.
I'll post more at some point about this system, because unlike previous data organization systems, it doesn't ware out or go stale. I like that. But right now I'm going to go write something interesting or else you're all going to run away in boredom, and we can't be having that.
Onward and Upward!