I see many different authors righting about the progress of their novel but I know there are so many different ways to determine how your progress is going. I know some authors use mathematics based on word count and previous writings to know how long their current work is going to be and how far into they are, but then others do it based on number of chapters and others base it on an outline of ideas they want to incorporate into their novel. There is good sides and bad sides to each one of these methods.
With the word count you can use an exact percentage of when you are going to be done and it gives you a good place of what market your book can jump into once you are done. For example, for a romance novel you probably don’t want to be writing something that is 300,000 words, heck most first time authors should not be writing something that long. But if you want to work your way into epics say in fantasy around 100K to 200K words is probably a lot more reasonable and for romance probably around 80,000 words. However, what if your story also ends completely at 80,000 words or you find you need 30,000 words more to complete it? Are you going to sit there at 80,000 words and flush out your story so much that the detail will become overwhelming? or are you going to stop 30,000 words short to keep it within the boundaries of the parameters that you made for yourself, probably not. So even though you use math to try to determine your progress it might not always be accurate.
With doing a chapter number it is pretty much the same with the word count in the way with mathematics. It is still more a math formula for trying to figure out how many chapters you use based on other stories or other books that they have read and similar writing style. However, if you want only 18 chapters but you find that you really need 30 to complete your whole idea are you going to make too jam packed chapters that the story no longer flows or the same problem you wanted 30 chapters but now you only have 18 are you going to make your story more choppy so that it is longer or you have the number of chapters you want. Some novels I read have one page chapters, and that is fine if they have a complete thought, but you don’t want all of your chapters to be that short potentially because you wanted the number of chapters. The problem is basing your count again based on a set number is hard because again it is not always accurate but it is also on both of them judgement of what you want to write. You can have a good judge of how long your novel or novella is going to be without having to set specific boundaries of how many words, and you can determine how many scenes there are going to be.
Again with doing an outline you don’t have the math of really doing how many words you want but you have the view of the progress of the ideas you have on your outline and what you want to incorporate into your story and check them off as you go. It is great because you make sure you get everything you really wanted into the story you are writing but I also know of a lot of people who don’t always write their book based on a strict guideline of an outline. An outline being more fluid and being able to change when you get that moment of inspiration. The ability to change something mid-way through the story to add to more suspense or a different chain of events. If that happens you would have to rework your whole outline, which is fine, if you have also another way to calculate your progress.
Which brings me to my final point, all of these ideas are fine by themselves but all have big flaws within in them. One by itself is just not enough. I believe that to make sure everything works out the best way for your progress is really to use at least two of these methods. I think it is great to have an outline to see your progress and adjust either one according to what you would like your end goal to be. Example being word count and outline, if you get a great idea and want to change your outline you can also adjust the word count to either be smaller or larger to incorporate more things in your story.
Those are my thoughts anyways, and I would love to hear what you do to keep progress of your “Work in Progress.”