For the past twenty years I've considered myself a full-time writer, and for over fifteen years I have been using a writing log. I designed the template long ago, and run off copies for each book I write. (I like calendars and logs in paper, but others do this electronically.) Here's a blank one.
When setting daily goals or weekly goals, I used to estimate pages a day or pages a week. Now I'm setting my goals in words. For me, writing 1,000 words a day is pretty easy. So a weekly goal of 5,000 words is easily doable and gives me days off.When estimating my weekly goal I take into account scheduled visits to the doctor or to the beauty shop--and since my husband retired, I account for our frequent trips.
I try to set realistic yet challenging goals, and I have learned that I work best now by giving myself a weekly goal. Each writing week starts with Monday. If I reach my weekly goal before Friday, I give myself three days off from writing.
One of the tricks I use is estimating at the outset of a book how many writing weeks--and logs--I will need. Then I print exactly that amount of logs and staple them together. Out of the approximate 25 books I've logged, I have only miscalculated twice. The first time I miscalculated was with a novella I estimated I could write in three weeks. I printed off three logs. That's 21 writing days. I ought to be able to write a 20,000-word novella in three weeks. But I didn't. I had to run off another page. Then another one.
Because my mouse pad is to the right of my keyboard, my log sits to the left. Because I'm right handed, when I scribble page counts and word counts onto my log, my handwriting slants peculiarly. Here's a copy of a recent log when I exceeded my goal and gave myself three days off--and a gold star!
At the end of a book, I punch holes in the logs and file them in a large, three-ring notebook with its own divider with the book's title. That way I can go back for more than 15 years and see exactly how long it took to write a particular book.
The disheartening thing about comparing the logs on today's books to those written at the beginning of the millennium is that I used to be almost twice as productive. Of course there was no social media, and I wasn't on a fraction of the email loops I'm on today. Which makes me wonder which was best. . . Cheryl Bolen's next Regency release will be Miss Hastings' Excellent London Adventure, a Brazen Brides novel.