A way to write more productively – and it works!

My dog - just one of many distractions

My dog – just one of many distractions :)

I love January the first.  It’s symbolic of a new start, and a chance to put everything right.  I love that feeling of de-cluttering.

One of the things I want to do better this year – in fact the main thing – is to write more, and write more productively.  I had two contemporary romances published last year, but I need to up my productivity if I am to have any chance at all of succeeding in the world of commercial fiction.

So why am I not getting as much writing done as I should?

Well, one of the things that took up my time last year was learning the ropes, by which I mean setting up a Facebook page; attracting visitors; setting up my Twitter account; learning about other romance bloggers out there; the world of self-publishing; the various agents and publishing houses, and reading round current romances.  In fact, the list of what I’ve learned in a year is pretty long, so I try not to berate myself too much.

Like I said, this year’s a fresh start, and I’m making a fresh attempt at organising my time, which so far, amazingly, seems to be working well.  Hoorah!

So what am I doing new?  Well, I’d heard the Pomodoro technique recommended, and decided to start the new year by giving it a try.  In case you haven’t heard of the Pomodoro technique, this is basically how it works.

Pomodoro is the Italian for tomato, and the technique is named after the tomato shaped kitchen timer used by Francesco Cirillo, who invented the technique.  What you have to do is break your work down into intervals, usually 25 minutes in length.  When your timer goes off, you take a five minute break.  Each 25 minutes = one pomodoro.  When you’ve done four pomodori, you take a longer interval of 15-30 minutes.

I don’t have a tomato shaped timer (maybe next year’s Christmas present!) so I use this online countdown timer instead.

The technique is designed to a) force you to work the allotted time without distraction and b) take frequent short breaks, to increase your mental agility.

So, does it work? Well, I’ve only been using the technique since the start of January, but already I’ve seen an improvement.  One

the pomodora technique, helena fairfax

At last, a five minute break!

problem I had with writing was that when I was stuck on something I would click online for a few minutes until inspiration struck.  Of course the minutes ticked over, I got sucked into things, inspiration was blocked and my writing problem never got resolved.

Now when I’m stuck I stare out of the window.  My mind goes a blank.  I feel the clock ticking against me, and I carry on writing my way out of a hole, with whatever comes to mind.  I may have to go back and scrub this out, but more often than not the writing leads eventually to inspiration.

Another thing I’ve noticed since starting this technique is that I find editing and rewriting a lot more mentally taxing than writing the first draft.  I want everything to be “right” when I rewrite, and it takes a lot of mental effort.  So now I write my first drafts first thing in the morning, which isn’t my best time of day, and it’s when I feel most tired.  Then Ire-read and re-write in the afternoon, when I feel more alert.  I very much enjoy all the editing and rewrites, and the Pomodoro technique, with its short breaks, helps keep my mind fresh.

How about you?  Do you have any useful tips on writing more productively?  Or any New Year’s resolutions? If so I’d love to hear them!

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29 thoughts on “A way to write more productively – and it works!

  1. Motivating post! I’m also guilty of clicking around when I get stuck at some point I have to research, and then I get entrapped in the sticky web. I’ve learned I have to discipline myself to keep to allotted times for research.

  2. Helena, the Pomodoro technique is a great idea! After I submit the my second Kay Driscoll mystery next week I will use this technique of a timer working on my third mystery.

    I need to be more disciplined. Not knowing what the technique was called, I have written this way for assignments in writing classes. This will make writing much more productive.

    This blog was exactly what I needed! Thank you, Helena.

    Curl up with a killer – Cozy Mysteries
    The Ginseng Conspiracy by Susan Bernhardt
    http://www.susanbernhardt.com

  3. Great post for the new year, Helena. Funnily enough I’ve been reading a lot about giving ourselves a certain amount of time and I’ve started using the little timer my husband bought me a couple of years ago so I didn’t forget when I’d put things in the oven! Now have a better use for it.

  4. This sounds like a good technique. My question is, if the words are flowing beautifully or the creative juices have kicked in, do you still stop to take a break? I like the idea, because too often, I sit too long and suffer the aches and pains afterward. I will definitely do this if it means I can have a break and enjoy chocolate every 25 minutes!! LOL..

    • That’s a good question, JQ! I suppose everyone has a different way of handling it. If there’s something I’m burning to get down I carry on for a few minutes after the timer, but not too long. I hope the technique helps with the aches and pains, as well as the writing! Thanks for coming!

  5. Glad to know you’ve found something that works for you, Helena. I so agree with the need to be more productive. I sold two books last year, but only one came out. I’m expecting to up that this year. But goodness, I’m really slow with all the emails, FB and Tweeting. Between several loops I had over 500 emails while I did Line Edits 2.
    There are blogs I like to stop in at (Yours being one. :)) and it’s just hard to get to everything.
    I’ve thought about the timer thing, Didn’t know there was an official name. I’ll be using it to limit the time on line first thing in the morning. Then I’ll move to any writing/editing project. Go back in the late afternoon for a time to the Emails and SM. Gosh and then there’s just normal life things, like showering, grocery shopping, and making the bed. LOL
    Thanks for sharing this darling picture of your pooch!

    • Hi Marsha, The timer is perfect if you have a lot of different tasks. That way you concentrate on one, without flitting.
      I feel more productive, but still have to watch for my mind wandering. My mind just loves not to do any work :(
      Thanks for your comment, and good luck with your writing in 2014!

  6. Good article!
    My debut romance novel, Lost Betrayal, is coming out with Solstice this year. It took me 10 years!

    One thing I started doing that worked for me and really sped up the writing process was to start skipping parts that gave me writers block. Instead of waiting for the words to come or trying to struggle through it, I just type ON HOLD (red ink) and skip to the next section that I feel inspired to write. If I have ideas or notes, I’ll type those in but I don’t spend any effort or time on it and move on to something that I am ready to write.

    What happens is that while I’m busy doing anything from driving to work to cleaning horse stalls I’ll start to think about that section of the book. I think of it as multi-tasking! Then the next thing you know, the words will come.

    Congrats on your books, and for figuring out what works for you. Thanks for sharing!

    F.J. Thomas
    (also on twitter

    • Thanks for your comment and your tip, and congratulations on the release of your debut romance! What an exciting year :) You must have found the method that works for you. I hope you continue to write many more novels. Thanks very much for coming!

    • Hi Darla, thanks for coming by! I checked out your tips. You’re very disciplined – good for you! Wishing you much success with your writing. I hope you’ll come back and let us know how you are getting on. Good luck!

      • My plan is very disciplined, I’m a great planner and list maker. However, life usually steps in a deviates me from it in some way or another. I use it more as a guideline most days unfortunately then a concrete schedule :-)

  7. I’m late catching up on emails. I do something similar without the timer. It’s an awesome idea, Helena, and will help you stay accountable to your goals. Best of luck! Let us know how it works for you as the year progresses.

  8. Hi Darla, I think that’s a good idea to use your plan as a guideline. Things often interfere that we have no control over – even with the best intentions! Sometimes trying to stick to a rigid plan can be stressful. I think you’ve thought everything through in a good way. Good luck!

  9. Pingback: Facing my fear of writing | Julie Stock - My Writing Life

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