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
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!