If like me and you have looked up various ways on how to better your writing routine, you may have come across the Pomodoro Technique. The Pomodoro Technique is a method supposedly to help you focus and manage your time better. Don’t be fooled by its unusual name (based off of the tomato shaped Pomodoro kitchen timer), it’s a simple seven step program that has been adopted by many apps, industries and professionals.
If you haven’t heard of this method before, here it is in it’s simplest form:
- Choose a task
- Set a timer, the default being 25 minutes
- Work for 25 minutes (or time specified)
- Stop working when time is up, mentally or on a piece of paper checking off a session
- Take a short break (traditionally 5 minutes)
- Set the timer again
- After four Pomodoros take a longer break (around 30 minutes)
The technique is popular because it is highly customisable. If you are someone who works better with longer sprints increase your work time from 25 minutes to 45. If you prefer longer breaks that are more rewarding, change your break time from 5 minutes to 20, increasing your bigger break to an hour.
Setting the Timer
As a major procrastinator I was relieved to find such a technique focusing on resting as it was on working. Although those breaks would be short, I hoped that it would help me focus more by dividing up my writing sessions. So I downloaded an app and off I went following the steps as they were originally designed.
My task: Write 2000 words
Work time: 25 minutes
Short break time: 5 minutes
Long break time: 30 minutes
It worked… Then it didn’t.
For my first Pomodoros it worked. I set my task, I followed the steps, I completed my tasks adding to my word count and feeling happy with my progress. I even adapted the technique for cleaning (I never did understand those who like dusting around the house). However, as the novelty wore off so did my work ethic.
I faced the truth that my biggest issue isn’t finishing a sprint. It’s starting one. The phrase ‘starting is the hardest part’ has never been truer than when it is directed at me. When I’m on a sprint I could go for hours, but to start has to see me make several reasons why I shouldn’t.
“I should eat first.”
“It’s 10:42, I’ll start at 11:00.”
“I can catch up on words tomorrow.”
“It’s 11:02, I’ll start at 12:00.”
I knew the excuses were just that, excuses. Yet it stopped me from completing the goals I set up and the technique isn’t so effective if you don’t start the timer.
Although the Pomodoro Technique may not have worked as well as expected it did teach me a lot about what works for me. In fact I have adapted the Pomodoro Technique in my own workings in a way. I still struggle with starting especially after a long day at work but I know when I do I can sit comfortably for a least two hours and write.
I can write around 1,000 words per the hour. If I plan for more than 2,000 words in a day, I work for two hours and then take a break for an hour, ready to come back and work again. Sometimes it doesn’t always work that way as I have to force myself to start again, but the technique is adaptable. Plus I still use it for cleaning.
What I’m anxious about NaNoWriMo the most is time. There’s not enough of it. I work full time and get home later than I’d like so secretly writing at my desk on the slow days and pumping my body full of caffeine at nights seems to be the way to go. I have planned the amount I will write each day in the calendar you see at the top (there’s a link to print the calendar off for yourself at the bottom). There can be no excuses for going under but I will never stop myself from going over! I’ve always found that when I’m in a scene writing comes naturally, it’s the beginning that is the hardest part. I wrote about this in my previous post. Stopping in the middle of action instead of at the end usually helps me to re-enter the world quicker, so that is how I plan to finish each day.
I won’t be starting from scratch like a lot of NaNoWriMo writes, instead I will be starting at around 20,000 words. At the end of November, I hope to be at 70,000 words or more with another 15,000 words to go to reach my 85,000-word goal. phew. I’m hoping that the month of November can get me into a routine. For December is a crazy month, I’ll be going home for Christmas and there’s a lot of distraction there. If I can keep the same pace I will (hopefully) have for November however, I should be able to reach my goal (and finish my first draft) by the middle of the month. In time to step back, bask in the Christmas break and then come back and really chop my WIP up.
Although haunted by my anxious demons, I have some excited puppies nipping at their heels. The truth is, I’m in love with this story. I really need to write this book. Ideas about the world, the politics, my lovable main character, her silly sidekicks form in my mind daily. I need to share them with people. I already have the tweets in my head that I can share when it’s published, isn’t that the most important reason for it to get written. Think of the tweets! As well as the fact that I’m already thinking of the second book.
Adding to my word count daily on NaNoWriMo, sending it to my team lead on #revpit, seeing the progress bar fill up at the top of this website. That will be a great accomplishment at the end of every day/week. Also, I’m excited to participate in the community even when they do struggle and curse the gods of writer’s block. We can do that together.
I’m Ready to Go
✔ My calendar is all ready
✔ Don’t look back at what you’ve written just head forwards
✔ Stop in the middle of the action to help with writer’s block
My outline is done, the beginning is already written, I have tips on what I know work and what doesn’t. I’m ready to go. I’ve scribbled and pondered about this story for so long that I can’t wait to see it written on the page. This will also be my first time participating in any writing event. I’ve got your backs, fellow writers. Let’s do this.
Psst if you want the calendar you see at the top, click here.
Starting is the hardest part
I have started my book a total of six times. Sometimes I tweak a detail or two, other times they are complete re-writes. Even after I did a brief outline and was so excited that I could see the main plot points, the beginning was still so hard to write. Now I have my beginning, I don’t know what took me so long. Words spewed onto the page, I really understood those people who said: “I let my characters steer the scene”. A lot of the scenes that led from that beginning weren’t in my outline but added so much depth to my main character. Happy with the progress I made, I stopped writing for the day, but when I tried to begin again, I struggled.
The momentum I felt before had gone, I re-read what I wrote and waited for my characters to speak. After a while of looking back and forth between my writing and my outline, ideas sparked. I then realised that it wasn’t starting a book that was hard, it was starting in general. I try and force ideas when really only my best emerge as I immerse myself into a scene and because I don’t have a lot of time during the day to write, this can be difficult. To try and conquer this I’ve tried to stop writing in the middle of an idea when the action is still happening. This way when I come back to write it gets me back into the scene quicker. It’s not 100% guaranteed, but it definitely works better than the ‘stop and start’ technique.
Don’t look back
When it comes to first drafts you kind of have to accept that it’s not going to be perfect. So don’t make it perfect. When I started, I used to study each paragraph, again and again, it slowed me down tremendously. I am planning to do NaNoWriMo this November, an event where you’re tasked with writing 50,000 words in a month. When you have that many words to write, with so little time, you just have to continue forward. You may hate what you’ve written, don’t think it works but this draft isn’t the place to re-work. Your first draft should just be the basis of your story. You have the second, third, fourth, fifth draft to make it perfect.
Be open to change
Now, this point is a bit more personal. If you’re a hard-core plotter who needs to stick to an outline you may not relate, but as the other points suggest I’m not. Your story is going to take you in a million directions, let it. Again the first draft isn’t to be perfect. If your story opens up an avenue that you didn’t think of before don’t be afraid to explore possibilities. My current work-in-progress is miles away from what I thought it was going to be and I don’t love it any less. Things may not plan out the way you want them to, you may have to cut some of your favourite scenes to fit the narrative but don’t see this as a negative. Everything you’re doing is strengthening your work in a way you couldn’t have possibly of planned for.
Have you ever been stuck in that cycle of life? You know the one, you’re busy every day but you feel like you’re not doing anything. Wake up, go to work, come home, eat, sleep, repeat. Well, that was the cycle I was falling in to and as someone who’s recently left university, it was pretty depressing. I mean my job’s great, the people there are supportive and I couldn’t ask for a better boss, but something was missing.
I am constantly attacked by ideas, every day. Especially with new characters fighting for my attention.
I have maladaptive daydreaming, which for those who don’t know in the easiest explanation is daydreaming to the extreme. It’s daydreaming but incredibly vivid, I literally smell scents that are not there, taste flavours I’m imagining and feel the emotions of my characters (which can become quite embarrassing when you start randomly laughing like an idiot on a public bus). However unlike something of schizophrenia you know that none of it is real. But it can also make it hard to concentrate, I have always had a low attention span, spending my time in the make-believe.
Anyway, I was stuck in my cycle and as a newbie to the world of Twitter I was scrolling through just before bed and found someone talking about books. As someone who loves stories (re. above) my interest was peaked and at the end of their tweet was #amquerying. Having no idea what this was but assuming (correctly) it was to do with books, I clicked and was transported into a world I didn’t know existed.
Writers encouraging others, agents giving tips and of course the troll or two but hey it’s the internet nothing’s perfect. More importantly, I learnt what a query was and was fascinated. I want to take a pause here to highly recommend the hashtag. If you’re wanting to write or in the middle of writing you need to look it up. A lot of advice that is on there is about why a book is rejected for publication. It’s true a lot of the time a book is rejected due to personal reasons, so the agent just isn’t in love with the plot, characters etc. but you also have agents that tell of writing mistakes or of things that are frowned upon in the professional world. Let’s be honest you want to know this stuff before you write, so go scrolling.
Back to the story, so I found #amquerying, scrolled and thought: ‘wait, to publish a book all you just have to send a query to an agent… really?‘ No, not really, there’s a lot more work than that. Yet, ideally you could become a published author without having to spend a scrap of money. Which is great, because I am dirt poor. The only thing you need to give up is your time, which hello, stuck in a cycle, bombarded by stories. I had nothing to lose… except my sanity, but please, the hope for that was long gone.
I was ready… well nearly ready I still needed to think of a story. I knew fantasy was my strong suit, it’s what I used to love writing, it’s what I’m thinking about daily, but those stories that had followed me throughout my life just didn’t work. Some were too personal, I would be writing a part of my life. The others just didn’t translate well to the page. I was lost. But like all great ideas, the best come when you’re not trying.
I was in the middle of my pizza, a slice at the tip of my tongue when the idea struck. A choir materialised in the room, halleluja bouncing around the walls. The rain that was hammering on my windows moments before was replaced by a dazzling light. White doves perched on my windowsill… Okay none of that happened but I did have a brilliant idea, a story I was so excited to share.
I don’t want to reveal too much (no spoilers here) but it mixes folktale with mythology (huge respect to anyone who posts on #FolkloreThursdays) bringing fun, magic, wacky characters and a touch of humour. I introduce to you The Legend of Fable: A Hero Forgotten. Halleluja halleluja. It will have several languages (I’ll write a blog about it), the map has been created (I’ll write a blog about it) and with different races comes dreaded politics (I’ll write a blog about it). I plan to jot down my processes, my challenges and successes.
I also have another story idea that I’m in love with but I think will be hard to get published because of the religious connotations. What can I say the devil is the main star. It’ll be called Samael. I’ll be writing that story, part by part on the blog. Part one I plan to post on 19th October (I still need to do a rough outline).
On that note send a prayer my way, I know this is going to be a bumpy ride.