Writing with tomatoes

Tomato kitchen timer

It’s November 1, which means NaNoWriMo has started, and I’ve had to bite the bullet and begin my new novel. I’m now remembering all the reasons I both love and hate writing the first draft. I love it because it’s really exciting watching a story unfold before you – seeing the characters develop in unexpected ways and it going places you never envisaged. But I hate it because I can’t help feeling I don’t know what I’m doing – I have a vague idea about the beginning and the end but the middle is a big blank at the moment and that’s a bit scary.

I’ve decided to try a couple of new things this time around. The first is using Scrivener, a word-processing program designed for large writing projects like novels, which lets you draft your manuscript scene by scene, play with the structure and integrate all your research files. It also has full-screen mode, which lets you block out everything else on your desktop and just concentrate on writing, and in-built links to research tools like Google and Wikipedia (it also does a lot of other things, so it’s worth having a look at their website). Given the ridiculous number of MS Word files I had for Greythorne, I’ll be interested to see how well Scrivener’s integrated approach works for me.

The second thing I’m trialling is a time-management method called the Pomodoro Technique (so called because its inventor based it on a tomato-shaped kitchen timer like the one pictured above). The idea is that you write in 25-minute blocks called ‘pomodoros’, with short (3-5 minute) breaks in between, and a longer (15 minute) break after 4 pomodoros. You can either use a traditional manual timer or one of the many apps available for smartphones (which also time the breaks). The idea is that you’re more mentally agile if you take regular breaks. I haven’t been using it long, but I find that it’s easier psychologically in that I feel like I only have to concentrate for 25 minutes. So even if I’m planning a 2-hour writing session, it’s broken into manageable chunks. My aim while doing NaNoWriMo is to write from 6.30-8.30am every morning (after which I have to go to work), which is roughly 4 pomodoros. To complete 50,000 words during November you have to write 1,667 words a day, so we’ll see if the Pomodoro Technique can hold me to it! I’ll update you next week and let you know how it’s going…

What are your favourite methods for encouraging you to write?

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