I’ve been a long time fan of the Pomodoro Method.
The idea is to set a timer (usually for 25 minutes) and do nothing but write. No editing, no social media, no texting. Fingers to keyboard the entire time, shutting out all other distractions.
Personally, I listen to music only while writing; when I put my headphones on, it helps me to sink into the headspace.
After the first 25 minutes, I can take a break for 5 minutes to stretch my legs. Then I sit down and write for another 25.
I usually do six to eight of these per day, resulting in around 10,000 words written per day. That’s it; just 3 to 4 hours, and I’m done.
That said, it only works when writing fiction. Anything that requires research during this time is more work intensive, so I don’t use the Pomodoro method during that style of work.
It improves my efficiency and writing speed. A few days ago, I was averaging around 1,300 words per 25 minute session. Yesterday, I was averaging 1,550 per session.
So far today, I’ve hit 1,781 per session.
I’ve spent some time researching typing speed, hand placement, and much more. As I’ve made conscious improvements to my typing style, I’ve become aware of mistakes that slow that speed down; for instance, backspacing. It’s better to keep going.
My goal is to eventually reach 2,000 words per 25 minute session. 4,000 words an hour.
For the average 75,000 word novel, that’s only 18.75 hours of work. Less than a day.
Not that I’d recommend attempting to write an entire novel in less than 24 hours; the most I’ve managed is somewhere around 21,000 words in a single day, and that was spread across several different projects. My hands ached for several days after.
The Value of Outlining
One important caveat relating to my writing style is that I outline. I’m not a pantser; if I had to think of what happened next with each sentence I wrote, I’d never get anything done. My speed would be significantly reduced.
By spending several hours outlining the novel, I decided what events happen when and how each part of the narrative puzzle falls into place. It provides a roadmap with which to write the rest of the book.
If you outline thoroughly enough, writing the novel becomes a matter of filling in the blank more than writing something brand new. That makes it possible to write much more quickly than it would be otherwise.
Now, before those of you reel back in horror at the thought of outlining a novel, think about it. I once hated outlining. I never did took the time to outline anything. But it helps in ways that cannot be stressed enough.
Contrary to my beliefs, it didn’t limit my creativity or stifle the direction of the novel. As events and scenes revealed themselves, I was able to weave them into the book or decide if perhaps that wouldn’t be better left for a sequel. I had a map, after all.
I feel like a scientist.
Not really. If I’m a scientist, it’s the one from Robot Chicken shouting, “It lives!”
But I’ve begun taking meticulous notes on my WPM, as well as the distractions during the time I’m writing. Full disclosure: if I discover that a chapter doesn’t have enough outlined content before I begin writing, I’ll spend a bit more than 5 minutes sitting and deciding what to do before I start the timer.
I hope to discover what optimizes my personal productivity and eventually reach faster speeds than I ever have before. I have a sneaking suspicion that a mechanical touch keyboard would speed things up over the well-used Macbook Pro I currently write on. Perhaps a keyboard rejuvenation would help (is that a thing?)
If I discover the key to writing 20,000 words per day, I may actually be able to write all of the stories I have floating in my head.