How I Write: The Trick is to Keep Writing
New Writers Awardee in Children's and Young Adult Fiction, Michael Richardson, has three tips for getting writing, keeping up the flow, and how he brings a story out of his hand-written notes.
Thinking out loud
I do my best writing on paper. For me, there’s something tactile about writing on paper.
Only when I’ve written something in my notebook - and gone over it a couple of times, taken bits out and put bits in and rewritten it a couple of times, this time with a drawing of one of my characters chasing another down the lefthand margin - am I able to write it up.
For me, this process - scenes written haphazardly, out of sync, snippets of character and drawings of settings - is about thinking out loud. It’s my way of conquering that fear of the blank page by allowing myself to be messy and make mistakes and get things wrong.
The Snowflake Method
Once I’ve given myself time to think out loud - in my notebooks - I start writing things up ‘in neat’, which means getting everything onto my laptop. Sometimes it means going back to the drawing board, and for that, I use the Snowflake Method. Developed by the improbably-named Randy Ingermanson, the Snowflake Method is about starting with the bare bones of your story - literally a one liner that tells us the who, what and when - and gradually building from there. Once you’ve got the one liner, you build to a paragraph; then three paragraphs, reflecting your beginning, middle and end. Eventually, you end up with a detailed outline and, ultimately, you end up with a fleshed-out first draft.
Using this method helps me put all of the work I’ve done in my notebooks in order. My own process is messy and non-linear. The Snowflake Method is ordered and methodical. Somehow, we meet in the middle.
The Pomodoro Technique
Developed by Francesco Cirillo in the 80s, the Pomodoro technique - named after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer that Franky C used when he was a university student - is based on the idea that frequent breaks can improve mental agility. You set a timer for 20 minutes, then work like billy-oh throughout those twenty minutes. When those twenty minutes are up - no matter where you are - you stop and take a 10 minute break.
Sometimes I set myself a goal for the twenty minutes - a word count, or a scene, or a thought process; usually I don’t. Half the battle of writing is getting words down on the page. The Pomodoro technique means I don’t stop and go back and check what I’ve done. I don’t have time.
The Pomodoro technique is something I’ve learned to use to make writing a game, where the goal is to do as many ‘turns’ as I can in a day. I always aim to do at least two ‘turns’ a day, and I haven’t broken my streak since June.
I’ve almost finished my novel.