On Friday, January 11th this year I did something I’ve never done before and doubt I will ever do again. I wrote 10,000 words in one day. The last time I performed anywhere like that was in 1994, the night before I had to hand in my MA dissertation. I think I wrote about 6000 words back then, fuelled by fear, coffee and the all-nighter mentality that a 25-year-old can frequently muster.

Last month, though, I wasn’t under any kind of pressure. I’m currently writing two novels – one, a commission with a July deadline, the other just a ‘me’ project with no contract or publisher attached. The only deadline it has is the one I impose upon it. I’d like to get it done by my birthday, though, on March 29th. So far, the commissioned novel (Project Eyeshine) is 40,000 words in and Project Bayonet, which has occupied me off and on for the past couple of years, is 63,000 words and counting. I had written a thousand words by lunchtime on Bayonet, and decided to switch my attention to Eyeshine. I knew what I wanted to write, so I knuckled down with the headphones on (Hans Zimmer’s excellent Batman soundtracks, if you must know), the internet off and a little app called Pomodoro ticking away. By 5pm, four-and-a-half hours later, I raised my weary head to find I had written 8000 words. Before bed, having rallied, I wrote another thousand on Bayonet, which took me over the magical 10K mark…

I wouldn’t necessarily encourage you to follow my lead. I was shattered by the end, and knew that much of what I’d written would need some tough editing, but if you do fancy having a crack at a big writing day I’d urge you to do the following:

  • Make sure you have two or three chapters planned out: know where you’re taking the story.
  • Find yourself a big block of time and insist that you aren’t disturbed.
  • Use an app such as Freedom to lock you out of the internet (or switch off your network connection and don’t give in to the temptation to switch it back on…).
  • Use the Pomodoro technique as a way of blitzing through your work: 25 minutes of hard graft, followed by a five-minute break. Four cycles of this grants you a 25-minute break, then back to square one. It really helps to focus you.

I hope I can enjoy a working day like that again, but it doesn’t really matter if I don’t. Little and often is better than a huge splurge and the misguided belief that you can then take a day or two off…

Even if your aim is to up your daily word count (or just get some work done!), something like Pomodoro combined with Freedom can help increase output over shorter periods.

Fewer Lolcats, more pages…