Writing with the Kitchen Timer

I’ve called this post Writing with the kitchen timer because it’s a simple idea and a great idea that most people can relate to.

At the Perth Writer’s Festival last month I booked into some writing workshops because I wanted to kick start my stagnated novel writing project, which has seriously slumped over the last twelve months. The calibre of workshops at the PWF this year was very good and I found Natasher Lester’s workshop titled, Marathon Writing, very inspiring.


pwf-2017-c-e1489669053387.jpgIn a later workshop at the festival one of the exercises was to write a quick review of one of the sessions we had attended at the PWF over the weekend. So my quick review on Marathon Writing with Natasha Lester, went something like this …

Natasha Lester, mother of three young children had two novels written by the time she had the third child. So clearly there is little excuse for not having time to write. 

The best advice from Natasha is to turn up to work (writing) every day and be committed to it. One of the valuable tools she spoke of was the use of the kitchen timer or an alarm on your phone. But I’d keep away from the phone as there are too many distractions on that little device …

It doesn’t have to be huge amounts of time – 15 minutes a day is all that it takes and I think that’s doable in most people’s world. You just write one sentence and then another and another and keep doing that until your story is finished.

And I love this quote from EL Doctorow (author of Ragtime)

Writing is like driving a car at night: you never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”….

I took notes at Natasha’s workshop to share with my writers group South Side Quills and Natasha was happy for me to share her writing tips with you on my blog …

Tips  to get your book written

  1. Make time to write
  • Have a calendar on your desk – ideally a monthly planner with a ‘to do ‘ list down one side – showing everything you have to do for the next month
  • Think about what you are prepared to give up – eg television, internet, sleep, lunch break
  • Plan consecutive days to write – you will tend to write more on day 2 & 3 as you gain momentum
  • Block the writing times in your calendar first
  • Then add everything else in order of priority. This will reassure you that it will get done and you can fit it in
  • Tip: don’t waste time deciding what to write – decide what you are going to write about before you sit down to write
  • Use Elizabeth Gilbert’s  (Eat, Pray, Love fame)idea of a kitchen timer – set the timer for 30 minutes and work on your craft for that time without interruption. Even 15 minutes a day, as long as it’s a regular commitment.



2. Get started on an idea you’re interested in

    • Write lots of scenes
    • Bring those scenes together
    • Keep going
    • You have to turn up to work to receive the writers muse
    • Story ideas are everywhere – see list at the end of this blog
    • Start to notice the world … everyone walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five … most people don’t see any.
    • Walk more
    • Put the phone away
    • Go to places you don’t usually go
    • Go to other events
    • Read, listen, see

3. Write lots of scenes

    • They don’t need to be in chronological order as a story yet – that will come later
    • Books are an accumulation of scenes, it’s possible to write one scene – write enough scenes and you have a book
    • Once you have enough pieces (15 -20,000 words, you will see how the story might take shape.
    • Always carry a notebook
    • No idea is too small
    • The more you write the more ideas for scenes you will have
    • Have a master of ideas on your desk so that when you sit down to write   you can choose one idea that appeals and write that.
    • You will always have something to write.

4. Bring the scenes together

  •  Think about the first draft as a discovery process – what the story is “vomit” draft  (rubbish)
  • Don’t stop, even if you think what you have written in terrible – this is normal
  • Don’t edit until you have a complete first draft
  • Keep going forwards rather than backwards – don’t edit
  • Yo might go back and add a new scene, based on what you learn as you go forward.
  • Write the first draft for no-one but yourself
  • 15-20,000 words will test your interest and love for the idea
  • Think about how to pull scenes together  – do a bit of outlining. Have a notebook for outlining
  • List of scenes
  • Rewrite scenes in order , note gaps and plan nest few scenes
  • What do I have, what’s missing, what do I need to add?
  1. Keep going 12 ideas to keep going
  • Turn up for your scheduled writing time
  • Treat it as a treasured appointment
  • Let family and friends know about it
  • Reward yourself
  • Write anyway
  • Turn off the internet / Wifi
  • Join or form a critique group
  • Attend writers festivals, author talks, things that motivate you
  • Writers WA (e newsletter
  • Learn to say no and negotiate
  • Try for some small wins – competitions, blogs, small pieces
  • Keep the ideas well full (pod casts)
  • If you know what you have to achieve in each writing session, you are more likely to do it.


Write the Second draft, then add in research

Third draft – character motivation develops


Books recommended by Natasha and other workshop facilitators

  •  Bird by bird by Anne Lamott
  • On writing by Stephen King
  • Still writing by Dani Shapiro
  • The plot thickens by Noah Lukeman
  • A passion for narrative by Jack Hodgins
  • Writing Fiction by Janet Burroway


Where to find Story Ideas

  • Books
  • Movies
  • Events or ideas from the news
  • Characters
  • Conversations
  • Background memories of personal experiences
  • Snatches of overheard dialogue
  • Things that scare you
  • Photography
  • Places that fascinate you
  • Idiosyncrasies of people
  • Haunting images
  • Something that worries or puzzles you


I hope you have found these tips inspirational helpful as I did … I look forward to hearing your comments


    • Hi there
      Thank you, I haven’t been blogging so much recently as I am in love with water colour painting and have been pre occupied with that.
      But I am working on combining my two loves – writing and sketching and painting …

    • Thank you … I have been remiss with my blogging of late but have been busy painting and writing
      I hope to apply to become a member of the watercolour Society as soon as I have sufficient suitable samples to offer …

  1. Awesome tips Ingrid 🙂 Sounds like the workshops this year at Perth Writers Festival were really beneficial. Here’s to your novel progressing in leaps and bounds 🙂

  2. Hi Ingrid. Thank you for this inspiring post. I don’t have any excuse for not putting pen to paper, having more time on my hands than I ever had before. So you’ve given me some very good tips to get me kick started.

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