Finding time to write

finding time to write

How to get your novel written

Whether it’s a New Year, the beginning of summer, the start of school, or just another Monday, you have finally decided to write a novel. That’s fantastic. Here are some tips to help you succeed.

Set a real goal

set a goal

To start with, you must set a realistic goal. Writing a novel isn’t specific enough, much like losing weight or eating healthier isn’t. It’s not really measurable. With a measurable goal, you’ll know exactly when you’re done. So, a good goal would be to say: I’ll write a 60,000-word science fiction novel by December 31. The goal has a deadline and it’s measurable.

You need to adjust this goal for yourself. If you want to write a romance novel, your word count may be lower. If you want to get the novel published this year, then you’ll want to get the first draft written a lot sooner.

Your goal needs to be specific about:

  • The total number of words your novel will have

  • The deadline you’ll have it done by

To help you achieve your goal, you need to make it visible. You could write it down and tape it up above your desk, on the fridge, on your bathroom mirror, or on your steering wheel. In fact, why don’t you do all of the above? The more places you’ll find the better.

People share everything on Facebook and Twitter, from what they’ve had for lunch to what type of dog they’d like to have. Why don’t you share your novel writing goals? If you make your goal public, more people know about it, which makes it more difficult for you to slack off. If nothing else, it’ll be embarrassing to admit that you haven’t met your goal or aren’t at least working on it.

Plan for success

You need action steps for your goal. You need to specify exactly how you will ensure that you have written those 60,000 words by the end of the year. Otherwise, two things will happen: One, you won’t feel like there’s any progress until you’re really done. Two, you will procrastinate with getting started, because a year is a long time.

The second part of your goal is to specify your actions. If you wanted to lose 24 pounds by next Christmas, you could break it down to losing two pounds each month. Next, you have to specify what you’ll do to accomplish this. For example, you may go running twice a week and cut out soda.

With novel writing, it’s just as simple, at least in theory. Since you won’t write 60,000 words in one day, you have to break it down. How many words will you write each month, each week, and each day? How many days will you write each week?

Schedule time to write

Nothing will get in your way of writing that first week. And you’ll still be on a roll the second week. But by that third week, your boss will ask you to stay late, one of the kids will get sick, and your partner will ask you to help them clean out the garage. There will be too much on your plate to get everything done, and writing will be the first thing to go.

Don’t fall into that trap. Everyone has a busy life, and it’s fine to take a day off. But don’t go an entire week without writing, and don’t let a week go by without doing your best to meet that goal. Schedule it in your calendar like an important doctor’s appointment and don’t cancel on yourself. You just need to realize ahead of time that things will come up.

I know it’s easy to say “just get it done anyway”. But there’s no way around it. Maybe you just won’t get eight hours of sleep one night. Maybe you have to postpone your night out with friends or skip watching your favorite TV show a few times. Nobody ever said writing a novel was going to be easy. When there are hurdles to overcome, it’s your job to figure out how instead of saying you can’t do it.

Review your progress every month

By the beginning of February, you’ll have a rhythm going, or maybe you won’t. Either way, it’s a good time to look back at January to see what worked and what didn’t work. You’re not perfect, and it’s quite possible that you just didn’t meet your goal. Don’t beat yourself up over it. Instead, it’s best to evaluate what went wrong and brainstorm ideas on how to make it better.

It can be tempting to just give up altogether, but just because you didn’t meet your goals for January doesn’t mean you should give up until the next New Year’s comes around. Life is too short not to make the best of the entire year. If you got some writing done on your novel, it’s time for a pat on the back. Of course, you could have written more, but it’s important to acknowledge what you did write.

Dream big

Everyone has dreams, but many of us have learned to ignore them or scale them down to make them “reasonable”. Do you think the world’s greatest inventions have been made by someone who kept their dreams, goals, and expectations reasonable? Probably not. So go for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow this year. Set big goals, and work hard to make them happen. If you want to write an amazing novel and sign a publishing deal this year, you can! If you want to make some passive income by self-publishing a book or two, you can do that, too!

Having big dreams of what the following year is going to bring will make you feel more excited about your progress. What’s the worst thing that could happen? Maybe you end up writing a novel but couldn’t find a publisher, much less an agent. You still wrote that novel! That’s something to be proud of. That also means you can write another one, which will be even better than the first.

How to make writing a priority year-round

make writing a priority

There are lots of reasons why writing your novel isn’t on your radar throughout the year. Whether it’s the holiday season, summer, or you’re busy at work – there’s never enough time to go around. If you want to write a novel, you must make it a priority. Here are some tips to get it done.

Multi-task effectively

If you’re already out and about buying a gift for your co-workers for Christmas, you might as well buy one for everyone else, too. Get it all done in one day by preparing a list of ideas and recipients beforehand. If you want to avoid crowds, you could also just shop online and get some writing done afterwards instead of sitting in traffic.

Did your child need you to make cookies to share with the class? Make an extra batch and call it dinner. Your kids will love it, and as long as you don’t do this all the time, they’ll be fine. Or you could make some extra cookies to take to work with you to get instant co-worker approval. That might make you feel better about not helping out with the office holiday party.

Learn to say NO

Did someone ask you to make a treat for the office, organize the children’s annual Christmas performance, or host a dinner party for your extended family members? It’s okay to say no, it really is. The person who asked will find someone else to do it, and soon they’ll forget you said no. Until the next time you say no. At some point, they may even stop asking. How wonderful would that be?

Okay, so you can’t say no to everything, but maybe you can find a compromise. If you have the biggest house to host your annual family get-together, then you can still be the host. But you don’t need to do all the work yourself. Since you’re hosting, you have to clean the house. That means your relatives need to pitch in and bring food. Make a list and have everyone sign up for something to bring. If your boss asks you to bring a lunch, and you just can’t say no, buy the lunch instead of making it. Or hire a caterer. Yes, that’s more expensive than doing the cooking yourself, but think of how much time you’ll save not cooking and cleaning.

Postpone other big projects

You’re only human, and you can only do so many things at one time. Writing a novel is a big project. If you want to get it done quickly, then you probably shouldn’t tackle other projects at the same time. That means now is not the time to reorganize the garage, paint the bedroom, or learn a new language. You can do that after you have finished that first draft.

Cut it short

You have to sit through the entire Christmas play if your child is performing in it. That’s what supportive parents do. But you don’t have to stay for the entire Christmas party with your co-workers, unless it’s a sit-down at dinner event where your absence will be noticed immediately. If you can, talk them into doing a buffet style setup and sneak out after you’ve had your favorite treats. If you have to, you can fake an emergency that requires you to go home early.

If you’re hosting a party at your house, you must specify an end time to get people to leave before midnight. That’s not true for all families and friends, but if it is the case for yours, just let them know ahead of time.

Enjoy the moment

Time always feels like it’s flying by, but this is more so the case when you’re running around trying to get things done. You need to power down, relax, and enjoy the moment, even if you’re at a Christmas party you don’t want to be a part of. It helps to turn your phone off, too, because that always makes you think you have to work on other things.

You must also take time to care for yourself. Exercising may not be your highest priority, but it could make you feel more refreshed and allow you to tackle all your projects, including that unfinished novel that’s calling you. Even going outside for a brisk walk can help you clear your head.

How to find more time to write

time to write

Do you want to get your novel written? Of course you do. But there are so many other things that have to get done on a daily, weekly, or otherwise regular basis. Most of us have jobs, families, and other obligations. The good news is that writing a novel is something you can do, if you really wanted to. After all, you have 24 hours at your disposal every day, no more and no less than everyone else. And getting the necessary things done and writing your novel is entirely possible. Here are some productivity tips to help you find more time for writing your novel this week.

Take a social media hiatus for a week

Okay, this is tricky for many people. If you’re not checking your messages or your feeds on social media, how will you know what’s going on? What if there was an emergency and you didn’t see the message soon enough? When it comes to real emergencies, you’ll hear it from other people. While the news about Harvey just exploded social media, people were talking about it in real life, too. You just have to listen. And as for a true emergency that requires your response: that person is more likely to call you. If you want, put up a post on social media, letting them know you’re not going to be around this week. Then log out and stay true to your word.

Why the break from social media? It’s a huge time waster. Even if you log on to write a post or check on an event you’re invited to, you inevitably end up wasting at least 10 minutes or a lot more time browsing through your feed. I do it all the time. And it’s not anywhere near as satisfying as writing your novel instead.

Why just a week? It’s a start. It’s doable, and you won’t miss it too much. If you’re truly addicted, you might want to lay off altogether. Otherwise, you can schedule reasonable amounts of social media time next week.

Write on the go

How often are you stuck waiting around for something to happen or something to do something? Whether you’re at the doctor’s office or DMV, waiting for things to happen is something that takes place more often than we want it to. Instead of wasting your time on social media, why don’t you write your novel instead? You can log in from your phone to Novelize and continue typing up that scene. Yes, you can type faster on a real keyboard on your laptop or computer, but some progress is better than none. Besides, it’s fun. And when it’s your turn to talk to the DMV personnel, you won’t be annoyed for having wasted your afternoon there.

You don’t have to designate 8 hours each day to write (although if you can, that’s awesome). Most writers get their first book done on a part-time basis. When it comes to writing, every minute counts. If you only spend 15 minutes each day waiting around, that’s over 1 1/2 hours of writing time if you use this opportunity to work on your novel instead. You can accomplish quite a bit in an hour and a half even if it’s interrupted writing time.

Plan tomorrow’s day tonight

Before you go to bed, you can try creating a plan for tomorrow’s day. Instead of flying by the seat of your pants, hoping you’ll have a minute to yourself, write down what you want to accomplish tomorrow. Set specific goals. There don’t have to be a lot of them. If you plan to clean your windows, mow the lawn, and repaint the bedroom tomorrow, you will set yourself up for failure.

List one or two things you’d like to accomplish. What will make you feel like you’ve had a successful day if you can get it done tomorrow? Is it writing 500 words on your novel, editing that first chapter, or spending an hour working on your outline? Whatever it is, write it down tonight, and carve out some time to get it done tomorrow.

Finish your manuscript before you edit

One way to ensure that your novel will never get finished is to keep changing and editing the story before you’re even halfway through the manuscript. Don’t get me wrong. It can be necessary to scrap a story in its entirety or edit a significant portion of it on occasion. But if that’s all you ever do, you probably won’t finish that novel anytime soon.

One way to avoid getting sucked into editing mode is not to edit at all until you’re done writing the entire first draft. Don’t scroll through your book each time you sit down to write. Find the spot where you left off and keep going.

This is harder than it sounds, especially when you’re suffering from writer’s block. It might seem productive to edit since you’re not writing anyway, but editing can really backfire on you.

If the book is so bad that you can’t continue writing it, you may want to consider starting over with a new story. If you still want to salvage some of your book, you could work with an outline to help you move it along.

When it comes to editing, you’ll be doing enough of it later on. And you will get so sick of it that you will wish it was time to write again. It’s not uncommon to edit a book 20 times or more before it’s deemed ready for publication. And those are just your edits. After that, it goes to your editor, your agent, and your publisher.

Make use of your time off

You don’t have to take a 10-day vacation in order to write your novel, but taking time off can’t hurt. You can give yourself big boosts on the weekend, on half-days, and during the holidays. But if your 10-day writing sprint includes a 40-hour workweek, you can still get a lot done. You just have to work around your schedule by finding your most productive time.

Figure out when you’re most productive

It’s easy to figure out when you’re most productive. This isn’t necessarily the time of day that allows you to write the highest number of words. It’s the time of day that allows you to write the highest number of words in the shortest amount of time. If you can write 500 words in the 30 minutes it takes your significant other to get breakfast ready, that’s more productive than spending 2 hours at the computer in the evening and only show 1,000 words for it.

To find out when you’re most productive, measure the time you spend writing and the word count you have to show for it. From now on this is the time you have to spend writing. Don’t schedule anything else during that time, at least until you reach your goal.

Don’t stop until you reach your goal

keep going until you reach your goal

Remember what we mentioned earlier? You have to set a goal tonight for tomorrow. And tomorrow, you can’t stop until you reach that goal. Things happen, your tire blows up, your child gets sick, but eventually, you will have a free moment, at the latest right before it’s time to go to bed. We’re not suggesting you should skip sleep every night, but just for this one week, don’t go to bed until you have reached your goal.

The next day, you’ll remember how annoying it was to have to stay up late to do it. And you’ll get it done during your regular waking hours. The day after that, you might even decide to wake up early and get it done while everyone else is still sleeping. But if you set a goal for yourself, you need to get it done. It’s as simple as that. You owe it to yourself.

Get an accountability partner

To stay motivated, you may want to get an accountability partner. This could be your significant other, a co-worker, or the people in your Facebook novel writing group. It’s really important to make your goal public. The more people know about it, the more embarrassing it would be for you to let them down. That’s a good thing, because just knowing that other people might see you fail can keep you going.

Create your cover first

One of the best ways to motivate yourself to finish your book is to create the cover first. Technically, this might be construed as putting the cart before the horse, but what do you think it will do to your motivation to see your book before it’s done? It’s going to make you want to finish it so you can get it published!

The cover you design in the beginning doesn’t have to be your final cover, either. The same is true for the working title. You can always change it later. But if you create both your cover and your title, it will make the book more real and encourage you to keep writing.

Write what you want

To keep up your motivation, write something you’re excited about. Ideally, you want to write a story that you would enjoy reading. This will keep you going even when you’re not really in the mood for writing. And if you get stuck in the middle of your book, just approach things logically. What happens next? Getting the words out is the most important part, you can always edit later.

Get back on the keyboard

There will be days when you won’t get anything written even though you’ve given it your best shot. That’s okay. It’s actually a good idea to schedule time off from writing in order return to it refreshed the next day. But even if a few days or weeks (yikes!) have passed where you haven’t written anything, that doesn’t mean you should give up. Just get back on the keyboard as soon as you can!

Identify and eliminate time wasters

This may sound harsh, but we all do it. Stop checking Facebook or Twitter every 5 seconds, stop watching TV without an end in sight, and stop spending 2 hours a day in your email inbox. In short, stop doing things that don’t bring you any long-term satisfaction. Steven Covey made this productivity tip from President Eisenhower really popular:

“You have to differentiate between the urgent and important and do the important things first.”

There are lots of different options for wasting your time. What is eating away your precious time every day? Can you stop doing these things altogether? Can you reduce the time spent doing them? Here are some potential activities that might be true time wasters:

  • Browsing the Internet

  • Watching TV

  • Cleaning

  • Cooking/Doing dishes

  • Driving

  • Running errands

  • Spending time with people you don’t like

  • Overtime at work

Yes, you still have to cook and do the dishes, but you can do this more efficiently. That’s a chore than can be divided up in your household, with the kids pitching in. Some days, you may want to opt for simple meals. Make sandwiches and don’t use plates. That’s minimal cleanup right there, and you have to wipe down the table anyway. Unless you need the money to survive, cut back on overtime at your job. And if you’re still hanging out with people you don’t like, then it’s really time to pull the plug. Life is too short.

Get creative. We don’t need to tell you how to get rid of or reduce your time wasters. But it does require you to take a good look at what you’re doing, what’s working, and what’s not working. Now let’s get that novel written!

Why you’re not taking your writing seriously and how to overcome that

take yourself seriously

Maybe your friends and family tell you to get a real job; maybe you really don’t believe you can pay your bills as a writer. Whatever the reason for you: you’re not taking your writing seriously right now, unless you sit down almost every day to write.

The thing is nobody who merely dabbles at being a writer will make a lot of money. Only the people who put in some serious effort will be rewarded. Think of Stephen King and the fact that he writes 2,000 words a day. Think of Nora Roberts who publishes a new book every 3 months. You don’t have to be as prolific as these two, but if you want to make a difference, get published, get noticed, and get ahead as a writer, then you have to take your writing seriously.

Are you a serious writer?

It’s quite possible that you’re not serious about writing right now. Maybe you only write for an hour on the weekends after the chores get done. Maybe you only manage to write when you have time off. But deep down, you know that you want more. Maybe you just want to publish that one book. Maybe you want to write a series of books. And maybe you want to turn writing into a lucrative career, one that allows you to quit your day job one day. How can you do this?

Set a goal and work on it every day

If you want to be a writer, you have to set a goal. Your goal needs to be measurable. That means it needs specifics as well as a completion date. For example, you can plan to finish your 60,000-word novel in the next 6 months. That’s a goal, but only if you write it down and hold yourself accountable to it. What can you do today to work towards that goal? Write 500 words. Do it right now. And then do it again tomorrow. You’ll reach your goal in no time at all. It doesn’t matter if your goal is huge, as long as you can break it down into daily steps.

Do the most important thing first

You must prioritize your to-do list and start with the most important thing first. Everything that has a deadline will get done, because it has to. But the important things that aren’t urgent, like writing your novel, must take a backseat. If you get in 30 minutes of writing time before you start your day, you’ll feel better and have more energy for the other tasks, too. Give it a try!

Life gets busy for all of us. If you don’t make time to do what’s important to you, it won’t get done. There are always a million other things clamoring for attention. But you would do better if you didn’t waste time on things that probably won’t pay off, even if they’re easy to do. Is keeping a blog going to help people discover your books? Maybe, but not likely. A more effective strategy would be to guest blog or contact other bloggers for reviews.

Can you imagine what would happen if you contacted 100 reviewers and offered them a free copy of your book in exchange for a review? You won’t get 100 reviews, but you’ll get some. And it will be worth the time you spent on it.

Take yourself seriously

As a writer, you need to take yourself seriously. It’s okay to ask for feedback from other writers or your friends, but it’s not okay to diminish your own work in front of others. Of course you’re not John Grisham or another writer that you adore. Nobody is expecting you to be. But what you write is pretty good, and you can only get better. For that, you need practice, which means you need time to write. Now is the time!

How to make time to write as a parent

time to write as a parent

Having children presents some unique challenges to writers, but you also have some unique opportunities for creating story ideas. Whether you have kids in diapers, preschool, or elementary school, you’ll have to find ways to keep them occupied while you keep pecking at your keyboard.

Tips for finding time to write when you have a baby

Writing a book or getting any kind of work done when you’re taking care of a baby can be extremely challenging. If you have more than one child, you may be able to take advantage of a few minutes here and there when the kids are playing together. But since you’ll always want to be within earshot if not within sight, you need to be able to work wherever your baby is playing. You will need a portable device, like a laptop, tablet, or even your phone.

While you might write the occasional word or two while you’re watching your little one play, the bulk of your writing time will probably be during a time when your child is asleep. Any parent of a young child will tell you how precious nap time is. The problem with using nap time for writing is that you’ll have to figure out how to take care of other household chores when your baby is awake.

Do Your Chores with Your Baby

For a baby who isn’t mobile yet, the best thing you can do is to invest in a good sling. You can carry your baby around with you when you vacuum, cook, and shovel snow. Infants love being part of the action, and you’ll enjoy a much closer bond with your baby as a result. Shoveling snow is a lot more fun when you can kiss on your baby between bursts of hard work. If you’re lucky, your baby may even enjoy sleeping in the sling while you’re writing your book. However, don’t be surprised if your baby prefers you to be moving. After all, that’s what she was used to from being carried around in the womb.

Another thing you have to do when you’re the parent of a young child is asking your partner to chip in with household chores and baby care. Whether you’re a stay-at-home parent or a full-time employee, you need some time to relax. Plus, your partner needs time to bond with the baby, too. It will help both of them. Last but not least, when you have a young baby, try to let go of perfection. Your house doesn’t have to be perfectly clean. After all, you’re not expecting the Queen of England to visit, are you?

Cut Yourself Some Slack

parent of a baby

Since having a young baby is exhausting even when you’re not trying to write a book at the same time, it’s important to cut yourself some slack. Your little one will grow up before you know it. It’s much more important to savor the time you have while your child is so little and needs you around the clock than to write a book. In fact, it might be a good idea to set very low expectations for your novel writing until your baby is a little bit older.

One of the most difficult things new mothers have to deal with is lack of sleep. While there are no miracle cures that will make your baby sleep through the night, there is something you can do to get a better night’s sleep: you can try co-sleeping with your baby. With co-sleeping, your baby may still nurse all night long, but you don’t necessarily have to be awake for it. Of course, you have to follow safe co-sleeping practices to make this a viable option, but co-sleeping has numerous other benefits besides helping you get more shuteye.

I have to mention again how important it is to share the responsibility with your partner. While fathers can’t breastfeed infants, they can still help with diapering and rocking the baby to sleep. It might be a good idea to talk to your partner about when they can help out. Mothers might be able to get work done during the day when their partners take the baby out for a stroll. Dads can also use an infant sling while doing other activities to give you a little bit of time to do something else.

But even with all of these tips, if your baby is still young, you probably won’t get as much work done as you’d like to. Please do not feel guilty about it. Instead, try to enjoy your little one as much as you can. You can always write a novel later, but your child will never be a baby again. And while all ages of childhood are precious, young children need your love and presence the most.

Make Exceptions

One of the most important rules to follow when you have a new baby is to learn to make exceptions. Today might not be the day you clean the kitchen, vacuum the living room, and write another 1,000 words, because your baby has a runny nose and is teething. Simply take it in stride. This too shall pass.

Practical Suggestions to Help You Find Time to Write

The good news is that babies grow up. In the meantime, here is a list of concrete suggestions to start typing some words in your novel when you have a baby:

  • Schedule writing time and ask your partner to be in charge of the baby.

  • Don’t make other plans for nap time.

  • Use a sling to do household chores while your baby is up.

  • Spend time outside every day with your baby to help him differentiate between day and night (and sleep better as a result). Outside time is good for both of you for a lot of other reasons, too.

  • Lower the bar a little bit but don’t give up writing altogether (write for 3 days a week instead of 5, or write 500 words each day instead of 1,000).

  • Take a day off when your baby is sick or teething (no use trying to accomplish anything) and enjoy snuggle time.

  • Take good care of yourself with proper nutrition and exercise to keep your energy levels up.

  • Take naps with your baby on days that you are too tired and worn out to get anything done.

  • Schedule some time for other activities that allow you to recuperate and rest (such as a reading a good book or soaking in the tub).

Schedule Weekly Work Dates

Everybody always tells parents how important it is to spend time with their partner after the baby comes, and that’s true. But it’s also important to spend time doing the things you love to do and work on your own goals. For this reason, I recommend scheduling personal time for you and your partner at least once a week. Sunday morning or afternoon might be a good time to do this if it works out for both of you.

It doesn’t matter when you schedule this time as long as you get (mostly) uninterrupted time to work on your book. If you’re a nursing mother and have an infant, you’ll need to take breaks to feed your child. But other than that, your partner can take care of diapering, rocking, and playing with your baby.

In an ideal situation, either you or your partner will leave the house during your working hours to reduce distractions. If that’s not possible because your baby is napping, or it’s too close to feeding time, you may want to lock yourself into your office or bedroom. It may take a little bit of time to get used to this and be productive, but you’ll feel so much better after getting some time to work on your own project.

Of course, this personal project time should be available to both partners. It can be used for anything you want to do. If you’d rather take a nap or go out to eat with a friend, that’s fine, too.

Hire a Babysitter

You may want to consider hiring a babysitter on occasion to get some work done on your novel. Generally, parents hire babysitters to get a chance to go out as a couple, but babysitters are also useful on other occasions.

You’re probably wondering how you can possibly justify the cost of a babysitter for having some time to write a novel. Think of it this way: if writing your novel gives you a happiness boost, spending money on a babysitter to do that is just as valid as paying for a babysitter to go out to eat.

Hiring a babysitter is not necessarily cheap. And good babysitters can be hard to find. How can you overcome that challenge? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Ask a family member to watch your child (grandparents, aunts, uncles, or godparents).

  • Hire a mother’s helper, a tween or young teen, who will watch your child and play with her while you’re still in the house writing your book.

  • Trade babysitting services with another family.

Working parents often pay for daycare or a nanny to watch their children during working hours anyway. You might be able to extend those hours a little bit to get some work done before you pick up your child. If you’re not comfortable with letting someone else watch your baby during that first year, you’ll have to rely on your partner to give you a break.

Outsource Your Household Chores

Another option is to hire someone to do your household chores instead of babysitting. This may make more sense if you’re nursing or don’t feel comfortable with leaving your child with a sitter. When you outsource your chores, then you can utilize nap times and bedtimes for bigger and better things. Here are a few suggestions for chores to outsource:

  • Mowing the lawn

  • Cleaning bathrooms

  • Doing laundry

  • Washing cloth diapers

  • Grocery shopping

  • Shoveling snow

  • Cooking

It pays to be creative. If you find yourself spending a lot of time doing activities that aren’t fun, you may want to consider reducing the time you spend on them. When it comes to cooking and kitchen cleanup, you can start cooking in batches, making simpler meals, buying prepackaged dinners, going out to eat, or ordering food.

You could also choose to trade certain chores with your neighbors. This might be less common but just as effective in the long run. For example, in return for mowing their lawn, they might supply you with a few dinners each week.

For many families, it’s easier to reduce the number of household chores or the time you spend doing them than to outsource. For example, while you have to mow your lawn, do you have to mow it every week? You have to do laundry, but does it need to be done every day? Batching grocery trips, cleaning and tidying, and cooking chores can drastically reduce the amount of time you spend on household tasks every week. This is great since our goal is to free up some time for you to write your book.

How to write a novel while parenting a preschooler

parent and child outside

It’s difficult to find time to write your novel, especially if you’re also taking care of a preschooler. The good news is that you don’t have to give up on your dream to become an author just because you’re a parent. Here are 3 tips that may just help you finish your work-in-progress without neglecting your preschooler.

1. Get Your Partner Involved

Whether you’re a stay-at-home parent or work full-time, your partner has to pitch in with childcare. The person who takes care of the kids most of the time usually knows best how to entertain them, get them to do certain activities, and generally keep them occupied. In my family that happens to be me.

But because I know how to play with the kids and keep them happy doesn’t mean my husband can’t do the same. When I want to work, I ask him to take care of the kids. However, I learned that I can’t ask him to watch them because inevitably they come and find me, at least the little ones do. So here is what we’ve had to do:

I tell my older girls that they need to ask their Dad if they need anything because I want to get some work done. I ask my husband to do something specific with the younger crew, for example I will suggest that he reads a few books with them. You can also ask your partner to take the kids to the backyard or to the park in order to give you some quiet time. Letting you have the house to yourself can be especially helpful if your computer is sitting in the middle of the kids’ play area.

You could also combine two things in one by asking your partner to take the kids grocery shopping. My husband always does the grocery shopping, and he doesn’t mind taking the kids (yes, he’s even taken all four of them on occasion).

2. Plan Strategically

When you have preschoolers, you have to plan a little bit. Parents are fine with staying home and doing nothing, but preschoolers are constantly on the go. They’re like wind-up toys that never run out of batteries or like the energizer bunny that just keeps going and going and going… In order to get the most out of your day and keep your sanity, you need to plan strategically.

If you know your child is more likely to be clingy and whiny in the evening, then that’s not a good time to try to write. Of course as a parent you’ll probably get used to writing with lots of interruptions. But ideally, you’ll work when your child can find other things to occupy their time with.

There are different ways to keep kids occupied and keep them out of trouble. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Let them eat a snack in the living room and pretend it’s a picnic.

  • Get out a few special toys that they can only play with when you’re working. They might even start encouraging you to work to play with those toys.

  • Invite your child to play dress up.

  • Ask your child to build you a tall tower out of blocks or Duplos.

  • Give your child an art project, e.g. making a necklace out of beads, playing with Play-Doh, drawing a picture with crayons, or making a collage with stickers.

  • Ask your child to take the stuffed animals to the vet and make them feel better.

One thing I do not recommend: letting your kids play with water unsupervised. I let my son play with soapy water in the sink for a while because he enjoyed playing with the bubbles. In my case, that led to the drowning of a library book that was left on the bathroom floor and consequently cost me $10. In hindsight, that wasn’t really worth the few minutes it gave me to work on something else.

3. Put Them to Bed Earlier

The best time to get work done is when your child is sleeping. Fortunately, most children need more sleep than adults. Maybe nature designed it this way to help us cope with the task of parenting and avoid burnout. Plus, if your child didn’t sleep while you were awake, you’d never get a chance to do all the things you can’t do when your child is around. For example, you could eat chocolate without having to share, or you could practice making babies with your partner.

Needless to say, bedtime is something we tend to look forward to at my house (minus the actual part of putting the kids to bed). During the evening, we can do the things we want to do without worrying about the short people we choose to share our lives with.

I used to be a big advocate of early bedtimes. When my girls were younger, they would be in bed by 6 p.m. They also got up early at 6 a.m. Back then, I was always flabbergasted when I saw young children at the grocery store at 10 p.m.

While I still like early bedtimes, my boys won’t go to bed as early as that. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that we embraced co-sleeping. Maybe it’s just how they’re wired. But we’re happy when they’re asleep by 8.30 p.m. On the plus side, they also sleep in a little later, although not as late as I’d like them to. One of them is still sleeping in our bed with us, so there is a chance that he’ll go to bed earlier once he moves into a room with his siblings. In the meantime, we have to make do with what we’ve got.

If you have trouble getting your kids to sleep earlier, you may try slowly moving their bedtime. If you do it in small increments, it makes it easier for them to adjust. You still want to make sure they’re getting enough sleep for the day and not waking up too soon. You can try adjusting bedtime in 15-minute increments and wait a week before moving it up again.

When it comes to shuteye, every child and adult is a little different. Some kids don’t need as much sleep as other kids. But if they’re constantly fussy or hungry, they might benefit from going to bed earlier.

You Have to Spend Time Outside

In order to keep your preschooler happy, it’s important to meet their needs before you ask them to play alone. If you try to get work done in the morning, they will whine and nag all day long asking you to play with them. It’s much better to take them to the playground, the park, the zoo, or wherever you like to go in the morning and allow them to run around and play. Afterwards, they’re more likely to want to sit in their room or in the playroom and play quietly with toys while you write your novel. Outside playtime is a good thing to add to your schedule every day. Going outside is the best thing you can do with a young child, and it doesn’t even have to cost anything.

4 Tips on how to get your novel written while taking care of a school-age child

parent and child on laptop

When your kids are old enough to go to school, they are generally old enough to understand what it means when you have to work. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always stop them from bothering you while you’re in the middle of writing an exciting chapter. The good news is that there are some things you can do to keep them occupied and away from your computer without turning on the TV.

1. Work alongside Them

Your kids may not be writing a novel, but they probably have to do homework on a regular basis. What’s better than working on your novel while they write an essay for school or work on their math problems?

If you own a laptop or tablet, you can sit at the same table with them. This way you’re still around to help them when they need you, but you’re also making progress on your book. If your kids get to see you work, then they might feel more motivated to do their own work, too. At the very least, you’ll be setting a good example for them.

2. Take Advantage of Playdates

Kids love to play. That’s a given. And whether you have one or more children, there will probably be a large number of playdates with friends over the years.

While your kids are having fun at a friend’s house, you could be working on your novel. The laundry and the dishes can wait. Similarly, if the playdate is happening at your house, you can work on your novel while the kids play together. After all, they don’t need you, do they?

Working on your novel while they’re playing also gives you the ability to spend time with them when they’re done. It helps you avoid having to spread your focus. After all, you can be much more relaxed after you have met your word count goal for the day.

3. Make Sporting Events Count

Many children are signed up for extracurricular activities. Whether your kids play soccer, football, or T-ball, or whether they dance, do gymnastics, or practice ballet, you can expect to spend a lot of time on the sidelines.

It’s a lot of fun to watch your kids practice and perform, but that doesn’t mean your eyes have to be glued onto your child at all times. In fact, you probably already spend most of the time talking to other Moms or reading books. The next time you have to sit around at a game or performance, try taking your laptop with you and work on your novel instead.

4. Enlist Their Cooperation

School-age kids know what it’s like to have deadlines. After all, they have to do homework almost every day. If you want to write your novel, it might be a good idea to talk to your kids about it. If appropriate, you could tell them what your story is all about. You could also ask them if they can help you get your book written by giving you time to write. They’ll probably be pretty reasonable about it.