How to Write a Novel as a Busy Parent
Parents, does this sound familiar?
You’ve had a novel swirling around in your head for some time; characters form while you're driving in the car. Plot twists develop in the shower. Worlds and settings come to life while you prepare dinner. You sit down at your computer desk, or open your laptop and prepare to write.
Just as you type out a few words, your child appears beside you. They need attention. Now. Or maybe you need to drive the kids to their after-school activities. Or it’s bedtime, and you know it will be a long process that will leave you exhausted.
The interruptions are endless.
Writing a novel is hard enough, and as a parent it can feel like you are pulled in many directions leaving us little time or energy to write.
It's so tempting to just give up. Don't.
It is possible to write a novel as a parent. Whether you're writing a book to be published traditionally, self-published, or for self-satisfaction, it can be done.
Here are some tips to help you find the time to write your novel:
Block off the Time in your Calendar
In the same way we block off time for our dentist appointments, or for school council meetings, you can schedule time in your calendar to write. This could be before the kids wake up, when they are in bed, or during nap time.
Heather Dixon, mom of three and author of the novel Burlington, suggests writing (or editing) at the time of the day that works best for the task at hand. “When I’m editing or revising, I find I can pop back into it in the late afternoon, or even after dinner and work some more. But if I’m drafting, I find I have to do it in the early morning when my brain functions the best.”
Ask for Help
We know this is often easier said than done, but ask for help and be honest with your family that your writing is a priority. This could mean that when you have your time blocked off, having a co-parent or childcare provider who understands that you aren’t available and supports you at this time.
If you have older children and teens let them know you need the time to write and that you may not be instantly available.
Take Small Steps
You don’t have to measure success by your daily word count. Writing in small sprints is better than not writing at all.
Dixon agrees. “Some writers may be able to write thousands of words a day. If I only get 250 or 500 words down, I at least know that I made progress and I’m moving forward. A small chunk of time and a small word count will still get you to the goal of a finished book.”
Try a Writing Challenge
If you need a stronger push, try a writing challenge.
National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is for everyone who wants to write. The goal is to write 50,000 words over the course of the month. While that may not mean a completed novel, it is a significant amount of writing in a short amount of time.
NaNoWriMo is structured to encourage daily writing practice breaking up those 50,000 words into smaller pieces that feel more doable. You may prefer to binge write on weekends or certain evenings instead of everyday. It doesn’t matter how you get to the end goal of hitting that 50,000-word count.
Our advice if you participate is to focus on just writing and don’t worry about perfecting your editing. Once you have your framework, you can revise as needed.
Join a Writing Group
Getting support from other writers who understand what it’s like to write your novel while caring for children will help you feel less alone. Writing groups can also keep you feeling motivated and engaged in the work.
While we understand how difficult it is to carve out time to write as a parent, we encourage you to stick with it, even if it’s in the margins of the day, bit by bit. Try these tips and start writing your novel.
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