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How To Write A Novel With A Full-Time Job

When I tell people I am a published author, but that I have a full-time job as a project manager as well, they usually give me that stare that says “you’re kidding, right?”

Most authors do not earn the kind of money they need to take care of their monthly bills. I love to write, but I need to pay the bills too. I also bought a new car. I have a thing for fast cars, and they usually come with a higher price tag than your average small car. So, unless all of you are going buy my books and tell all your friends that I am the next ‘new thing’ in fantasy fiction, I have to earn my way; like most people do.

Writing a short story is one thing, but a novel takes a whole different kind of commitment. Most people can write a short story over a weekend. You sit, you write. It’s done. Ten, maybe twelve hours of your time. Novels start at 60 000 words. Fantasy and science fiction novels easily exceed a hundred thousand words. Not the kind of time you have available in a single weekend. Let’s face it, we have shopping, chores, friends and family that also require time from us.

I am fortunate in some ways that my husband has his own interests outside of work. He is a photographer with many responsibilities towards the Photographic Society and various clubs in his region. Since these commitments often require him to be away from home, even if only for a few hours a week, it helps me too.

But, with my husband away, it also means that his responsibilities at home now fall onto my shoulders. To be able to do everything I have to and still write, take some serious planning and self-knowledge.

I am not a morning person. While I get up early for work, there is no way I am going to sit in front of a computer and write a thousand words before going to work. I have tried it, but quickly gave it up as a bad idea.

I am a night owl. Writing is also a way for me to relax after a stressful day. Thus, two hours before going to bed became my writing time. I chose that time because by then I have finished everything I have to do – dinner, lunch boxes, fed the dogs (if hubby isn’t home), taken a shower, etc. It also means that I do most of my writing in my pyjamas. Hey, it works for me!

With two hours available every day, I can write between 800 and 1200 words in each session. Sometimes these words include blog posts, because I write those too and don’t have other time available.

I use a spread sheet to keep track of the number of words I write every day – I find that it helps motivate me.

The question I get asked the most is where I find the time to write. My answer is simple: I don’t watch television. I might catch a soccer game or a movie over the weekend, but that’s it. Something had to be sacrificed and the TV it was.

Time is not an infinite resource, and I am not getting any younger. I choose to spend my time doing what makes me happy. Writing makes me happy. Editing not so much, but it too has to be done. I write about 300 000 words per year, and it can only be achieved by being disciplined. The discipline comes from loving what I do. It isn’t always as easy as I make it sound, but once a story is published, the satisfaction of seeing another project completed is indescribable.

My planning for 2016 includes two short stories of 12 000 words each, editing and publishing the fourth novel in my fantasy series, a non-fiction book, and a literary novel. I don’t know yet what I will be doing for NaNoWriMo, but I am sure something will pop up, it invariably does.

You have to find what works for you. If you have small children at home, maybe your lunch hour or their nap time is the best time for you. Write 500 words, it only takes about half an hour. Do that every day for a whole year and you can write that novel you always dreamed of.

Many people want to write a novel. The majority of those never do, and even fewer get around to finishing and publishing it.

If you want to write a novel, don’t say some day; start today.

Make the time and you will be amazed what you can accomplish if you put your mind (and keyboard) to it. I did that fifteen years ago, and it was the best thing I ever did for myself.

Linzé Brandon is an author. You can connect with her at her blog, Butterfly on a Broomstick, and on Twitter and Facebook.

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