"And above all watch with glittering eyes the world around you, because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don't believe in magic will never find it." - Roald Dahl

30 January 2014

Writing a Novel while Working Full Time

© Mehmet Uluc Ceylani, Dreamstime
I’m sure it’s true for many writers out there, like myself, who wish for nothing more than to be able to write full time. We fantasise about waking up, grabbing a cup of coffee and marching off to our desks / offices / family rooms, etc. and pounding away at the keyboard until we realise that the sun has already set and dinner still needs to be prepared – but satisfied that we managed to have a productive writing day. This would be the ideal. But the reality for the majority of us is that we have bills to pay and we therefore need to get up and work at our day jobs for at least eight hours a day, five days a week so that we receive a steady, reliable income and don’t end up homeless.
I’ve read so many articles about people seeking advice on how to complete a novel while maintaining a full time job. I read them because about two years ago I was wondering exactly the same thing. And while I am no expert on the topic, I have managed to achieve just this: completing a full length novel while working a corporate day job and I managed to do this in less than a year. I know that many people can probably write two or more novels in the same timeframe, but this was still a massive achievement for me.

So not being an expert, I won’t be giving you any tips or tricks. What I will do, though, is tell you how I managed to do it.

·     First and foremost, I made the decision that I would start and finish this novel, no matter what. I wasn’t going to do it for anyone but myself and I was determined not to let myself down. I think this, above all, was my driving force.

·     I set a daily target of 1000 words. Sometimes I managed it; sometimes I lagged way behind. Over the weekends I tried to catch up if I had slacked. I also participated in Nanowrimo and boosted my wordcount in that way as well.

·     I told my husband, sisters and parents all about my plans to write the novel. Each day my husband would ask whether I had reached my target or not. If not, he always wanted to know why I hadn’t managed it, which allowed for introspection.

·     Each time I spoke to a family member, they would enquire about the novel’s progress. This made me accountable to others and it was good pressure I placed on myself.

·     I enjoyed the story I was writing immensely. Some days, not every day, I found myself watching the clock to at work. I couldn’t wait to get to my laptop to continue with the story.

·     I tried to be a plotter and plotted quite a bit of the story – almost each chapter actually. And in every chapter I ended up ‘pantsing.’ This was exciting because even I didn’t know how it was going to end, fuelling me to want to write more.

And lo and behold, before I knew it, I had completed an 82 000 word novel that I was damned proud of, while working a full time job.
In the end I realised that all those years I wasted making excuses for not having the time to write was just that – a waste. I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. I think my reason for making those initial excuses was that I wasn’t ready yet. Writing a novel (or anything for that matter) that other people will be reading and critiquing is an extremely scary thing. But if it’s what you really want, you shouldn’t let anything stand in your way.

So these are my closing words to you. Just go for it. Stop saying there isn’t enough time, because you’ll find / make the time if writing is really important to you. PVR the movies / series you want to watch and free up those evenings. Sit up late if you’re a night person or get up early if you’re a morning person. Do whatever it is that you need to do to get that novel written. Just go for it.
(Also, see my guest blog on Time Management for a related blog)

Good luck! (And don’t get too bogged down by the social media) J


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