Friday, January 28, 2011

Working around family and finding the time to write

Excerpt from a previously published post on the same topic:

Here are some other ideas that help me save time as a mom and author. I hope it can help you too.

Keep a notebook near you at all times.
I have one in my purse, by my bed, in the car, in my gym bag, and in the diaper bag.
Before my husband got me a light-up pen, I would wake up in the middle of the night with an idea for a story and reach for my pen and notebook and wrote all I could in the dark room. One morning I realized that I had written all over my sheets but at least the storyline was down.

Maximize your trips.
I designated one day a week for running errands. This is when I go to the bank, post office, copy center, grocery store, and drop off or pick up whatever else I need.

Create a filing system.
This will help you keep your creative work area clutter free. Make folders for bills, letters, insurance information, book ideas, things to edit, etc.

Even driven, talented, athletic super men and women can’t do everything. Is it really important to you to have an immaculate house all the time? Do you really want to spend and hour and a half getting ready to go out and get the mail? Would you rather spend three hours watching T.V., or would you rather spend that time working on your next book? Decide what is important to you and what you can cut out. Find your time wasters and eliminate them.

Make a reading pile.
Have all the books, newspapers, magazines, manuscripts to be critiques, scriptures, etc., near your bed so you can read to unwind from the day.

Keep lists.
Whether you’re planning a trip out of town, a trip to the grocery story, or creating a schedule, keep a small note book handy so if you think of something you need you can add it to the list.
This will save you lots of time when you try to recall what you were supposed to do, where you were suppose to go, what you need to pack, or pick up at the store.

Take care of yourself.
Get in shape and stay fit. You will have sooooo much more energy for real life and better blood flow to your brain which means more thinking power.
Get your kids involved with exercise. Its quality family time and you’re teaching them a good habit. My young child likes to bounce on the exercise ball with me and play tag.

Get to know your characters.
I spend about two weeks getting to know my characters before I start writing. The better you know your characters the more they will help you write the story. Create a character bible. Figure out their strengths, weaknesses, past history, nervous habits, favorite foods, their dreams and hopes, character flaws, and special skills. Get to know them so well that if you sat down with them in a restaurant you would know what they would be wearing, what they would order, and how they would tip the waitress. Also figure out the geography you are working with and any significant items, like magic swords or priceless family heirlooms. Objects can have their own history, weaknesses, or special powers.

Chapter mapping system.

Make a timeline, and break down your book into chapters. Next, break down your chapters into scenes. Record significant people, places, or things that come along, or happen within each chapter. Write down any ideas, including dialogue, that pops into you mind as you are filling out each chapter.

It’s okay to say “no.”
I am an illustrator and web designer - two things that authors want and need. In order to find time to write my books I’ve had to limit illustration projects to only publishers that I have portfolios with. I’ve also had to completely cut out my web design business. The only webpage I maintain now is my own and I’ve made that site pretty much self sufficient.

Take Sundays off.
It really helps, and you will be able to get more done during the week, if you give yourself a break.
I also take Tuesday off (my husbands other day off besides Sunday) We use Tuesday as a family day to hang out and go fishing, take a trip to the park, go on a long walk or embark on some other adventure.

Write now edit later.
Yep, just get it down. If you’re worried about the small details of editing or spend fifteen minutes searching for the “right word” you’re going to disrupt the flow of your story. First drafts aren’t pretty. I don’t even spell check until my second draft.

I spend 45 min to an hour every morning meditating. I go through my day in my head and create a battle plan for how to tackle life. I also go through the chapter I’m going to be working on that day in my head as if it was an extension of my own personal life. For example: I get up and get ready for the day, get breakfast ready for everyone and then spend an hour doing one on one homeschooling with my son. I do house work and plan the meals for the day and answer emails. My son goes down for his nap, I sit at my computer and enter a forbidden valley that has become infested with trolls, make lunch then start my hunt for the vial of phoenix blood, hidden somewhere in the troll city.

I know it sounds silly, but athletes use this same technique right before a big game or competition.

Use paper plates.
I know it might not seem environmentally friendly but neither is running the dishwasher everyday and using the extra detergent. Besides, you can always recycle paper plates.

Get a food storage.
I have a nice food storage and I plan out all my meals in advance so I only have to go grocery shopping twice a month. I make it a quick trip, and I try to get someone to watch my child. For some reason it always takes longer with him. If I do take him I turn it into a school trip and we talk about what color the bananas are, lets count the apples, etc.

Teach your kids to do chores.
It’s easier if you teach them while they are young instead of suddenly expecting your teenagers to take responsibility for household duties.
My two-year-old helps me push the vacuum and pick up toys. Yeah, it would be faster if I just did it myself but who knows, maybe by the time he is three or four he will be able to vacuum a room by himself.
My advice would be to teach your kids to do the maintenance stuff (the things that need to be done every day) like dishes, sweeping, and feeding pets.

I don’t clean my whole house everyday like I use to, and I don’t deep clean my house every month like I use to.
In the morning I pick two rooms and clean them. I only deep clean my house every few months, and the whole family helps. You can assign each member of the family a room and have a contest to see who can get their room or section of the house the cleanest. The winner gets to choose the toppings on the pizza (you won’t want to cook that night, trust me).
See House of Order for more ideas.

Help other authors when you can.
Critique groups are great and can help you work through trouble spots in your story. Remember to pay it forward and be willing to critique other’s manuscripts as well.


  1. I love, love, love your wallpaper/background. Tres cool! I agree with teaching the kids to do the chores and you have to do this while they're still young. My twins are five and they have set chores to do every day. I can't wait until they're old enough to really get into house cleaning. hehehe

    Lynnette Labelle

  2. Know when to say no! Wish more people knew that. And I definitely work out and eat right. Gives me more energy. Great post!

  3. Yeah, my house could probably be cleaner. But it's just never been a huge priority for me.

  4. Wow, I feel like I could have written this list, I live by it so closely! Love your post! My kids are 10 and 5, and our rule is, if I write you play, if I clean the house, so do you. We do a lot of playing around my house! LOL.

  5. I'm going to start thinking of you as, "The Mighty Organizer," from now on. I do some of those things, but some I do not do. Arthritis makes housecleaning a real challenge.
    N. R. Williams, fantasy author

  6. Thanks for the GREAT ideas!
    I've learned to say no. And I don't get on he computer on's a nice break and seems to clear the clutter from my brain.

  7. Thanks for this! I also like what Alex says. Saying yes to someone is saying no to you. I'm just grasping that concept since I love to help other so much. I need be be very selective in that so it doesn't eat my time away.

    I do a lot of those things on your list, but I over-network. *Sigh* I need to work on that!

    ♥.•*¨ Elizabeth ¨*•.♥


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