Tips for Writing a Novel While Working a Full-Time Job

The largest and most critical issue that impacts one’s ability to write a novel is time. So when you hold down a full-time job and have a family, making your commitment to writing can be difficult to say the least. In addition, we all know that both reading and writing every day increases our skill, however, what if you don’t have time to do both? In my case, I work on average 45-50 hours a week, I go to grad school at night two days a week, I have homework, tests to study for, projects and research papers, plus I have a wife and two little girls. There isn’t time to both read and write in a single day; I must choose one or the other. So I’ve come up with some helpful tips to share with others about how I’ve found the time to write a novel.

First, wanting to write a novel requires raising it up on your list of priorities. Trying to find time to write everyday will be especially challenging if it has to compete with all the other activities and past-times that you would rather do. If that isn’t enough, try asking yourself, “What are you willing to sacrifice to be able to do all the things that you want to do in a day?” For me, I sacrifice sleep. I only do 6 hours a night.

Second, do everything you can to mobilize your writing. I use the free CloudOn app on my iPad to edit Microsoft Office docs that I keep in Dropbox/SkyDrive. I also made the move to a Windows Phone because it has Microsoft Office built in, and can edit docs stored in SkyDrive. All of these things have helped me to capture my thoughts as soon as I have them, and allow me to utilize any downtime (like waiting in a doctors office) toward making progress on my novel. Alternatively, if mobilizing your writing isn’t for you, then bring a book with you wherever you go (digital or print) and use the downtime throughout your day to read as much as possible.

Third, set a realistic expectation for yourself. Think about how much you should be writing a month. Do you know what your average word count is for your chapters? Do you know what your estimated word count for your novel is? 50,000? 70,000? 100,000? Try to do the math so that you can finish your novel within a year or less.

Words Per Year Goal Words Per Month Words Per Week Words Per Day
60,000 5000.0 1153.8 164.4
70,000 5833.3 1346.2 191.8
80,000 6666.7 1538.5 219.2
90,000 7500.0 1730.8 246.6
100,000 8333.3 1923.1 274.0

Fourth, just write. Don’t self-edit until the end. Get the words onto the page so that you can flush out the entire story. Save editing and revisions for later.

Here’s a Writer’s Digest article that adds some other suggestions: 5 Ways to Maximize Your Time  

Awesome Apps for Authors

Technology has been the greatest enabler for authors. It has drastically improved productivity when going from typewriters to the personal PC, and now with Amazon’s CreateSpace plus the advent of e-readers, it has never been easier for an author to publish their work. There is no doubt that technology has made the life of all authors easier, but what about being more organized? Below, I’ve compiled a list of some software and iPad/iPhone apps that can do just that.

  • Name Dice for iPad/iPhone, by Thinkamingo. If your creativity is fleeting, then this free random name generator can help you come up with a character name on the spot.
  • Final Draft Writer by Final Draft, Inc. This is the premier composition software for screenwriters, and the iPad app is available for $49.99. Personally, I don’t know how anyone can be as productive on an iPad as they can on a laptop/PC with a full operating system, but I know Final Draft 8 software is available for $249.95 on PC and Mac as well.
  • iBookWriterLite for iPad, by AgileBoard.com. This free app allows you to compose your story and then instantly publish your work to various self-pub markets once complete.
  • Subscribe to Writing Magazine on the iPad. Filled with useful articles for fiction, short story and poetry topics. $20.99 for 6 month subscription or $39.99 for a 12 month subscription.
  • My Writing for iPad, by 21×20 Media, Inc. This free app helps you keep track of all your published works.
  • Writer’s App for iPad, by Thomas Sillmann. For only $0.99, this app gives you a book composition/organization tool. You can track your synopsis, Premise, Plot, Chapters, Characters (bio, description, etc), Places, and Notes for your novel. I, for one, would have loved a character-tracker app during my first novel!
  • Literary Agents and Publishers Database for iPhone/iPad, by BookCaps. It’s a free app that lists agents and publishers based on Genre. This might be handy for the iPad, but I still prefer queryagent.com for their database and submission tracking system.
  • Manuscript for iPad by Black Mana Studios. This app costs $6.99 and takes you from pitch to a publication-ready document in 4 steps.
  • Total Recall for iPhone/iPad by Zyense. This free app lets you organize your thoughts via mindmapping. It is a great tool for any author that likes to visualize the story or see character relationships and motivations. Great for outlining your novel, as I previously mentioned here.

For those of you that have found other useful apps or software, please feel free to share! Leave a comment below! I personally used Microsoft Skydrive to write my novel. Not only that, with Skydrive, you can edit your documents right in the web browser. I found this extremely useful so that I can work on my book from anywhere, and I prevent the risk of data loss by saving it in the cloud.