Writing in Stolen Time

With the school summer holidays starting next week, I am already wondering how on earth I am going to get my second novel finished before the kids go back to school in September. So, maybe it is high time to take some of my own advice.

The following post was originally written as a guest post for ‘Women Writers’

Yes, I regularly complain about there not being enough hours in the day and I wish I could escape to a writer’s retreat for three months of uninterrupted writing time, but, well, as a work-at-home mum of two, that just isn’t going to happen! So, back in the real world, here are my top 10 ways to  create time, even when there doesn’t seem to be any.

1)      Write while the dinner is cooking. Seriously, once everything’s bubbling away, rather than stand there endlessly stirring, I will often grab twenty minutes – sometimes only ten – to write a few more paragraphs. It may not be much (and the dinner may burn in the process), but it’s something, and those paragraphs add up over the week.

2)      Write in the shower (not literally). For some reason, great moments of inspiration hit me when I’m showering. I keep a notepad in the bathroom so I can scribble ideas down as soon as I’m out of the shower. I honestly find if I don’t capture it there and then, I will get distracted, start doing something else (such as resolving a dispute about toy cars) and forget!

3)      Turn off the TV. Honestly, you won’t miss it and this, for me, is a guaranteed way to get quality writing time when the kids are in bed. I may not have a notion about the plot line in Grey’s Anatomy or Desperate Housewives, but I’m writing a novel, so who cares?!

4)      Get up early. It may feel like the greatest sacrifice known to mankind, voluntarily waking yourself before the kids do, but really there is nothing nicer than stealing thirty minutes of peaceful writing time before anyone else in the house is awake. Word of warning: the kettle will sound like a steam train as it boils for your morning cup of tea or coffee, but you need that hot drink so don’t let the noise put you off – it won’t wake the kids. Honestly.

5)     Busy children = busy writer. If the children are happily occupied, take the opportunity to write. I’m not talking about hours or days here – literally minutes. As mothers we continually feel guilty about not spending enough time with our children, (even if we haven’t left their side for 24 hours!). Grabbing twenty minutes to write, while they are engrossed in building a Lego spaceship is perfectly acceptable in my book.

6)      Ignore the housework. This may be one of the hardest parts of writing if you are a domestic goddess, but if you are serious about writing 100,000 words, something is going to have to give. It may pain you to step over the pile of laundry which has taken root in the corner of the kitchen, but you will honestly not care when you see your novel being read by actual people!

7)      Turn down social invitations. Not all of them and not forever, but if you’re going through a good writing patch, keep the momentum going. Your friends won’t mind if you explain why you can’t make the movie with them this time.

8)      Set yourself a writing target. When I’m in serious writing mode, I try to write 2,000 words a day. This definitely won’t happen in one writing spurt and will be made up of a few hundred words here and there throughout the day, with the majority being written before the kids wake up or after they go to bed. It’s a great discipline to set yourself and you’d be surprised how much you can get written if you keep working to that daily target.

9)      Go outside. Fresh air, running in the park, pushing your kids on a swing, kicking a ball with them, role playing ‘The Hulk’ – it all gives you head space to think about your story and develop plot ideas. You may not be physically writing, but often, time away from the screen is exactly what you need to recharge the batteries and you will be much more productive when you get back to it.

10)   Read. Reading is an important part of writing. It’s important to keep on top of what is popular and to experience different writing styles and different genres. I find that there is no better motivation to keep writing than to read a fabulous book you adore and wish that you’d written. For me, it is this that keeps the dream alive and keeps me tapping away at the kitchen table.

So, don’t spend your time wishing you had more time to write – find time – and use it wisely!

Reasons to read ‘The Hobbit’

There are some books that everyone should read at least once in their lifetime, and I would argue that J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘The Hobbit’ is one of them being, arguably, one of the best loved children’s books of all time.

Tolkien’s classic tale of Bilbo Baggins, a peace-loving hobbit who embarks on a strange and magical adventure, celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, and – following the phenomenal success of the Lord of the Rings trilogy – The Hobbit will also be released as a movie this December starring Martin Freeman (a man who was surely born to play a hobbit one day). Such is the hype surrounding the movie release that I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that the most dedicated fans have  already pitched their tents outside The Odeon in Leicester Square for the premiere.

Nevertheless, the movie would not exist at all without the book and, quite rightly, the publishers, Harper Collins Children’s Books, are encouraging parents to encourage their children to read the book, before they see the movie. Without wishing to sound like an old fart, it is all too easy ‘nowadays’ for our children to see heroes and villiains in mesmerising 3D on the big screen, without ever having imagined what these characters, or the worlds they inhabit, may look like for themselves.

I think there is something very special about reading a book such as The Hobbit; allowing your children to imagine the worlds, characters and creatures which Tolkien so brilliantly describes. I, for one, am all for giving them the joy of the words and the story first, before they see it all brought to life under Peter Jackson’s direction.

If you thought that The Hobbit wouldn’t be for you (or your kids), think again. I only read it after the Lord of the Rings trilogy movies, and I loved it. For anyone who has enjoyed the Harry Potter books (and let’s face it, we all did), then I would absolutely encourage you to read The Hobbit which is far superior (sorry J. K Rowling, but it is).

About the book

Bilbo Baggins enjoys a quiet and contented life, with no desire to travel far from the comforts of home; then one day the wizard Gandalf and a band of dwarves arrive unexpectedly and enlist his services – as a burglar – on a dangerous expedition to raid the treasure-hoard of Smaug the dragon. Bilbo’s life is never to be the same again

You see – you already want to read it!

For the die-hard cinema fans, you can watch a trailer for the movie here and there are more details about The Hobbit movie and book on the website and on the official Hobbit Blog.

Now, be off with you. I haven’t had my second breakfast yet and it’s almost time for lunch.