How to write a novel when you're working full time

How to Write a Novel when You’re Working Full Time

Rather than complaining about my progress, I thought I’d tackle how to write a novel when you’re working full time.

You remember the surge in hobbies recommended last year? And how one of them was writing a novel?

As someone who has been writing for years, it was frustrating. It felt almost blaise: have an idea; write it; done.  True, some people had extra time they could utilise, which always helps.

But what if you’ve got the idea, but are working full time? Fitting in time for hobbies is limited. Today’s post is focused on fitting writing into a busy schedule.

How To Write A Novel When You’re Working Full Time

Doesn’t a schedule restrict the creativity?

Maybe. But when you have other things to do, it’s too easy to put off. I like ticking things off a list, so when the option is answering an email or write a novel… You see where this is going?

Having a framework not only breaks it into manageable tasks, but gives me smaller accomplishments I could tick off.

What works for one stage of the writing progress may not work for others. How can you measure word-count when you’re editing and taking words out? But the combination of the below strategies helps keep momentum. Which, we all know, can be the hardest thing to crack sometimes.

Break your project up

Writing a novel might be daunting.

But how about writing a chapter?

Making a plan?

Perhaps some brainstorming?

I’ve been breaking my novel into chapters.  Each week, I set a specific goal e.g write or edit a chapter. It’s a big enough task I have to focus, but one I know is achievable.

Word counts

I’m a pantser with writing. Which surprises me, given my need to plan other areas of life.

It means I sit down and let the words come, even if I don’t know where it’s going.

I adopt this more for fanfiction than novel work, but I’ll set myself a target, and sit and write until I reach it.

Timed sessions

Word counts are tricky when you’re spending time editing. Instead, I’ll set a timer for normally around thirty minutes. In that time, I’ll turn off everything else and focus on that project alone.

Of course, distractions do occur, which leads me to…

Writing sprints

I’ve only just discovered these. It’s what it says on the tin: you write non-stop for a certain length of time, then pause and go again.

On days when I’m distracted, when I can’t reach thirty minutes without spending twenty-seven of them scrolling through Twitter, this has really helped.

Interval timers can be found online. My method is a ten-minute sprint, two minutes off, repeat. I managed an hour and a half of focused work using this the other day. The breathers let you check your feed – but only for two minutes!

I have to be in right mood for a technique to work. But different options and techniques to focus myself means I’ve written more in the last few months than I’ve done for a long time.

Do you have a system to help you write? I’d love to hear about it!

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55 thoughts on “How to Write a Novel when You’re Working Full Time

  1. Thanks for sharing these tips Lindsey! Not a “novel” but I’ve had plans to write a book for at least 5 years now and haven’t got past the first paragraph. Maybe some of these tips will finally get me moving! 🤞🏼


    • Ahh good luck. Starting is definitely the hardest part but I really hope you can find a way to break through it if you still have the plan to write.


  2. I’m intrigued by the concept of ‘writing sprints’ – I’ll have to give that a go! I typically try and schedule at least two hours to write in the day, and set an alarm, but turn off my clock, internet and word count so there are no distractions or temptations to worry about how much ‘progress’ I’m making. Theoretically, you probably could just ‘write a novel’, but I doubt it would be that great…


    • I’ve just learnt how to hide the “ribbon” in Word and that is making such a difference as well – strange how it’s the small things that you really notice. Writing sprints are working really well for me just to keep the momentum going.


  3. I can’t even begin to imagine how difficult writing a novel must be. It is something I would LOVE to do but I know I just could not make the time for it between work, living and my blog.

    The sprint method though seems like a brilliant way of working. I might try that with work! Ha


  4. This is such a helpful post! I love that I work part-time- and so I always have time to work on my writing. However, these tips are so important, as I always find it hard to concentrate when I carve out some writing time- and I’d love to work on my own writing in the next few months. Best of luck x


    • Ah best of luck to you, lovely! I hope you get the chance to find that time for yourself. It can be so hard just finding half an hour a day sometimes, can’t it?


  5. These are all great tips! I usually try and set myself deadlines and write everyday even if I don’t fell like, it helps me to keep up with the work and achieve something at end. I really like the idea of writing sprints, will have to try x


  6. This is such a helpful post. I can imagine a lot of people have the aspiration of writing a book but feel like they can’t due to time restraints and work but if you want to do it, there is a way! I think it’s amazing that you write so much (AND run a blog!) as well as working full-time x


    • Aha I’d like to pretend that I know how I do it, but that would be a total lie! I think there’s always time to slip in ten minutes here and there if it’s something you want though.


  7. Oooh! Love that you’re encouraging people to chase their dreams, even with a full time job. If you have the drive to do something, you can get overcome your obstacles. It is important to plan! Those sprints over time will add up big time. Thanks for sharing all of these great tips!

    Nancy ✨


    • Definitely! It’s the small steps that make it up – it’s too easy to put everything else aside when you’re working full time (definitely guilty of this way too much!)


  8. These are great tips! Writing a novel have always been a dream of mine, but I constantly put it back because…. “I don’t have time”. Probably more an issue of time management! xx


    • It can be a challenge for sure to try and fit everything in when you’re juggling activities but it’s amazing the difference of just finding ten minutes a day can make.


  9. Thank you so much for sharing these tips Lindsey! I can’t even begin to imagine the pressures of trying to write a book on top of everything else in life so it’s great that you’ve found strategies that work for you. 🙂


  10. When I worked full time and blogged, I found that writing in timed sessions really helped me. These are some great tips and I’m sure they’ll really help those who are writing a novel x


    • I don’t know about you, but it just helps me to justify the time when I know it’s “only” a certain length of time and then I can get to the other things. I hope it helps someone!


      • Love this! I’ve been working on my novel for a while now but don’t seem to getting anywhere so I’ll definitely be taking these into account! I love the idea of a writing sprint, I hadn’t heard of it before but it sounds like a great way of getting words down. Thanks for sharing x


  11. Hello, wow what an informative blog post! When I was working full-time and writing I found it difficult to manage my time between the two because I wanted to blog full-time. Thanks for sharing this great post. Alicia


  12. Amazing tips! I’m thinking about starting to write my first e-book for my blog but since I work full time, don’t have much time to work with. These tips helped me a lot and encourage me to start writing. Thank you for sharing 😊


  13. Some great points here, thanks for sharing! I have been trying to write a book for years but keep getting side tracked by life. I will give these a go!


  14. This is really helpful for new writers. I spent ages writing my current book and am still editing whilst working full time. It takes stamina.


  15. Great post! I’d also recommend the WritersHQ virtual writing retreats (they’re free!). They really help me focus and it’s great to know other writers are doing the same and having a chance to come back together to discuss how it went.


  16. When I’m really busy or unable to get to my computer, I find that having simple writing apps n my phone helps me make progress wherever I happen to be, whenever I can sneak a moment! Great post!


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