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Thursday, March 18, 2010

How To Juggle A Writing Life with Famnily LIfe

People who have spent some time writing for a living, have usually found a routine that works for them, and knowing that what they write will most likely be published is all the incentive they need to sit down and do the job at hand. For you, the aspiring novelist, the long, lonesome road from the first sentence to seeing your novel in a bookstore is fraught with challenges.

Okay, so you have a good idea for a novel. Sit down and fashion your story into a 3-4 page synopsis. Once you have tangible a plan, ask yourself: Am I willing to spend upward of a year, perhaps far longer, writing a 100,000 word manuscript which I don’t know if any publisher will ever look at, even less buy?

You’re willing to take the risk? Great! Now find the time. You have a partner/husband/wife, kids, dogs and a full-time job, so it’s going to be hard. The question I ask aspiring writers who complain of lack of time: Do you ever watch television? You do? Okay, you definitely have time to write, possibly lots of it. Making time to write will involve the sacrifice of something else you do daily. In my case, I cut out some of my social life (less drinking = more alertness, more time), started getting up very early in the mornings and took my laptop on holidays. In this way, my family life was almost unaffected.

Make no mistake about it, a routine of daily writing still requires steel-reinforced discipline. Remind yourself constantly of your determination to finish your novel. You need a quiet space, preferably with just your laptop, and absolutely no telephone or internet access. For some this might away from home, a café, the local library or on the train to work.

Hopefully you have a tolerant and encouraging family. If they are not, you have to harden yourself to criticism and recriminations, and demand that they be more self-sufficient. Altogether you need a tough skin and a certain amount of selfishness. Friends too might be jealous and resentful.

Thinking back on the innocence with which I started writing ICE TRAP, my debut novel, I had only a vague idea of what was ahead of me. Working part-time as a psychotherapist, part-time as a sculptor, I had a home, a husband and two dogs (my kids had flown the nest but were always at the end of the phone). I also had other hobbies and interests which I wasn’t willing to give up.
I gritted my teeth and stuck at my daily three-hours of writing, because I loved the story I had in my head and was confident others would too. I sought out other writers, read many looks, got tuition and went on courses, always keen to learn from readers – really hearing their critique (including some scalding ones). I was a bit flattened by the stack of rejections I got from publishers, but I decided early on not to give up until I’d exhausted every last avenue. Eventually ICE TRAP became an international bestseller, and a full-time writer was born.

Kitty Sewell’s book, BLOODPRINT (Touchstone, 2010) is available in paperback wherever books are sold.


Shirley said...

Hi Kitty,

Thanks so much for stopping by. Your comment about turning of the television really hit home. I LOVE television, and I have to admit, I leave it on a lot while writing.

I'll try to take that suggestion to heart, though. I'm watching court tv right now.

RTHRBRTN said...

Thanks for blogging at Sleuths. I will be looking for your book in the bookstores. I don't write with the TV on but will occasionally turn on the radio. I need to break the habit of checking my email before anything else every morning. I would get a lot more writing done but that email sure piles up fast.

Kelly said...

Sacrifice is important. And the thick skin is good practice for what is ahead.

Thanks for being a very timely guest.

Beth said...

First of all, congrats about your debut novel landing on the international bestseller lists! Impressive. And kudos on your newest novel.

Your point about carving out time and giving up something is well taken. I sometimes watch too much television and could definitely write during that time. I could also start earlier each day or give up social networking a few days a week. The internet has become my biggest distraction.

I'm impressed that you managed to write three hours a day with everything you had going on.

Thanks for your time and wisdom, Kitty.

Beth said...

P.S. So you write your synopsis first, eh? That's what's holding me back from sending my novel out to agents. I have a mental block on condensing my 85,000 words into two pages. Any suggestions?

Shirley said...

Keep the comments coming. Kitty will stop by when she can to answer our questions.

StephanieJ said...

Thank you Kitty for your wise words. I have a son who still naps (preschooler) and often times I do not use that time to best advantage. TV isn't a problem for me, social networking is. So you have inspired me to be even more ruthless with hacking out valuable time. My family is supportive if a tad incredulous. What do you do now with your time, is it an eight to ten hour a day job or something else?

Stephanie Jarkins

Palooski65 said...


You certainly hit the nail on the head with me--I love emails and FB. I squander waaaaaay too much time on them. TV doesn't distract me so much. Putting your finger on the source of your "time-slurp" is probably half the battle, though.

Shirley had suggested a day without internet socializing--with the re-inforcement of your suggestions, I believe it's a valid suggestion for taming my weakness.

Thanks for joining us today and sharing some valuable insight and information.

Will make a point of "checking out" your books.

Beth said...

You mentioned the jealousy thing. I have a couple of non-writer friends who work full-time and I can tell they do not think writing is a "real job." Just comments here and there. It's annoying. Writing is very hard and so solitary. I think that's the hardest thing about it--well, and the discipline and editing which I loathe. Any tips on editing?

Also, any tips on finding an agent? How did you find your agent (if you have one)?

kathy said...


Your debut novel hit the bestseller list! Wow! What a motivator for those of us who haven't been published yet.

It sounds like you had to go through alot of discouraging declines to get published. I applaud you for the inspiring way you continued to plug away! And what a return for your stick to it attitude. It couldn't have been easy!
Thanks for blogging today!

Anonymous said...

Hi Beth

Condensing your novel into a synopsis is probably the best exercise you can do. It sharpens your theme and your story and you can see for yourself where the weaknesses are. If you caqn't make an interesting synopsis, chances are that the novel needs a lot of work. Get doing it!!!

Anonymous said...


Re finding an agent, it's a case of sending out your synopsis, the first three chapters of your novel, a short concise covering letter, a writing CV if you have one. Send them out five at a time. In UK there is a directory with publishers and agents. Make sure you send them out to the appropriate agents dealing with your sort of fiction.

Kitty said...

Hi all

Yes TV us a killer. It eats up soooo much of one's time, not just for writing, but for exercising, socializing, playing with kids, making love, etc. etc.
It's the dumbing down of the western world. If you want to be a writer, turn the damned thing off.


Kitty said...

Hi Stephany

Good for you to insist on the time. Yes, I'm more or less writing full-time. But I'm also a sculptor and artist, and right now I'm making a huge mosaic on the wall of my house, and I can't stop, so even I have weaknesses.
My motto is, if it's creative and it makes you feel good, do it.


kitty said...

Hi all

It was nice to get your comments. Please read BLOODPRINT and tell me what you thought of it. As I said, listening to one's readers is one of the ways you learn about writing. You can email me through my website

Shirley said...

Hey Kathy. You won the book drawing. Want to send me your address? email me at

Cold As Heaven said...

Some good advice there. Fortunately, I don't have a dog, so one problem less to think about. On the other hand I hate getting up early in the morning >:)

Cold As Heaven