Thursday, March 28, 2013

How To Write A Novel In Ten Minutes A Day

by Samantha Wilde

In New England, if you don't pay attention, you miss spring altogether. Winter lingers, wind keeps blowing, one day the snow melts and then the next day it's ninety degrees and you're sunbathing in a bikini on your front lawn. The time I have in my day to write is exactly like that. If I don't pay serious attention, I've lost if before I can fix myself a cup of tea.

Now I won't say that I don't occasionally envy full-time writers the leisure they enjoy, the luxury of writing an entire sentence without interruption, but the absence of writing time has a few upsides and I want to share them with you. If you are having trouble finding time to write, if you want to write but can't quit your day job, if you want to write but stay-at-home with your children, if you have put off writing until the time in your life when you can do it, I am here to say: if you have ten minutes, you too can write a novel!

LOOK! I wrote a book!
When I wrote my first novel, This Little Mommy Stayed Home, I did actually write the entire thing during my nine month old son's nap times. One hour in the morning, one hour in the afternoon. If you don't believe me, you can ask my son. I don't doubt he really remembers it! Seriously, you can ask my husband. During that time, he worked fourteen hour days except when he worked for sixteen hours so I never actually saw him when the sun shone. All right, you'll have to take my word for it! For my second novel, I'll Take What She Has, I did have a few hours of childcare a week, until my advance money ran out, and then I went back to the nap time routine. More recently, virtually every last word of my third novel got onto the paper after my children went to sleep, after 8:30 p.m. until I fell asleep.

My husband and I watched this movie, Get Bruce, the other night about the behind the scenes writer, Bruce Vilanch, who works with  many of the biggest comedians. At one point toward the end of the film, he makes an astute observation about himself and the hugely famous people he works for (I'm paraphrasing here): to be really big, you have to want it and nothing else.

Here's the truth about writing. No one can make you do it. My six year old will testify to that. If you have ten hours a day to write a novel, you can spend five of it on Facebook and the other five on Tweeter. You have to really, really want to write to make it happen.

You know what else I learned from the Get Bruce film? Comedians work terrifically hard. In a way, this surprised me because I thought, since it looks so effortless, that these were simply funny people who stood up and talked. To the contrary. The same goes for writers. We imagine that a writer magically writes like a robin sings. Not so, my friends. Except for those people who channel enlightened beings, no book has ever really just written itself.

And now you probably want some kind of practical tips.

1. First, let go of the myths that writing needs lots of time and comes easily. You can write in the time you have. Really. You need to believe this. If you don't, say it to yourself. A lot.

2. Get single-minded. If you have only thirty minutes a day, you can't allow yourself to get distracted by the dust bunnies, the inbox, or your insecurities. You must really want to write, then take the time you have, however paltry, and do it like you're dying.

3. Get good at quilting. Not real quilting, writing quilting. In other words, write a patch. Use your ten minutes to write one patch. Later, use another few minutes to write a patch. The next time you have ten minutes, stitch the patches together.

4. Write mentally. When you can't write, work the story/plot/character issues out in your head. Showering is good for this, or driving, walking, or waiting in line, but probably not when you're talking to your spouse.

5. Let the other stuff go. You have to be willing, for the sake of doing one thing, to let go of some of the other stuff. For me, my house is not so tidy most days. I can't tell you I love the heaping pile of clothes at the end of my bed, but I'm willing to neglect it in order to write.

Your turn. Tell me how you've written your book on the back of a grocery receipt or during a PBS fundraiser or in one all-nighter.

Samantha Wilde's latest novel, I'll Take What She Has, was an RT Reviews Top Pick, "With her easy, amusing, narrative style, Wilde speaks the language of women and communicates what lies in their hearts...a gem of a read." Publishers Weekly wrote, "With wit, compassion, and a keen ear for dialogue Wilde explores issues of insecurity, envy, young motherhood, and friendship in this fast-paced work." Her mother, bestselling novelist Nancy Thayer says, "It's almost as good as mine!" The mother of three small children, she's also a yoga teacher and an ordained minister. Like her on Facebook because it makes her feel good. Check out her blog on mothering or find out more about her on her website.


  1. Nice post. I especially like the quilt idea. I do a lot of the mental building while running which is another thing I have to find time for

    1. Hey, Arielle, that's super efficient! You are doing two important things at once.

  2. Great post, Samantha! I particularly like the part about letting the home go. Like I always say, "If nothing's actively crawling, it's clean enough!"

    1. Can I use that next time my husband asks?

  3. Great post! I agree 100% with tip four. My day is constructed around the 100 miles I drive to get my son to and from school. That is prime 'write mentally' time for me. I actually talk to myself, too--try dialogue aloud etc. I do get strange looks from other drivers, though…

    1. What a good idea! I haven't tried dialogue in the car before. That should improve my reputation here, too!

  4. I love this post, Samantha! I do agree that in order to do this, you have to want it. Really, really want it. Thanks for reminding me of that!

  5. Love this! What great ideas. Maybe add: lock the fridge...and ignore our mothers?


  6. I like the idea of quilting one scene at a time. Though I name each scene they often feel like a disorganized mass after a while. Hopefully I'll get past that...when I have time. =)

    Author of You Want Me to Do WHAT? Journaling for Caregivers

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  8. Great inspiration, girlfriends! Thank you for reading. :-)

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