Managing a part-time writing career

“Don’t give up the day job!”

We’ve all heard it, and most of us need to abide by it.

Unless we are lucky enough to get that big break (and I mean, big), few writers can earn a decent living by writing and doing nothing else.

A couple of authors (past and present members) in the writer’s group I work with have gained decent publishing deals, yet still have ‘day jobs’ or they’d starve!

Liz Williams has a whole range of books published, but runs a wtichcraft shop and lectures on writing.


Cherith Baldry also has a whole heap of books in print, both under her own name and also as one of the authors writing as Erin Hunter , and yet she still marks English exam papers for extra income.

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For me, I fit my writing around my time-consuming job of training competition horses and riders. That means I’m out on the road most of the day, 6 days a week. But I’ve learned to make the most of my time.

Time management

I plot while I’m driving. I don’t have any less attention on my driving than if I was in conversation with someone sitting beside me – I just converse with my characters. Often snippets of dialogue pop into my head, as well as whole plot strands, and next time I pull over, at a garage for a coffee, or at my destination, I take a moment to make an audio recording on my phone. I used to keep a tiny journalist’s recorder with me, but the phone does the job these days and audio is so much quicker than writing or typing – it also means I can listen to it at home, and if it sounds naf then it probably is!

For a long time I avoided getting a smartphone, thinking it would make me even more accessible and bite into my time, but now I have one, I love it! I can delete emails during the day, read posts over lunch while I’m out, and generally make a drastic cut in the stuff I’d have to deal with in the evening if I didn’t have it. I do make the point of rarely going on Twitter or Facebook though, unless to answer a message.

I like to watch TV – much of my inspiration comes from visual media, so I record all the series I love and watch them while eating supper. If I’m only keeping half an eye on something I might even bring the laptop over and go on facebook at the same time. I guess that can be classed as mulit-taking.

And so, to work. I try to get my emails out of the way before I cook, then after supper (and tv) and, groan, washing up, I sit down to write. I developed this habit at Uni, starting my ficition writing after finishing course work, and it stuck. I do my best writing after dark (less distractions) and in the wee small hours (more evocative, somehow).

I don’t work to a set word count when I’m writing fiction – it comes at its own pace. When I’m on a deadline for a non-fiction book I try to produce 2.5K words a week – my publisher gives me 14 months to finish a manuscript as, in their words, “We know you still have to earn a living.”

Social Media

The last 15 minutes of my working day are a quick review of my blog, facebook and Twitter (I did Goodreads with my emails). I’ve had to learn to be time-strict with myself as I find Twitter addictive. And so to bed – and a chapter or two of whatever I’m reading before lilghts out…

So how about you? Do you have time saving methods of fitting your writing in around your living?



  1. Hi Debby, Just checking out your project on your Ideal Reader. Interesting, now I have an idea what I need to do. Just stalking you a little, #11 on my project. Keep writing and hope to hear from you. Mary E. Merrell


    1. Hi Mary, all quality stalkers welcome here 😉
      Great course, wasn’t it? Something for everyone and so easy to tailor to individual needs.
      Hoping some of us will stay in touch – writerly connections can be so beneficial.


  2. Debby,

    Wow! When do you sleep? Sounds like you’re an awesome time manager!


    1. That’s one of the biggest challenges for me – I don’t cope well with lack of sleep, and prefer 9 hours when I can get it.
      Being self-employed has its advantages in that I can set my own start time in the mornings, thank goodness!
      You know what they say: if you want something doing, ask a busy person.
      Well that person is me – no chance of ever being bored 🙂


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