At a recent guest lecture on self-publishing, a fellow attendee asked the featured speaker if she had any advice for someone who is working full time and doesn’t have four to six hours a day to devote to writing.

That seems to be the million dollar question (and, incidentally, the million word question) with anyone who wants to become a “serious writer.” Most of us don’t have that kind of free time. And even if we did get paid to write fiction, many—if not most—writers who have been published through traditional means can’t afford to quit their day jobs.

So we must cram our words in whenever and wherever we can.

I wrote the first draft of my first manuscript, The Road to Faith: Book 1 of The Renegade Chronicles, in three years and then completely rewrote the 175,000-word manuscript my senior year. After graduation, I pounded out 2,000 to 2,500 words a day, five days a week. I cranked out two drafts of Book 2 while living in China and completed Book 3 the following year.

For me, momentum is a drug when it comes to writing, but momentum can be difficult to maintain when real life gets in the way. I wrote a fourth, full-length manuscript (Magic’s Daughter) and got about halfway through a fifth fantasy novel in the years that followed. During that time, I got married, bought a house, and had a couple of kids.

It took me more than three years to plot out, write, and then rewrite my fifth novel, If Souls Can Sleep. Rather than completing a chapter a day (as in my post-college “glory days”), I was reduced to a sluggish pace of one chapter per month.

That sucked.

Fortunately, I have a very accommodating wife. Before I started working on the sequel to If Souls Can Sleep, we sat down and mapped out a schedule that would allow me to commit more time regularly to fiction writing—without forgoing my familial duties. It worked out fantastically (no pun intended), and I got through the first draft of the sequel in less than half of the time it took me to produce the rough draft of Souls.

Now that I’m between drafts of the sequel and am working on a slew of other non-novel projects, I find I have far more I’d like to accomplish in any given week but with the same finite amount of free time. With my fiction writing—and newspaper column writing—I stuck to a nice, neat schedule. Now I have a ton of unrelated tasks of equal priority.

Instead of getting psyched up about tackling these new creative pursuits, I started to panic.

And so I did what I always do (whether at work or at home) when I start to feel overwhelmed: I got organized.

This morning I invented a new writing/free-time schedule. I don’t have four to six hours every day to allocate to my various new projects, but every little bit counts. And, for me, measurable progress—albeit gradual—is better than an utter lack of consistent momentum.

Here’s what I came up with:

David’s writing schedule for 2012


As time allows: Work on Allied Authors website with Steph


Before work: Start column or start blog post
Lunch: None (leave at 4 p.m. to work out at the YMCA)
Evening: Read through Souls sequel with Steph


Before work: Finish/email column or finish/publish/promote blog post; if time allows, research self-promotion, publication
Lunch: Read “CODE” (i.e., work-related research)


Lunch: None (leave at 4 p.m. to work out at the YMCA)
Evening: If no blog post yet, then write/publish/promote blog post or (if already posted to blog), research self-promotion/-publication


Before work: Work on Pajamazon Amazon; Right to Read
Lunch: None (make up for time at Right to Read)


Lunch: Read “CODE” (i.e., work-related research) or meet Steph for lunch


As time allows: Work on Allied Authors website with Steph

I doubt this makes much sense to anyone but my wife and me, but I hope it illustrates a point: whether you’re working on your first novel, trying to talk yourself into penning more poetry, or considering undertaking an entirely different hobby, there’s always time to be found.

Step one is seeking out those pockets of time in your regular schedule. Step two is sticking with the plan.

—Editor’s note: for the record, this very aggressive plan proved unsustainable. The modified version features far more flexibility.