I’ve been writing since I was a kid, and though I’ve written hundreds of pages of blogs, essays, fictional stories, and more, sometimes actually completing a novel seems impossible.
When my cousin, Heather Chapman, published her first novel, I was inspired. We’d written together as kids and both pursued writing, but she had actually written a book. I didn’t understand how she did it—she had three kids (now she has four). I knew she had to be busy, but somehow she managed to write a beautiful novel. Now, she’s written seven books. (!)
Heather’s success inspired me, and I know it can inspire other moms who dream of writing a novel but feel like it’s impossible. She has just as many hours in the day and probably just as many errands to run as the rest of us mamas.
I asked her a few questions I felt could help other moms take the leap into the seemingly impossible world of writing a novel. Here are her words and her tips on how to make it happen.
What is your writing schedule like? Does it stay consistent?
Generally, I try to write when my kids are asleep. However, this summer, I’ve made it a point to write during my youngest’s naptime. My three older kids get “quiet time” (reading, playing, coloring, sometimes a movie) while I write for an hour or two.
The life of a mom is inconsistent, and my writing follows that pattern. Usually, I’ll be consistent to a certain point (1st draft self-inflicted deadline, my editors’ deadlines, etc.), and then I take a break. You’ll read a lot online about how important it is to write EVERY day. I don’t necessarily agree. I like breaks. I like other activities, and allowing myself a few days at a time, or even a month, to focus on other things (often more important things) does my soul some good.
How do you push through when you’re exhausted?
Writer’s block is real. My brain does turn to mush, and if circumstances in my family/personal life are especially draining, writing can seem impossible. I give myself rewards during difficult points—a relaxing evening with a movie, a shirt, a long bath, time to read, etc. Usually, accomplishing my goal is enough of a reward, but in those times where I need extra motivation, I revert to my five-year-old self.
How has your husband helped you through the process?
My husband isn’t super involved with my writing career in the traditional sense. He hasn’t even read every book I’ve written (seven books next month), but he supports me in the most important ways. He always speaks positively about my potential, he believes in me, he watches kids on weekends if I need to write, he encourages me to attend conferences and network with other authors, and he is understanding of my ambition.
I’ll never forget my first anniversary after I told Mark that I wanted to pursue writing professionally. He gifted me a new laptop, a lap desk, and a back-support pillow. He’s the first person I called when I got my first publishing contract, and he’s forever my biggest cheerleader.
Do you make writing goals? If so, what kind of goals do you make?
YES. I make goal after goal. Full disclosure: I thrive off checking off boxes.
I began writing my first novel five years ago. I gave myself six months for a rough draft and six months to edit. Then, I began querying/submitting my manuscript. I gave myself the goal of sending out batches of six. Then I waited for responses (about six months) and sent out six again. I could have been more ambitious in that regard, but I was new and putting myself out there was difficult.
Now, my goals are different. I experiment. My fourth book (one of which is an anthology) with my publisher comes out in December. After attending Storymakers (a writing conference) this year, I’ve decided to set new goals—different goals. This summer, I’ve set a goal to write a novella each month. I’ll be completing that goal in two weeks!
I also make daily writing goals. For example, I try to write 2,000 words a day. That’s really doable, especially as a mom. I write about 1,000 words/hour, so… you do the math! If I follow this goal 4-5 days out of the week, I can write the first draft of a novel in a few months.
What advice would you give other moms who want to write?
Start today. START. Begin with a sentence, a paragraph, or a page. The words come so much better and faster when you’re actually sitting down and trying. Also, even if you can write only thirty minutes a day, you can finish a novel in a year (or less)!
Attend writing conferences and meet other authors. Form critique groups and learn to put your work out there. Be soft in your critiques of others’ work but listen to those who want to help you improve (and TRY to not be offended). Take classes from the best. Meet friends that can support you in your writing efforts.
I didn’t attend a conference until after I had two books published and a third on its way. Oh, how I wish I’d gone to conferences before my first novel was published! My writing would have been so much better, and my attempts at networking and marketing would have been more successful. Storymakers is my favorite!
Don’t listen to those that want to bring you down. I feel juvenile writing that, but it’s true! There’s a target on your back if you’re a mom. Judgment, guilt, jealousy, eye rolls, not being taken seriously—these are all battles moms face, sometimes on a daily basis. Add writer
Whether you’ve dreamt of writing since childhood, or you’ve only recently been drawn to it, writing is an ongoing journey. There are many ups and downs but sharing your words and stories can be satisfying and rejuvenating. So, if you’re reading this… get to it!