How to Write a Book When It Seems Like a Crazy Dream


 Dreaming About How to Self-Publish a Book? Makealivingwriting.comEver wonder how to write a book when you’re short on time?

Maybe you’ve still got a day job. Maybe you’re not a full-time writer, but it’s your dream.

So you write during slivers of precious free time, either before or after work.

How will you ever find the time to write a book?

Here’s a reality check…you won’t ever find the time. You’ll have to make time.

If you want to learn how to write a book, you must chisel out time for this from your already-packed schedule.

You may think: It’s no use. I’ve already tried. I’m way busier than you can imagine.

I get it. Really, I do. In fact, I’ve been there. Yet, I wrote the first 90 of my nearly 200 published books, while I still had a day job.

Dreaming about writing a book in your spare time? Here’s how it’s done:

How to write a book: 5 ways to achieve your dream

If you want to write a book in your spare time, it’s not going to happen by accident. When you have a day job, family responsibilities, and other things to do, you’re probably already busy.

So how do you make time to live your dream and write a book?

These five tips helped me write 90 books in my spare time.

1. Establish rigid writing hours

Tell whoever needs to know that your writing time is set in stone. And don’t apologize for it. It’s not down time, discretionary time.

Allow only legitimate emergencies to invade this time. No favors, errands, breaking to chat.

  • How badly do you want to achieve your writing dreams and learn how to write a book? Some things have to go. A concert? A ball game? A party? A movie? An hour of sleep (be very careful with this one)?

Don’t expect people in your orbit to take your writing more seriously than you do.

Making your intentions clear also keeps you accountable. When you stake out writing time for yourself, you’d better produce something to show for it.

Block out this time and show up on time every time. Consistency creates habit. And good habits can make you a highly-productive freelance writer and published author.

2. Stick to your plan

When you’re only writing part-time and trying to juggle a full-time job, or full-time-stay-at-home parenting duties, your time to write is limited. That’s why it’s so important to establish a writing schedule that fits your life, and stick to it.

Despite your best intentions, some will try to lay a guilt trip on you. Sometimes it’s even your own family and friends who think your dream to write a book is a waste of time and energy….stick to your plan.

  • Be prepared to respond, especially to those who begin a conversation with you, like this: “You’re not working, so…”
  • Your answer: “Yes, I am. So, no, sorry.”

That might be tough to do at first, especially if you’re used to dropping everything to help others. There’s nothing wrong with helping others.

But if you’re serious about learning how to write a book, you’ve got to set aside time to make it happen, and work on it consistently.

3. Plan for work + play

This was one of the hardest lessons for me to learn when I was writing books in my spare time, and yet it has also been the most rewarding.

You need downtime, play time, time to recharge your batteries, and do something just for fun. It’s just as important as making time to write your book.

So be sure to schedule playtime every day. Just be sure it’s a reward for getting your work done, not the other way around.

You don’t want to fall into the trap of playing one more game, binge-watching one more show, or eating one more bowl of ice cream, before you work on writing your book. Play first, and before you know it, you’ve frittered away your writing time.

Write first, then play.

4. Write at the time best for you

By now you should know whether you’re a morning person or a night person.

If you can, work on writing your book when your mind is clearest, you feel freshest, and you can fully concentrate.

You’ll find yourself way more productive at one time of day than the other.

If you don’t have that much control over your schedule, write when you have time. You might not feel the most inspired or creative. But do it anyway. Here’s how:

  • Spend the first 5-10 minutes writing whatever comes to your mind to help you make progress on your book. It’s a way to clear the cobwebs in your brain, help you focus, and boost creativity to get in the zone to write your book.

5. Keep family first

When I was a newlywed, five middle-aged men I looked up to told me, independently of each other, that their one regret in life was spending too little time with their kids when they were growing up.

I got the message and established a policy. Once kids came along, I did no writing from the time I got home from work until the time they went to bed.

That forced me to create a part-time schedule to write books between 9 p.m. and midnight. But because I maintained my family priorities, I wrote without guilt and was as productive as I’ve ever been.

Your kids hear what you say, but they believe what you do. If you’re dreaming about writing a book, figure out how to make it happen without neglecting your family.

If you don’t have kids, or they’re grown and gone, it’s still important to make time to maintain and develop relationships with family and friends. You’ll be a better writer, and better human being if you do.

Dreaming of quitting your day job to write a book?

Wait. Don’t assume that if you write full time, the money will automatically follow.

But even if it does, you’ll need a lot more than you make with your job to survive while writing, let alone to flourish.

I waited until I was making 3.5 times my salary from writing before I finally pulled the plug on my publishing executive job.

Why? Because there’s way more to consider than just salary.

When you go full time freelance, you and only you pay for everything:

  • All your expenses
  • Travel
  • Insurance
  • Retirement
  • Office supplies
  • E-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.

Make sure the money will be there from your writing alone before stepping away from a steady job. But once you do, you can really enjoy achieving your writing dreams.

You can write a book in your spare time

If you want to write a book, but you’ve been using the I-don’t-have-time excuse, it’s time to give it up. You have to find the time to write. Plan it. Schedule it. Put it on your calendar. You can write a book in your spare time if you’re willing to make the effort. Don’t just dream about it, do it.

Thinking about writing a book? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Jerry Jenkins wrote 90 books in his spare time. He’s authored 195 books and made the New York Times bestsellers list 21 times. He also teaches writers at The Jerry Jenkins Writers Guild

Join my freelance writer community: Freelance Writers Den


  1. Bob Etemiku

    Sensible advice here especially those parts about family and quitting a secure job for full-time writing.

  2. Sarah McKenzie

    Fantastic article and a wonderful reminder to stick to a schedule! It is so easy to become distracted with non-productive tasks and this is the kick in the pants I needed to focus and get the job done. Thanks so much for the share!

    • Carol Tice

      Sarah, I was a 20-year ferry commuter and knew several authors who wrote and got published the novels they composed during our 30-minute commute into Seattle. It’s amazing what you can get done, even with small blocks of time!

  3. Pamela Behrens Larimer

    Yes, I have several ideas for books. I have even written executive summaries for a few of these ideas. I’m just not sure what steps to take to get the books published. Do I go for the self-publish ideas online? Or, do I find an agent? If I find an agent, what is the process? If I go online, what’s the process?

    • Carol Tice

      I think there’s a ton online about self-pubishing, and many ways to technically accomplish it. Mine has been to self-create all the common formats and mostly sell on my own site, but there are many other approaches.

      If you want to find an agent, you’d need to write the first few chapters of the book and shop it around with that outline. There are lists of agents in The Writers Market each year.

      • Pamela Behrens Larimer

        Thanks, Carol! I’ll start working on that!

    • Jerry Jenkins

      I’d urge you exhaust your efforts to traditionally publish before resorting to self-publishing. Why pay to be printed when you can get paid to be published? But I’m not necessarily in the majority on this, and there are many valid and legitimate ways to self-publish, as Carol points out.

      • Carol Tice

        Hi Jerry — I think it depends on what type of book and what your goal is with it.

        • Jerry Jenkins

          I agree, Carol. I self-published some of my father’s poetry, a memoir by my wife’s grandmother, and one of my own writing books that had run its course after a traditional release. And of course there are many other appropriate approaches.

  4. Kent Forsberg

    This encouraging and practical. I heard some of this before and it helped meet expectations and set goals. I sent a book to a publisher who wanted to publish but we did not agree on the cost. The proposal is still available.

    • Jerry Jenkins

      Thanks, Kent. And all the best with your proposal!

  5. Russell

    If you can devote one hour per day to writing, then it is still better than nothing. Most people can squeeze an hour out of their busy day if they really wanted to. They just have to avoid television, social media, or any other distractions that eat up time.

    • Jerry Jenkins

      Excellent point, Russell. We make time to do what we really want to, don’t we? The question is how badly you want to succeed. Something may have to give. What are you prepared to sacrifice to see that happen?

  6. Rahul Yadav

    Great info and lots of value here. Way to encourage others to live unstoppable!


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