Write a Book In Your Spare Time

in Becoming an Expert

How to Write a Book In Your Spare Time

Many people say they would like to write a book.  That statement is usually in the form of “I have this great book idea”, “I’ve always wanted to write a novel” or “I will write it when I have more time.”

I used to say things like that.  I kept promising myself that I would write a book someday.  Then I realized something important.

There are seven days in a week, but someday isn’t one of them.

Do It Now

I’ve had several friends who have told me they want to write a novel.  They have the idea for the book, but like so many experts say, “without action, an idea is nothing.”

The best advice I ever got from another writer was this:  put your butt in the chair.  It seems so simple.  It isn’t.

Stephen King said, “The scariest moment is just before you start.”  

Making yourself sit down and start typing is something I fight with daily, even after having written two full-length novels.  It is a battle you have to fight against procrastination and something I call internal attrition.  That attrition makes you want to do anything other than sit down and write.  Like Marcellus Wallace said in Pulp Fiction, “you gotta fight through that.”

Just put your butt in the chair and start working.

Finding Time

The most common excuse I hear is “I don’t have time.”  People tell me they are too busy, or have kids, or their job gets in the way.  They say they don’t have any spare time to write a book.  I respectfully disagree.

I wrote my first two novels by finding fifteen minutes, three times each day.  

Jeff Goins said, “Spending five hours on a Saturday writing isn’t nearly as valuable as writing thirty minutes every day of the week.”  So, don’t put it off until the weekend.

Kimanzi Constable told me when he was writing his first books the best strategy was to get his writing done in short, manageable chunks of time.  For those of us with busy lives, it’s the best way to write a book.  Here’s how I did it.

In the morning, I woke up fifteen minutes early.  I’m not going to lie, that part sucked in the beginning.  I love the snooze button.  But what is more important, getting fifteen minutes of semi-sleep or having your own book?  Get up fifteen minutes early and start working.

Eventually, you will get used to it.  In fact, now I find that I can’t sleep that fifteen minutes because I feel internal pressure to get up and start writing.

Lunch breaks are now work breaks.  Again, do you want to sit around and listen to people talk about American Idol or do you want to get another few hundred words done for your book?  Eat for fifteen minutes then lock your door/cubicle and write.  Go somewhere quiet if you need to.  You need to be free of distractions to get the most out of your little chunk of time.

Find fifteen minutes in the evening.  Sometimes this one can be more difficult, but trust me, it’s there.  How much time do you waste on Facebook or random television?  Take an inventory of a few typical evenings and you will find that there are lots of places where spare time is living.  Use that time to write your book.

The more you do it, the faster you will be able to write.  I can crank out about 1,000 words in 45 minutes if I have my story organized and planned out.

Getting Started

Write out the general idea of your book.  This is a simple paragraph on what the book is about.  It’s good to have it on paper as a broad guide.

Next, I create an outline.  Guy Kawasaki says he doesn’t begin writing until the outline is complete.  Instead of a traditional outline, I create something I call a “scene map.”  With this map, I know where the end of the story is.  All I have to do is string together a bunch of scenes to get there.

If you are creating fiction, you will have to do some additional work creating characters.  Unless you are writing War and Peace, this should only take a page or two of paper.  Just write down the names of your characters, what they look like, hobbies, quirks, and anything you think the readers should know about them.

Set Small Time Goals

Lots of writers have daily word count goals.  I’m at the point where I use those, too.  When you are writing a book in your spare time, though, I suggest using a different approach.

Since you are going to be finding fifteen minute pockets, set a timer for your allotted time and write.  Don’t worry about how many words you’ve completed.  Just work as fast as you can.  Remember, don’t edit at this point.  Fight the urge to go back and make corrections.  Editing can come later.  If something is misspelled, you can always come back to it during the re-write.


You have the time and the knowhow.  Don’t worry yourself with questions about publishing or distribution right now.  That stuff can come later.  What you need to do is start writing.  Stop telling yourself that you will do it someday.  This is the year that you can write your book.  And you can do it in your spare time.


Corbett Barr

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