Lisa Birch

Jun 1, 2017

4 min read

“Finding time to write” — bah, humbug.

A few years ago, before Natalie was on the scene, and before we lived in Adelaide, I said to Stephen, ‘Wouldn’t it be awesome to take a year off to write a book?’

‘Nah. You wouldn’t do it.’

The old husbander was right. The more time I have, the less I manage to get done. I accomplished a lot more in the last two years while having a bubba around than I did in the four years leading up to her arrival. Go figure.

Just before Christmas last year, I started transcribing one of my journals into a Word document. I came across this line ‘How could I think of not liking David anymore?’ It stuck with me. It was such a silly thing to write, but I knew at the time that it meant something to me. My utter devotion to crushing on another 12 year old would be undying! That was, until I turned 13 and met other boys.

Eventually, the idea came to me. My character, who I didn’t really know very well, would soon see that she was pretty smitten with a guy she was actually friends with, and who liked her back. So many teenage romance books read this way, and the premise is believable. So much so that I bought into my own ‘dating my best friend’ hype, when my then-boyfriend was not my best friend. I had a best friend, well two actually, and neither of them was this guy. (I was is perplexed by this swift turn of events, and trashed this journal many years ago.)

It didn’t seem fair to set my story in the current day, so I made the year 1998, and away we went. The saga of Kate and Tom is around 41,000 words, and definitely a passion project. I think about my characters a lot, and love writing for them. Tom is a dork, Kate is not cool, but wants to be and her best friend steals her crush (not David, I renamed him but some of my more crushing experiences have been included here) and there is a lot of skating.

I’ve wrote this manuscript while Stephen was home on school holidays, when Natalie has been super busy or asleep, when everyone else is asleep, basically, whenever I have a spare five minutes and don’t have a freelancing deadline. Because my book is a journal, this has made it really easy to find my place again. As a serial underwriter, I’m in my third draft because there’s a lot to flesh out still.

There is a saying ‘if you want something done, give it to a busy person’. Now, in some cases this doesn’t apply, but in my case, it rings true.

If you can’t find time to write, you certainly don’t need to be busy, but maybe my tips will help you out:

  1. Write something — a blog is a good way to start. Being quite an emotional and reflective person, blogs have always been my outlet and even days when I haven’t done any ‘creative writing’, I usually compose some type of blog post somewhere.
  2. Get involved with other people’s work — I freelance at the moment as an editor and beta reader, and I have found it has helped me hone many skills I didn’t have a few months ago. Reading other people’s work can help inspire me to think about my own writing practice.
  3. Show it to someone — the first draft of my novel is on WattPad, and I have also sent different versions to beta readers. I love receiving feedback, but I have also learned to be thoughtful about who is reading it — readers from different countries have made suggestions in changing terminology and (gasp) punctuation. My novel is really for an Australian audience but I wouldn’t have realised this until I invested in beta reading.
  4. Use snatched moments — some days I have only worked on my novel for five minutes — grumpy baby, awake baby, grumpy husband, awake husband, work, life, gym… it all gets in the way, but, really, if you want to write, you’ll do it. Oh yeah, this totally applies to going to gym too.
  5. Find goals to work towards — for me, my goal has been sending it to a YA publisher who wants a minimum of 45.000 words. My smaller goals have been: finishing first draft, uploading to WattPad, beta reader submissions, word counts and ending plot lines — there have been a few holes!
  6. Enjoy what you’re writing — I have been working on a romance novel for about six months now. I’m 7000 words in and I am going to have to change it dramatically. Writing it has been Struggletown Central! The YA romance manuscript is something I love writing, and rereading. If you don’t love it, you probably won’t want to do it.

Happy writing!