November 28 – December 4: “How do you make more time for writing?”

thriller-roundtable-logo5Do you stop taking care of the house and the yard? Drop friends? Abandon your family? This week ITW Members Debbie De Louise, Gayle Trent, Mary Miley, Ronie Kendig, Phyllis Smallman, Jerri Williams and Ray Dyson discuss how writers can make more time for writing.


renting-silenceMary Miley, historian and author of the Roaring Twenties mystery series, began her fiction career with The Impersonator, winning the Mystery Writers of America Best First Crime Novel award. A graduate of William and Mary, she worked at Colonial Williamsburg and taught history at Virginia Commonwealth University for many years. For getaways, she retreats to her Virginia winery where everything she does would have been illegal during the Prohibition era.


naked-nymph-cover-1Ray Dyson first took up eating in Evansville, IN, just long enough ago that, not only is the house he was born in no longer there, neither is the street. He attended The Ohio State University School of Journalism and spent several years as a newspaperman, covering crime and sports. He is a former sports editor and sports columnist, and now lives in Mansfield, OH, with his wife, Pamela, where he works as a freelance journalist. He has a particular interest in American history (especially the Civil War), the American West, and the American cinema. Dyson is the author of three other books: a baseball story, Smokey Joe; a Western novel, Bannon: The Scavenger Breed, and his first Neil Brand crime story, set in Hollywood in 1931, The Ice Cream Blonde (Black Opal Books 2016).


between-rockDebbie De Louise is a reference librarian at a public library on Long Island and has been involved with books and writing for over thirty years. She is a member of the Cat Writer’s Association, Sisters-in-Crime, and International Thriller Writers. She received the Lawrence C. Lobaugh, Jr. Memorial Award in Journalism for her work as Features Editor on the Long Island University/C. W. Post student newspaper, The Pioneer. More recently, Debbie received the Glamour Puss Award from Hartz Corporation for an article on cat grooming that appeared on She has published three novels, Cloudy Rainbow, A Stone’s Throw, and Between a Rock and a Hard Place, the second Cobble Cove mystery, that was published October, 2016 by Solstice Publishing as well as short stories in several anthologies. She is currently working on a psychological thriller and lives on Long Island with her husband, daughter, and two cats.


beach-kill-epub-sizeCrime Writers of Canada award winning author, Phyllis Smallman, was short-listed for the Debut Dagger in the UK, and has been awarded both silver and gold medals by the Independent Publishers. She was a potter before turning to a life of crime. She lives on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, where she golfs badly and writes madly. To learn more about Phyllis and to read excerpts from her Singer Brown and Sherri Travis book, please visit her website.


conspiracy-silenceRonie Kendig is an award-winning, bestselling author who grew up an Army brat. She’s penned over a dozen novels including The Quiet Professionals series and the Breed Apart series. She and her hubby have a full life with their children, their Maltese Menace, and a retired military working dog in Northern Virginia.


pay-to-play-coverJerri Williams has been appearing on or in television, radio, online news sources and newspapers for over a decade discussing federal criminal investigations and public transit. She is currently working full-time as an author of crime fiction inspired by actual FBI cases. Her debut novel – Pay to Play – features a female FBI agent investigating corruption in the Philadelphia strip club industry.


betterGayle Trent (and pseudonym Amanda Lee) writes the Daphne Martin Cake Decorating series and the Embroidery Mystery series. The cake decorating series features a heroine who is starting her life over in Southwest Virginia after a nasty divorce. The Embroidery Mystery series features a heroine who recently moved to the Oregon coast to open an embroidery specialty shop.


Latest posts by ITW (see all)
  1. When it comes to writing time, all writers are dealt the same hand–a 24-hour day. And because I reserve at least 8 of those hours for sleep, I’m left with less than 16 to spend. How you parcel out your waking hours should depend largely on how you view your writing. Is it a job or a hobby? A job requires a serious, regular investment of time, for me, about 4 to 8 hours a day. it’s work. Enjoyable work, one hopes, but work all the same. Work comes before social events, housecleaning, cooking, shopping, and is trumped only by family. Hobbies happen during spare time, after work and family and household obligations.
    Sometimes this question comes up at writers conferences, and the response is usually a flippant: “Wake up earlier.” That doesn’t work for me–I don’t write well when sleep deprived. My preference is to cut back on nonessentials like shopping (do without the item), cooking (serve pre-prepared meals), social events (fewer), and let the housework slide. Another option: consider setting aside an entire week when you will go “on vacation” at your home or at a friend’s house, doing nothing but writing all day every day, and see what you can accomplish.

  2. We have ideas, we have the desire, but where do we find the time? My solution is to write the small spaces. Waiting in a doctor’s office? This is the perfect time to write a scene or even do some practice writing. Pick someone in the office and write a description in minute detail. These descriptions will be far richer than ones done from imagination. Or describe the office itself. Sooner or later you’ll need a character or an office and you can pull them out of your notebook. It’s like keeping a casserole in the freezer for the nights you can’t even think of cooking. Waiting for basketball practice to finish? Pick a beat-up car in the parking lot and write a piece on it. It keeps the creative muscle working and sooner or later these short bits will come in handy. I am an impatient person so waiting is not for me. But I’m no longer waiting. I’m working. Keep a printout of a scene that needs revising in your vehicle or your purse. It will surprise you how far you can get in fifteen minutes and when you have a longer period of time you’ll go into it more relaxed and with a wealth of material to use.

  3. I believe writing, like everything else in today’s hectic world, needs to be scheduled and made into a regular habit. Many authors, like myself, still work a full-time job in addition to writing. For me, the best time to write seems to be early in the morning as soon as I get up at 5 a.m. When I’m in the midst of a book project, I usually mull over my last written scene during the night and wake up with fresh new ideas in my mind. Once I sit down at my computer, a cup of coffee next to me, I let the ideas flow for the upcoming scene. I usually write for an hour or so before I have to get ready for work and the rest of my day.
    Juggling writing, work, and family time is no easy task. Some authors, who are more productive at night, might prefer to work late in the evening after everyone else is in bed. Since I’m a morning person, I sometimes edit, check my emails and social media accounts, or do other tasks later in the day and at night, but I reserve my writing time for first thing in the morning. Even on weekends and holidays, I stick to this schedule, although I don’t always get up at 5. When I rise later, I still start the day writing. Not only do I take advantage of the thoughts my subconscious has produced during the night, but it clears my day for all my other activities.
    My advice to other writers trying to make more time for their writing is to carve out a block of time that is least disruptive in their daily routines and avoid making any excuses not to work during that period. Then, if they are able to fit in additional writing time later in the day, they can take advantage of that. If not, they have at least met their daily quota of writing time.

  4. When I was working full-time as an administrative assistant, I used my lunch hour to write every day. Now, even though I work from home, it seems there are still a million things battling for my time besides writing. I am learning to delegate, though. For example, an editor contacted me last week and asked if I wanted to proof the pages for SILENCE OF THE JAMS (book two in the cafe series). She mentioned that a proofreader had the book and that I couldn’t make changes unless there were actual errors. Since I was already doing edits for book three of that series, I passed on proofing the pages. It was a little scary, but I’m sure the book will be just as good as if I’d gone over it.

    I think social media is a real time-drain for writers too. So if you find yourself too busy to make up some sparkling social media posts or blog entries, Fiverr, Textbroker, and Fancy Hands have virtual assistants ready to tackle these tasks for you. Or maybe you have a teen at home who’d like to earn some extra spending money.

    So, basically, I don’t think you need to make more time for writing. You simply have to make better use of the time you do have.

  5. The fact is: writers have to write. Block out a daily time that works best for you and your immediate family, be it early mornings, afternoons or late nights, and stick to it. Lock the door and don’t open it to anyone but family, or maybe if the house is on fire. Write. Even if it isn’t good, you are getting ideas down. When you are not writing carry a notebook or electronic gadget so that you can get those ideas down. If I don’t do that I run the great risk of forgetting them. If I have them on paper or on some digital wheel in netherland it will save time when I get down to writing.

    I like to write in the early morning, which works out great because the kids are all out of the house now and my wife likes to sleep in. That means I can write until noon before I come out of hibernation and can spend the rest of the day doing family things. In my case, there generally isn’t a lot going on so I can write a lot in the afternoons, too, if the ideas are really flowing, then spend the evening with my better half.

    Everyone is different and everyone has different circumstances. But we all need to block out a time to write. A time that works best for you (and your family), and then pretend for that period that you are on the moon. You get quality time for writing and quality time with your family, and most other things don’t really matter.

    Just write.

  6. While Wonder Woman might be able to swoop in and save the day and look pretty awesome doing it, I’m not her. I can’t be everywhere, and I can’t do everything. Nor can I wear that leather and arm bands and look as good. But I have learned a few things toward conquering this writing gig–and not losing my sanity. When I was first published nearly seven years ago, I tried to keep an immaculate house, homeschool our kids with perfection, and keep up with writing (writhing?) obligations, being inclusive of everyone and every request. After I was released from the insanity ward (not really–I mean, I never checked in . . . wait. . . ), it dawned on me that I had very unreasonable expectations of myself and had to surrender the notion that I could keep everyone happy. To meet my contractual obligations and still have a family when I emerge from a deadline, I’ve had to become strict about a few things. One is that I have no obligation to anyone that saps my time/energy to write. My friends have learned that during writing time, I turn off all wifi, which means I’m not able to answer email, Viber, Instagram, or chat on Facebook. Doesn’t mean I don’t care about them. It means I would never get anything done otherwise. We’re writers and tend to be in-tune to the feelings and needs of others, but we must first protect our time and mental/physical energies. We can’t draw from an empty well. As a deadline looms, my house looks like the maid got fired (not sure when she ever got hired, but that’s another story), the flowers look like something from the Tower of Terror, my friends know I’m less available (and that’s okay!), and our family eats a lot of take out. When the deadline passes like a kidney stone, we get back to a more normal, less-hectic lifestyle. Just kidding. I have no idea what a less-hectic lifestyle looks like, but I’ve established more reasonable expectations of myself and accepted that I have no *obligation to perform* (which causes my life to suffer) for others. Those are my keys to surviving the insanity of the writing life, deadlines, and holidays.

    1. “…we must first protect our time and mental/physical energies.” I love that!! Great advice!

  7. Basically we all have the same problem and find our own unique solutions. The lengths we go to for our writing, getting up at five in the morning or turning down invitations, shows how important it is to us.

  8. Ray, writing when it isn’t good is something that’s really hard for me. I have friends who write faster than I do because they don’t write “clean.” I can’t help but edit and revise as I go through that first draft. Any tips for silencing that perfectionist in my head?

  9. In theory, I no longer need to “make” time for my writing. Thanksgiving week marked the one-year anniversary since I left a demanding career to write full-time. Unfortunately, I allowed new responsibilities to replaced my former work duties. I’m hosting and producing a successful weekly podcast, helping my daughter plan her June 2017 wedding, exercising to make sure I fit into my mother-of-the-bride dress, volunteering with two non-profits, and, the ultimate time-killer, marketing and promoting my debut novel. I find myself spending about the same amount of time writing as I did when I was working that day job. So where did I go wrong? I didn’t establish a writing routine. I didn’t think I had to. I now understand that establishing a routine is crucial to “making” more time to write. So, whether you have only a few hours in the morning or evenings, the occasional weekend (that’s when I used to write), or all day long, setting that dedicated writing schedule is the key. By the way, from now on, please don’t call me from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. I’m going to be busy. Writing.

    (Don’t worry. My decision to “quit the day job” was based on an FBI pension that guarantees I won’t end up on the street. But don’t you dare call me a retiree. I’m a full-time author!)

  10. Gayle, I will be among the first to admit there are definitely times I don’t want to write. Nothing about me feels right, nothing about the world feels right, and the keyboard is a demon. But writing is a discipline. I spent more than 40 years as a newspaperman and the thing about being a reporter or a columnist for a daily paper (I know, a dying breed just like me) is that when I had a story and a deadline the story had to be written no matter how I felt or what was going on in my little world. Fortunately, reporters have editors to help fix the mess and writers are poor editors of their own stuff. In the old days, when I was fighting a deadline, I often had editors hovering over my shoulder, tearing the page from the typewriter and editing it even as they were sending it to composing, then racing back to me for the next page, doing the same thing again. It is not the best way to write and it is certainly not fun, but it taught me discipline. Writing books or short stories hardly ever features a deadline, but I have learned that to block out time for writing and then put it off because I am not in the mood leads to more time putting it off than to writing. Sometimes you just want to put ideas down — good or bad or indifferent — and put them away so you can go back to them on a good day.

    Don’t edit as you write, just write. Describe the room you are in, or the view out the window, make up dialogue from yesterday’s conversation with your husband or the kids or the neighbor. You might see two dogs running around. Write some nutty dialogue for them. Goofy stuff. Doesn’t matter. You are writing and learning the discipline of writing.

    Just write. Get it down without editing it. Shut your mind down to editing. You know this doesn’t make sense, but it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you are writing. Go back to it the next day or three days later or whenever. You probably have written nothing that will be useful in your next story, but you might be surprised at the good ideas that spring at you from that morass of words just because you forced yourself to write that day. How many times have you been talking with someone and suddenly one of you snaps your fingers: “Wow, that gives me a great idea.” A great idea might jump out of you just because you were disciplined. You don’t have to write for hours on end when it’s a struggle, but write something. Take a half-hour or whatever, but just write. As the Fat Man said in The Maltese Falcon: “Talking’s not something you can do judiciously, unless you keep in practice.” Same goes for writing.

    I have probably rambled on more than I should have but I didn’t bother to edit it. Hopefully, there is an idea in there that will help you.

  11. I agree with you completely, Ray. I’m another early riser writer who just lets the words flow before editing. Reading your background in news, I see that my work as an editor and writer for my college paper probably also instilled in me the discipline that you mention about meeting deadlines.

  12. I admire you early risers. Though i’ve tried, I’ve never been able to write in the mornings. My brain just doesn’t function well on that side that early in the day. My best writing is done at night, and I am okay with that. It’s the routine, the determination to get ‘er done. I absolutely agree with Ray about just getting the words on the page. You can’t edit what’s not there. 😀

MATCH UP: In stores now!


ThrillerFest XVIII: Register Today!

One of the most successful anthologies in the history of publishing!