Friday, May 23, 2014

Write a Novel, Ten Minutes at a Time

Katharine Grubb was born in northeastern Oklahoma. She was raised in the Tulsa suburbs, attended the University of Oklahoma, taught school, wrote stories and then shocked everyone by moving to Boston, Massachusetts to be with a man she had been e-mailing for nine months. She married that man, and with him had five boisterous children. Nowadays, she still lives in Massachusetts, homeschools her children, bakes bread, does a ridiculous amounts of laundry and sets her timer to write stories in ten minute increments. Her favorite type of books to read and write are quirky, imaginative tales of romance, faith and humor. She blogs at and is on Twitter @10MinuteWriter.

Each day holds 1440 minutes. And in your busy life, nearly every one is accounted for. You have school, family time, time for friends and your fun stuff and you have to sleep, right? But if it we could have more time, then maybe we could get done what we really wanted to do — like write a book! 

A novel.  Completed. One with dreamy characters and a great story. One that we could send to our friends or get our teachers to give us feedback on. A book that combines all those characters and scenes that have been swirling around in our heads for days. Or weeks. Or years. 

I’d like to suggest that you do have time to write the book of your dreams. You really only need ten minutes a day. 

I had those dreams too. I put my writing goals aside to have my family. After having five children in less than eight years, the only writing I was doing was a weekly grocery list and even that was inconsistent and poorly written. But I decided, when my youngest was only a few months old, that I owed it to myself to find time to write. I had the blessing of having my computer in my kitchen so I trained myself to set the timer on my microwave. For ten minutes, I would write like a mad woman on my computer. When the timer dinged, I went back to the dishes or the laundry or the meal preparation for ten more minutes. Did my children learn to respect my writing time? Kind of. No matter how old they get, there will always be interruptions. Did I catch myself ignoring the timer and let dinner burn? A few times, but no one died of overcooked pasta. Somedays I only wrote in one ten minute chunk. But some days, I wrote for six ten minute chunks. That was an hour. If you had asked me how to find an uninterrupted hour while I cared for my large family: cooking, cleaning, supervising, laundering, and homeschooling, I would have told you it couldn’t be done. But I did it. It took me five years to finish my first novel. And my family was with me, the whole way, cheering me on. If I can do it so can you. All you need to get started is six things. 

First you need a space. Do you have a desk or work space that you can come to easily? Having a space to call your own, where no one bothers you, is super important. Plan your space and communicate to your family what you need. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just accessible. 

Second you need organization. Create a new file on your computer — it doesn’t have to be fancy.  Use an application like Scrivener or any other novel writing software. Keep it open and ready, so when your ten minutes come, you can get right to it. If you spend 20 minutes looking for what you need, you’re missing the point.

Third, you need a plan. You can start your story from the beginning and just write until you get stuck, without any plan or outline. (This is called Pantsing, like “by the seat of your pants”.) You could also create an outline, listing out characters, plot and setting — this is called plotting. There
There isn’t any “right” way to write a novel and it’s perfectly okay to switch from style to style as you write. The important thing is that you do something on your novel daily for at least ten minutes. 

Fourth, you need guidance. Every writer, especially beginning ones, need to be well educated in the craft of writing. Ask your school or local librarian for books on writing, so an Amazon search or look at Goodreads for the best titles. You can also read blogs on writing (www.10minutewritercom for one), read agents’ blogs, follow author’s on Facebook or Twitter and learn as much as you can. Even if you decide to study writing for ten minutes a day, you can learn a LOT in a year. You can also follow my Pinterest boards for writing tips by clicking here!

Fifth, you need confidence. Don’t get discouraged if it seems like things are moving slowly. By doing a little every day, you are pursuing your dreams. Someday you’ll finish this story, you’ll know more than you know now and you might be asked to guest blog somewhere (like I am!) . 

Sixth, you need community. As tempting as it is to keep this big goal of yours a secret, don’t! Find other newbie writers who want to tell their stories and talk about what you’re doing. Critique each others’ work. Read writing books together. Doing anything with a friend is more fun than doing it alone. Want a group of online friends to hang out with? My group: 10 Minute Novelists is a group on Facebook full of busy writers who have to work hard to find time to pursue their writing goals, just like you. Find us! 

Seventh, you need to put your butt in the chair and work! Yes, it’s hard. Yes, sometimes you won’t feel like writing. Yes, you’ll get discouraged and want to throw everything out. But the only way to get the work done is to sit and do it. Even ten minutes a day will make a huge difference.

So yeah, you have 1440 minutes a day and it seems like they are all taken by something. But your writing dreams are worth ten of them.  A book, with your name on it, is so worth it.

To thank Katharine for being here, we're giving away the Kindle ebook of her first novel, Falling for Your Madness. Here's a bit about the story: 

Eccentric literature professor David approaches Laura for an unconventional, intentional, rule-filled courtship filled with poetry, flowers and bottom-less cups of tea. Laura is smitten by his humor and charm but his British accent turns out to be fake. Dating David is challenging and sometimes frustrating -- but Laura has never felt more respected and beautiful. There is a reason why David is bound by the laws of chivalry, both body and soul and when Laura discovers what it is, she must decide. Is David worth it? Or is he completely mad? Falling For Your Madness is a romantic comedy about ladies, gentlemen, and the power of words.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. Thanks, Mrs. Grubb for the post. With summer coming up, I'm hoping to write an hour a day, but it's harder when there's school. Thanks for the advice and encouragement


    This post is exactly what I've needed for quite awhile now. I'm going to be super busy the rest of this year, but I hope I can fit writing 10 minutes into those 1440 busy ones. =)

    TW Wright

  3. Thanks for this encouraging post. Usually, I write in bursts with long breaks in between, but I think using this ten-minutes-a-day tip will help me to develop a more regular writing habit. I've also found that creating a blog has also helped me to write regularly.

  4. Yep, this applies to college students too! It's easier to write during breaks just because of all the free time I suddenly have. But ten minutes a day doesn't sound bad at all - definitely a great idea to try out.

  5. This is great advice, Katharine. Thanks so much for guest blogging!

  6. oh my goodness! this is perfect. i would love to make this a part of my summer writing schedule!! thank you so ver much for sharing :)

  7. This is kind of like the 100-for-100, isn't it? The goal being consistency. That's something I need to work on. Maybe I can try this...although I do tend to do better once I actually get into the rhythm of what I'm writing, ten minute chunks could help when I'm feeling super un-inspired. Thanks! :)

  8. WOW! Your responses were so encouraging! Please join our group of writers just like you! And I'd love to hear about what you're writing!

  9. Excellent post! I used to think I didn't have enough time to write, but it's amazing how things get done when I do something on my novel every day. I like to bring a notebook to school and write during homeroom or lunch and also write some before I go to bed, using the computer. Which I prefer to notebooks (less chance of indecipherable work), but I'll take free time when I can get it.

    Really, it was NaNoWriMo that got me into writing consistently. I got into the habit of writing before bed to make it through the whole 1,667. It's like brushing my teeth now; if I don't do it, I'm being lazy. Many people have compared a writing habit to brushing their teeth, and now that I have high-maintenance braces I have to agree. Often tedious, but has to be done, doggone it!

    It's really encouraging that you sometimes only write five minutes but have finished a novel! Sometimes I worry I will never finish, but you're proof that if you just keep at it...

  10. I loved this post!! Great advice, Katharine! That's so incredible that you managed to complete your novel :)

  11. Great post and great advice! Thanks so much for coming by. :)

  12. Patience BledsoeMay 23, 2014 at 7:29 PM

    Thank you very much for the awesome post! :D Small things can add up to great things. :) Very encouraging! Thanks again!

  13. I love this post!! At the beginning of this year, I made a resolution to write at least 20 minutes a day, and so far it has happened! It's amazing how it does become a habit...and such a great one too. :)

  14. This is an amazing idea!! I never even thought of it. I'm always so stressed about needing hours and hours to try and write my stories, but free minutes are way easier to find, and there's a lot of them spaced out throughout my day. Thank you so much for the post and links!

  15. What an inspiration! I have nine other siblings and we are all homeschooled, so can relate to the difficulty. Thankfully my whole family supports me greatly in my writing. I do nanowrimo so my Mom makes sure to give me extra time that month. My family rocks for going through listening to all my rambling about writing!