How to write a novel when you have a newborn (and preschooler)

Let me tell you, it’s very challenging to find a spare moment when you have a four year old and a four month old baby.  I mean, just getting dinner on the table is a struggle most days.

how to write a novel with newborn

I’ve been writing novels seriously for almost ten years, so I’ve had to adapt my writing regime around work, my social life, and more recently, my family. My eldest daughter is now four years old and attending preschool three days per week. When she was first born it was the first time I’d had a break from my psychology career and I felt excited about spending more time writing!

Then my daughter was born and I realised I didn’t have all that much so-called ‘spare time’ to write. In fact, my head was completely absorbed with all things baby until she was about ten months old. As she gradually began to find more interesting things to explore in the world other than me and milk, there was some space freed up in my mind to think about myself and my writing. I’ve talked about this in a previous blog post. At that point I decided to get SERIOUS about writing before I returned to work and try and have a real go at getting my work published.

Writing with one child: nailed it!

Here’s what I found worked when I had one child: 

  • Write when baby naps
  • Write instead of housework
  • Write on weekends when hubby home
  • Write in the evenings
  • Write during any spare minute
  • Think about writing while doing a bazillion other things

Great. So that all worked fine. I returned to work part-time and I completed three manuscripts in the past three years.  And when my daughter dropped her day sleeps, that all went out the window! I wrote about that here and here. So I got my mojo back and after a tumultuous year, I was pregnant again with baby number two. My daughter started preschool in early 2019 and it freed up one day a fortnight for me to WRITE. I worked on my fiction as well as my freelance writing business.  I completed several drafts of my manuscript, The Perfect Sister and met with an industry professional for feedback (merely weeks before my due date!).

mother writing a novel

Writing with two children: a work in progress

My second daughter was born in July. Here’s what I’ve found the second time around: 

  • Writing while baby naps is much tougher when you have another child to care for.
  • Writing instead of housework is risky as there is SO MUCH WASHING with two kids. Especially a baby that pukes on everything in sight! Plus I have a four year old that requires meals. As much as I can survive on vegemite toast and tea, she cannot. 
  • Writing on weekends… uh my house is absolute chaos on any day of the week. Plus breastfeeding a bub means it’s challenging to leave the house or escape alone for any long period of time.
  • Writing in the evenings? Not happening. Once the kids are in bed at 7pm, my brain officially switches off and reality TV switches on.
  • Write in spare minutes. Uh what are they? 
  • Think about writing- Ok I do this while I’m doing a bazillion other things and I suppose it does keep my head in the game even if I can’t get my butt in a seat to get the words down.

I know that my youngest daughter is only just 4 months old and I need to give myself some time. But I learnt the first time around that writing is part of my self-care. It doesn’t matter if I’ve washed four loads of washing, prepped dinner, fed my baby every two hours and woken several times overnight… if i’ve had just fifteen minutes to think or sit and write then I feel SO much better. I feel like I’ve achieved something for myself. Almost better than an extra 15 mins sleep!

motherhood juggling baby and writing

The solution?

For now, I will continue to write around my family until I can carve out proper writing time. At least I’m not starting from scratch, given I’ve been working on revisions for the past six months. I’ve managed to complete the redrafts on the manuscript (The Perfect Sister) following the feedback I got in June. I find I am most productive when I have a printed copy of my manuscript lying around to edit. It gets me into the rhythm and then I don’t feel as overwhelmed when I sit at my laptop, because all I have to do is transfer the changes from a hardcopy to the word document. Plus, I feel far less guilty if I’m reading a printed manuscript while having a cuppa in the kids’ presence than if I were sitting in front of a screen.

With my manuscript complete, it’s time to go through that whole nail-biting submissions process again!

I’m feeling nervous, but excited too. I have plenty of experience with rejection (in the writing industry), but when you know that writing is something you NEED to do, then you just keep on doing it. 

I don’t think I’ve solved the problem of finding time… you’ve just got to make do with what you have. In the new year, I intend to start a new manuscript, so it will mean reconfiguring my day, working around my family routine and adapting my schedule as needed to take those snippets of time (no matter how much my brain feels like mush) to get the words down. For now, I will settle for daydreaming and note-taking 🙂

How do you carve out time around parenting responsibilities?

6 comments

  • I love this! I’ve got a three year old and I’m always working on ways to build writing into my day. Lunch break at work is a biggie!!

  • Haha, I only have one child. He’s nearly 14 months. I have no idea. After reading your post, I feel like I have no excuse. How did you write three manuscripts in three years? That’s amazing! Good luck with The Perfect Sister. That’s totally a saleable title. I mean, come on.

    • Oh he’s 14 months already?! Time goes by so quickly. Hey, I did barely any writing in the first year after my first daughter was born but once I found my rhythm I became more productive (with less time) than before I had a child. I hope all is going well with your cosy mystery novel.
      P.s- I love my title too 🙂

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