FIFTEEN MINUTES TO FAME: How to Complete Your Historical Novel Without Quitting Your Day Job

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By Kathleen Y’Barbo

We historical authors are an interesting breed. Those of us who have answered the call can attest to the fact that there are no shortcuts in penning novels set in past eras. As with any other type of writing, plotting, planning, and research take time.

If you’re a fulltime writer who has no trouble fitting your writing schedule into your day, you can stop reading right here. Nothing I’m about to say will be of any interest to you unless you happen to be researching or plotting a book with a character that struggles with trying to follow divergent paths simultaneously.

Or, as they say down South where I come from, if you don’t find juggling work, family, (fill in with your item or items of issue here) and writing, then you won’t understand that sometimes trying to do it all like herding cats.

How does a person with limited time and brain cells manage?

And yet, plenty a book, historical or otherwise, has been Floras Wish boxwritten by folks who commute, punch a clock, or are otherwise chained to a desk or stuck behind a steering wheel. Most of The Confidential Life of Eugenia Cooper and all of Anna Finch and the Hired Gun was written while I held down a day job as a paralegal in a law firm in Houston. My newest release, Flora’s Wish, book 1 of the Secret Lives of Will Tucker series was also written while working full time as an oil and gas paralegal.

Assuming your research and plotting are at least mostly done, and you’re ready to write, there are many ways to fit time into your workday. I am not suggesting that you should take away from the hours that are given over to honest employment. Rather, I propose there are lost moments in each day that can be captured and used for writing.

If you commute, consider taking the bus. An average commute in my former hometown of Houston is almost an hour. In a round trip bus ride, imagine how much work could be accomplished with two hours of writing. Most employers offer fifteen minute breaks twice a day. Again, imagine what can be done in fifteen minutes. While this may not seem like much time, it does add up. Taking the thirty minutes you would normally spend in daily breaks to write would add up to an extra 2.5 hours per week of writing time. Add the time available during daily one-hour lunches and you’ve upped your writing time by another five hours. Getting up an hour early and working on your manuscript either at home or at the office adds another five hours per week to the mix. Total “found” hours in your work week: 12.5!

So now the question is, what will you do with all that free time? Write, of course!

Bestselling author Kathleen Y’Barbo is a multiple Carol Award and RITA nominee of over forty novels with more than Flora's Wishone million copies of her books in print in the United States and abroad. A tenth-generation Texan, her February 2013 Southern historical romance Flora’s Wish is a Romantic Times Top Pick. Find out more at

Comments 0

  1. Kathleen,
    This hit the spot. I have a full-time job and run a complicated household, so it’s been a struggle. I actually look back fondly to when I had children at home — if I was organized, I had more time to write than I do now. Of course I also had the energy — the most I can ever remember doing was four things at once. I make it work now by treating it as another job. I do SOMETHING each day on my current project, whether it’s writing a scene, tweaking a scene or the dreaded research. It is coming together and the pages are piling up. It is hard, balance is the key and believing God wants me to do this.
    Kathleen D. Bailey

  2. Kathleen,
    Thanks for the words of encouragement. I’v been juggling helping my son recover from surgery while still trying to help run a small business. Lately my main writing time has come using my laptop while my son is in physical therapy. I’ll keep plugging. There’s hope for my new manuscript if you can turn out such wonderful books with such a crazy schedule.

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