filed under How To Write A Book, Writing and Motherhood.

I’m so excited to be talking to Kate Forsyth today about how to make time to write a book. Most of you probably know that Kate has been a successful writer for years. She’s published books for children, books for adults, works of fantasy, historical fiction; she’s truly a diverse and well loved writer.

I first saw Kate speak at the Australian Society of Authors National Congress last year and I was so inspired by her speech that I went straight out and bought her book, The Wild Girl, which I reviewed glowingly on Book Chat earlier this year. So, based on the huge response to my blog a couple of weeks ago when I shared my system for managing my writing, teaching, admin, life and mum time, I thought I should create an occasional series where I’d speak to other authors, who are also mums, about how they manage their time. And the first person I thought of was Kate Forsyth.

So without further ado, let’s jump in and find out how someone as prolific as Kate, who is published internationally and publishes new books regularly, gets it all done. I recorded our chat on video for you and I really recommend that you make the time to watch the video because Kate is such an engaging speaker. But I’ve also summarised our chat in case you’d prefer to read the highlights.

Onto the video!


What Does an Average Week Look Like For Kate Forsyth?

Kate says she’s always built her writing time around her children. She mainly writes when they’re at school, but the closer she is to the end of a book will mean she writes on nights and weekends as well.

But of course her week isn’t just about writing. Here’s a sample of what else she has on:

  • blogging
  • doing interviews like this one
  • teaching—she’s only had one weekend off in the last month because she teaches quite a lot
  • in 3 weeks’ time she’s heading overseas to take a group of writers for a week’s writing retreat in the Cotswolds—wouldn’t that be fabulous for the writers!
  • she’s also guest of honour at the Historical Novels Society conference in London
  • book reviews, like her monthly reading roundup for Booktopia
  • and she’s in the middle of preparing for two book releases, one in Australia and one in the US, so a lot of pre-publicity work has to be done

Quite clearly being a writer isn’t just about writing a book!

And How Does Kate Fit Everything In Each day?

First thing in the morning Kate checks all her emails. Then she drops her daughter at school and walks the dog for an hour—don’t forget quiet thinking time is just as important to a writer as writing time. She’s at her desk by 10am and goes through her emails again, aiming to get this done by 10.30. Then writing time begins.

She puts aside one day a week, usually a Monday, to do all the other admin type jobs, including writing articles, doing interviews, handling non-urgent emails. Also on a Sunday or a Monday, she’ll update her blog and she’ll organise all her blog posts for a month in advance. Having some kind of system to manage writing time seems to be as important to Kate as it is to me.

With So Much to Do, How Does Kate Prioritise?

Kate uses a weekly To Do list. She writes everything that has to be done on that list and at the end of the week, anything that hasn’t been done is transferred to the following week’s list. She gets a lot of pleasure out of crossing things off—don’t we all!

Importantly, writing and family always come first. She wants to be able to help her son with his homework and take her daughter to ballet as well as write her books.

So give yourself this same permission. As Kate says, it would be very easy to spend her whole time answering emails from people who want to know how to write, how to get published etc and while she’s happy to help as much as she can, she also reminds herself that she’s a writer and she can’t do everything.

How to Make Time to Write a Book. An Interview With Kate Forsyth.

What’s Changed Over the 18 Years She’s Been a Full-Time Writer?

When Kate started writing, her children were babies so she didn’t have much writing time. She’s always built her writing time and routines around her children. At first she wrote when they slept (sounds familiar!), then she wrote when they were at kindergarten. Now her kids are both at school, she finds she has more time, but that the work expands to fill the available time.

The biggest difference between now and when she started writing is social media. Back then, writers had a static webiste and nothing else. Building and maintaining an author platform now takes up a lot of time that she used to be able to spend on writing.

You have to be very careful to remember you’re not a professional tweeter, you’re a professional novelist.

How Does Kate Manage Social Media Time?

The first thing Kate does is turn off all the beeps and alerts on her phone.

To have a tweet or a beep or a phone call when I’m writing can wrench me out of the zone I’m in and that can be very hard to get back into.

Kate sections out her social media time. She knows she can’t allow social media to take over her writing time, even though it’s very seductive!

Breakfast time is spent with her daughter chatting and Kate also checks Twitter and Facebook then. She checks again after her walk and then she turns it off and writes. Before she turns off her computer at the end of the day, she will check social media one last time. I think this is such a great idea—to allocate times that are for social media and to never give up your writing time to Twitter!

I loved the way Kate said she also combines her research and social media. If she’s researching a book and she finds a poem she loves, she’ll share that on social media. If she’s reading an article that she finds interesting, she’ll share it. It takes two seconds to do, it’s relevant to her audience and it shows that she’s actively engaged in social media—but without wasting too much precious time on it.

On Being a Mum and a Writer

Kate talked about how she did everything that needed to be done with her children—the shopping, the cooking etc, rather than giving up precious writing time to these tasks, which I wholeheartedly agree with. I take my youngest grocery shopping me with on one of his days off kindy, rather than spending any of my precious two writing days at Coles.

She doesn’t do housework when the kids are at school because that is writing time—in fact she knows if she finds herself doing housework then it means she’s procrastinating and she needs to drag herself back to the computer and deal with the story issue she’s procrastinating over!

Kate’s Final Tips for Mums (and anyone else!) on Making Time to Write

Set aside a sacred space and a sacred time. This is your time to write.

Try to make an appointment with yourself for a quiet time that you can devote to writing, is Kate’s advice. And make sure you spend that time writing! I love her idea of a sacred space—every writer should try to find some such space.

Also, Kate advocates trying to write every day, even if it’s just 10 minutes. Keep stealing time for yourself to write. Kate says that most of her earlier books were written in 10-20 minutes snatches of time when the children were asleep or occupied, so it is possible to be a productive writer with very little real writing time each day.

Win a Copy of Dancing On Knives, Kate’s New Book

Dancing on Knives by Kate ForsythThere is such an interesting story behind Kate’s latest book, Dancing on Knives. Kate has redrafted a book that was released many years ago under her maiden name, a book that she wrote and rewrote over many years, since she was just 16 years old in fact, a book that is very close to her heart. I recommend you watch the video to hear her talk about the story behind Dancing On Knives because it’s fascinating.

And, I’m sure many of you are also huge fans of Kate’s work. So I’m giving away a copy of Dancing on Knives to one lucky reader. All you have to do is be an existing subscriber to my weekly e-newsletter (if you’re not you can sign up here) and you need to leave a comment below, letting me know which part of the interview with Kate really spoke to you as a writer or reader.

Huge thanks to Kate Forsyth for being so generous with her advice, with her time and with her experience. I hope you all enjoyed the interview as much as I enjoyed talking to Kate. I’ll bring you another interview with another writing mum very soon. In the meantime, if you’d like to find out more about Kate, you can find her website here. She’s also on Twitter and Facebook, and is truly worth following as she uses social media so well.

Thank you Kate. And don’t forget to leave your comments below!


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40 Responses to “How to Make Time to Write a Book: Kate Forsyth Shares Her Secrets”

  1. littleblackdressproductions

    Thanks so much for this video blog. I know when I finally get to the end of my first draft I will look back and wonder how I did it with 2 small children BUT I am highly motivated by other women that have managed it and it certainly keeps me climbing what feels like a mountain. That voice in my head is always saying ‘If they can do it, so can YOU!’

    • Natasha Lester

      You’re right Tabetha, I know you can do it and I’m glad it was motivating to see this video and to hear how Kate’s done it over such a long period of time. She really is an inspiration.

  2. Maureen Helen

    Another interesting blog, Natasha, and I enjoyed your interview with Kate Forsyth. I specially like the idea of a sacred space for writing. I have a pretty room where I write, doodle and daydream, and although I have not thought about it as sacred space, from now on I plan to be conscious of the concept.

    • Natasha Lester

      Yes, I loved that idea too Maureen. As soon as she said it I thought it was a brilliant way to describe one’s writing space, and I agree that being conscious of it as a sacred space is very different to it simply being the space where you do a bit of work. I plan to think of it more consciously as my sacred space too.

  3. Heather

    Unfortunately I couldn’t watch the video – my sole internet connection is one of those wireless USB devices,and service where I am is so slow! So all my comments are based on your text. 🙂 But I loved the way Kate combines research and social media – what a brilliant idea! Also her comments about writing in 10-20 min snatches of time. I am rediscovering the need for that after the birth of my daughter 6 weeks ago (I also have a 6 and 8 year old). And leaving housework to times when the children are awake/at home. This is something I really need to put into practice!!

    • Natasha Lester

      That’s such a shame Heather! But it makes me glad I took the time to do a summary of the conversation so that everyone can get Kate’s insights, no matter how slow their internet connection!

      I also thought it was a brilliant idea of hers, to combine research and social media and I plan to steal it! I am already VERY good at not doing the housework in my writing time, in fact I’m very good at forgetting to do the housework at all! But I figure I will never be on my death bed wishing I’d done more cleaning!

  4. Kerrie Paterson

    So many great tips in this and how lovely was Kate! I loved the idea of combining research with social media without going into the dark hole that is Facebook 🙂 I also loved the idea of the sacred space – I’ve just “refound” mine and it’s made such a difference. I need to start implementing her “10 minutes a day” idea and not waiting for the large chunks of time which rarely materialise.

    Great interview Natasha and Kate. Thank you!

    • Natasha Lester

      She was so lovely wasn’t she Kerrie! A truly wonderful person and a terrific writer. So glad you enjoyed the interview and it seems that the sacred space is really resonating with people. I too loved that idea.

  5. mummymanifestodotcom

    My favourite part of the interview was Kate’s memory of her road trip with her publicist, that instigated her book to be re-published.
    I have cleaned out my “sacred space” -my office and am starting to carve out time to do a similar thing as Kate. 3 kids, a blog, part-time paid writing, and writing my novel as well as other casual nurse work to pay the bills. Juggling those balls in the air haha

    • Natasha Lester

      Wasn’t that a great story? And I loved what Kate said about rescuing lost books – how great that her publisher resurrected one of hers.

      And I know exactly how you feel – lucky we love juggling!

  6. Karen

    Thank you so much, Natasha and Kate, for a fascinating interview. Love your idea for a series of interviews with writer mothers – I find the balance between organised chauffeur/cook/laundry maid/homework adviser and creative/daydreamer/writer/painter to be a life’s work! Kate’s idea to write in ten minute blocks resonated strongly with me – often it is easier to fold washing in ten minutes because it seems like a tangible, achievable task while writing can seem less productive. However, if you have a sacred space for writing, and believe that writing is a sacred task, ten minutes of writing gains a new importance.

    • Natasha Lester

      You’re right Karen – the washing seems to call out far louder than the writing sometimes doesn’t it?! So glad you enjoyed the post and that you like the idea for the series. I’m just in the process of teeing up an author for another interview in about 6 weeks’ time.

  7. Amanda Kendle (@amandakendle)

    I’ve only just had time to watch this but it’s gorgeous! Beautiful interview and great choice of author to interview! I totally agree about leaving the housework until the kids are around or if possible just leaving it out completely. My precious few hours alone are way too precious to spend vacuuming!

  8. janegillespie

    While I am a mum, by no stretch of the imagination can I claim to be a young one. I’m actually a great-grandmother. I’ve had a memoir published and a short romantic novel but have been writing a full-length novel for almost 14 years so the best part of the interview for me was to hear how long it took Kate to have Dancing on Knives published. I appreciate that she had had many, many other books published in the time between starting that book and it being released (by the way, what was its original title?) but it does give me hope that I will eventually finish my editing/re-writing. The most frustrating thing about taking so long to write a book is that there are many things that need updating because the world has moved on so much since the beginning of this century. I’m not familiar with Kate’s writing so will be haunting my local library fro now on to see all the different genres she writes in.

    • Natasha Lester

      The book was originally titled Full Fathom Five and was published under her maiden name of Kate Humphrey. Good luck with your book and I firmly believe that each book takes as long as it needs to take to be the best it can be. I hope you enjoy seeking out Kate’s books.

  9. Susan Dunn

    Great summary, Natasha. I am now a happy grandmother to a newborn and have little time to write in lengthy blocks so the ten minute snatches appeal to me. I also like the idea of allocating social media to certain times and turning the notifications to silent! At the moment I have limited internet access, do I haven’t been able to listen to your video. I don’t know if this is covered but I must buy an attractive notebook forjotting down ideas when I am out and about and find I have a little time on my hands, or when inspiration hits. Thank you.

    • Natasha Lester

      Yes, I need to turn my social media notifications to silent – I haven’t done this yet but I can see how distracting it is to have them on. How lovely to have a newborn grandchild – enjoy every minute and I hope you find some productive snatches of time for writing.

  10. lara morgan

    This is such a timely interview to read, thanks very much for this it reminded me that I can still be a writer while being a full time mum. I have a 2 year old and another baby due in 2 weeks and have been struggling to get the work done to meet a book deadline before the baby arrives – unsuccessfully I might add. Author frozen in the headlights is a phrase that comes to mind. Hearing Kate talk about writing in 10 and 20 min blocks when she had babies reminds me that there is still hope to get the work done and not to panic – too much anyway – just to do what I can in the time I have. She managed to make it work so it is possible. And definitely ignore the housework!

    • Natasha Lester

      Wow, you sound very busy! I remember being just the same only a few short years ago with a 3 year old, a 1 year old and baby number three about to come into the world. I believe, as Kate said, it really is possible to write around kids’ sleep schedules etc. It’s what I’ve always done and I wish you all the very best with it, and with the new baby.

  11. Kate Forsyth

    Thank you so much to everyone for their lovely comments and a big thank you to Natasha for such a great interview – I felt we were in a cafe, chatting like old friends and sharing our life stories – not like an interview at all! I wish you all the very best with all your writing dreams … I know how hard it can be sometimes to keep your faith in yourself but it’s so worth it!

  12. Marilyn

    I absolutely loved this interview. I was very interested in how Kate organized her time and it’s much better than mine. I am on my third manuscript so I can use all this.

  13. Emily

    This just makes me love Kate Forsyth even more!!!! I remember when we moved house, my copy of the Starthorn Tree got lost, and I was devastated. I’ve never given up hope that one day, I will find an unpacked book in my cupboard or somewhere under the bed, and I will open it up and inside will be a few beloved childhood books, topmost that one. Thank you very much for sharing this interview. Even though I don’t have kids, sometimes it is hard to remember to make time for myself to write in amongst all the working and reviewing and laundry and friend seeing, and driving to Mundaring. Kate’s right… the writing comes first!

    • Natasha Lester

      Glad you liked it! It’s eye opening seeing how much she does, and that she still fits in all her writing. I thought I was busy but she is truly a busy person. It makes us all realise that we can write more if we just make the time for it. Good luck with it Emily, and how nice that you have a residency coming up to really focus on your writing.

  14. Michael Holmes

    What a great interview. Having been a fan of Kate’s books for many years (ordering them from Australia because i can’t WAIT for them to come to the US) It’s really great to hear her perspective on things. And I still hope someday to see a new Eileanan set book. (I know, I know I need to let authors move on to do new and exciting things for themselves.) Thanks for a wonderful interview.

    • Natasha Lester

      Hi Michael and how nice to see that someone all the way over in the US has been touched by Kate’s books too. Thanks for taking the time to comment and I’m so glad you liked the interview. And maybe Kate will see your plea re Eileanan!

  15. emmatruscott

    Really enjoyed the interview with Kate – great to hear wise words form such an experienced writer. It still amazes me that you have both accomplished so much with small children! I have to learn to ignore the housework … Thanks for taking the time out and sharing your insights!

    • Natasha Lester

      Thanks Emma! Yes, I really wanted to hear from someone who’s been able to make it in the industry over a long period of time, because I figured that whatever they were doing, must be worthwhile. So it was great that Kate gave us her time. Glad you enjoyed it.

  16. Suellen Patey

    As an absolute beginner in the writing field, I found this interview really inspiring. What a lovely pair of ladies you two are, Natasha. I will take on board all the hints and ideas that were mentioned.

  17. Laura

    I loved watching the interview – thank you ladies! I really related the advice given in so many ways because it was so practical and ‘real’ to do and achieve. Thankyou , I now see my desk as a sacred place for writing and have even picked out a sacred outdoor writing space for those ten-twenty minutes slots that I will now take guilt free on a lovely, sunny day. Turning off the distractions and developing a system that works with my priorities is going to make a big difference to my writing focus and quality. Looking forward to the next one 🙂

    • Natasha Lester

      A sacred outdoor writing place sounds divine – what a great idea. I think I could easily turn off some distractions too – I’m good at turning off the wi-fi when I’m writing but I do have a lot of beeps on my phone! Good luck with it!

  18. Rebecca Laffar-Smith

    I love her advice to, “Set aside a sacred space and a sacred time.” This is something I’m actively working at creating at the moment. I’ve blocked out time on my day planner but am having issues with the “sacred” aspect of it. Today I started an hour and a half late, then stopped early because a family member came in to talk to me. In the past I’ve been able to set boundaries but my new living conditions have caused some turmoil so I’m trying to find my way back to that space where my writing time is sacred and I treat it with the reverence it (and I) deserve.

    That, and the idea of having sectioned out time for social media. My SM times aren’t laid in concrete but, like Kate, I find I start the day with email and SM before I take my daughter to school so that I’m note distracted by it when my writing block starts at 9am. Having the limit of only being able to do it until I have to take my daughter to school is a great limiter. I think for that reason I’ll schedule my second block for 2.30pm so that again it’ll only get 15 minutes max. 🙂 I love how this ties in with the conversation we had on Saturday about managing the time SM takes in a writers day.

    • Natasha Lester

      That was my favourite of all of her pieces of advice too, Rebecca. Such a lovely way to think of your writing space, as being sacred.

      And yes, great that Kate’s social media tips line up with what Annabel was talking about on Saturday. We all need a way to stop it taking over our writing time, don’t we! I’m just about to finish my 20 minute ration now!

  19. Matilda

    I’ve only just got round to watching this Natasha, and I just wanted to say that I absolutely loved it! Kate had so much wonderful advice, and seems like such a lovely person! I look forward to more of your skype interviews xxx



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