How to Write a Novel & Hold Down a Demanding Job

Guest Post by Caroline Elvin, Author & Freelance Writer

It’s no easy feat to write a novel, but doing it whilst holding down a full-time job can be a whole separate challenge in itself. Whilst writing my last two novels, I was working full time as Head Of PR for a creative company; a job that involves a lot of travelling.

My co-workers found it hard to hide their surprise when I announced I was launching my second book and a chorus of ‘where do you find the time?’ quickly ensued. Looking back, it wasn’t easy but it’s do-able.

I wrote my first book; Inside Number 129, whilst I was in my graduate job as PR Assistant; a job I never particularly enjoyed. I had a clear vision in mind; each day I would get home from work and write for two hours. If I missed one of my two-hour slots, I’d make that time back at the weekends. Even if the creativity wasn’t flowing, I’d sit and immerse myself in my book, Whether I wrote 1000 words or 12, I’d be in the mind of my characters.

In the years that followed, I worked my way up in the PR industry. During this time, I released my first book and wrote and released my second, Behind The Scenes. I wrote, and continue to write, at every opportunity; on the plane, at the airport, in my Hotel room and in the office. I tried writing on my commute to work, but I found it far, far too distracting. If you’re somebody who can work anywhere – the commute is such an ideal time to write. I call time spent at the airport, in the car, on the plane and on my daily commute ‘dead time’, so if there’s something I can achieve during that time I feel all the better for it.

Writing these novels wouldn’t have been possible if I didn’t learn early on how I work. Firstly, I needed a really nice space. I’m somebody who will procrastinate if everything isn’t perfect; my desk, my desktop computer, my general environment. When I first left University and lived with my parents, I went to IKEA and bought myself a desk. Now I live with my fiancé, our office is my place of absolute solitude. If you’re somebody who needs space to write, make sure yours fits your personality and helps your creativity.

The use of a ‘plan’ as a writer is hotly debated. Some prefer to just write and see where they end up; I’m not one of those people. My chapter-by-chapter plans keep my head in the game wherever I am. If you’re working full-time or you’ve got a lot of projects bubbling away, having plans for each of your ventures will help to compartmentalise them and make sure you don’t waste your precious writing time in a state of confusion.

I’ve touched on my need for organisation and structure with my writing, which I believe has helped me endlessly. I’m not immune from procrastination, though, and I’ve spent many prime writing days binge watching Game Of Thrones and eating chocolate.

Aside from structure, balance is my other essential component. Writers can be hard on themselves, especially when they’re working to a deadline, but without rest, I’m pretty useless. I balance my time out effectively. I’m old enough to know when I’m really being lazy and when I need a good break. When I’m being lazy, I use Mel Robbins’ ‘5 Second Rule’. This rule is so simple; you count down from 5 to 1 and then just get up and do whatever you need to do! You might think this sounds bizarre, but it is backed up by science; it engages the prefrontal cortex and stops your brain from rambling out reasons you need to procrastinate. I use this every day and it genuinely works.

When I’m not just being lazy and instead feel exhausted, I give myself guilt-free time off. Feeling guilty every time you step away from your writing does two things; (1) makes your ‘time off’ fraught with tension and (2) makes you resent writing. This is not conducive to good writing. As a nation, we’re very hard on ourselves about what we do, what we eat, what we wear etc. but sometimes, we just need to chill the hell out!

Writing whilst travelling is still something I find odd. When I’m in a different place, even if it’s for work, I have such a need to see everything and be everywhere. I’m not one of those people who travel half way across the world to sit in the room. If you’re like me, use this as an opportunity. Take your laptop somewhere and take in the views. I think travel gives me so much inspiration for future work, so it’s absolutely worth it.

I’ll continue to write whilst juggling different projects; at this point, I wouldn’t know how to do it any other way! I think we all have other things going on in our lives, but if you’re anything like me, writing acts as such a unique escape that it doesn’t feel like ‘work’.


Check out Caroline’s blog,, for more of her writing and links to connect with her on Social Media.

You can learn more about her novels at