How to write a book – or ten

Picture of Leigh Turner
Leigh Turner

How to write a book: when should you write?  How can you find time to write a book – or eight?  Do writing targets – eg two hours per day – help?  

Someone the other day asked me: ‘can you tell me how to write a book? When do you write?  And are you writing a book right now?’

Leigh Turner writing a book in Istanbul

Here is a snapshot.

I have – or had – a full-time job

First, until 2021 I had a full-time job as a diplomat and, for my last 13 years at work, a head of mission (ambassador or consul-general).  It was a fine job and I was privileged to have it.  It kept me busy most days from around 8.30, when I started work, until around 18.45.  It also required me to be out a lot in the evenings, often until 11 p.m. or later.

How to write a book: use targets?

When working as a diplomat, I concentrated my writing on weekends and free evenings.  My aim was to write for an average of two hours every day – two-and-a-half during lockdowns, when I had fewer evening engagements.  This was an ambitious target; but I often met it.  How?  Because I was generous to myself on what counted as writing.  For example, I included writing this blog, research or meeting another author as well as physically putting pen to paper.

Since I retired, I have increased my daily writing target somewhat.

This target-driven approach works for me.  When working full time I mostly wrote in the evenings between 9 p.m. and 1 a.m.  At the weekends I sometimes write for 4-6 hours in a day.  Many nights and some weekends, of course, I don’t write at all.

Writing a book is possible for anyone – if you really want to

If you really really want to do anything, you can always find time for it.  For example: most parents, before they have children, have rich, fulfilling lives.  When they have their first baby they miraculously find many hours every day to care for that baby.  Of course they do!  Their lives are fuller than ever before.  How could they find time to do anything else?

Then another baby comes along.  Do the parents say, hey, we have no time to look after this one?  Nope.  They love the new baby, too, and fit him or her in just fine.

Writing a book is the same.  If you really want to do it, you will find time.  Watch less TV.  Go online less often.  Go on a writing holiday (one of my favourite ways to get the creative juices flowing).  Above all, get started today.

Writing projects

For a summary of my projects at the moment, see my post How I write, What I write, When I write – or check my writing tips tag.

How to write a book: make a start

That’s it.  It’s demanding.  It’s a joy.  It’s writing, and it’s a passion.  Always remember Stephen Donaldson, a successful fantasy author.  Someone asked him: “What is your advice for how to write a book?”  He replied: “Start today.”

Try one of mine

If you enjoyed this post you my like to try one of my books, such as my speculative comedy thriller Eternal LifeTo see all my books, click here.

Eternal Life by Leigh Turner


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2 Responses

  1. Hi Leigh. Love the blogs. You may recall me from Ukraine. One week I spent more time in the embassy than you did. There was Christmas, someone leaving. etc. and you were away. 🙂 Now back in Blighty with Ukrainian wife, three kids and life is good. Also working on “Telling Tales” Life and love in a Ukrainian village – 40% complete. Finding time is hard but I do it in bursts with three or four days of 2 hour bursts – the space between writing is thinking time! Anyway – good luck with your ventures… I’ll follow with interest.

  2. Hi Glyn – good to hear from you and great to hear you are enjoying life back in the UK. “Telling Tales” looks promising, particularly since you have so much experience as a writer, including your blog – and lots of rich material to draw on! Have you read “A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian”? Worth a look. Thanks for the interest, and good luck!

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