How NOT to Write a Novel

6:00 AM: At buzz of alarm, leap from bed confident that TODAY you’ll work on your novel. (Your NOVEL!)

6:05 Guzzle coffee while checking email for news regarding previous novel. No news. Decide not to worry because the novel you’re writing TODAY is the bestseller. Definitely.

6:07 Check Facebook and twitter. Click on several links but do not read yet. You have IMPORTANT THINGS to accomplish.

6:20 Construct list of many many things to accomplish choosing from standard chores—laundry, dishes, groceries, bills, bank, dry cleaners, dog-walking, poop-scooping, room-straightening. Consider adding coffee-drinking. Decide that’s silly.

6:30 Awaken older child. Prepare his breakfast. And lunch. Consider adding breakfast and lunch-making to chore list but remember you’re not silly. Discover permission slip that needs completing. Skip emergency contact numbers because you will be at home writing ALL DAY. Add permission-slip-completion to list. Cross out because hellyeah.

7:00  Awaken younger child. Make her breakfast which she doesn’t eat. Eat her breakfast.

7:25 Take older child to school.

7:50 Check Facebook, twitter. Check email. Still no news. Click more links. Don’t read yet.

8:15 Take younger child to school.

8:30 Brush teeth. Floss. Consider adding dental hygiene to list. (Silly.)

8:38 Decide you’ll begin writing your novel at 9:00. Check email, Facebook, twitter. Twice. Read open posts. Do NOT comment (because you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings but you can’t read ALL THE BLOGS since you will be busy writing your novel!).  Begin drafting new blog post on hurt feelings in the blog world. Call it blogosphere. Switch to blogisphere. Realize it’s 9:38.

9:39 Decide to begin writing at 10:00. Start laundry load, fill dishwasher, make grocery list. Cross laundry and dishes off chore list. Try to remember if you’ve brushed your teeth. Screen phone calls from friends and family who want to know how your writing is going.

10:00 Open manuscript file. Re-read recent pages. Edit. Remember to change laundry from washer to dryer. Check email, Facebook, twitter. Three times. Close internet to avoid UNNECESSARY TEMPTATION. Return to manuscript and re-read today’s edits. Notice dogs look thirsty. Check their water. They have water. Tell them, “We’ll walk later because I’m WRITING MY NOVEL NOW.”

10:45 Write new paragraph of novel!

11:15 Begin thinking about lunch. Consider asking internet if it’s too early for lunch. Remember internet is closed down. Re-read fresh edits and new paragraph. Read blog draft about hurt feelings in the blogisphere. Decide it should be blogosphere.

11:45 Eat leftover chicken parmesan while standing in kitchen. Check clothes in dryer. Realize you never pressed start. Press start. Put new load in washer. Start washer. Log onto Facebook and twitter to announce you forgot to start dryer. Check email. No news. Still. Yet.

12:30 Text writer-friends. Make plans to meet/Skype/talk about writing.

12:45 Decide you’re too busy to shower today.

12:46 Decide you’re too busy to grocery shop today.

12:47 Realize you have less than two hours to write your novel before after-school pickup.

12:48 So. Check if DVR is set to record Top Chef finale. It isn’t. Visit Bravo channel to schedule Top Chef. Notice Vanderpump Rules is on. Feel disdain for horrible programming. Watch rest of Vanderpump Rules.

1:30 Check email, Facebook, twitter. 27 people have “liked” your status re: dryer failure. Bask in popularity via self-deprication. Google spelling of deprecation.

1:40 Realize you’re still wearing pajamas. Don yoga pants, sweatshirt and running shoes to impersonate someone who has exercised. Or walked her dogs. Do neither.

1:50 Check chore list. Congratulate self on laundry and dishes. Add “Text Cheryl, Robin, Suni and Charlene re: WRITING” to list. Cross out because hellyeah.

2:00 Realize after-school pickup starts in 30 minutes. Re-read edits and new paragraph. Edit. Write second new paragraph! Calculate when bestselling novel will be completed at current pace.

2:20 Decide math is hard.

2:25 Be grateful you’re a novelist.

2:30. Depart for school pick-up confident you’ll finish entire chapter of bestselling novel TOMORROW. As soon as you’ve walked your dogs.

Because hellyeah.

Disclaimer: To those reading—especially my parents, my husband and total strangers— this post is a joke.  Like most writers, I’m a workaholic who never wastes a minute of her day. But as Facebook can attest, I am also a master of self-deprication.




You can find the novels I eventually wrote here:


Keep up with my writing news by signing up for my monthly newsletter here.

And PLEASE connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Writing is a lonely business and I love to make friends along the way.

49 thoughts on “How NOT to Write a Novel

  1. This is how it’s done! This, honestly, is how life is done, don’t you think? It’s not that we’re not working at all, it’s simply that it doesn’t always look like we’re working. Or something. Need to add coffee drinking to my list – and you bet I’m silly enough to do it. At this rate it may be the only thing I cross off the list today.

  2. Are you peeking in my windows? Could be me minus the novel part. I am way too busy to write a novel 😉

  3. My evening went like this:
    10.27pm – Check Facebook. See Julie C. Gardner has posted a link to a new blog post. Piss self in excitement.
    10.28pm – Click on link and read post. Giggle. Chuckle. Think, should change pants.
    10.30pm – FInish reading post and try thinking of clever comment. Fail. Pants, what pants?
    10.31pm – Write comment anyway.
    10.32pm – Husband interrupts comment writing. Bah.
    10.33pm – Finish comment. Think, gosh I’ve missed Julie.

  4. I love you…and your 1:40 jammies.

  5. Melissa Roske

    OK, Julie – You have a telescope pointed directly at ME! This post was hysterical. And too true. WAY too true. Thanks for capturing the tortured life of a flesh-and-bones writer. Fantastic!

  6. No only is it awesome to read a new post on your blog – and it’s fabulous, as usual – today had the added bonus of Alison’s comment 😉

  7. Now why did you have to go and add the disclaimer? For the 2 minutes it took me to read this, I was feeling awesome about my time time management skills.

  8. Yes. I’ve become quite familiar with this routine (though, luckily, no one to pick up yet). Though you should add some ‘refresh screen’s. I must do that about 700 times a day, waiting for something else to take my attention.

  9. KLZ

    I almost didn’t read this because I had to check Facebook. And start coffee drinking.

    You’re wonderful Julie

  10. I got to the end and said wait, it’s how NOT to write a novel? Shit. *closes laptop, goes back to bed*

  11. Ditto.

  12. julie


    I have wasted valuable writing time today worried that people won’t know I split the infinitive in the title purposefully.

    The end.

  13. 9:53 AM: Check email and notice Julie posted a new blog. Read. Laugh. Realize your mother is leaving and the best chance of getting writing done during the week is vanishing with her. Remember Zumba class is in 20 minutes. Pack back. Accept all but 15 minutes of preschool time will be lost at the gym.

    9:57 AM: Brainstorm what happens next in story.

    9:58 AM: Brain jumps to “what the frak” post you should write about what you stupidly did to your van last night.

    9:59 AM: Twenty other bog posts you’ve thought of writing over last few weeks bump into your head.

    10 AM: Remember to pack clean underwear for gym.

    10:01 AM: Be glad if nothing else is written, at least Julie knows she entertained you today… and she is not alone.

  14. You forgot the “come up with the perfect closing sentence while considering when is ‘too early’ for lunch. Forget said sentence in contemplation of posting this though to twitter.”

    And dental hygiene is mad important, yo, get that on the list!

  15. Oh, I love you, Julie. You’ve already written a novel? Hellyeah.

  16. Di

    Where is have wine with friend on the list? You managed to do that with me without an entry…I’m impressed! XXXOOO

  17. Ode to disclaimers. I’m going to tattoo one onto each of my kids…

  18. Jessica Tessler

    This sounds altogether too familiar, I usually play the note-time-and-round-up-to-determine-start-of-work-day game several times between 7am and noon. I wake thinking “Must work on dissertation!” Then, I go sit in my recliner, and do the whole coffee->Facebook->Words->rounding time game->rinse->repeat. You’d think working from home would make things easier, but my office upstairs might as well be in Japan.

  19. Jules.

    No. No. No. No. This book has to be written. How about we talk about being accountability partners. I’m serious. You know I am. I need someone to look at my thing. It’s getting closer to fine. But I want it to be great. Email me. Or I’ll bug you.

  20. This post could easily be titled “How to Not Have a Productive Day at Work.” Because… well… yeah.

    And it’s totally “blogosphere.”

  21. If you continue to be able to describe my day in that kind of detail, I will be forced to take out a restraining order.

    Just saying.

  22. 8 out of 7 days of the week I can’t tell you what I’ve done but whatever it is, it’s exhausting.

  23. Hysterical! But only because it’s so true. Uh, it’s 5:28 AM and the reason I’m up at 0’dark thirty is to work on my novel? Sigh…

    When I first heard (from Debbie) I was mentioned in your post titled How To Not Write a Novel I have to admit was a little bit scared! 🙂 But instead I am just very honored I made your list (and was crossed off!)

    Now I’m going to drink some coffee and start to edit. (But only after I make my list!)


  24. That was very cute and could be a scene in a novel all on its own! I wrote about my own day on my blog – All in a Day’s Work – It’s easy not to write when you are a writer.

  25. I have been wanting to write to see how you are doing, but I keep walking my dog and doing laundry and making lists. Still, had to jump on it when I saw you had a new post up.

    Love you lots self-depri-er-e-cating and all. 🙂

  26. Perhaps a novel about writing a novel? And how the Internet impedes/assists the writing process. And how much lighter Google is that’s Webster’s. it would be a best seller.

  27. OMG. You must be my clone. And apparently clones have the exact same schedule of events.

  28. Oh my goodness how I have missed you! I think you can add to list and cross off, too, “take care of family after house fire.” I know you have been up to your eye balls. It is SO great to see you here. Feels like a gift.

    Loved the whole list–especially eat daughter’s breakfast. Yeah–always.

  29. Wait, it was all a joke? Because I think it sounds like a perfect way to spend the day. 🙂

    How are you and your family doing?? Thinking of you and so glad to read your humor here. xoxo

  30. a “joke” — yes yes. that’s what I call my days too.

  31. is it sad that this is how my day goes but put me in a classroom setting?

    wait. I didn’t just admit that. JOKE! IT’S A JOKE!

    ::face desk::

  32. You totally know it’s true. Every word. Just as I totally know that as soon as I finish leaving this comment I will write, “read Julie’s latest blog post” on my To-do list and then cross it off. Because hellyeah.

    Some days you gotta take it where you can get it, my friend. Especially on days that you’re waiting for something uber important. It’s days like these you can consider an episode of Veronica Mars to be research and dental hygiene to be not silly at all to put on a list. And now you can write, “Read Carol’s comment” on your to-do list and cross it off with a resounding BOOYAH!

    Was my comment the thing you were waiting for, by any chance? I mean, just curious…

  33. You gotta love productive days like those (hellyeah). Actually, any day that includes completing laundry is productive in my book 🙂 Oh, and then there are those days that are just not meant to be productive (Hint: usually run into those after I have been on work overload for way. too. long. It’s my bodies way of saying take a break… or you’ll never get back into the swing of things!)

  34. Check email, Facebook, twitter. 27 people have “liked” your status **

    Haaaaa. This sounds familiar.

    Get going on the novel, girl! x

  35. Hallie Sawyer

    Have you been spying on me then trying to be just like me?! I think I’ve even invented some distractions. I make the ADHD club very, very proud.

    My one suggestion is to leave the house and go to the local library or a coffee shop. It is the best way to keep from all of those household temptations. But then you invite others, like browsing library shelves or eating multiple scones in one setting. Pick your poison!

    I’m crossing my fingers for you to get out of your rut. We all want to read your novels so hop to it!

  36. This is my day except for dog walking. We don’t have a dog. I SO enjoy you, Julie.
    How are you? Really, really how are you? How’s your family? I think of you guys often.

  37. Oh boy, is this me every time I sit to write! Hilarious! And, sister, you are the master of self-depre…depri..deprawhatever! Thanks for the laughs 😀

  38. Ah, yes. So perfectly done. Can also be renamed “life of a stay at home, multi-tasking mom.” 🙂

  39. I get way too excited when you have a new blog post. Even more excited than when I actually cross something off of my to-do list, even if I wrote it there when it was already done just so I could cross it off.

  40. Ok, I’ll admit it: I googled “deprecate.” I couldn’t stand that I didn’t know which one was correct.

    Also? You wrote two more paragraphs of a novel than the vast majority of people write in any given day. It’s all about perspective! (Now you can add and cross off “find perspective” from your list! Boom!)

  41. Well no wonder you haven’t been to my blog lately. You’re too busy ummmm, working.

  42. Here’s how it goes for me…
    As soon as the kids are asleep, I will write.
    Fall asleep before kids.

  43. Also:

    Read posts by writer friends who are doing way more writing than you.

    (That one was worth it.)

    And, could you calculate how long it would take me to complete my novel based on -13 minutes a day spent taking out crappy paragraphs and not replacing them with anything new?

  44. Can I ever relate to this post! OMG, it’s every day for me! I have my second book written and edited for the umpteenth time…and yet, I still go back (with lots of self doubt) and edit the edits. Of course, that’s in-between all the coffee drinking and other important duties throughout my day. OY

  45. Works for me 🙂

  46. Dad G

    I am an authority on your stated topic. (Notice the self-deprucation.) I manage the same — and for the past ten years worse — results with fewer legitimate distractions.
    Love, Dad

  47. I don’t know how I missed this one. Probably because I was too busy writing. And such.

    And yes! You nailed my day. Although, you forgot to add, “Check TMZ for breaking celebrity news. Like a lot.”

    You are fabulous, fabulous, fabulous. That is all.

  48. Kimberly

    Hilarious!!! This is great! It’s like, the harder we try to be productive, the more time we waste. Love your humor, girl!!

  49. OMG. I love this so hard. It made me laugh out loud so many times because HELLYEAH.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *