Turbo Monkey Tales is a group blog focusing on the craft, production, marketing and consumption of Children's Literature. We are illustrators, writers, animators and media mongrels. We are readers! We are published, unpublished and self-published; agented and searching, and 100% dedicated to our Kid Lit journey, no matter where we are on the path. Join our Tribe and grab a vine. The more the merrier!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Building Rome (and Your Writing Career)—15 Minutes at a Time

by Marilyn Hilton

We've all been in that "in-between" space in our schedules: waiting in the car for school to let out, waiting on the bleachers for swim class to end, waiting in the dentist's waiting room, sitting at endless red lights or at the coffee shop for your friend to arrive, wondering what to do with the 15 minutes left of your lunch hour because you had to run to the post office or school or the gym, orgasp!you had to eat. And you're anxiously thinking about your writing to-do list and wishing you had a block of uninterrupted time to work on it.

Just as Rome wasn't built in a day, neither was a book written or a writing career launched. But a book or a career can be built in uninterrupted bites of time. Often, all we have are those 15-minute bites in which to write or research or marketand sometimes that's all we need.

In 15 minutes, you can do any of these:

  • Write 15 scene cards
  • Draft a scenereal fast by hand or typing
  • Outline a novelyes, you can: 1 inciting incident, 2 turning points, 1 final conflict, and 1 resolution
  • Draft a blog post
  • Look up era-appropriate names for your characters
  • Describe the setting of your next book
  • Identify libraries in your area to contact about speaking visits
  • Look through a magazine or the web for models for your characters
  • Research two agents or two editors to query
  • Outline a synopsis
  • List the things you need to research for your novel
  • Write about the memory that has been nudging you
  • Read two blog posts and leave comments
  • Identify schools in your region to contact about visits
  • Organize your writing space
  • Find photos that could have been taken in your setting
  • Brainstorm a list of blog topics
  • Look up one thing on your novel-research list
  • Write two pages of your manuscript (for inspiration, see Kristen's post on speed drafting)
  • Write a journal entry about something you observed today
  • Complete the easy parts of a character profile worksheet
  • Draft a query letter
  • Brainstorm "what happens next?" where your manuscript is stuck
  • In your diary, write what happened today
  • Identify bookstores in your region to contact about signings
  • Read a chapter of the book at the top of your stack
  • Spend 15 minutes on the social medium of your choice (remember to retweet and share, too)
  • Write an online book review
  • Create a new playlist for a scene, a character, or your book
  • Read something that inspires you
  • Write a letter to your growing-up self just before or just after something changed enormously
  • Read through and highlight notes you took at the last conference you attended
  • Review comments from your critique partners, letting your mind formulate solutions
  • Brainstorm speaking topics
  • Write a thank-you note to someone who critiqued your work at a recent conference, and then seal, address, and stamp it—you can take it to the post office on your lunch hour

The next time you find yourself in between on your schedule, try one of these 15-minute tasks. Or pull out your to-do list and choose one to finish. One day you may look up and realize your book is finished and your career on its way.

What can you do in 15 minutes?


What can you write in 15 minutes? @TurboMonkeys - Tweet this
Got 15 minutes (for your writing career)? @TurboMonkeys - Tweet this
How to write your book 15 minutes at a time @TurboMonkeys - Tweet this


  1. What a great list of ways to take advantage of those short snippets of time!! Now, if I could just pull myself away from Facebook...

    1. Thanks, Amy! I know what you mean, Amy...you can't go there for "just a few minutes."

  2. Great post, Marilyn! Drafting a query letter is at the top of my list. I need to grab that 15 minutes, like today!

    1. You can do it, Ellen. It's just a draft--get it down in 15 minutes, and then you can edit it.

  3. I am pasting this into my writer's notebook, Marilyn! It makes it feel so achievable! :) Hugs!

    1. What an honor to be in your writer's notebook, Julie! I hope it keeps inspiring you.

  4. These are terrific ideas, Marilyn! As a SAHM I feel like I'm always "in-between." It's been one of the hardest adjustments for me to make as a writer. Thanks for the inspiration!

    1. I know what you mean--it's so hard to make and keep time boundaries, when you can't even finish a thought :) I hope this will help you!

    2. It's helping me! I'm reading & responding to blog posts in the fifteen minutes while my kids are NOT destroying each other. The window is almost up....

  5. Excellent ideas! Thanks Marilyn :-)

  6. I agree! These are terrific, Marilyn!