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Making Space For Writing in a Busy Life with Katherine MacDonald

Tell us about yourself.

Well, my name is Kate, I'm thirty years old, I studied creative writing at university --ever the cliche I know-- and now I teach English at a secondary school in Kent, England. I'm also a single mother, and have an unhealthy obsession with cake and cats.

I'm self published. I published a Beauty and the Beast retelling in August (I was desperate to do it before my 30th!) and then I published "The Phoenix Project, Book 1" last month. I've just sent the sequel to beta readers and am working on a Frog Prince retelling in the meantime.

How long have you been writing, and what inspired you to start on your writing journey?

I was 12. I wrote a truly terrible Harry Potter rip-off. Like... shockingly bad. But I just loved that world so much, I wanted to try and replicate it."Copying is the most sincere form of flattery" so they say-- but it really doesn't belong on the shelves! I quite like the idea [that I've been] writing for 18 years. My writing journey is now a legal adult!

Well, congratulations to your writing on becoming an adult. Haha. You mentioned that you are a writer, a school teacher, and a single mom. Tell us what's that like for you.

Busy, in a word! I have a meticulous schedule, both at work and home. You'd be amazed at what you can get done in 20 mins if you set yourself SMART targets!I'm lucky enough that my son still naps twice a day, so I squeeze out a couple of extra writing hours on the weekend.

For our readers who haven't heard the term, what's a SMART goal?

Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-orientated E.g, I am going to write 500 words in one hour. (This is my standard target).

How often do you make a SMART goal for yourself? Everyday? Before each writing session?Also, I love that you use SMART goals in your daily life, and not just in a formal project as I'm used to seeing it.

My standard is the one above. I write for one hour around 7-8 after the baby is in bed. I might substitute "writing" for "editing" depending on where I am in the project. And thank you!

So you make it before every writing session then?


It works really well. My first book took 6 years to finish without this method. My 2nd less than 3 months. And I just finished a 40k manuscript in just over 2 weeks!

Wow. That's amazing, especially considering how busy you are. Can you give us an idea of what your daily schedule looks like?

Well, schools are closed [at the moment], but before then... Up at 6. My toddler is my alarm. I ready us for the day and drop him at nursery at 8. School begins at 9, so I've plenty of time for the day. I've been teaching for a long time now, and my department does shared planning, so any free periods I get during the day can be spent differentiating resources, doing admin and working. I don't take a full lunch break, but I rarely take work home.

There are so many distractions in everyday life *coughTwittercough* that can interfere with productivity. How do you manage distractions in your limited writing time?

So, I also hide my phone during writing time– put it in another room or out of reach. I will turn off the internet sometimes too! A lot of the time the distractions are automatic, so I just remove the options!

That’s a great idea. I ask all my published authors this: why did you decide to go with self-publishing over traditional? Partly it was the desire to do it before 30! I did send off my first to a few, quite a while back, but I just didn't have the time, patience and energy to keep querying. I understand why they can't offer feedback to rejected MSs, but as a teacher not getting feedback feels like wasted energy. I didn't even know if I COULD write. So I thought I'd put it out there myself and see what the public had to say. It's been a learning experience!

So, choosing the self-publishing route doesn’t just include writing and publishing the book. It’s also marketing and building a platform on social media. That’s time consuming on its own right. Tell me what that looks like in your life and how you make time for it. Well, I am obviously a twitter fiend! I can be on Twitter whilst my son is awake, so I do a lot of that in the evenings before bed time and in the mornings before school. I take part in self-promo Saturday and writers lifts, and engage with other authors as much as I can. Twitter is my main source of marketing, other than price promos on amazon. I've run a few ad campaigns but not found them hugely successful...

Is there anything else you have found helpful in organizing your time?

Honestly? I don't think so. I think I've got a really good routine going. As a writer/teacher though, I'm always looking for improvements! A live-in nanny/cleaner would be grand! Oh, how much time would we have on our hands if we all had one of those. Fingers crossed that all the sci-fi writers are right and we'll soon have robots to do it for us. What's next for you in your writing journey? I've just sent Phoenix Project Book 2 to the beta readers, so when they're done with that it's polishing and marketing and publishing, and then onto the 3rd and final book!

...the plan is a bit sketchy for that at the moment– it's just a 2-page list of what needs to happen!

How exciting! Tell the readers a little more about your published books and why they should definitely read them. So, my first book- The Rose and the Thorn - is a sumptuous, slow-burn Beauty and the Beast retelling. It's passionate and heartfelt, and encapsulates the terrifying feeling of falling in love... in a delightfully gothic fairy tale setting with more than one dark secret. It removes the problematic element of the heroine's imprisonment. It is not the Beast that traps her, but the laws of the land. They are both captives, meeting as equals, and he is incredibly sweet and respectful.

My current series - Phoenix Project - is a dystopian/sci-fi, a blend of Hunger Games, Maximum Ride and Dark Angel. It's action-packed, but still focuses on character development. At its heart, it's a story about the nature of humanity, about destiny and free will, and learning who and what is worth fighting for.

Those both sound so awesome! All right. We're down to the last two questions, so I can let you focus on toddler snuggles. What is one random fact about you? I can touch my nose with my tongue. Not interesting, but certainly random!

Now that's talent, lol! And last question: If you could give one piece of advice to other writer's, what would it be? Hmm. It's easy to suggest the cliche of "just keep writing" and "READ" – which are both excellent pieces of advice, but I'd like to suggest something more niche. Professional editors are expensive; worth their weight in gold, but expensive. They aren't really an affordable option for new writers. So: Get a paid beta reader, or pay an editor to look at a sample of your writing– the first 3 chapters or so. They'll be able to make you super aware of your style, of consistent errors you're making, and you will become a much better writer as a result. Nothing is a mistake if you learn from it.

That is excellent advice and I couldn't agree with you more! Thank you for taking time out of your busy life to talk with me!


You can visit Katherine MacDonald on her website or Twitter.

For more information on making SMART goals go here

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