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Forty Minutes at a Time


March 6, 2013 by kristin

I wrote the bulk of my historical fiction novel in 40-minute chunks the summer my first baby turned one. Never a fan of sleeping, she went her entire first eighteen months of life napping exactly 40 minutes a day. The moment I heard the deep sigh that signaled she was truly asleep, I’d tiptoe-run from the room, close our creaky old-house door carefully behind me, and race to the keyboard.

Even two rooms away and with a white noise machine humming in her room, she might wake up if I sneezed or made a phone call or typed too loudly. So I worked in tense, waiting silence, typing lightly but swiftly. When the clock crept toward 35 minutes, I’d type faster, because I knew what would happen when my 40 minutes of peace were up. My daughter would spring into wakefulness, crying and pissed off, and cling to me desperately for the next hour. Then, once she regained her equilibrium, I could foist her off on her Yo Gabba Gabba pals for a few more minutes to finish up my thoughts.

At night, when my husband was at work and the baby was again, finally, asleep, I’d settle back down at my computer and frantically write some more, praying she didn’t wake, which she often did.

My hope is that some of that silent tension leaked into the work, in a good way. The fear of getting caught smuggling goods into a prisoner-of-war camp has to be comparable to the fear of a baby waking up, right?


  1. Dana Melton says:

    I didn’t know this! I love how we all have our very different “routines” for writing. I couldn’t imagine being that tense and trying to get pages out. Well done, Kristin! And I can confirm, the scenes of smuggling food and supplies to the Northern Troops are VERY tense!

  2. […] was true what all those people said – babies are hard work. Especially when yours only naps forty minutes a day. For a while, I abandoned my house blog, abandoned all writing and even reading, and did nothing […]

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About Kristin

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Historical fiction writer and reader. Procrastinator. Sewist. Slytherin. Fan of red lipstick, rock 'n' roll, and everything vintage.

Current Work-in-Progress

The Boy in the Red Dress

When her drag queen best friend is accused of murdering a socialite, a Jazz Age Veronica Mars searches for the real killer in the seedy underbelly and glittering upper crust of 1931 New Orleans.


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