How I manage writing with kids

I know there are many existing writers who are readers of Planning With Kids and I also know from chats with many readers, there are many of you out there who would like to be writing, so this post will be of particular interest to you!

The guest post is from Penny Tangey who writes humorous books for young people. Her book Stay Well Soon, was shortlisted for the New South Wales and Western Australian Premier’s awards and the Readings Children’s Book Prize. While at university Penny performed stand-up comedy, including in the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Penny now works as a researcher for television quiz shows Hard Quiz and The Chase.

This post is part of an ongoing series I have on the blog called “What other mums do“. It shares insights into the lives of other mums and how they manage certain aspects of their and their family’s lives.

You can read other posts in the series here and if you would like to share something about what you do, I would love to hear from you. Simply email me at!

Photo – Siti Najla

It’s been eight years since I first went on maternity leave. Since then I’ve had two children and been through periods of paid leave, unpaid leave, part-time work and part-time study. I’ve written two and half manuscripts, and one of them has been published.

It takes a village to write a book when you have kids. For me that village has included: a live-in partner who works full-time, family members who visit from Victoria and interstate, teachers at school and kindergarten, and a regular babysitter who is now also a friend.

With the help of this gang, I’ve been able to write. I’ve also used the following strategies.

Word count targets

Sometimes I set weekly or daily word targets. I’ll use any time I can to write even if it’s not very long. For example, before the kids get up in the morning, or while they’re having completely age-appropriate amounts of screen time.

I wrote the first draft of my latest book As Fast As I Can when my second child was very young. I set an ambitious weekly target of 5,000 words, which meant I finished the first draft very quickly. It was rough, but the sense of achievement and progress was much more important than producing a perfectly crafted story at that point.

Fitting in research

Sometimes I have research-only periods. At the end of 2019 I was working part-time as a question verifier on the TV show ‘Hard Quiz’, and also studying part-time. I didn’t have the time or energy to keep writing my manuscript, which is about a woman who starts solving crimes while on maternity leave. I stayed connected to the project by fitting in some research activities. I went to local history talks and read books on the history of East Melbourne where the story is set. This research has given me ideas and set me up for when I can write again.

Writing storm

Sometimes the stars and villagers align so that I have more time than usual to write. Having a half or full day to write is unusual for me so I try to use it well. Writing is hard work, so I often have mixed feelings about having more time to do it, but I usually love it once I start. It’s also clear that extended periods of concentration improve my writing.

In 2019 I had a few weeks between semesters and job contracts. For two days each week both children were at school/kindergarten so I could work on my writing solidly for hours. I used the time to rewrite the manuscript of As Fast As I Can and it was a very productive period. I bribed myself with trips to cafes to make myself keep writing. It was a different time.

Waiting to write again

At the moment, I’m working and studying part-time from home. I’m also supervising the at-home-learning of a kindergarten kid and a grade one. I’m not writing any books, and that’s okay. After I submit my last assignment in June, I’ll have more time and I will likely write again.

As fast as I can by Penny Tangey

One girl. One dream. A few hurdles.

Ten-year-old Vivian is determined to win a medal at the Olympic Games one day. Problem is, she hasn’t found a sport she’s any good at yet. But everyone says if you work hard enough you can achieve anything, right? So when Vivian discovers she has a talent for cross country running, finally, her Olympic dream might actually come true.

But then a family illness is uncovered and all of Vivian’s plans begin to unravel. Can she keep her dream alive? Or will she be stopped in her tracks?

A funny, heartfelt novel about resilience, acceptance and dreaming big.

You can purchase As Fast As I Can online here.