Swoon Author Natalie Williamson: Rules I've Learned NOT to Break
Back when I wrote the very first draft of Rules We’re Meant to Break, my life looked a lot different than it does currently. My now-husband and I were engaged and planning our wedding, he was in the middle of law school, and we didn’t have kids yet. So most nights we had plenty of time to hunker down on the couch with our respective laptops and put in hours studying (for him) and writing (for me). I got into a good writing routine that worked well for that season of my life, and I was able to knock out a first draft in just a couple of months.
These days, our life is a bit more chaotic—we have busy jobs, an assortment of various critters, and an adorable kiddo who keeps us entertained and on our toes on a daily basis. Said kiddo also attends daycare during the day while we are at work, so our time with her in the evenings and on weekends is extra precious. All of our various commitments don’t leave as much leeway for me when it comes to writing time, but I’ve figured out a few rules (bet you’re all shocked, ha!) to help me maximize the time I do get to spend writing.
1.) Set achievable word count goals for your writing days.
This will look different for everyone, and honestly can vary depending on the day for me. I usually plan to hit 1,000 words on my writing days, but if I’ve had a busy day at work or am in the middle of a particularly tangled scene, sometimes I drop my goal to 500 just to give myself an easier milestone to hit. Usually by the time I hit my daily goal I’m in the groove enough to keep going until I hit a more natural stopping point, but it’s nice to have an “easy” number in mind for those days when I’ve got to get words down but my brain needs a break as soon as I hit my target.
2.) When you can, plan your writing time in advance.
When my husband was in law school, he did his best to fit his studying in during the week so that we’d have our weekends free. It didn’t take me long to figure out that this kind of schedule worked really well for my writing time, too. I set a goal for myself to write for an hour in the evenings five nights a week, Sunday through Thursday. This added my writing time to my “work week” and gave me Friday, Saturday, and most of Sunday off to relax and do other things. Having my regular work days in mind helped me adjust when we had things pop up that affected my writing time, and it made it a lot easier to keep forward momentum going when I was in the thick of the saggy middle.
Last year when I was in the thick of edits, I adopted an adjusted approach and set a schedule to write 3-4 nights per week and one of my daughter’s nap-times per weekend. Planning out the days in advance helped me hit my daily and weekly word count goals, and stay on track for deadlines.
3.) Plan your off days (or times, if you write every day) in advance, too. Seriously!
I’ve never been able to write every day—I need downtime to recharge and fill up my creative well. So it’s really helped me to have at least two days “off” writing every week, even when I’m on a deadline. This summer my off days have varied a bit depending on what we have going on, but there’s one night I’ve made sure to keep free every single week: Wednesdays, so that I can tune in for the final season of Jane the Virgin. Having Jane to look forward to every week has been good motivation, especially on the harder writing days. (I’m not ready for it to be over though! Gah!)
4.) Speaking of your creative well, figure out what books, shows, and movies fill yours at different times in your writing process, and get to reading/watching them!
When I’m drafting, I read a lot of adult romance—the swoon keeps me on track for writing YA romance, but it feels different enough that I don’t play the comparison game too much. When I need inspiration or am feeling stuck, I check out new releases and revisit old favorites in the genre I’m writing. And when my brain just needs a break from words altogether, I turn to my favorite shows to give myself a reset.
And now I’m off to take my own advice! Lather, rinse, repeat.
Until next time!