RWMtB first draft

Swoon Author Natalie Williamson's First Draft Report: All About the Beginning

I always find it interesting to hear what my favorite authors need to know before they can start drafting a new book. Do they have detailed outlines? Are they pantsers who just wing it from page one and see where the story leads them? Do they need a playlist to set the writing mood? Do they need a Pinterest board to help them visualize everything?

For me, the required list changes a little from project to project. Sometimes I have a loose outline of scenes I want to write, sometimes I just have a premise that I can’t get out of my head. I almost always need a playlist, but the Pinterest board I can take or leave depending on where the story is set.


I started writing the very first draft of Rules We’re Meant to Break back in 2013 (2013!!!), and though I have email archives that show how the story evolved from that messy draft to the version I uploaded onto the Swoon site to the version that’s going to be out in the wild, I don’t remember a lot of the specifics of those early versions anymore. But one thing in particular sticks out in my mind: From the very beginning, I knew what the opening scene should be Amber on her bed in her new bedroom, trying to plan her escape. And later that same night, taking a walk in her new neighborhood and seeing a boy shooting baskets in the dark, lit up only by the motion light on his garage.

So many things about Amber’s story have changed in the last six (six!!!) years, but even with an added prologue, the bones of her first chapter have mostly stayed the same. And realizing that made me realize that, beginnings? Beginnings are what I need to know before I can really dive into a new project. It’s hard for me to put words on the page at all before I have that perfect opening, even for a messy first draft.

So now, Swoon Readers, I’m asking you: What do you absolutely need before you can start a new project? Do you need to know the black moment? Do you need to have a song picked out for every character or for pivotal scenes? Or are you all about the beginnings, like me?

Rules We're Meant to Break goes on sale June 11! Don't forget to add it to your Goodreads shelf!

Author spotlight

Natalie Williamson

Natalie Williamson is an HR person by day and a YA writer by night and nap time. She referenced Harry …

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