Today it’s the turn of feel good romantic fiction writer Heidi Swain to give us a glimpse into the sort of days that make up her life as a writer.
Heidi’s latest book is The Winter Garden which I recently read and absolutely loved – more about that later. But now over to Heidi.
Heidi Swain’s Writing Life in a Day
How my writing day is organised depends on which part of the process I happen to be working on. Planning and plotting days are fairly free and easy, reading page proof days have lots of breaks littered throughout to keep the mind (allegedly) fresh, but writing the first draft and editing is much more structured and it is one of those days which I’m going to describe for you today.
I write Monday to Friday and the day is broken into well-defined chunks. I have tried a variety of schedules, but find this the most productive. In a good week, working like this and with no domestic dramas and minimal interruptions, I can manage to write just shy of 20,000 words over the five days.
The day starts at between 5.30 and 5.45. Between getting up and sitting down at the laptop – which is on a desk in my bedroom – at 7am, I’ll either take a walk around the village or do a few laps in the garden, then sort any laundry, open curtains and windows, make tea and mentally prepare myself by thinking through or reading over the notes I will have written at the end of the last writing session the day before.
Between 7am and 9am I’ll write. Sometimes I spend a while working through the last chapter, otherwise I’ll crack straight on with the next, often making notes on things to add, change or amend on scrap paper as I go.
9am to 10am is time for breakfast, cat cuddles and writing reflection.
10am to 12 is a repeat of the first writing session of the day, although this is probably when the most words go down and I’m properly ‘in the zone’. By this point the scene is firmly set in my head and I’m eager to get it typed.
12 – 1pm is lunch, washing dishes and more reflection. Quite often at this point I’m feeling a little dazed!
1pm – 3pm is another session at the laptop. However, if I feel the writing is coming to a natural close – such as when I reach the end of a chapter – I will finish early. This afternoon spot always ends with me writing up a precis of what I’ve just written in the notebook assigned for that novel, and then I’ll make notes in another book about what comes next.
I find this note taking invaluable and will often also write the opening paragraph of the next chapter on screen ready for the next day. By writing down what happens next, I have a clear idea of what I’m going to write and throughout the rest of the day I can visualise it, often writing more notes covering the finer details along with scraps of dialogue.
Having a well-defined idea of what comes next ensures I don’t sit down and stare at a blank screen. The scene is already there, in my head and I can translate it straight to the screen without wasting time or getting in a flap – which I undoubtedly would!
At the end of the day comes the admin – catching up with emails, posting on social media and any other business. This all happens right up until bedtime. Weekends are when I write guest posts like this, update my blog, spend a bit longer on social media and generally collapse in a befuddled heap for a while.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I tend not to finish before 3pm as I have morning Pilates classes via Zoom – invaluable to counter all of those hours hunched over the keyboard – so they have to be factored into the schedule.
And that’s it. A typical day in my writing – a first draft – life!
I know it probably all comes across as pretty prescriptive, but it’s a routine that works for me and with two books being published a year, I need to stick to it in order to hit my deadlines. A strict routine like this wouldn’t work for everyone of course and at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how you’re getting the words down. As long as the word count is rising, you can do it how you like, when you like and where you like. Not everyone thrives on the same set up but I feel comfortable and safe in my well-structured day. It took me a while to figure it out, but now I’ve found it, I’m sticking to it!
Anne: Thank you to Heidi for this informative and entertaining insight into her writing life.
You can read more about Heidi and about her latest book below. It’s called The Winter Garden and, as I said above, I thoroughly enjoyed this satisfying and so romantic story and the main characters, Freya and Finn are perfectly flawed and so likeable. It’s a perfect autumn/winter read.
From the back cover:
Freya Fuller is estranged from her parents and has been following her dream of becoming a gardener ever since. When an opportunity to design a winter garden opens up at a Victorian property in Nightingale Square, Freya jumps at the chance to make a fresh start.
But while the majority of the residents are welcoming, local artist Finn seems determined to shut her out, and when Freya’s family make a surprise appearance, it seems that her new life is about to come crashing down . . .
You can buy The Winter Garden HERE
More about Heidi:
Although passionate about writing from an early age, Heidi Swain gained a degree in Literature, flirted briefly with a newspaper career, married and had two children before she plucked up the courage to join a creative writing class and take her literary ambitions seriously.
A lover of vintage paraphernalia and the odd bottle of fizz, she now writes feel good fiction with heart for Simon and Schuster.
Her debut novel, The Cherry Tree Café was published in July 2015 and since then she has had a further nine books published, becoming a Sunday Times Bestseller in 2017. She is currently looking forward to the release of her 2020 Christmas title, The Winter Garden.
Heidi is represented by Amanda Preston and lives in Norfolk with her family and a mischievous cat called Storm.
You can connect with Heidi at the links below:
Facebook: Writer Heidi Jo Swain