When Life Throws You Lemons, Write a Book

Monday, December 08, 2014
I promise this will be the last time I write about NaNoWriMo—that is, until at least next November most likely. While I’m pleased to say I completed the 50,000 words and came away with a YA that has a beginning, middle, and an end, the fact that I did this in what was probably one of my family’s most challenging years makes me even more proud.

Our string of bad luck began almost a year ago, when I came down with my first of what eventually turned into four cases of strep. I spent months feeling off and on tired, achy, feverish, and barely able to swallow even water. The last case hit just as we were flying halfway across the country to visit my family in Texas during spring break, at the same time my 8-year-old son came down with a mysterious rash all over his body. I was still sick on our return home, and my son looked like he had the chicken pox, which made for an interesting flight (I covered him up in a hoodie and prayed we wouldn't be thrown off the plane.)

Eventually he was diagnosed with guttate psoriasis and began treatment. Our dermatologist thinks he probably had an undiagnosed case of strep that triggered the outbreak. Seeing as how I’d spent the better part of six months with strep, I couldn’t really argue with that theory and felt unbelievably guilty. A few months later, the back window of our SUV shattered just as we were preparing for the four-hour drive home from summer vacation, my husband’s debit card information was stolen (luckily the bank caught it in time), and our garage door broke, all in the same week.

In September my husband found out his role at work was being eliminated and he needed to find a new position immediately, and on our 14-year-wedding anniversary, no less.

I could have wallowed. I wanted to throw something. Actually, I did wallow for about a month, doing only the writing I was assigned, which I was very grateful for, feeling too angry and frustrated to write creatively and trying not to panic. Fortunately, my husband found a great new job within just a few weeks and is happier than he’s been in years. So I decided to celebrate by working on a book idea that had flitted in and out of my head for the past year.

It wasn’t easy. I went in with no outline and didn’t even know what my main characters names were until about two days before I started. I diligently wrote my 1,700 words per day until the middle of November, when I had a magazine production deadline to work on and fell way behind. In an effort to make up words quickly, I spent one day writing several key scenes down in no particular order just to get them on paper. That backfired when a few days later, I realized one of the scenes didn’t work at all and had to scrap almost 500 words. On Thanksgiving day I typed on my laptop as we made the day trip to eat with my in-laws. After all that, I somehow hit the 50,000-word mark one day early, on November 29.

I’m convinced NaNoWRiMo was created for people like me—people who need a time crunch to propel them to the finish line, even under the craziest of circumstances. Now I have a pile of pages to edit, which, as one of my friends said, is better than no pile of pages. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t therapeutic after the year I’ve had, too.

Now, if only there was a National Submission Month, I’d be in much better shape. Anyone care to tackle that one?

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and editor who also works as a Blog Tour Manager for WOW! Women on Writing. Her son’s unexpected bout with guttate psoriasis this past spring inspired the idea behind her latest NaNoWriMo novel, a contemporary YA suspense/thriller.


Margo Dill said...

Oh my gosh, Renee, this is the post that really illustrates: when it rains, it pours. GREAT JOB WITH NANOWRIMO. You are an inspiration, and I also need national submission month!

Sioux Roslawski said...

Renee--There was no NaNoWriMo until someone thought of it and put it out there for all of us. Why don't you pick a month, and start a SUBWRIPIMO?(Submit Writing Pieces Month--I'm sure you can think of a better name that that) I would take on that challenge, even if I was almost positive I'd crash and burn…

Congratulations. I look forward to seeing your book published…which is my way of gently nudging you. Don't let it sit too long. Revise on a regular basis. Choose a scene or a chapter or an event you want to work on, and do it. You have fans who want to read the finished product. Work on it.

(And I hope things are calmer and less stressful now.)

Renee Roberson said...

Thanks for the support, Ladies! Margo, I don't think I realized just how insane the past year has been until I started writing the post. Counting my blessings daily now. Sioux, I love the idea of SUBWRIPIMO. Don't tempt me!

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