I started writing the first draft of When Life Hands You Lymes
on January 1st, 2014. I plodded along from there, writing at least 100 words a day and posting a segment of at least 500 words each Friday on my blog.
There were times when I would sprint ahead and get extra writing done so I could schedule the posts on my blog. Examples: Before I went to Europe and before I went to Africa. For the most part though, I would only write one to three thousand words a week.
I would go through phases of enjoying the book and being totally stressed out by it. It was so hard to know what to write and what to leave out and how to balance serious with fun and happy with sad. There were times when I just wanted to hug WHLYL and smile at how the words slipped onto the pages. There were other times when I wanted to scream at the mere thought of the book.
At the beginning of February I went to a conference in Georgia and had the opportunity to talk with a very successful author who I’ve had the blessing of forming a casual acquaintance with over the last four years. I asked him for some tips to help me get more serious about my writing and goodness, he gave me some fantastic advice!
I left the conference and went to visit some friends where I curled up in their basement and went to work writing. When we got home about a week later, I continued my head-long charge into my writing. I set my goal at spending seven hours each day on my writing and although I missed the goal quite often, I also hit it a lot and every hour adds up and I could feel things taking off.
It was exhilarating but difficult. I was getting so much done, but at the same time I was feeling distanced from the rest of the world. Working through the Lyme disease issues with Madalyn made my emotions overflow. There were plenty of times I just wanted to curl up in a ball and cry. Ok, there were plenty of times that I did do that. Writing about the difficulties of Lyme disease was like cutting through scar tissue and that hurts. Like, a lot.
Finally one day I talked to Mom about it and she was incredibly understanding and helpful. She told me I needed to quit being so hard on myself and to actually give myself some grace. In other words, of course writing the book was going to be hard and that’s ok. I could cry. I could be upset. In someways it was like mourning. I was once again missing the healthy years that I never experienced.
After that, things were a lot easier. Instead of feeling guilty because of my pain I was able to accept it and use it in the book. Then like a switch flipping, I found myself distanced from WLHYL. Yes, I still wrote and words came flowing out in torrents, but it wasn’t the personally painful experience I used to. That was wonderful, but also opened my eyes to the hugely gigantic flaws in my book. Like the fact that Madalyn had absolutely nothing to recommend her to a readers feelings except her battle with a mysterious illness. Madalyn was a fussy, pain-filled character who made me want to gag.
I got to the point where I just wanted to finish the first draft of the book and be able to set it aside for six weeks. I gave myself the goal of having the first draft done by April 17th, which is the day we’re hopefully leaving for Aruba.
“I just need to spend a couple days away because I need to focus!” I told Mom. She agreed. Our schedule was busy and packed and all that normalness, but we narrowed down dates that could possibly work and then set about making them a reality. (For all y’all who don’t know, I work with our family business
which makes Mom one of my bosses.) It wasn’t until the second of this month that we were finally able to peg down the fifth through part of the eighth as days that would work for me to go away.
When I got to my hotel I had almost 113,000 words in my manuscript. Seeing how my longest pervious book was under 50,000, I was in a little bit of awe at the huge number of words building up on the pages in front of me.
After adding a couple more thousand words to WLHYL, I decided I needed to read through the book and leave notes for myself where I had stuff that needed to be added. (Which worked like this: !!! ADD MORE ABOUT JULIA AND MADALYN AT THE COFFEE SHOP. The “!!!” were added so I could search and find it, which made my life a lot easier.)
The fact that it took me over eight hours of reading, with some skimming thrown in there for good measure, to read through the book opened my eyes more than anything else to the fact that this was going to be a long book. Add in the fact that the story wasn’t nearly done and I had to make the decision to split When Life Hands You Lymes into two different books, something I had really not wanted to do. A 600 page book isn’t easy to digest though and some people find it rather frightening, so I made my choice.
After reading WLHYL I worked on my timeline which I knew would be very helpful when I was ready to begin on my second draft of the book.
When I was done making the timeline I went back to writing and another several thousand words appeared on the computer. I went through the document searching for the “!!!” and adding in more information. During those hours Madalyn became a much nicer person; more like the girl I had envisioned in my head than the one-dimensional crybaby on the page. It was also a lot of fun writing those scenes where Lyme disease had little say in what was going on.
As my time away progressed I was overwhelmed with how tired I was (I went from a huge week at work to the hotel) and mildly disappointed that I wasn’t getting more done. I decided to chill and just be happy with what I was accomplishing and to rest when I needed to. After that I took some time off, then hit the writing hard again.
On Tuesday I walked to a little coffee shop and bought the most expensive coffee of my life ($3.80! It’s no wonder I don’t buy coffee…), and settled in to write. Despite my dreams I’ve fostered over the years of one day being able to sit in a coffee shop for as long as my little heart desires and type away, I soon found out that I’m not a ‘writing in the coffee shop’ type of author. I make too many weird faces, read out loud, mumble my characters dialog, try out their hand gestures and body language myself and randomly make loud and scary noises. Plus it seems like I have to have something in my mouth when I’m writing. I generally limit it to pens, pencils, my earbud cord, ice, water and other small objects, but still. Not exactly the kind of stuff that’s appropriate to do in a public setting. The coffee was fantastic (a white chocolate, sugar free, decaf latte or some such thing), but I was glad when I finally allowed myself to go back to the hotel.
My mom was going to pick me up at the hotel on Wednesday around noon because our family was going to hear John Maxwell speak (more about this in another post). Thursday night I finished up with having written around 18,000 or 20,000 words in the last two and a half days, plus of course reading the book and working on the timeline and plot. I was happy with what I’d accomplished, but not thrilled.
Wednesday I woke up rearing to go and get some words down before leaving the hotel. I had been working for a while when I added up my word counts (I was working on about five different documents because of adding words here and there throughout the story), and I suddenly realized that I only had 16,000 more words to write.
Thus began my mad scramble to maybe possibly finish my book before going home. I knew it was a long shot, but hey, every word I typed got me closer to the end. When Mom realized she was going to be later picking me up than planned on, she was apologetic, I was ecstatic. I got a later check out time and then continued my mad typing race. At 1:00 I headed down to the lobby to wait and continued typing, typing, typing. It was exhilarating to be so close to the finish time.
When Mom pulled up I only had 7,500 words left to complete the story. That might not seem like a huge deal to you, but to get around 10,500 words written in one morning is pretty unusual for me. (I’m not sure of the exact amount of words I did before I started keeping track that morning.) That also bumped my word count up to 30,000 for my 72 hour hotel stay. Again, that may not seem like a lot, but for me it’s pretty good. By the time I climbed into the car I was exhausted and my wrist was hurting, but I was very happy with my book.
We didn’t get home from the mini-conference until almost 1:30 Thursday morning and I spent all that day feeling like someone had numbed my brain, my body and somehow zapped my energy. Friday morning I woke up feeling the same way, but after a nap in the afternoon I sat down with my computer determined to knock out my remaining 7,500 words. I had quite the serious urge to just get it done.
My sister had asked me if I thought it would be cool to go out to eat with her and some of our younger siblings plus a couple of friends. That gave me a deadline and it was approaching rapidly. I was only 500 words away from my elusive 150,000 and also to where I felt like the last scenes would fall neatly into place when I got a text telling me it was time to go. I begged for a few more minutes and then squeezed the words in.
Feeling the amazing and fantastic sense of achievement I quickly emailed myself the book (back up, you know) and then screenshot that beautiful 150,004 counter at the bottom of the page and emailed it to myself as well.
There y’all have it. Since Friday my days have been a little bit of a confusing clump. I’ve been staying busy, but my brain is still recovering. It’s not used to spitting words on to paper so rapidly, especially not for a story I’d been working on for so long. After 465 days in a row of writing at least 100 words on WLHYL every. single. day. it felt so weird on Saturday to write 100 words on something else.
That is also the reason for my non-existant blogging schedule. My brain just needs to have a little break before I ask it to go running on full steam again. I’m ok with that though. My first draft of When Life Hands You Lymes
is finished, and that’s pretty exciting to me.
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I would really, really be delighted to hear your thoughts. I feel like this book has been a group project with all y’all who have been reading it on my blog. I’m glad I get to share this milestone with you. Thank you for all your support.