Wednesday, November 28, 2012

National Novel Writing Month Miracles




Yesterday one of my writing partners asked how I was juggling the holidays and two milestone family birthdays with author hoopla and a Christmas deadline for novel two. Badly was the answer that popped into my head, which isn’t strictly true. Considering how November started, it’s a NaNoWriMo miracle.

Three months ago, Harlequin MIRA published my debut novel, The Unfinished Garden. The hero of this love story about grief, fear, and dirt battled crippling obsessive-compulsive disorder as a child. He was in remission until something happened in his personal life and blam! The OCD came back. Full force. When I signed the contract for The Unfinished Garden, my son, who was diagnosed with OCD at a young age, had been free of the anxiety monster for three years. TUG launched into the world and blam! The OCD was back. Full force.

In the weeks that followed, I abandoned my promotional efforts and cast my book baby off into the literary ocean on a cobbled-together life raft. Hell, I never even learned how to tweet. Eventually, I asked for an extension on novel two, which my fabulous publisher granted. (Personal aside: I love being a Harlequin MIRA author.)

Thanks to my son’s mantra of OCD will never win and two heaven-sent mental health care professionals, my family has hit a turning point. And here I am. Staring down the deadline that must be met. And a house that must be decorated. And gifts that must be purchased and wrapped in either Hanukkah, birthday or Christmas paper (we’re a two-religion as well as a two-holiday-birthday house). Ho, ho, ho.

But a funny thing happened on the route through my son’s mental collapse. Writing, once again, became my escape and my therapy, and novel two is richer for it. NaNoWriMo was not widely productive for me in terms of whipping through the pages of my third draft. But what I did produce felt golden. I was mining the emotional depths of my story and excavating all kinds of connections I had missed in the second draft.

I don’t much care whether you shelve my novels in women’s fiction, literary commercial fiction, or romance, but I write emotional relationship stories. Voice and character are everything, and until OCD took my family hostage for a second time, I was struggling to connect with my new heroine. She’s a holistic vet, and we don’t even own a goldfish. But she’s also the mother of a suicide survivor.

One day after a crying jag on the bathroom floor, I decided to focus on my writing for a few hours—use it to block out my reality. And as I did, I met my heroine for the first time. On the surface, she was still the calm, spiritual, positive-thinker both the hero and I mistook her for. But in private, she was a terrified parent. And I understood her pain.

So, not really a miracle by It’s A Wonderful Life standards, but something huge happened to me this November. I rediscovered the joy of writing, and I am going to keep that joy through the season of chaos. And wish every reader and writer a December filled with escapism.


Barbara Claypole White is the author of TheUnfinished Garden, a love story about grief, OCD, and dirt (Harlequin MIRA, 2012)

“White … conveys the condition of OCD, and how it creates havoc in one’s life and the lives of loved ones, with style and grace, never underplaying the seriousness of the disorder.” Romantic Times 4* 

“Filled with fascinating characters and a great deal of love for the natural world, White’s novel explores the untilled regions of the psyche, and we are richer for it.” Anne Barnhill, The Pilot Newspaper

Romance Junkies 5 Ribbons + Recommended Read for "unpredictable originality"


25 comments:

  1. Barbara, your story blessed me so much that I just bought a copy of your book. I love characters who struggle with real issues -- and do so in unpredictable ways. They're what I strive to create in my own fiction. Congratulations on finding your writing joy in the midst of chaos--sometimes the very best place to do so.

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  2. Spectacular post, Barbara! While November was a trying month/time, your blog captures the spirit of writing, family and the season!! Forward motion, my friend!!

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  3. Thank you for sharing your experience, Barbara. The storms we experience in our lives can stifle our creativity, or they can inform it and make it grow in ways we never imagined. Sounds like the latter is true for you. This is something I am learning to do.

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    1. I think the great thing about writing fiction is that we can find inspiration in real life darkness and create our own happy endings. :)

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  4. What a November! Thank you, Barbara, for sharing your story of the restorative powers of writing.

    Now get back to wrapping presents!!

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  5. Thank you for sharing your story, Barbara.It sounds like your son has an amazing attitude.I'm looking forwarding to reading, The Unfinished Garden.

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    1. Thank you, Jill. Yes, my son is quite a guy. It takes incredible courage to fight OCD. Thank God he inherited my British war mentality.

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  6. You've been through a lot but sounds like you're managing well. My son, too, had had psychological difficulties so I know how troubling that cane be. He's doing well now but there's always a wariness that he will relapse.

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  7. It's an interesting journey we're on, isn't it?

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  8. Barbara, you are wonderful and so inspiring. Going to share this post!

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  9. Barbara,
    It's those experiences in our "real" lives that make our writing lives so much richer...but I know it's tough to be living through a journey with family challenges and frustrations that we'd likely prefer to leave only to our characters ;). I'm so glad your son has come through this and that you've gotten more insight into your heroine as a result. May the holiday/birthday season be wonderful for you all!!

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    1. I know. It's fascinating how real life echoes through our writing. I love to take that nugget of truth and run with it…

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  10. Wonderful post, beautiful cover...I've just added it to my cart.

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  11. What an inspiring post, Barbara. I recently ordered The Unfinished Garden and can't wait to dive in.

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    1. I'm honored, Sere. THE UNDERSIDE OF JOY is one of my favorite books. :)

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  12. I am touched by your sharing. Thank you for allowing us inside your family and your writing. I'm looking forward to the read, and I ditto Lauren's observations!

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