Taking a Break

This summer, I planned to at least get half of my book with an Oct. 15th deadline written. At least 22,500 words. During the school year, that’s two weeks if I’m really on a roll. But summer is different. My twelve year old is home which means my husband is around more too. They want to go play and I want to go with them. My son and I love whiling away entire days in our above ground pool. But I didn’t want to wait until the middle of August and have an entire book to write by the middle of Oct.

So, I set up a schedule. Write Monday through Friday from 10:00 pm to 2:00 am and sleep until 10:00 am. The first week was VBS and I’m the craft lady. I was too exhausted to stay up late. After VBS, my schedule worked for a few weeks. My son even had three basketball camps scheduled which meant I got to write during the day. But on day three of the second camp, we got a phone call. He’d hurt his arm and the mom who called thought it was broken. We rushed to a town 30 minutes away knowing he was in pain and waiting for us.

Once we got there, we spent another 45 minutes on the road taking him to his doctor where we learned his wrist was indeed broken. In our rural town, the specialists come to town two days a week. We got an appointment the next day and after a sleepless night for all of us, we took him to have it set.

It could have been worse, but the broken bone rattled me. His summer came to screeching halt. He was home more, had friends over less, couldn’t play basketball, and couldn’t even swim in the pool. His bummer summer became our bummer summer. Life became about trying to occupy a twelve year old boy with a broken arm. My night owl schedule wasn’t working because no one went to bed before midnight and my office is in a corner of the living room.

But I kept plugging along anyway. Churning out words. Boring words with boring characters in a boring story. I didn’t like it, didn’t like them, didn’t like anything about it.

The third basketball camp came along and we talked to the coach about our son doing drills and shooting practice. The coach agreed and even recruited an older boy who’d broken his arm earlier in the year to work one on one with our son. A whole week of him getting to go to basketball camp and having fun. A whole week to try to save this book.

And then I got the revisions for my January release from my editor. Guess what I did during basketball camp?

I finished my edits and we went on vacation. Exactly a week after our return, company was scheduled to arrive. So of course, I spent that time furiously cleaning my house. The book was at a stand still. I hated the book and readers would hate it too. I decided not to worry about it. I had 15,000 words at this point. Bad words with boring characters, but still 15,000 words. I made plans to hit it hard once school started and turn this book around.

My unintentional three week break culminated with a nice visit with my cousins. Mid way through their stay, I was putting my makeup on for the day and it hit me. If this character was that character’s sibling–oh my– the complications that would arise. This character that I’ve been doing backflips to explain his presence in town would have a reason to come to town. His sibling connection would cause all kinds of conflict between the hero and heroine. No, my hero and heroine do not learn they are siblings. But characters’ close to them do forcing the hero and heroine to take sides and it swirls into an awesome conflict.

I’ve always plotted at my best during mindless, repetitive tasks. Driving the road I know so well, I could drive it with my eyes closed. Mowing the yard. Going for a walk. Taking a shower. Putting on makeup. When doing something I don’t have to think about, my best ideas come. And at one point, long ago and before I was published, I realized that a break can often get my creativity stirring. But since I’ve had deadlines, I haven’t felt I have time to take a break except between my first draft and editing phase.

My cousins left and our son got his cast off last week. We spent his final week before school started having fun. We swam, he had a friend over, he played basketball, and we did final shopping for school. My break morphed into a full month.

Yesterday, he went back to school. I started my story over, wrote 1700 words, and wove the new sibling connection into what I’d already written. I love this story. I love these characters. And I hope readers do too.

Lesson learned–when you hate the book–try taking a break. Even if you don’t think you have time for one.

Published by

Shannon Vannatter

Shannon Taylor Vannatter is a stay-at-home mom/pastor’s wife/award winning author. Her rural Arkansas community boasts a population of around 100, if you count a few cows. She writes inspirational contemporary romance for Heartsong Presents. Learn more at http://shannonvannatter.com and check out her real life romance blog.

7 thoughts on “Taking a Break”

  1. Shannon,

    Great advice and I’m glad your break helped you find the thread to include in your book, so you liked your story.

    Kind of hard for a writer to write a story they don’t like, isn’t it? I did something for the first ever in my writing career on the proposal I’m working on. I changed a secondary character’s gender. Guess what? I have add another thread of conflict now.

  2. Hey Rose,
    Somehow the proposal I’d written wasn’t coming to life. Thankfully it is now. With every book, I discover a wonderful nugget that fixes or improves everything. But this one had me worried.

    Hmm, I’ll have to remember the gender thing. I’ve never done that.

  3. You’re spot on, Shannon. Taking a break is necessary for our mental, physical, emotional, & spiritual health. God took a day to rest, but people seldom do. ~~~ So, now I’m wondering, when do I get to critique this new story??? 🙂

  4. I’m glad you got it figured out!! It can be so frustrating when something is coming out, but it’s not a good something. You go girl!

    1. Today, I probably cut as much as I wrote, Dawn. But I know where I’m going now and everything is so complicated now. A whole new complication popped up today that I never saw coming. My whole problem was that my hero and heroine didn’t have strong enough goals. It just took me a while to figure out how to strengthen that part of the story.

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