Book update #2

May 18, 2009 | Writing | 24 comments

For anyone who might be interested, here are some musings about how the book‘s going. You can see all my posts about writing a book here.

Where I am…

I’ve just started Chapter 13 of what I think will be a fourteen-chapter memoir. In other words, I’m almost done!

A couple chapters ago I got to the point where I needed to introduce the blog, and the concept of blogging generally. It was surprisingly tricky to figure out how to do that. How much do I assume the reader knows about blogs? If I refer to another blog, do I just say the name, or put the URL in parentheses? I’m sure my agent will be able to tell me how to handle that, but it was interesting to try to figure out on my own what would work best.

It’s been so helpful to have old blog posts to look at to remind me what I was thinking at the various stages in my conversion. A few that marked big moments for me were:

It’s been an interesting trip down memory lane to re-read some of that old stuff.

What I’ve learned…

Obedience
This process has given me endless opportunities to work on trust and obedience. There are many times when I sit down at my computer and feel like the whole thing is terrible and I can’t think of anything I want to do less than work on this stupid book. But then I come back to that same question that I was talking about in this update: Do I think God called me to do this, or not? If so, then I need to just do it, even when it’s not fun, even when I doubt the whole thing.

On the flip side, there are also times when I feel absolutely on fire about working on it, so inspired that I feel like I’m going to explode, but days and days (or sometimes weeks) will go by that I can’t find time to type even one word. Again, I just have to trust: If it’s in God’s plan that I get this done, he’ll give me the time, eventually. Whenever I feel tempted to let it impact my vocation as a wife and a mother (e.g. pouting because I keep not getting time to write, taking time out of family time work on the book, etc.) I know that I’ve fallen into an untrusting, controlling mindset that I need to snap myself out of ASAP.

Why writing a book is harder than blogging
People frequently note that it’s odd that I complain about the difficulty of writing a book while I keep the blog regularly updated. As I said in a previous update, blogging is not only not work, but it actually relaxes and energizes me. Amy Jane of Untangling Tales described the difference so well in the comments here:

Blogging is like being the hostess or guest of honor at a party (maybe just my kind of a party…): everyone is already connected to you somehow, you have some measure of status and feedback. Whatever you say (write) has the general context and cushion of relationship to get you to the next post/conversation, so flubs are less threatening.

Writing a book, on the other hand, is like giving a speech. It is for the conveyance of information, must be able to stand on its own, and will be read by disinterested (in you the writer) people as well as those who love you and those who’d delight in ribbing a hole in your idea-baby.

The book, somehow, just feels like higher stakes.

Exactly. Overall, though, I’ve really enjoyed the process. It’s been a great challenge.

What’s next…

Thanks to having a new babysitter to help out a little bit during the week, I might even be able to be done with a first draft by early June. After that, the next steps are:

  • Go back and add in things that I had to gloss over the first time I wrote it (e.g. details that require lots of research).
  • Shelve it for two weeks to clear my mind (an idea I got from Stephen King’s On Writing).
  • Read the whole thing through with a fresh set of eyes after the two-week wait, make edits.
  • Have my husband and a couple friends read the whole thing and make edits.
  • Read it one last time.
  • Send it to my agent, after which a whole new editing/revision process will begin before he even starts shopping it.

For those of you who have written books or know about the process, am I missing any steps there?

Thanks for letting me think out loud here. It always helps me clarify what’s going on to put together one of these posts. If anyone else is working on a book right now (whether for professional or informal purposes) I’d love to hear about it!

24 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    For me, personally, two weeks isn’t enough – I’m still seeing through the same eyes. I’ll leave my work on the shelf for two months before I pick it up again.

  2. agapeflower117

    I can’t wait to look for it when it comes out – I’m sure it’ll be awesome!

    Question: I thought most memoirs, like fiction, had to be fully written before querying them to an agent. Were you sought out first, or did you shop your idea around to one before it was picked up? I’m curious. 🙂

  3. Elizabeth Foss

    Jen, I find it really helpful to ask the Blessed Mother to help me find the time to write and I also ask her to intercede on my behalf and beg heaven to give me the right words at the “write” time. That way, when I sit down, I crank it all out much more efficiently. By the time I actually sit to write, my fingers are flying because it’s all been thought out ahead of time.

    I’m really looking forward to reading your book.

  4. Monnie

    You do realize, don’t you, that now that you’ve said you could possibly have a first draft done by early June, a monkey wrench will inevitably be thrown into the works and mess up your hopes/plans…?

    God has a sense of humor. 😉 And He definitely knows what will help us to grow. 🙂

    Best of luck to you! I can’t wait until I can pre-order the published book!!!

  5. Melanie B

    I definitely think putting it on the shelf for a time is a mighty good idea. I’m with anonymous that two weeks may not be enough. I generally need a bit more time to gain a proper perspective on my writing. I think the ideal time frame will differ from writer to writer.

  6. Anonymous

    I’ve written a couple of books. I think that two weeks isn’t enough time to step away from a book. I’m not sure what’s enough time for YOU, but for almost anyone (take a bow, Anonymous): two weeks is unlikely to be enough time.

    You really need to WALK AWAY completely from your manuscript. It will be in your head and mind for quite a bit of time after you’re finished, which is why I think two weeks may be a bit scant.

    But maybe you’re quite different. In this you must be your own judge.

    ~ Nona

  7. sarah

    Congratulations on being almost finished! That is a huge achievement.

    I am the same as the previous commenter, I find two weeks is not long enough for me to freshen my view of my work. I know you don’t have lots of time to play with, though.

    I’m currently working on my second book. I’m glad to see you have given the pace over to God. When I did this myself, I was able to overcome all my blocks and just go with the creative flow and actually get something finished.

    I would add one step that you have missed out – although I am sure you do it. Ask God to consider your work and offer critique or editing. Is that too esoteric to say? I’m not totally sure how Catholic people relate to God! But it’s the number one step for me, all the way through my writing process. God has the best advice!

    Good luck with the final stages of your process. I’m so much looking forward to buying the book when it comes out!

  8. Shannon

    So excited for you! Can’t wait to see where this goes…

  9. Aliocha

    I would love to review it.
    Also, let me know if you need a translator for portuguese.

  10. SuburbanCorrespondent

    I loved King’s On Writing. Even though it stunned me to learn he only goes through the manuscript 3 times…

  11. Lenetta @ Nettacow

    Best wishes on the book! Should you need an extra set of random eyes, I'd love to volunteer my services. My credentials are a bit thin – I proofread the local small town newspaper and I'm a huge fan of your site. :>) Just thought I'd put it out there, though!

  12. Ginkgo100

    I was a bit amused (forgive me, but I was) by your old comments in those posts that you fear that you missed the “critical window” in childhood for forming the brain synapses needed to believe in God. I was amused because it’s the kind of thing I might worry about too, if I were an atheist considering God.

    Let me answer on a purely scientific, materialist basis. The human brain is amazingly plastic. Language may seem to have a “critical window,” but it seems that most everything else can be relearned. Especially cognitive things like beliefs and worldviews! Which, of course, you know now from experience.

    And if you add the finger of God to the equation, all things are possible. But you know this too.

  13. rebecca

    i agree with the people who said that 2 weeks is probably not enough time. blessed with unlimited time, i would let it sit at least a month, preferably two. however one is not always blessed with unlimited time, sooo…. give it as much time as you can.

    i don’t know how you will be handling this since you have an agent and i have no experience with that, but when you find a publishing house and they draw up a contract go over it with a fine tooth comb and get someone else to do that too. beware of tricky stuff like asking you to pay for editing costs (they should pay for it, or at worst there should be a low cap, and it should come out of royalties — but you really should not have to pay for editing AT ALL) or indexing costs. you can usually make your own index relatively easily and i would recommend doing that. your agent may take care of all that stuff, though.

    i am sure i am forgetting lots of things and your experience with a publisher may be vastly different. i am just suggesting a few things i have learned, some the hard way! (i wrote a book a few years back for a very, very niche market. and yes, i did use caps and proper punctuation!)

    and i, too, am looking forward to reading your book.

  14. matthew archbold

    Here’s the rule on mentioning blogs. If you’re mentioning “Creative Minority Report” you say the great and wonderful blog of Matthew Archbold called CMR.

    If you’re referring to any other blog, just don’t even bother.

    These are not hard and fast rules but given to subjectivity.

    Btw, can’t wait to read the book.

  15. Anonymous

    Rebecca, the good agents act as a legal go-between. They'll look over the contract and make sure it's in the best interests of everyone. They're your literary lawyer. But you're right in telling her to beware of fees.

    I <3 agents, y'all. I wants one.

  16. Mrs Jackie Parkes MJ

    Do you mind adding me to your links?

  17. Kingdom Mama

    I’m sure I’ve said this to you before, but I just think it’s AMAZING that you’re writing a book, now, while your kiddos are so little. I want to write a book soooo badly, but I just don’t have the grace for it yet.

    Some day!

    In the meantime I’m just blogging, trying to share our lives while I still remember what has happened!;) LOL.

    Oh, and I’m hosting a little talent show soon! I know, from personal experience, that Texans like talent shows!! (hint, hint)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FB0dpX1lQsQ

  18. Cheryl

    I found myself wishing that I could have weighed in on the Protestant/Catholic remarks by Steve G. on one of the old posts you listed. I am new to your blog, having subscribed during Lent when I did a search to find lenten activities for our family…
    I am an open protestant, and would certainly disagree from some of his oversimplifications of the protestant beliefs. Of course, I now live in France, and things look quite a bit different from here…

  19. MOm

    Jen;

    I agree that two weeks may not be long enough. I know you’re anxious to move the project along but…
    My advice is: Read it out loud, to someone else if possible, to yourself if necessary.

    This takes time, but you’d be surprised at how many awkward sentences, and incomplete thoughts you discover this way.

    Learned this from my non-fiction books and my one (very poor, unpublished) attempt at a novel.

  20. Ann Voskamp @Holy Experience

    Rooting you on from the trenches, Jen…

  21. Kate Wicker

    Thank you for this post. It’s chock full of good stuff for the writer, mom, and Christian in me.

    Happy writing to you. I’m praying you find a publisher very quickly because I want to read your book and share it with others.

    Blessings,
    Kate

  22. Anonymous

    Several years ago, I had read The Art of Nonfiction: A Guide for Writers and Readers by Ayn Rand and edited by Robert Mayhew. The book is an explanation of her writing process that apparently had originated as a series of lectures.

    Although Ayn makes various comments promoting her religious (atheist) and political beliefs, I believe that the book does a good job of breaking down the writing process into its important elements.

    God bless,
    Nick

  23. Anjali

    Just found your blog through a friend. First, congrats on being almost done. I can’t believe you can write so much with such young children!

    Second, although I’m a former Catholic who is essentially an atheist, your blog and your book sound intriguing, and I can’t wait to read along.

    Best of luck!

  24. Martha

    Congratulations! You’re near the finish line. Read your book out loud. Avoid passive voice. The revisions may take longer than you want but keep at the task. I speak from experience. I am finishing a history of our local fire department and have revised the book at least a dozen times!

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