The final push

June 7, 2010 | 48 comments

About 1/3 of the books that have piled up on my desk during the writing process

After two years, 600 pages, and 200, 000 words, I think I’m finally close to having a completed draft of my book. (Lest it sound like I confused my story with War and Peace, that’s the the total pages of the first draft, this draft, and some epic outlining exercises in between.)

A quick review for those of you who aren’t familiar with the saga:

In 2008 I signed a contract with the Ted Weinstein Literary Agency to write a memoir about how I grew up atheist and ended up Christian. An unexpected pregnancy derailed the entire process, which caused me some mild consternation (read: I whined and cried like a child who’d had her candy taken away) but I ended up clueing in that God’s plans just might be better than mine. Not only did I have a precious baby girl in early 2009, but the extra time I had thanks to the delays gave me just enough space to realize that the draft was no good. It read like…well, like it was written by someone who had never written a book before. It was strained. It was humorless. It was layerless. I was trying too hard. I scrapped the whole thing, devoured approximately two gazillion books about how to write books, sought expert advice, committed to care more about whether it’d be fun to read than whether it’d impress critics, and I started over. (And yeah, that first day I sat down in front of a blank Word document after a tossing out a year’s worth of hard work, my first thought was something like, “Dude. Seriously?”)

And now I’m finally in the home stretch of the writing process. It’ll be a huge milestone to have this new draft under my belt, even though there will still be lots of editing and revision to do later. I don’t have a hard deadline with my agent, but I’m shooting to have it done by Sunday June 20, the feast of Margaret Ebner.

Other than popping in on Fridays I probably won’t be blogging much these next couple weeks as I work to wrap up this draft. If you have a moment to say a prayer for my little project, I’d appreciate it!

So what do you have going on this summer? Cool vacations? Ambitious gardening projects? Home improvement extravaganzas? I’d love to hear about it! (In as much detail as possible. Seriously. I’m going to be spending all my free time chained to my desk for the next two weeks, so I’d truly be fascinated to hear all about what’s up with you this summer!)


  1. Brianna Heldt

    So excited about your book! No vacations for us, but we'll be working on our house (various on-going projects, as our home was built in 1912 and is a bit of a fixer-upper), and have some family and friends who will be coming to visit us. We've also begun the process to adopt again, so we'll be getting paperwork together for that. SO, between all of that and raising our five young children, we'll be busy! πŸ™‚

    Love your blog! I don't remember how I discovered it but it is one of my favorite reads.

  2. Bethany Hudson

    Blessings in the home stretch–well, the first home stretch! Nothing like having that first draft completed, though. I'll be praying for you, Jennifer.

    This summer–camping with the kiddos for the first time (yikes!), picnics on Sundays, bible study with our youth group kids and our priest on Wednesday mornings at Starbucks, playing bridesmaid (bride's matron?) in my surrogate little sister's wedding, attempting to container garden on my north-facing balcony, soaking up the sunshine (while there is sunshine) here in the Pacific Northwest.


  3. Kristen @ St Monica's Bridge

    I wish i could say that my summer was filled with fun in the sun and sand since I live no more than 20 minutes from a beach, but alas, it will not be. We have 2 official trips to the beach planned, the majority of this summer is dedicated to helping my husband find a job. He got his teaching licensure in December in elementary education and since has added on a licensure for family and consumer science (culinary arts, he was/is a chef). Our state is seeing massive hiring freezes and he's mainly not getting hired in other states because they doubt his seriousness to relocate (want job will move for it!). So, in addition to emailing hundreds, thousands of resume's I am begging St Joseph to intercede for us and help that right job show up in the next month or so…

  4. AmyRobynne

    You can do it!

    I'm having a baby (boy #3) in August, and hopefully landscaping my front yard, growing lots of veggies in the back yard and my community garden plot, going up north to our extended family's lake cabin for the week of the 4th of July with a dozen cousins, biking with my kids until my body refuses, getting berries from you-pick farms and canning them in jams, along with various veggies, and enjoying the Minnesota summer while it lasts.

  5. blissful_e

    We cooked pizzas in our wood fired oven for the first time this past weekend. I had so much fun building a fire!!

    Good luck with the writing – I already know of three copies I'm going to buy for friends.

  6. Em the luddite

    Congratulations, Jennifer. I'll keep you in my prayers.

    I'll be in Ireland for the next five weeks on a graduation trip (finished my master's back in December) with my sister. It just so happens that Ireland was where I began my more active inquiries into the Catholic Church two years ago and I was just received into the Church two weeks ago, so this is a very special time/place for me. Then at the end of the summer I'm moving to the Midwest to begin a PhD program in Renaissance English literature. With other smaller details like buying my first house and seeing family members off to east Asia, it's going to be a crazy summer of transitions. I'd appreciate your prayers as well if you think of it.

  7. Beth West

    Hi. I'm so glad our Father brought you into His Family! Praise Him, He had to tug quite hard to bring me in. I'm so glad that He thinks we are worth the trouble πŸ™‚

    I'm also working on a book this summer, although of a very different sort. Mine is a children's picture book. There will either be no words or the words will be very sparse with the majority of the action carried in the paintings.

    We also homeschool through the summers. Hopefully our garden will cooperate and be worth tending to.

    I'm praying that I will make some headway in some areas of parenting that are difficult for me (and consequently my children). I'm reading Paul David Tripp's book, Age of Opportunity. After I study this, I'm planning to read his book War of Words. Hmmm, with housework too and some day trips to the beach and lake, I think we'll have a full summer.

    I hope your writing goes well! Blessings to you.

  8. cindy kay

    I'm excited for your book plans! And my summer plans begin today with an assessment test at the local community college where I am starting classes in August– at age 48!

  9. The Sojourner

    See, and I was just reflecting that I haven't slept in my own bed the last three Saturdays, nor gone to Mass at my own parish the last three Sundays.

    On Pentecost, I was in North Carolina for a friend's confirmation. Bed: the extra one in her room. Mass: Extraordinary form in a lovely little church in the middle of nowhere. The Confirmation was also in the Extraordinary Form and achingly beautiful.

    The next weekend, I was in Wisconsin for the wedding of two college friends. Bed: A futon at the bride's father's house (yay for generous relatives saving us money on hotels). Mass: At the same parish where they'd been married the day before. The wedding was Novus Ordo but ad orientem with the Eucharistic prayer in Latin and the sign of peace left out. I cried. This does not bode well for my own eventual wedding.

    This past weekend, I was in Bigger City, Ohio (*only* 75 miles from home!) for my boyfriend's eldest younger brother's high school graduation. (Is that impossible to follow or what?) Bed: Their little sister's. (She generously sleeps on the floor when I visit.) Mass: Saturday vigil, followed by commencement exercises. A typical Novus Ordo except for the Schola (which included Boyfriend and two of his siblings); plus a homilist who humorously disparaged priests who improv the liturgy.

    How's that for agonizing detail?

    Oh, and I finished a novel in February. My beta reader (the friend whose Confirmation was mentioned above) is savagely editing it at the moment. I'd be mad at her for sending me commentary longer than the chapters themselves, except for the fact that she's spot-on with what needs to be changed.

  10. Devin Rose

    You go Jen!

  11. tootie

    I will say a prayer that everything goes smoothly! Can't wait to read the final product!

  12. Tienne

    Definitely praying for you, Hon! I can't wait to buy your book, seriously.

  13. Karen LH

    We're in the middle of a big landscaping project.

    The back half of our back yard goes uphill about 10 feet. Once upon a time (before us), it was terraced with a series of low retaining walls made of railroad ties. For as long as we've lived here, the hill has been overgrown with ivy and gradually un-terracing itself, and over the past few years, the lowest retaining wall has been developing more and more of a forward lean. I think that the DC area's Snowmaggedon of this past winter was the final straw, and the wall finally broke.

    So we hired a landscaping company to take out the ivy, re-terrace the hillside, and put in stacked-fieldstone retaining walls (more expensive in the short term, but more durable in the long term).

    It's been interesting in particular to watch the building of the retaining walls. The first day, there was just one man working on the wall, and it made me think of the monastic life: quiet, repetitious, exacting… I don't think I would be able to do it for long before I got bored out of my mind, but this fellow worked on the wall all day and seemed to enjoy it. It looked like peaceful work.

    We plan to put in plants a little at a time, as suddenly doubling the usable size of the back yard is a little overwhelming. I've bookmarked the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center (in Austin), to get ideas for shrubs and wildflowers that are low-maintenance and local to our part of the country.

    I'm not much of a gardener, but I'm looking forward to having the new flower beds to play with.

  14. Beth (A Mom's Life)

    I just said a prayer for you. I prayed that God will give you the time, energy and inspiration needed to wrap everything up.

    I can not wait to get a copy of your book!

  15. Claire

    Yay! I am a little closer to reading your book–I can't wait.

    In 2 1/2 weeks, our family of 5 will move to NYC with everything we need for the next year packed into our little Jetta. Yup, we're driving 3000 miles with a 3, 4 and 6 yr-old in a 96 VW. It's going to be…great. πŸ™‚

    We will sublet in Brooklyn until the end of August, at which point we will relocate to Calcutta for 2 months. Then back and forth between India and NY until this time next year.

  16. Robyn B.

    If you need test readers, let me know. πŸ™‚

    My summer goal: Having both my older kids survive summer vacation without their mama killing them. Kidding. Mostly.

  17. Anonymous

    Congratulations Jen! I'll be one of the first to line up to buy your book when it hits the shelves. I'll be praying for you.

    Jen G

  18. Allison

    How exciting! I can't wait til it's done, I love reading convert stories, as one myself. I'll certainly pray for you and for it's success reaching others!

    You asked what we're doing this summer.. well, not much other than preparing for our wedding come September! πŸ™‚

  19. Melanie B

    That reminds me that I saw this series of YouTube videos of Ira Glass on storytelling and they made me think of you.

    Part 1

    Part 2

    Part 3

    Part 4

    I'm sure it's advice you've heard before; but I found it really helpful.

  20. 'Becca

    Well, since you asked, my family is doing an ambitious gardening project that we've been meaning to get to for years! We wanted hydrangea and lilac bushes in our front yard, but the yard was filled with this groundcover plant, euonymous, which is green and pretty but chokes out everything else. During our procrastination, our neighbor had the poorly-built addition torn off the back of his house, exposing his back yard, a VERY STEEP slope which immediately began to erode, and he had no clue what to do. So, we moved the euonymous from our front yard to his back yard! We've had lots of rain lately, which made the roots easy to loosen but the plants heavier to haul, and of course the whole yard is slimy mud…but we're saving money and effort on watering the transplants! The euonymous has long stems which were tangled across the yard about a foot deep, so what we did was dig from the edges and roll it up until it looked too big to carry, then cut it off with shears; we made 3 such bundles that the 3 of us together could just barely drag around the house, about 150 pounds of plants and root-dirt and water in each. We just sort of chucked them onto the hillside and spread them out as best we could, knowing that this is an invasive species that can root itself from cuttings so will probably take hold on its own.

    In the course of the project, we unearthed dozens of bricks (there must have been some kind of bordered flowerbeds before the euonymous overgrew everything) which we're using to make a little path among our new flowers. And I scored a free hydrangea bush of the exact variety I wanted–the receptionist at work had a potted one and threw it away when it started to wilt! So the whole project will cost us only $75. Plus hours and hours of hard, muddy labor.

    I recently posted about the spiritual and practical advantages of Tuesday potlucks. Oh, and in case you missed it, two months ago I explained how to do everything!

    Thanks for inviting your readers to share our adventures! I'll come back here for reading material.

  21. Natasa

    Best of luck with your work. You're alsmost there!

    I'm moving into a new apartment tomorrow so hubby and I are packing and throwing a lot of stuff out.
    I'm having a baby in a month (my first) so I'm preparing for that. Excited! (Scared too).

  22. Smoochagator

    I'm having a baby this summer! I'm due on June 23 and I'm very excited πŸ˜€

  23. Marie

    I cannot wait for your book, Jen!

    This summer I am going to get serious about figuring out what I am doing with the second have of my life. At 45 I figure if all goes well I am about half done. πŸ™‚

    I am hoping to have a DISCIPLINED prayer life. Up early for daily mass. I am determined to get toned with the help of a DISCIPLINED exercise regime. I am hoping to eat in a more DISCIPLINED manner.

    I am looking forward to going to the beach, a few short day trips and rest. We have a big family reunion. My father's mother was one of 13 and this get together is this group of cousins aunts and uncles. My in-laws 50th wedding anniversary is at the end of the summer which means CLAMBAKE. Yummers.

    I want to read, read, read and turn off the TV. I have found myself addicted to stupid reality TV shows that are a waste of my time. The older teens have summer jobs. The others are in out of camps. My extended family has big family dinners at my parents beach house every Sunday that are so much fun. Grilling and wine and laughs and teasing.Wonderful memories for all of us especially the cousins.

    I want to take lots of photographs and find time for silence and reflection. Not too much for which to aspire, right?

  24. Nichole@40daysof

    Congratulations! I'm having house guests which mean a lot of cleaning, so maybe don't use my activities to distract yourself. Because that would be just pathetic to fantasize about house cleaning. πŸ™‚

  25. Kerri

    Tybee Island… hope it is not all oily.

    I hope you inform us of any book signing events.

  26. Baloney_Detector

    What's that book by C.S. Lewis, "A Mind Awake"? I've never seen anything like that, not even on his bibliography on Wikipedia.

  27. Gina

    I'm so glad for you!!

    I have book #2 in the works — and there's still book #1 to self-publish, as it never found a publisher. (sigh) Book #2 is behind where it should be, but your example of perseverance just might inspire me!

  28. Michelle

    Oh wow…we have kids in theater camp, swimming lessons, Totus Tuus (does your parish have that?) later this month. A visit to grandparents for the oldest (has to get on a plane alone…first time, yikes) and then just playing around, riding bikes, swimming, reading, etc.

    Good luck on the book! I can't wait to read it. πŸ™‚

  29. Christian H

    Break a leg.

    Summer: Work. Hopefully writing. Hopefully walking in the woods. Blogging, of course.

  30. Milehimama

    I'm spending the summer writing a book, only I'm doing it the hard way and writing the book first in hopes of landing an agent, LOL. This one's a middle grade fantasy. I dream of writing an Erma Bombeck style memoir of large family life, though. I have two chapters on that. But it's stalled while I … live large family life, LOL.

  31. Christine

    Best of luck on the book!

    We are going camping!
    Lots of badmitten.
    Giving so many kisses to my baby. I know how fast they grow up.

  32. Fieryhalo

    Looks like you've already got a lot of ready readers. My heart and prayers will be with you too as you write.

    My family will be doing concerts and seminars on family issues in California this summer; we fly out tomorrow but I'll still be keeping tabs on my favorite blog. πŸ˜‰ For this little, formerly-homeschooled girl from the cornfields of Ohio, CA is a long way from home but I'm always excited to see people's lives changed; so it's worth the trip for me.

    I really enjoy reading the things God is teaching you and I SO appreciate the fact that you share it openly. I often think you and my mom would have a good time sitting down to talk over a cup of tea. She has 4 children from 14 years of age up to 26 and all of us love being involved in church and sharing our faith in God. I'm working on a book this summer also. If you ever wanted to read some of the subjects I'll be covering, I blog about them before they wind up in chapters and I do graphic art; so I'm doing the pictures and illustrations myself. πŸ™‚ I'm pretty excited about it.

    Looking forward to hearing about your success! You've been such an encouragement to me.

    – Brittany

  33. Kitchen Stewardship

    That's a lot of books!

    I'll be:
    *finishing up my camping ebook, hopefully by next week (yes, I'm self-publishing. Only the real heroes land agents!)
    *battling earwigs (killed 2 in the house and 10 in the sandbox today)
    *awaiting the next installment of Conv Diary's Scorpion category!

    Seriously, I can't wait to read your book. I haven't had time to comb your archives like I'd like to, so if I can take your book with me into the nursing chair, that would be awesome. Will you keep my droopy blogga-momma eyes open? πŸ˜‰

    Prayers your way,

  34. Ashley

    I'm spending the summer with my 1st child, my sweet boy, Thomas [who just turned 4 months old] before I return to work in the fall as an English teacher.

    I have ridiculously ambitious plans of both leisure and much needed organization.

    Love your blog! Katie @ More Like Mary~ More Like Me referred me.

  35. Colin Kerr

    Congrats on all your great progress. I look forward to reading it. Don't stress out, it'll be written in the way it's suppose to be written, eventually. Testifying to what Christ has done for you is why we're here. It is the most natural thing in the world.
    I can't imagine what a Texan summer is like (or winter for that matter). We live in middle Ontario. It is freezing here half of the year, but we have wonderful summers, and hence gardening etc., is a high priority for us.
    God bless!

  36. Roxane B. Salonen

    Jennifer, many congratulations for your being at this place. I hope that someday we can celebrate the births of our books together, though I have a feeling you're still going to beat me to the punch. I'm proud of you for the start-over. That had to have been hard, but you will not regret it. Sounds like you opened a vein that was not accessible the first go-around. Blessings in all your work, and in mothering your children. I think it's wise of you to take a blogging break. I know it will be fruitful.

    As for summer plans, we don't have a lake home like a lot of people around here (our city is something of a ghost town in the summertime), and we don't have resources for a full-blown family vacation. But we're hoping to sneak in a few mini adventures. And my husband and I are going to a Rush concert at summer's end in Minneapolis.

    Have to mention this too, since you're looking for details: my word for verification is "waicu," and the main word in the title of my memoir is "wasicu," a Lakota word for "white person."

    Peace to you!

  37. Jason

    Jen! We're going on a road trip from Birmingham to Kansas City next week, and I'm going to try to write about it as we go. Hopefully, telling you about it will help to hold me accountable to write during the week, and you can travel vicariously with us. Scheduled to appear: close up shots of bar-b-q. Mmmm!

  38. Catholic Bibliophagist

    Hooray, about being so close to the end of your first draft! I'll look forward to reading the book when it is published. (BTW, have you read The Loser Letters? I recently finished it and immediately wondered what you would think of it.)

    As for this summer, here are my plans:

    1. Finish recovering from foot surgery.

    2. Once that's accomplished I plan to spend serious time with my sewing machine sewing some desperately needed new clothes.

    3. I also plan to get back to all of my unfinished quilting projects and Start Finishing Them!

    4. Post more on both of my blogs.

    5. Attend Mythcon in early July if my foot is well enough. (Tim Powers is the Guest of Honor — woo, hoo!)

    6. Oh, yeah. Go back to work at the library as soon as my foot is well.

  39. Kate Wicker @ Momopoly

    I'll be praying for you and your words. I can't wait to see your name in print.

  40. Shelley

    Congrats on being finished, or nearly finished, with your first draft! Such an exciting time I would imagine.

  41. Nancy

    Fabulous news about your book, Jen! I can't believe how old your baby has grown, nor how efficiently you must work (despite your protestations to the contrary).

    As for my summer, it is shaping up to be an eventful one: foreign travel and ambitious house-reorganizing plans – with the aim to set up a studio for me to continue painting icons.

    My youngest just graduated from college and will be moving home while she tries to find *some* form of employment (prayers very welcomed!) We've also acquired two new rescue dogs (for a total of 3) which is keeping me hopping.

  42. SherryTex

    Trying to finish my own book. That would be something. Congrats to you on yours. That's fabulous! It's rather like giving birth.

  43. Liesl

    I am very excited for your book – can't wait to read it!

    This is my first summer in DC, so I plan to play the role of tourist, get a jump start on my research, and do fun things like play softball, perform with my concert band, continue with Bible Study, hang out with friends, etc. My family is actually coming to me for vacation this year… and I hope to get to the beach at least once!

  44. Sarah Boyle Webber

    I expect to be sitting in the hallway outside of the bathroom while my daughter sits on the potty. All summer. Except for a week in CA with my family for my baby brother's wedding.

  45. Michelle

    I'm happy for you regarding the book! So awesome. My summer: teaching elementary ESL students, taking graduate courses, beach, babysitting, reading, spending time with friends and family, planning future trips around the world, etc.


  46. christa

    One of my former students recommended your blog to me after reading my blog post today. So glad to be here!

  47. Julianne Douglas

    Jennifer, I'm a writer, too, and my goal for the summer is to finish the first draft of my second novel. The first is under submission to editors, so I'd appreciate any prayers anyone could offer for an offer!

    I hope you make your deadline. I'm really looking forward to reading your book. If your website is any indication, it will be wonderful!

  48. maryjo

    Just want to say that I met with children’s authors a few years ago and one always said he didn’t write a story, he wrote it and re-wrote it, and re-wrote it, etc…. He said he spent more time and energy in the re-writing!hang in there!! God bless and good luck!

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