30-day mind shred

June 10, 2013 | 22 comments

I have about 30 days to make a final round of edits before I turn the manuscript in to my publisher, which means that all four minutes of my free time each week will be going to that.

Why am I telling you this? Because there is something about having a blog that makes you have these delusions that EVERYONE CARES when your average weekly posting rate drops by 0.7 one month, and so it makes me feel better to alert the Googlebot and whoever else might notice that if I seem to be updating less, it’s only temporary.

Now, someone might be wondering the same thing an acquaintance did the other day when she asked, “How is it possible that you could still be working on book edits? From your blog it seems like you can occasionally put together a coherent sentence, so how could it take you five years, three rewrites, and ten trillion rounds of soul-crushing feedback to get this thing right?” (paraphrasing).

I have spent many a moon asking myself the same question, and here is a list of possible answers:

  1. I’m writing a memoir in the classic sense of the word. These days “memoir” is often applied to books that are basically collections of essays that are loosely in chronological order. There’s nothing wrong with that — some of my favorite reads fall into that category — but that’s not what I’m doing here. My book has a clear story arc, which makes it more difficult to put together because I have to factor in plot considerations in addition everything else.
  2. It’s a tough story to tell in an interesting way. I didn’t live through a natural disaster or escape a prison camp or spend a romantic summer in Tuscany. My conversion took place in the suburbs — not exactly a hotbed of thrilling moments. On top of that, I necessarily have to verge into a few unpopular subjects. It’s a lot of work to make it a compelling, fun read while also sticking to the truth. It’s possible, but very hard. It requires a level of writing that I wasn’t even capable of a few years ago.
  3. It takes years to learn how to write a good book. I have a lot of experience writing essays, but writing a book requires a much broader set of skills. It’s like the difference between being able to write good songs on your guitar versus being able to write good songs for a symphony orchestra: creating a symphony requires that you think of a dozen different things at once, all of which need to come together in harmony. It takes time to build that skill set.
  4. I’m an idiot.
  5. I have died and gone to Purgatory, and this Sisyphean Wheel of Book Writing is God’s way of purging me of my remaining shreds of pride.

My guess is “all of the above.”

I had to laugh (read: wept bitter, bitter tears) when I saw that blogger/author friends get to take vacations after working on their books. Sheesh, this is my vacation. I have precious little free time right now, and it’s all going to finishing up this manuscript. (Well, that and sobbing in my bathroom.) And when my writing time is over each day, it’s back to toil and Slip N’ Slides.

But I have to say, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Despite the impression that all the whining and the drama might give you, I’m actually incredibly grateful to be able to do this. Other than hanging out with my family, there’s nothing I’d rather do with my life than this.


  1. jeni

    Well I cannot wait to get my hands on this book! You’re awesome Jen! Almost done 🙂 This is like the pushing stage of labor… right?

  2. TracyE

    I’ve always romanticized about writing a book never really thinking about WHAT goes into it. Perhaps on some level I “knew” and just wanted to keep it at the daydream stage. The reality is, I don’t think my skin is tough enough to take the criticism and re-writes that come along with writing a book. That said….God bless you, woman. I’ll be looking forward to your book and one day, ONE DAY, you’ll look back and be amazed at what you accomplished during this wild season in your life…aka…lots of littles!! Blessings!!

  3. Pam

    Well, your blog has been such a source of inspiration for me personally and many others I know too – I can’t imagine what a gift your book will be. I love how honest you are and how well you can put into words what it’s like to actually write an entire book! Well done. You are on the home stretch. Praying for these last things to go smoothly and more quickly than you anticipate!

  4. Amelia

    I can’t wait to read your book..you’re almost there! I agree…it’s like the pushing stage of labor…and then you get the baby!

  5. Eneida Nieva

    Yup, can’t wait for it, I hope it’ll be as good as I can imagine 🙂

  6. Julie

    I’m sure you’ll do a terrific job finishing up your edits. I can’t wait to read the book. I’ve enjoyed reading your blog for a few years, but when I saw your television show, I thought, “Man, she really has a gift to share with the world.” Thank you for putting SO much work into sharing it more widely. Your story will be all the more relatable for having taken place in the suburbs. I’m sure it will be entertaining and inspiring. Good luck!

  7. Wanda

    Hey Jennifer! I will be in Austin June 24-25. Drop me an email and maybe we can do a drive by! 🙂

  8. Connie Rossini

    I think conversion stories are the most exciting stories there are, because they deal with the real, great drama of life–salvation from eternal punishment and the gift of eternal happiness. God bless you as you finish. Can’t wait to read it.

  9. Anne

    Almost there!!!!!!!

  10. Olivia

    You’re almost there, Jennifer! Thanks for keeping us posted. Your book is going to be really, really great, and I am sure that the Lord is going to use it in incredible ways. We can’t wait for it! I promise you my prayers as you round out this last bit.

  11. Emily B

    I can’t wait to read your book!

  12. Jill VanTrease

    Jennifer, I too have six – my sixth just turned one, and my fifth – like yours – is a very “spirited” (read: bordering on psychotic) two year old. Life is still very chaotic, although not as crazy and mind-bending as it was the first few months of #6’s life. I greatly admire your ability to do ANYTHING aside from meals, diapers and feeding the baby at this juncture. I can’t wait to read your book.

  13. Lacia C

    As you (and Don Miller) said – what would make the better story?

    Can’t wait to read your book, I’m really looking forward to it.

  14. Adrian Gallacher

    Jennifer, you are really funny. This was another great post. I’m so looking forward to your book (which I KNOW will be great) that I think you should do a marketing sideline on one of those countdown gadgets to the day of the launch.
    And WHEN you do the promotional tour, please come over here and stay at our house in Scotland! Bring all the family, it’ll be mad.

  15. Megan @ The Ipps

    I too look forward to reading your book. The author/blogger friend you linked, is she a Catholic convert too? I wanted to read more from her blog, but was utterly confused when I saw linked in her bio everything from going to Mother Mary, Confession, to saying that she feels guilty for voting on Prop 8, which is what confused me. As Catholics we believe marriage is between man and woman and here she is saying she believes that, but has no right to force others to believe that, thus it is okay to have same sex marriage and we need not judge those who want this right, That is why it can be tough to be Catholic, to truly say it is not okay and it is not okay for others. Okay, totally off topic, but was confused on posts she wrote that seem to contradict our faith.

    • Megan @ The Ipps

      Oh and I am trying not to mean or hateful! If I am wrong and there are no contradictions, please correct me. Cheers.

  16. Monica


    After having a baby and going through all that your family has experienced in the last year, I missed your frequent blogs updates but know that your priority is Joe, the kids and a little me time. I am amazed on how you get through every day and your still recovering from having a baby. I look forward to any posts be they whiney or not, who else can you vent to. You and Joe are a light to all mom’s and dad’s to not be afraid to be counter cultural and open to life. At evening Mass today I saw a family of five kids and the mom was ready to pop the newest edition. You could see the weary on the dad’s face holding his little one’s hand. How courageous this couple is as this parish is very affluent. Thank you for your sacrifice and being a wife and mother first and blogger and writer second. I look forward to reading your book when ever it get’s published.

  17. Marchelle

    Honestly, Jennifer, your posting less makes it easier for me to keep up with you. 🙂 There’s a great deal that can overwhelm young, new mothers and following blogs is one of them, but I read your posts more regularly now because they aren’t as frequent (read: I know that when you post now, you’ve really got something significant to state since your time to do so is very limited, so I read every post.) I’m looking forward to your memoir and intend to put it on my Xmas list.

  18. Christy

    So excited for you Jen! And still amazed you can do so much in your day and still have brain power for intelligent writing! If you can’t go on a vacation when you’re done you definitely deserve many margaritas!

  19. Amy

    Good luck with the final edits. I’m going through my own conversion (and thus am addicted to your blog…) and I can’t wait to read your book!

  20. elizabethe

    Just noticed your title.


    I totally understand why it’s taking so long to write the book. I am praying for you all the time with it. I especially sympathize with the having to start all over from scratch part because I had to do that with my dissertation. ugh! nothing more terrible. But in the end, it was a better product and I can’t say the early work was wasted.

    I can’t wait to read your book, Jen. The instant there is a pre-order button somewhere, I am clicking it.

    you know, way back when your show aired, I wanted to say that when you were waiting to see if your editor was going to accept your final manuscript or if he was going to ask you for another round of massive rewrites, I literally laughed out loud when he said “you used too many adjectives in the first chapter.” I was like SCORE!

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