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No One Ever Said The Writing Life Would Be Easy

I just got back a second set of in-house rewrites on The Preacher's Bride. Yes, a SECOND rewrite.

Before I share about my newest rewrite, I thought I'd do a quick recap to bring everyone up to date on my writing journey over the past months.

In August of 2009, I signed a three book deal with Bethany House Publishers. During Sept.-Oct. a team of various in-house editors read through my first contracted book, The Preacher's Bride.

By mid-October, my line editor called to give me the details of ALL the many, many things I would need to change. (My reaction to that phone call is here.)

After taking a few days to process all of the major edits (read the list of changes here), I picked myself off the floor and wiped the tears from my cheeks. Then I proceeded to roll up my sleeves and map out a spreadsheet of all the necessary changes, scene by scene, chapter by chapter.

I gave myself the goal of revising one chapter a day and ultimately finishing before Thanksgiving. And as most of you know, I pushed myself and completed it the weekend before Thanksgiving, just in time for a family getaway at Great Wolf Lodge.

The first week of December, after reading through the manuscript one more time, I crossed my fingers and sent it to my line-editor. She told me she didn't know when she'd have the chance to read it again, so not to worry about it and just enjoy the holidays.

I gathered up my research for my second contracted novel--which I'd completely put on hold during the rewrites, and I immersed myself into biographies and stacks of musty history books. Plot ideas formulated, the story time-line took shape, and my characters started to come to life.

I gave myself another goal. I wanted to be ready to start writing by January 1st. I forced myself to focus amidst all of the cookies calling my name. And finally, the week before Christmas, I knew I was almost ready. I'd gotten into the heads of both my main characters and now I could confidently play their parts in the unfolding drama.

That's when I got another email from my in-house editor. She said, "We’ve read your rewrite and overall are very pleased with it. I’ll get some feedback to you early next year."

Overall? Overall?! What did that mean? And feedback? What kind of feedback? And next year? Sheesh! (For some reason my brain skimmed over the "very pleased" part!)

Those who follow me on twitter got to hear me freak out a little bit about that particular email. After agonizing and laboring day and night for six weeks on the rewrites, I suddenly had nightmare visions of not getting the changes right. What if they didn't like my new ending? What if I didn't change my hero's arc enough? What if I had to do it all over again?

Fortunately the fun activities and family time during the holidays helped me "forget" my self-doubts.

Until Last week. Promptly on Monday, my editor emailed me to schedule a phone meeting. We arranged to talk on Tuesday afternoon.

And so, last Tuesday, she called. And now I have a second set of rewrites. More details in the next post. . .

No one ever said the writing life would be easy. In fact, the more I rub shoulders with other writers, the more I realize just how difficult the writing life really is for all of us.

Here are two parting thoughts, both taken from James Scott Bell's newest book The Art of War For Writers:

1. "The trick is not in becoming a writer, it is in staying a writer. Day after week after month after year. Staying in there for the long haul." p. 12

2. "Every moment spent whining about your writing career is a moment of creative energy lost." p. 27

My resolve is to stay in there for the long haul, even through a second set of rewrites. And I promise I won't whine. I can't afford to lose any creative energy!

What about you? When you first started writing, did you realize how hard the writing life is? Are you resolved to stay in it for the long haul?

70 comments:

  1. Right. Writing isn't easy. And I'm convinced, the deeper entrenched you become, the more difficult it gets. Right now, I'm not contracted. So I don't have deadlines. I don't have that added pressure. Is it odd that I pray for my life to get more difficult very soon? :)

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  2. I think I knew it would be difficult. I wasn't sure HOW difficult... it was a big unknown for me. And yes, I am totally in for the long haul. I don't start something to quit.

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  3. I only aspire to be re-writing some day...but I can imagine the request...as if, having just given birth to the most beautiful child, someone tells you that your baby's hair is the wrong color, and oh, you need to adjust her nose...when in fact, all that's really happening is that they are showing you a hair style that will flatter your offspring, and that the right make up choices will enhance the beauty of your growing teen.

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  4. Thanks for writing this, Jody! I really needed to hear that right now. :)

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  5. Oh the pains and worries of birthing a writer and then growing them up! I'm always in writing labor! LOL!

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  6. Right now I'm working hard to discipline myself to spend the designated time at the desk every single night trying to get the manuscript where I want it by the end of the month. I'm on track...but I might have to schedule a vacation day to finish the job! :)

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  7. The biggest writing war in my house is that wife thinks I spend too much time writing and I don't think I spend enough. When I get to the re-write stage, that should be a lot of fun. :-)

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  8. When I first started writing, I eagerly bought up Randy Ingermanson's class Fiction 101. When he got to the part about how hard the writing life is, I wanted to say, "Don't be such a downer." Of course, I was still in the honeymoon phase. :-) Now I'm realizing just how right he was, but I'm sure that realization will only intensify as I progress.

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  9. I've been at this for quite awhile now, and yes, it keeps getting harder. :) You can do all things through Christ who gives you strength!!

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  10. When my trusted reader read it and said. “I like the beginning but what's up with this part. And why....” In the end, I agreed but it took me a day or so to look at my MS again. :)

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  11. I love those quotes Jody. This book is on the top of my TBR list. I'm learning with each day that this is a lifetime of work- but isn't everything? I'm growing each day so why shouldn't my writing. None of us have "arrived" like the Apostle Paul says.

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  12. Don't lose any creative energy. you are much farther along than I am, so hang in there and be strong. God has a plan and a purpose for your writing, I can't wait to see what it is!

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  13. The more I write and delve into the craft of it--the more difficult I find it but if it's worth it all:)
    Honestly, writing non-fiction articles was so much easier! The editors made the changes and I said ok!

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  14. I love to write, so the long haul it is. I truly didn't give a thought to hard writing might be - well, not writing, but the road to publication - when I first set pen to paper. Back then, I wrote solely for me without ever even considering publication. My, how things change. Still, I wouldn't trade the writing life for anything.

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  15. I love your 1 & 2 from Art of War...

    My mantra with 2. Who wants to waste life away?

    I knew it would be hard. I think the challenge made writing appeal to all the more.
    ~ Wendy

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  16. There are days I wonder, and yes even whine, about lost time--where I would be now if I had stayed with my writing years ago. Yet I know God needed me to live more, to hurt more. There is no turning back now. I am resolved. I don't have that much time left, so I don't have time to waste. Can I get in the boat with you?

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  17. Yes, I'm resolved. But I really relate to the quote about STAYING a writer. I'm forseeing that to be my challenge.

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  18. Oh, Jody, I'm really praying that these are minor quick changes they are requesting this time!

    For me, writing is solitary and personal growth moving now. It's sometimes hard to stay motivated when it feels like it's just for you.

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  19. No, I had no idea how hard the writing life could but, but at this point, I wouldn't have it any other way. I feel blessed to do something I love. Being successful at it, that's a whole other story. I'm so happy for you, Jody.
    Karen

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  20. Yes, I'm in it for the long haul. It wasn't until this past year that I realized how much work writing really is. There is way more to it than just putting the story down on paper. I wish you luck in your rewrites. I can't wait to hear more.

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  21. Wow, it seems those bigger publishing houses do lots more revising on stories than the little press I'm used to. Thank you so much for sharing. I learn more and more from this blog every time I visit.

    And I love the quotes.

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  22. I'm in it for the long haul. I've been writing almost 4 years and I can't imagine stopping. I realized at page 10 of my first draft of my first manuscript that writing wasn't easy. Good luck with your rewrites!

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  23. My post today is related to the difficulty of the writing life. You and I have crossed topic paths in the past and I'm still on one that you covered a while back. I would really like to get the advice and opinions from serious and pro writers like yourself and readers about my post for today:

    http://tossingitout.blogspot.com/2010/01/blog-boggled-stephens-big-bad-burning.html

    I think some of you might have something really valuable to add.

    Thanks
    Lee

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  24. I think the promotional side of it surprised me and the many hours of promoting. It's all worth it though (sort of like childbirth. It's painful and long, but ultimately so worthwhile.)

    Elizabeth
    Mystery Writing is Murder
    Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen

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  25. Hi Jody -

    I'm still pre-pubbed, but I've experienced this on a smaller scale with non-fiction pieces.

    To stick with it, motivation is the key. Why am I doing this? It's certainly not for the wheelbarrows of money or the fifteen minutes of fame.

    I'm in it for the long haul because I feel God has called me and equipped me to write. It's up to me to cooperate with Him, develop, and use that gift.

    Blessings,
    Susan :)

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  26. Hi Jody,
    I really enjoy your blog! When I first started writing fiction three years ago I had no idea how hard it would be. I’m such a romantic! That made it so difficult to keep with it when I started getting rejections and realizing that it would take a lot more perseverance than I thought. It was then that I realized I had to make a choice. Either be obedient to what I believed God was calling me to do, no matter how painful it was, no matter how long it took, or walk away. I couldn’t walk away. Instead I’ve learned to enjoy where I’m at in this journey. I realized that once I’m published I’ll have a whole new set of challenges and disappointments, not to mention a lot more pressure. I’m convinced the writing life only gets harder once you’re published. Thanks for the example of encouragement and perseverance in the midst of facing those challenges!

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  27. Jody, yep, so there with you. And I guess I got a glimpse of it a little before you did, even though your journey is uniquely yours. I am seeing a pattern, though, in this wider perspective I am able to have. I think many writers have the same rosy vision of what the writer's life is going to be like, and this vision is only cemented by the public at large. Apparently, the outside world sees the writer's life as glamorous in a way we know it really isn't, and maybe even perceives that the job isn't really hard. Everyone can write, after all, right? Ha! There is so much more too it, and if we're in it for the glamor, well, watch out for the rude awakening. That said, there is something that compels us here again and again, and so here we are, and like you, I think I'm here to stay, even if the journey looks much different than when I first began.

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  28. Jody! What a great post. Thank you, thank you! This post means more to me than you could know. I love reading your experience.

    When I first started writing, I thought, "this will be easy-peasy. I already have the urge." Boy was I ever in for a JOLT!

    The sticktuitiveness is key. And I plan on doing just that. (If I can keep my sanity.) :-)

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  29. God bless you! Hang in there! For God...for self...for all of us who are inspired by you!

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  30. Thanks Jody,
    Your post is a great reminder to harness that creative energy. Ultimately that will result in less stress.
    I hope your second set of rewrites goes well. Sharing your process has been a great teaching tool for me. Thanks!

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  31. In the book Forest for the Trees by editor Betsy Lerner, there's a line about "whether an author merely has literary flair or has the capacity for literature as a vocation..."

    From here, it looks like you're going to have what it takes.

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  32. I love that first bullet point you quoted, Jody. I need to write it down!

    I think the hard work you've told us about is a good thing. It only serves to separate those who want it and those who mean it, right?

    And you still haven't scared me off. ;)

    *hugs and energy for rewrites*

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  33. I came to writing blissfully unaware -- thank goodness!

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  34. Writing is definitely difficult. I think when I first started I thought some aspects of it would be much harder and some would be much easier. One thing that's inspiring and discouraging at the same time is that there's always something new to learn.

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  35. Love those last two quotes. I think when we first start out, we're naive to what it takes to be a writer. Everyday I'm learning more and more and I still want it.

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  36. I knew writing would be difficult...but maybe not quite as difficult as I have found out from reading other people's writing blogs! However, it's good to be in the know. Thanks for keeping things honest for us!! Good luck with your next set of rewrites, too!

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  37. Yep. It's hard everyday I sit down at the computer. Then it gets easier as I get into writing. I'm so interested to hear about this round of rewrites! I hope it's an easy one!

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  38. Hoo-boy, Jody! Writing is just plain hard work, isn't it?

    I had to rewrite one of my very first articles so many times I could practically recite the thing. Fortunately, it was only 1200 words long. I can't imagine making the challenge of rolling up my sleeves to tackle chapter after chapter of changes. But look at you! You're DOING it! And you're helping us to understand the agony of becoming a better writer. And you're making us want to get better, too.

    Thank you for sharing the encouraging quotes from James Scott Bell.

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  39. Hang in there, Jody. I look forward to hearing about your next round of rewrites - another chance to make the story that much better. It's all part of the marathon we're running. Just keep your eye on the finish line. :-)

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  40. No I didn't and yes I am.
    I don't just want to become a writer, I want to stay a writer. Great quotes.

    Thank you for sharing the ups and the downs.

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  41. An inspiring post. I wish you determination to complete your re-writes!

    thanks for sharing.

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  42. I really appreciate you sharing your journey in this way. When I took my leave of absence this year to explore writing as a career, the things I thought would be hard are not, and everything else is. While tempted to abandon this unwieldy and often impossible to move ship, I can't imagine being any place else. And it's only as a writer and a teacher that I feel the flow, so I'm in it for the long haul.

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  43. No, I never realized because I can knock out a short story, and probably even a novella, with no problem. (If there were much a market for short romantic stories, beyond confessions, I'd have jumped in a long time ago.)

    Writing a novel is hard. Complex. Requiring stamina and the ability to get past every single doubt. Short writing requires less of this because by the time the doubts surface, the story is already on paper, from beginning to end. Might be crap and need a rewrite but it's there.

    Hard to keep going down a dark novel alley when you've about convinced yourself there's danger at the other end. So it's retreat, only to begin again, and again, and again. All those beginnings take courage, for sure, but getting to the ending so much more.

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  44. I have resolved to look at the big picture of my whole life before I really take the plunge. I know it probably sounds like I am taking too long on this step. But this weekend, I realized that it's a complex decision. As a writer, I wouldn't just be agreeing to create a particular book or set of books. I'd be agreeing to the life I would live AS I create them and promote them.

    The life we lead fuels our work. Not the other way around. Work doesn't create a life. We can get them mixed up.

    I have benefited from your wisdom, Jody. Thanks for sharing so much with us here.

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  45. I hope the rewrites are painless for you. :) Anything worth doing/having is worth working for. All the stress will be worth it in the end.

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  46. Nope, I had no clue. If it makes you feel better, I endured FOUR in-house rewrites for An Irishwoman's Tale ON TOP of dozens of Patti house writes.

    It helps me to remember that I'm toiling for God (Do all work as if for God, not man).

    patti
    www.pattilacy.com/blog

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  47. I would have read that email the same way. I would have thought 'overall?' why not totally? and then I would have missed the 'very pleased'. Sounds like you are doing wonderfully Jody. Keep us posted this year. I enjoy watching all that happens as you share :)

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  48. I'm hanging in there by my baby pinky fingernail, Jody. And it's fraught with self-doubt, discouragement, uncertainty...it's horrible. It's really hard.

    Whining over. We'll see if I have any creative energy tonight. :)

    Take care and hang in there!

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  49. I'm in it for the long haul, buuuut taking a break while I have a newborn. :) Well, not really "breaking" from writing, just breaking from queries and submissions. Not like I'm going to get a contract any time soon, but in the event that I did, I think I'd pull my hair out with full time work, a newborn, and deadlines! :) Not to mention youth kids from church coming over every other day to raid my Snickers candy jar! :)

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  50. I can't wait to hear about your second set of rewrites. I'm sure it's not that bad!

    I think I'm in for the long haul, but I've never had an editor tell me that I need to make a whole lot of changes to a manuscript I've already spent years on. When that happens, I might question that long-haul thing.

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  51. I can't wait to read your book, Jody! I know that it is going to be a beautiful story told in your lyrical voice. You hang in there. I'm excited to hear more on Wednesday. You teach all writers so much with your insight. Thanks for your willingness to share.

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  52. Having babies was so much tougher than I expected, but I had four more after the first. It's that thing about "payoff"!

    So, I know you'll be able to endure the labor to birth your books and watch them develop into treasures.

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  53. Yes, yes, yes. It is harder than I thought it'd be. I am not the most driven or disciplined person, so it makes the journey all the harder. I'm creative though, and need to learn the discipline in order to be successful. I am trying to just enjoy the journey for what it is and let God lead me where he wants. (I so love your blog! And I haven't heard about Bell's new book!!!!)

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  54. Well I just sold to Steeple Hill and two days later I received my second set of rewrites (first were done prior to selling). I have to tell you, the story only gets better and better. Which is a pretty cool thing.

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  55. Although I've muttered recently about tiring of one of my mss because of all its revisions, I do find the actual work exhilarating. Did I know when I started my first novel that it would entail this much work? No, and the more I've learned, the more work subsequent novels have required. But getting it right is a challenge and I look forward to the day when there will be agents and editors helping me in that process. I have the time and the will to stay in it for the long haul. I can't imagine not writing!

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  56. I did my first set of critiques last week, of published authors works, and I'm not even there yet. I was wondering how I would react if I were to get the same sort of feedback. Would it crush me? Would I be discouraged? Would it be helpful? Would it excite me?

    It was a little lesson for me in not so much learning how to have a thick skin, which I think is important for the long haul, but remaining teachable, flexible, open.


    I'm in it for the long haul for sure!

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  57. All I can say is..."May the Force be with us all, to WRITE, WRITE, WRITE, and never give up!

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  58. No, and Yes.

    I just heard a story of a young man who finished his first novel, attended ONE writers' conference, asked ONE seasoned writer to look at it, heard, "It needs some work," and is feeling discouraged. I can understand that. When I started writing THIRTY YEARS AGO, I was unprepared for rejection, rewriting, revising, and realignment of my life.

    Accomplishing nothing is easy. Who wants that to leave their kids?

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  59. I'm so glad you posted this. I found it very moving and it helped me through my own rough patch. I can't wait to read your book. I was intrigued by the story from the first, and knowing the path you took to get there makes it even more exciting.

    Good luck with the second round of revisions!

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  60. LOVE the excerpts you posted from JSB's book.

    I'm not at the same level with my writing as you are, but trying to find time to finish my novel between working a full-time job, family, church, and other writing obligations is a challenge!

    God promises to give us the strength we need to do our tasks. I have three deadlines this week, so I'm leaning on Him for those moments of peace I need to accomplish my tasks.

    I really appreciate your transparency, Jody. Those rewrites will help your novel to be better and stronger, plus you're allowing readers to see your true heart. Thanks for that. :-)

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  61. It's not that I gave thought to how hard the writing life might be, but I never started with the thought that it would be easy. Resolved to stay with it for the long haul? Oh yes. My belief about anything we choose to do in life ... "Own it."

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  62. Jody, each time I revise my work, I see my stories improve, which is rewarding.

    I feel certain you'll do an outstanding job on this round of revisions and know you'll make The Preacher's Bride even better than it already is. Can't wait to read it.

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  63. Did I know how hard it was? No. I was eighteen, fresh out of high school. Am I in it for the long haul? I have no choice. It's what I do. I eat and breathe words. They are my life's blood. To give up would be to die. Dramatics aside, yes, I'm here to stay. Good luck with those rewrites!

    Jen

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  64. Whining over. We'll see if I have any creative energy tonight. :)

    Work from home India

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  65. Wow, I can't imagine how busy you have been! You are such an inspiration and I'm so excited to read your book that is coming out later THIS year:)
    I really had no idea how tough it was when I first started writing, but I guess nothing worthy is ever that easy:)

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  66. I love how you skipped the "very pleased" portion of the conversation! I would totally do that too!

    I was so clueless when I started writing. It's like when people try to explain the sleepless nights of a new baby--I didn't quite get it until I went through it!

    Your book is going to be amazing! I can't wait to read it.

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  67. After staring at my blank computer screen for 10 minutes, I can atest to the fact that writing is definitely WORK!! Today I mapped out approximately how long it will take to complete the first, in a series of 9, devotionals. Three & a half to four months! I'm in it for the long haul and I'd better get busy!
    God bless you, Jody!

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  68. wow. more difficult, yet more exciting the closer you get to your release date. sorry it's harder and sometimes disappointing, but i guess you have to trust that the editors know how to make your wonderful book that much better. good luck with everything!

    jeannie
    The Character Therapist

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  69. If being a writer doesn't actually KILL me, I'll be in it for the long haul. It is hard, but it's also fun, exciting, growth-inducing, and... worth it. :)

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  70. PS - Thanks for sharing your journey with us. I enjoy reading your posts!

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