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Writing a book | Now I actually have to write a book…


The impossible\possible thing had happened.  I had received a book contract from Thomas Nelson and I signed it.  (You can read about how it happened HERE.)  It was now my job to produce 35,000 encouraging words and over 250 inspiring photographs in 10 chapters.  And I only had about 3 months to do it.  AND I’ve never written a book before.  Oh crap.  Lots of deep breaths and tears and prayers and pep talks came after that realization.  I kept bringing myself back to taking one page, one photograph, one chapter, one idea at a time.  I also kept reminding myself that the people at Thomas Nelson are good at what they do and they had confidence in me.  I can do this.

The first thing we did was put together an outline for the book.  I sent along my initial ideas and then went back and forth with my editor until we were both happy with it.  Having an outline helped me relax a bit.  Now I had to flesh it out.

My room is the only room in the house with a door that locks (we have old 1940’s doors with skeleton keyholes.)  So, I locked myself away, sat on my bed with my computer on my lap and stared at a blank screen.  **I should insert here that I thought manuscripts were written in some fancy software that only writers use.  It turns out that fancy, exclusive writer’s software is MS Word.**  So, in MS Word, I would write a paragraph and then delete it all.  I’d get about a page done and be happy with it for about 2 hours and then by the 3rd hour I thought it was terrible.  Did Thomas Nelson want me to write in a more formal style?  Could I write in the conversational style I’m comfortable with and use for my blog?  Would they take one look at my grammar and realize they made a mistake?  How does one simply start writing a book, anyway?  Maybe I should Google it…  I finally sent an e-mail to my editor to get a bit more direction.  She encouraged me to just write.  So I did.  I wrote and I didn’t edit myself and I just told the story I wanted to tell.  Honestly, I just pretended like I was writing a blog post.  It was tough, but there’s no way I could get feedback if I don’t turn anything in.

I turned in chapter one, knowing it was very far from perfect, actually the chapter one in the final book is almost nothing like the chapter one I originally turned in.  It got the process going and there is a lot of value in that.  I received some pretty good feedback and, at the time, they didn’t ask me to totally rewrite the whole thing.  Victory!  I CAN DO THIS!

A few days later, I turned in chapter two.  When I got it back, I had never seen so much red on a piece of paper.  My first reaction was to get all offended, but I quickly realized that a page full of red is one of the best things I could see.  What I wrote wasn’t working and if my editor was worried about making me cry, my book wouldn’t be the best it could be.  I also had to remind myself that I have never done this before.  I needed all of the input and edits I could get.  Bring on those paragraph marks, comma splice corrections and red curly-cue things that never meant anything to me on my English term papers.

At one point, my editor sent this quote to me…

“You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what’s burning inside you. And we edit to let the fire show through the smoke.” –Arthur Polotnik

 I turned in all ten chapters in a few weeks and, I must admit, I struggled through some of it.  With the exception of a few edits, I was done with the writing and started to work on the photography.  A few weeks later, though, I received the e-mail that I feared from the beginning.  My team got some additional feedback from around Thomas Nelson and they wanted some changes.  A lot of changes.  Like, almost-rewriting-the-entire-book-kind-of-changes.  I’m pretty sure I slipped away to the basement to paint a piece of furniture and think it through.

Had I felt 100% confident about everything I wrote, I would’ve been devastated.  But, they had picked out some of my favorite parts of the book, some of the parts where I was most “me” and said, “We want more of this.”  Instead of being a bad thing, this was a great thing.  It did mean I would have to go back into my writing studio (aka my bed, but writing studio sounds fancier) and live in sweatpants for a few more weeks, but it was still a great thing.  As I worked on rewriting the book, I felt free and I was having more fun with it and it definitely shows in the final draft.

Next up…

Photographing a Book (AKA – Can you turn that pear stem 180 degrees to the left?)

Speaking of the book, several people have commented on this round ottoman in my living room and asked where I got it.  I actually made it from scratch and there is a tutorial on making it in my book!

It looks complicated, but it’s an easy project and it costs so much less than one from a store.

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  1. Thank you for sharing your heart and story of writing a book. So excited to pick up a copy. Keep up the prayer through it all and you will finish the book exactly the way you intended :) God bless!

  2. Marian,
    I have SO enjoyed reading about your creative process and I can’t WAIT to get your book. I loved your spread in the BHG Christmas issue and I’m so proud of you for following your creative heart.
    Wishing you love and many blessings,

  3. Kathryn Leigh says:

    I have just discovered your blog. First I loved the painters dropcloth slipcovers and was inspired to create my own. Then I enjoyed the paint finishes of the milk paint and looked for a way to incorporate that.

    But most of all, I resonate with that desire to care for family and live authentically, creatively, and faithfully. My children are launching into life and I ask myself – What’s next? So your inspiration and heart prompt me to live confidently and go through the next door the Lord opens.

    Thank you for sharing and for writing. I hope to buy your book from you at Lucketts to send to my dear friend in Tennessee who also is in the Miss Mustard Seed sisterhood.

  4. Amazing! I am so excited you have this opportunity. I’m looking forward to your reading your book as much as I look forward to reading your blog. I might not comment a lot, but I am always admiring…. CONGRATS!

  5. Words can’t express how thrilled, anxious and excited I am to hold your book in my hands! – Just 3 more days!! I have long dreamed of writing a book and seeing how your dream has come true gives me hope that one day mine might too!!! What a blessing and encouragement you are my wonderful, dear blog friend!! Hurrah on this fantastically, spectacular achievement!! I hope that it is only the beginning of many, many more tomes to come!

    May I also say how special it is to be taken “behind the scenes” into the raw and real reality of the process you went through in achieving this goal! What a gift. I always imagine authors and experts sitting at their perfectly appointed desks in their perfectly appointed rooms writing their eloquent words – then when I look around my less than perfect house with stuff shoved to one side for a photo shoot I shake my head despairingly! “That’s certainly not me so hang up that dream girlie!” is the resounding shout in my head! Glad to know there’s room for sweatpants and a bit of anxiety in the publishing process!

    God bless you Miss Mustard Seed!!!!

  6. That is so awesome! Congratulations! If the book is anything like your blog it will be a bit hit!

  7. Carolina says:

    Wow Marian,
    it is amazing how everything took place during the process of making your wonderful book.
    Great was your editor comment asking “we want more of this” because your book really shows “YOU” and what you are, just like you appear in your blog. After all the work you did be pleased for the beautiful book you made and enjoy the fact that your book is helping, encouraging making people happy and inspired and this is a wonderful thing.

    I enjoy every page of it!

    xoxo Carolina :-)

  8. I got the notice today that my copy had shipped. It’s interesting to read your story as I wait for it. Keep it up!

  9. Lisa Frank says:

    Marian, I got your book for my birthday last week and I immediately started pouring through it. Honestly, so much of your heart and your encouragement comes through on those pages…I made myself a cup of tea, blocked out my loud little ones playing downstairs, curled up on a chair and just read! We’ve been remodeling our house, every square inch, for the past 6+ years and just got to the decorating phase this last year. It’s little-by-little, piece-by-piece, which felt very frustrating to me at first because it’s so easy to compare our current situations to everyone else’s “afters” in this age of pretty blogs and Pinterest-perfect houses. But reading your words made me feel so much calmer about the whole process, about taking the time to find my true style and not just copy somebody else’s, to not run out to Pottery Barn and buy everything all at once so my rooms felt “done” (and oh, how I love you, Pottery Barn!). Reading your book was like sitting down and having a conversation with an old friend. So THANK YOU for that! I’m only about 1/4 of the way through the book and I can’t wait to read it all! Round 2 of that cozy-chair-and-tea-getaway coming soon. :)

  10. Anne Boykin says:

    Dear MMS, Your book is fabulous and it shows that you worked hard and put yourself out there. We’re all so proud of you! Thanks for sharing some of the process with us. Hugs, Anne Boykin

  11. JolieAnne says:

    I cannot wait to read your Book! I saw you on Nate’s show and I had been following
    your blog even before Nate! I miss Nate’s show, too! Best wishes for much success
    as your Book hits the shelves! Do you have a release date yet?

  12. I am enjoying reading these posts…very inspiring, honest and informative. I am blessed to know you Marian, and here lately I tear up when reading these posts. I am so overjoyed for you and you know when God is working in such a magical way thru people? I have that feeling with these posts(and with you quite a bit). Much love to you!

  13. My milk paint came a few days ago! As soon as we get through Trunk or Treat tonight, I’m breaking it out! So excited to try it for the first time!!

  14. MARY EGUIA says:

    This may seem like a crazy question ,where do you see you and your company in 5 years?

  15. vickie wentworth says:


    I so enjoy reading your blog and love this peek into your book writing adventure! And that quote blow’s me away very powerful words…

    Thanks so much for sharing it gives hope to all us other mustard seeds :)

  16. I preordered and got mine yesterday. Love it!

  17. That’s great news that you will have the round ottoman project in your book! I saw an oval ottoman that I thought was perfect for a coffee table in my livingroom – however outta my price range. Now with the help of your book I can re-create the look for myself! Can’t wait to see what other project you have shared.

  18. Maria says:

    Got your book today! …two days before it was supposed to arrive! Can’t wait to read it, but am a little pre-occupied. I wanted to come to Lucketts this weekend, but don’t think I will make it. My parents and siblings in NY are suffering from the storm. Lost all their cars and their houses flooded…they have no electric, no heat,.they cannot drink the water and were told their sewers may back up into their houses due to a fire at the sewage plant. My parents have been in the same house for 47 years. They are part of a very frugal generation and after many years, finally decided to update their house. They refinished their cabinets, got new wood floors and had furniture delivered last month. Now it is all gone. I know ‘things’ can be replaced, but it is still very difficult for them at the age of 79 and 83. They celebrated their 57th wedding anniversary yesterday! What a way to celebrate. I am just thankful they all survived as they refused to evacuate. Please pray for them and all those suffering. Thank you!

    • So maria if they want to re-do the cabinets in chalk paint I will contribute the paint – I am the DC Metro Stockist. send word thru email.

    • So very sorry for your parents, siblings and all of those that have been affected by the storm. I am in northern NH and am looking for a way to help. I have a 2 bedroom guest home that they are more than welcome to stay in at no charge if that is a help. Please let me know. Nanci

      • Maria says:

        Dear Celeste and Nanci,
        That is SO very kind of you!!! I am in tears and so touched at your generosity towards total strangers. I will let my family know of your offers and contact you. Although, my parents are the type that are old-school, from strong stock and never want to “bother” anyone! At least my siblings are there to help them. If they could only accept the love that surrounds them, it would make things easier. Thank you so very much, and may God bless you abundantly!!

  19. Krista says:

    Marian, I love your blog and don’t comment very often, but you’re such an inspiration and I love your honesty. I am looking forward to ordering the book and some milk paint very soon. It’s amazing what hard work and having faith can produce. Congratulations on your success!

  20. Many congratulations! It’s great to hear your experience from behind the scenes and how it all came together. We love your blog and are looking forward to reading your book!

  21. Marian…love the quote from Arthur Polotnik….Wow!!….Well, for all of the hard work and edits…you hit it right out of the ballpark!…It is fantastic!!…

  22. Linda / Inside Etc & Design says:

    You go girl! God has Blessed you and your design business. You “RE really such an inspiration to us other DIY “s
    Keep up the great work

    How can I order book? I may of missed the information if if was posted. Sorry, been a little busy with
    radiation treatment for my brest cancer. Tx Linda

  23. Denise T says:

    Thank you for sharing your inspiring post on writing a book. Looking forward to reading your book once I get it . I am still working on the dresser using grain sack. I love how it turns out , it is so amazing , yet beautiful. Thank you for your hard work and encouragement to bloggers, DIYs, and readers. Can’t wait to go to Lucketts this Saturday.

  24. I read the entire book cover to cover by flashlight last night while our power was out. It is wonderful. I love how it reads a lot like the blog but you share more…back stories, family stories, pictures, etc. And you had me thinking about that ottoman!

  25. Love that ottoman. So glad it’s in the book. We need a few less corners in this household!

  26. Marian – I know people think (like me) Oh My G – writing book is in some stratasphere no-one gets to – I have no fire to write a book but there are other things that are way inside and I think – oh no, that could never really happen (like my husband and I sharing retail/office space in this next move) – you make the unreal seem so very real – that is your gift. Yes, you are one helluva good designer/painter/blogger/etc. but the big gift is your ability to make us all say – oh I can maybe do that. I cannot wait to see you at Janet’s store – I may run up between demos this weekend to grab a cc of the book though – Thanks for sharing your gift to share.

  27. Holly says:

    I will be one of the firsts to buy your book! It will be all the more special knowing the hard work you put into it. I love the frames (mirrors?) you have hanging on the window trim behind your sofa…love it! Also..just curious…where did you put the beautiful blue mirror you used to have hanging where your china cupboard now stands?

    • Miss Mustard Seed says:

      Yes, those are small antique mirrors hanging on the window frame. I actually sold the trumeau mirror a few weeks ago at Lucketts. It was time to send it along to another good home.

  28. you put into words exactly how i feel! i’ve been “writing” a book for over a year and have no clue what i’m doing! thanks for your vulnerability and candor. love your blog so can’t wait to get the book! congrats!

  29. I can not even imagine jumping in and writing a photographing a book in that amount of time. Wow… you were brave to take that on. It’s actually quite amazing too. The book is absolutely beautiful … i’m so proud of it, and so proud to have my paintings in it. I show it off to everyone, and i always say… “look, my painting is in Miss Mustard Seed’s book, and look how beautiful it is” I actually haven’t even had time to read it yet… i’m saving reading it for a treat, when i have some quiet time and i can really savor every page…
    I’m loving hearing this story… keep going!!!


  30. So excited for you! My gosh, it’s alot of work. I applaud you for going through all those edits and the red ink to make your book the best it could be.
    Can’t wait to read it.

  31. Heidi says:

    Have ordered your book yesterday and am so looking forward to it – do you think you’ll ever come to Switzerland to sign it ;)! Now, after reading this and yesterday’s blog I’m still more excited! Writing a book has always been my dream, and I’ll just keep on cherishing this dream ;).
    Thank you so much for sharing with us!

  32. Marian, it is so great to read your story of how your book came about. I can only imagine!!

  33. Joyce Kolpek says:

    Just received your book via Amazon. It is so beautiful. Thank you for writing it.

  34. Daniela Schimpf says:

    Hi Mrs. Mustard!

    You “built” a book -I built a house – your book will be release Nov. 6. – that`s my birthday – My house will take a little bit longer ….Wish all the best for both “projects” !!!!! Love your style and maybe I`m glad to find a singed copy of your sure gorgeous book !!!Still tooooo busy to go to bookstores….. Have fun !!!


  1. […] …the oh-crap-now-I-have-to-write-and-photograph-an-entire-book moment. […]

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