Evolution of a Memoir

I expected to finish my book in 2011. Five years later, these excerpts from my writing journal illustrate the ups and downs of my writing process.


Began writing as a non-fiction self help book called “The Healing Power of Gratitude” during my American Fork Arts Council writing class.


Started a blog (maleahwarner.com) as a place to practice writing and post chapters of the book.

Changed my mind about posting chapters because I didn’t have a rough draft.  I didn’t know the beginning, middle, ending of the story.

Christmas Break     Decided to finish a self-help version of  the book by having a personal writing marathon over Christmas break while I had older kids at home to babysit the younger kids. Told my family I would finish by Monday. Vowed to not shave my legs until manuscript was finished.

Me:  I don’t think I’ll be done by Monday, and if I start such and such other project, then this book will always be one of those unfinished projects.  Husband: “But it could take you all year to finish it.”   Me: “No. It won’t take that long.”   Husband: “You’ve been working on it a year all ready.” 


1.5.12     Didn’t finish over the break. Arranged my first-ever personal writer’s retreat for the weekend.  Hubbie watched kids. Sister let me use time-share condo. Created a 1st Draft entitled “Daughter, Sister, Friend.”

1.10.12     My heart is fighting a battle of “This is impossible” or “I can do this. I can make this happen.” I may have to stay up late at nights. Sleep. It’s overrated, right?

Oldest Son: “Mom, which is harder, writing a book or taking care of five children?”  Me:  “Probably writing a book while taking care of five children.”  

1.15.12     Started New Outline, changed order of the sections. Calling it 2nd Draft

1.17.12     I feel so excited today about this book and just the fact that I am actually writing. I made [hubbie] sit on the bed so I could pour out my excitement to him. I feel happy with everything! with life, with kids, with marriage, with writing. I feel so happy to be where I am and wouldn’t change anything for all our experiences have led me to this point.

1.18.12     Feel lost about where to go next. After yesterday’s excitement, today I feel brain dead and the whole book seems so stupid and unreadable.

1.21.12     Last night [hubbie] gingerly mentioned that he’d read some parts and that he never intended to be the villain. I told him that my goal in this book is to talk about what I’ve learned about thoughts, feelings, and their connection to health, not to assign blame or make anyone to be appear the villain. He gets first read, and if there is anything that makes him uncomfortable then we will keep the book between us and no one else will read it. And I mean this sincerely. Our marriage is more important to me than publishing this book. Still, I will write the book for me, even if it is only for me.

1.23.12     Have not done this yet in my writing process, but I felt horrible, like my cells were unraveling, so I gave up writing and went home. Left a voice message for [hubbie] that I wasn’t cooking dinner and could he get pizza. I went into my bedroom and curled up in the fetal position. We had a blow up argument about [     ].  I slugged  his shoulder, he closed the laptop on my hands. It was pretty. He went to sleep on the couch, then he came in and said he was sorry for saying maybe I should find a different husband to which I’d responded, I don’t want another husband, I want you. 

2.17.12     Hubbie and I went to Zion Ntl Park over President’s Day Weekend. I printed the 2nd draft for him to read between hiking. We discussed the good, bad, and ugly. He approved letting it out to the world.

 4.14.12     My brain has been so dead this week and I have felt directionless: Do I stay home and make dinner? Potty train Z? Do fun things with the kids for Spring Break? Or do I take advantage of the babysitting and go write? 

7.31.12     All summer I have tried to write and my brain has been stuck. The day Justin told me that the closing of our house was scheduled, I went to bed and my mind flooded with ideas of how to re-arrange the chapter where I was stuck.


2.27.13     Printed out THE 4th DRAFT. Then I went to see the movie Les Miserables by myself.

3.13.13     Read pages 96 to 101 to [hubbie].  It made him depressed.

3.18.13     Started a 5th Draft

4.10.13     Didn’t get far at all—struggling  to get the 5th Draft going. The main problem: I can’t decided where the story starts. I have written new intros, prologues. I think the beginning should be an intro of myself, then I think it should be “Road to Tucson.” Later in the night I’m convinced I should begin with “Doctor Visit.” Another time I think “Midnight Visit”  and my latest thought is that I should begin with “Senator story.”

4.11.13     I sat for 10 minutes after I laid Z down for a nap and before [sister], followed by mom, called on the phone. But in that ten minutes I had a major revelation: I am not writing a book. I am writing FOUR books. This is why I’m having such a hard time outline and ordering the story. There are many stories that don’t belong in Prozac & Prayer and belong in one of the other books.

4.18.13     My brain is better today. I am coming out of the fog. What helped? Vocalizing to [hubbie] yesterday morning “I feel terrible.”  Also, yesterday I pulled weeds in the garden, took a bath and ate a banana (which as it turns out is full of tryptopan and is good for fighting depression and brain fogginess.) 

4.30.13     The hardest part about sitting down to write is knowing that I won’t be done when I’ve finished. Each writing session is one small drop of water in a 50 gallon barrel, and it seems easier to go to bed, because what difference will one drop make?

5.30.13     Got home from family camping rip. “Holy mountains of laundry, Batman!”

 6.4.13     Got cavities filled at the dentist. Ouch! Took daughter violin shopping. She found her instrument and she calls it “Hope.” She sounds beautiful when she plays.

6.8.13      Writing a book feels like filling a swimming pool with an eye dropper. 

 8.15.13     Opened this journal to see the last time I wrote and to try and find clues as to why my last few weeks were sucked into a black hole. What have I been doing? And why didn’t I pay any of the July bills? Was I captured by aliens? I mean, seriously.

8.19.13     Started 6th Draft or “The Crowe Draft.”  Found a literary agent I want to query. Today I am starting my two-week marathon to finish my manuscript for submission.

8.30.13    Recorded a Video Book Proposal for agent

 10.10.13     I got all dressed up and came to work with [hubbie]. (He has an extra computer at his office where I can write.) Feels like “Bring Your Wife to Work Day.” The kids are out on Fall Break and when we left, the kids were jumping off the stairs into a pile of pillows. Z. was counting up stairs, and going one step higher each time. Hope the house is still standing later.

10.12.13     Right now, again, I am almost crying, but this time for joy. THIS feels so good! And by “this” I mean, being here, writing, sharing words, feelings, perspective, being open.

10.11.13     FINISHED 6TH DRAFT   The most emotional writing time. I cried and typed and went home completely drained. 

 10.27.13     Sunday night discussion with [hubbie] about what bothers him. He has first right of refusal. This story is personal, and we both need to be 100% okay with what goes out.

11.10.13     Printed the 7th Draft of THE ALPHA DRAFT

12.6.13      Alpha Draft Critique Group Party. I made dinner and had discussion with my five alpha readers. Amazing feedback. Awesome hubbie cleaned up dinner.  


1.8.14     Started the 8th Draft or THE BETA DRAFT

1.23.14   Think I should write some short stories before trying to write an entire book.

3.22.14   WolfCreek Writer’s Retreat with my writer girl friends.

4.4.14     Hubbie talking to me about getting my real estate license and working with [  ] at Caldwell Bank. I am open to the idea. Told him I would finish my manuscript and enter it into UT Arts Writing Contest. I’ve invested this much time, I would be crazy to change directions now.

Sucked into the swirling vortex of Spring Break and Table Saw Massacres

5.1.14      Started editing 8th BETA draft into a 9th Draft to enter into the Utah Arts Original Writing Competition.

 6.18.14     Prints 4 copies of 9th Draft. and deliver to three Beta readers.  Book is  107,155 words and 312 pages   

6.25.14      Submitted my 10th DRAFT to contest.   Book: 105,342  words.  37 Chapters. 260 pages.

7.1.14      My 40th Birthday

7.28.14    My Big Fat Utah Family Reunion

8.5.14     Started Remodeling the Kitchen

Oct 2014: Results of Utah Arts Original Writers Competition=Nada. Did they read it? Put manuscript in back corner of bedroom closet. 


Remodeled the upstairs of my house.


January      Binge watched all seasons of Lost on Netflix

February    Emily Cook Dyches died from complications of postpartum depression.

March         Started building a website to promote, support, and validate the work of mothering.

April            Decided to dust off my manuscript, revise it, and resubmit to the contest.

                     Hired a professional editor to help me develop the story.

May             Type until my fingers got blisters.

June           Completed the 11th DRAFT and submitted to Original Writers Competition.

6.29.16       Wrote this blog post.



Evolution of My Husband’s Name:

I change all the names in the book except for my own. Trying to decide on a pseudonym for my husband has been…interesting. His pseudonyms have progressed through  J. —> Jay —>  Brian —> Aaron

Have I ever called him the wrong name in bed? Thankfully, no. However, if I have to write his name (on a form, in my journal, etc) I struggle to get it right. Shhh! Don’t tell.

Places Where I’ve Worked on the Manuscript:

*American Fork Library  *AF Rec Center Swimming Pool *Kitchen Table *Home Office  *Payson Hospital  *Office Desk w/ Z. on my Lap *Bedroom *Sister-in-Law’s Church Building *JATC Institute Building *Paradise Bakery *Front Porch *East Canyon Condo *Couch *Tibblefork Canyon  *Whistle Wok Cafe *Provo City Library *BYU Library *Hinckley Alumni Center *In car parked outside school, violin lessons  *Evergreen Park *Discovery Park *Green Valley Resort, Henderson Nevada *Orem Library *Richardson’s Cabin  *Hubbie’s Office *Wolf Creek Resort *Windowsill