A Week in the Life

Posted by on Sep 29, 2014 in Uncategorized, writing | 34 comments

I’m often asked about what I’m working on, or how I manage my time, or about my writing process. So, starting tomorrow, I’m going to share a little of my schedule and let you see some of what I do. As of Sunday evening, here’s where things are:


Writing: I’m on my fourth draft of MARK OF THE THIEF 2. My editor (Lisa) probably won’t need to see it until the end of the year, so I have time on that. Yesterday, I received an editorial letter for A NIGHT DIVIDED, with edits that need to be in by the end of October, so that’s a priority. I also have a short story to write for the audio book of MARK OF THE THIEF 1, due within another couple of weeks, and I’m drafting an outline for another standalone book, which my editor will need before I can get started on research. That’s the picture on the right for the work I’ve done so far. Each color of card represents a different thread of the plot.

School Visits and Public Events: I have a Skype visit with a 6th grade class on Tuesday and I’m on a middle grade panel at The King’s English Bookstore on Friday. Gotta be honest – I probably won’t have time to prepare for either one, though I do need to publicize the Friday event. I also need to book travel for some upcoming trips, book some school visits in the DC area, and write a keynote speech for an upcoming conference.soon.

Social Media and Fan Stuff: Current totals for things needing my response: 1 Twitter DM, 2 Requested Interviews, 1 Facebook DM, 1 Snail Mail to a Fan, and 5 fan emails.


I got off to a strong start on the short story for the audio book, but was cut off by the middle child calling from school to say she has pink eye. So after a detour at the doctor’s, I reviewed the short story and decided it was sorta depressing (Nic, the main character in MARK OF THE THIEF, witnesses a death of someone close to him), so I started work on a different short story with a funnier angle. I’ll try to finish it tomorrow.


Hours spent writing: 4.5

Interactions with agent/editor/other Scholastic wunderkinds: 3

Prep for public events: Um, no

Social Media and fans: I’m down 1 Twitter DM and up 2 fan emails.


Slow start today – I decided to do some Mom errands first. Then I had the Skype visit, which went well, I think. I started back into the short story this afternoon, which quickly got longer and longer. So it needs another rewrite to cut down the scope of the story. I had hoped to start on A NIGHT DIVIDED edits today, but hopefully tomorrow is my day for that.


Hours spent writing: 3

Interactions with agent/editor/other Scholastic wunderkinds: 5

Prep for public events: Still no. Got a request for another public event, which I need to answer.

Social Media and fans: I’m up 3 more fan emails and 2 snail mail letters.


Great day of writing. I dug into the audio short story first and got a finished draft that I’m happy with. It needs more attention, but not yet. I’ll let it sit for a few days and then come back to it. Then I took the editorial letter for A NIGHT DIVIDED and made a list of all the changes. I’ll start with the biggest first and move to easier stuff. Then I spent the rest of the afternoon being stumped about big thing #1. I’ll pick up there tomorrow.

Hours spent writing: 7

Interactions with agent/editor/other Scholastic wunderkinds: 3

Prep for public events: Sent out a Tweet about Friday. Sent email to my publicist about yesterday’s request.

Social Media and fans: I’m up 2 more fan emails. Found an older email about a requested signed bookmark. Gotta stick that in the mail soon.


More progress today. I worked through big thing #1, then finished two separate rewrites of the first two chapters so my editor and I could compare them. We went with option B, which is closer to the original, but now I need to rework the first four paragraphs. I put something together and will finish that up tomorrow. I also got a requested interview done.

Hours spent writing: 7.5

Interactions with agent/editor/other Scholastic wunderkinds: 7

Prep for public events: None. Received two more requests, which need responses soon.

Social Media and fans: I’m up another two fan emails. I’ll probably answer these this weekend.


Great progress today. My editor loved the first four paragraph changes, and so now I’m all the way through Chapter 4 on edits, and so excited about this story that I can’t wait to get back to it. I also did the event with The King’s English Bookstore tonight, which I thought was very successful.

Hours spent writing: 5.5

Interactions with agent/editor/other Scholastic wunderkinds: 19 (Lots of emails today)

Prep for public events: Showered. Actually went to the public event.

Social Media and fans: No new fan emails, but I did get in a Twitter conversation for most of the day.

I might get a little writing done over the weekend, but not much, so my official week of reporting ends here. I hope this gave you some idea of how a writer’s schedule might go.



  1. Yay! So excited for your new series coming out in 2015. Glad to hear you’re hard at work writing more fantastic books for us.

  2. An update! I check daily and finally got one.

  3. Can’t wait for the new series and look forward to hearing the updates.

  4. Oh my gosh, you are busy! 🙂 Thank you for writing so many amazing books for us!!!!! I’M DYING FOR MARK OF THE THIEF! I seriously can’t wait to meet Nic. I’m already fangirling 😀

    • Thanks, Brinley! I hope you’ll love Nic as much as I do!

      • I’m sure I will!!!!!! 🙂

  5. What a very busy schedule and lots of work Miss Jen 🙂 Excited for the new books you gonna release. Goodluck with your writing and Godbless!!!
    I haven’t received the mail yet Miss Jen. But I will send you a notification whenever I receive it. Again, Thank you so much Miss Jen :)Sorry for the late reply… Been busy with school stuff especially exams.

    • School is more important, of course. But thank you very much – I hope it comes soon!

      • Yeah I agree with you Miss Jen. Also hoping that it will come soon hehe…

  6. I’m loving these updates, and I’m really happy you found a draft of that short story that you liked 🙂 I’m sure we’ll love it!!!!! Speaking of getting stuck, what do you do to brainstorm or something like that when you are stuck on a part/editing?

    • Brinley – When I get stuck (as I have been several times this week), I have to step away from the writing for a while. I try to find something that keeps me busy while letting my subconscious have some freedom. I also make brainstorming lists where I put a single plot element in a center circle, then force myself to come up with 5-10 options for where that element could go from there. Those ideas usually help!

      • Thanks so much, Jennifer!!!!!! 😀

  7. I’m so excited for your new books! I’m even more excited for The False Prince news in February (hopefully it’s a yes :D) I’m so happy for you. 🙂 Keep up the hard work 🙂

  8. Hi! It’s me again… I don’t know if you remember me from the last blog posts… but oh well. I know you’re a busy author! 🙂
    Anyways, I was wondering if you could explain to me a little bit more about the ethnicity (race) that you were picturing the main characters as (Imogen, Sage, Conner, Tobias, Roden).
    It’s okay if you don’t want to post them yet or here but it would give me a greater mental picture if I knew.
    Sorry to bother you, and thanks for your time.

    • Izzie, I don’t worry about ethnicity for these main characters because the books are all over the world and I think it should come through the eye of the reader. The only character who gets a mention there is Mott, who Jaron says is dark-skinned. (And yes, I remember you!)

  9. whoa! Thats a long week! I am shocked like Literally there is like more than 20 notes on that table and look at each day in the week there is so much going on if i were you My head would explode. Its amazing how you can get so much done in a day, and now i know why my teacher says that “In order to become a successful person you need to learn how to schedule your time” and i now actually agree with that statement 😉 It surprises me that you can actually remember to do those tasks when you have like millions of things to do

    • Your teacher is right, Fajjar. Learning to organize your time is a highly valuable skill.

  10. YOU

    like OH MY GOD! THAT IS SO MUCH TO DO! I CANT EVEN BELIEVE THAT YOU CAN EVEN GET SOME SLEEP ON THAT SCHEDULE, It doesn’t seem like you can remember much of the things you have to do that’s why you have so much notes on that desk. You know when I can’t remember to do something i usually stuff my mouth with raisins or tie a knot on my finger because it usually stops me from posting so much notes on my refrigerator, and when I discovered that it helps 🙂 maybe you should try that one day 😉

    • It’s a lot, Stacy, I agree. But I wanted people to understand why authors sometimes can’t respond right away, or what we’re doing when we’re not posting a lot, or all that happens between book releases. Luckily, I love my job so most of the time, it doesn’t feel like work.

  11. You know there should be a freedom for writers day when all writers get a break from what they do and get to just relax, because really every one needs their rest once in a while and it doesn’t seem like you get any. I really hope you feel comfortable for writing books for us because you have to go threw so much just to write one book. Thank you so much for writing so much amazing books for us and going threw so much just because of us 🙂 and i hope you gt some rest sooner or later 😉

    • Luckily, I love my job, Fajjar. And I don’t write much on the weekends (too much family stuff happening) or on travel or school visit days (though those are hardly restful, right?).

  12. Is there any way I could get something signed from you without you having to come near where I live?

    You are an amazing author and I’ve always wanted a singed merchandise from you!!! Please tell me if there is any way!!! Thanks!

    • Send me an email to jen at jennielsen dot com with your mailing address, and I can send you a bookmark.

      • Ok that’s great. Maybe I will!!!

  13. You spent 7.5 hours writing???
    Sounds like something I would do LOL.
    One time I spent 8 hours writing and then I was really tired.
    Usually I can only write for like 15 minutes because of schoolwork (and reading).
    I want to read Mark of the Thief so bad right now but I can’t because I’m at school and it’s not out yet. 🙁
    Yay! So excited!

    • Well, if it makes you feel any better, today I wrote for 15 minutes, and it was pretty awful. My brain just wasn’t in it.

  14. Okay I think I am killing you with fan comments now but feel free not to respond to any of them because I am basically fangirling in extreme and wasting your valuable time in which you could be writing more books for me to read, but I love how dedicated you are to your fans. Someone asked for a signed bookmark and you sent them one. I think that is incredible.

    • Actually I have a question. Did you start out your career by diving into writing or did you do something else, become successful, and then decide to go full time? I am thinking that I will major in psychology and minor in criminology in college to learn about motives and such to deepen my characters, but have several career options open to me and write in my free time…

      • When I left college, I wasn’t even thinking about a career as an author. I didn’t think that was a career for real people – just a hobby for me. So I started in teaching (actually almost changed mid-college to a major in criminology with a minor in psychology – how funny is that?) and then started in writing a few years later!

        I think it’s important for any aspiring author to work toward a career while they’re writing, simply because in most cases, it takes time to get to where you can make writing your full time career. So you can get there, but in the meantime, it sounds like you have some great plans!

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