Dream A Little Dream

Hello, everyone!

Today I’d like to talk about the inspiration for my latest novel. I’d mentioned on my Facebook author page late last fall that my next project was going to be a second-chance romance called The Girl He Used to Know, loosely inspired by the song “Same Auld Lang Syne” by Dan Fogelberg (the one about running into your old lover at the grocery store on Christmas Eve).

I’d already done quite a bit of research for this book. I’d written the synopsis, and I had a word document full of notes.

I was very excited about writing this book.

I’m still very excited about writing this book.

But that’s not the book I ended up writing.

Sometime during the early morning hours of October 2nd a book idea came to me in a dream. I woke before my alarm and I remember lying there just thinking about it. The dream itself was weird and didn’t make sense, and I couldn’t really remember the specifics. But the idea part was very vivid.

And I was all, “Whaaaaat is going on here???”

But I went downstairs, poured myself a cup of coffee, and opened a new word document. I typed in one sentence that summed up the book idea, saved it, and went about my day, preparing to really get down to business on drafting The Girl He Used to Know. 

But later that afternoon I started making notes for the dream book. And once I started I didn’t stop until I had about 5,000 words. I had a loose outline, scraps of dialogue, and whole scenes. I’d named the main characters. Everything was kind of a blur and I almost couldn’t type fast enough to keep up with the ideas that were pouring from my brain.

I told my husband I felt very conflicted. I always know what I’m going to write next, and it felt wrong to change my mind.

I’m a planner. I don’t wing anything.

But I decided there was no harm in spending a few weeks with this idea to see what would happen, and that’s what I did.

I ended up falling for the characters. I liked each of them separately and I loved their lively banter. They made me laugh. I felt like I had a front-row seat in their world and they were showing me their story. I sent the first sixty pages to a few trusted friends and their excited feedback and enthusiasm inspired me to keep going. It’s an adult contemporary romance, and I always felt really happy when I was working on this book. It’s lighter than Every Time I Think of You, and I really needed that. For the most part, the two main characters are together on every page. I haven’t done that since On the Island.

Tomorrow I’ll be revealing the cover and blurb so I hope you’ll stop by and take a look. I’ll be using the rafflecopter flash giveaway app to select one winner who will receive a digital ARC (as soon as they’re ready).

Have a great day!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writing Process Update – Revision Stage!

Here’s another update for those of you who enjoy hearing about my writing process.

I’ve completed the first draft of my new book. I actually typed THE END almost two weeks ago, but then proceeded directly to the second draft, also known as the beginning of my revision stage.

Which I love.

The first draft is where you meet your characters and learn about their world.

Revision is where you find your story.

I feel – very strongly – that this stage is the most important part of the entire writing process (and for me it’s obviously the most enjoyable). You find out a lot about your characters in the first draft, but in order to develop them fully – to give them dimension, to make them leap off the page, to ensure their actions make sense – you need to be able to look at the story –and the active role your characters play in it – as a whole. And I really can’t do that until I’ve written the first draft.

The first thing I do when I start the second draft is send the first draft to my Kindle. Then, as I read the entire manuscript straight through, I highlight sections and take notes, adding them to the items I’ve already listed in my revision checklist. For example, there is an element of the hero’s backstory in the first draft that is totally cliché, and I’m sort of embarrassed that I couldn’t see it. But that’s one example of why revision is so important. Often the first idea that pops into your mind is the one everyone would probably think of, so it needs to be replaced by something not quite as obvious. A character’s backstory is part of the reason they act the way they do, and – bonus! – the element I came up with in the second draft actually makes more sense for the hero. Double bonus – it added some more dimension to a secondary character as well. This is the power of revision. 

I mentioned in my earlier updates that I’d written a synopsis of this book for my agent, and that it had really helped give me a road map to follow as I wrote the first draft. But with the good comes the bad, and there was one particular plot point in the synopsis that really didn’t work the way I needed it to once I’d written it. And that drove me NUTS because it was a pivotal plot point and I thought it would be so awesome when I finally got to write it.

But it wasn’t awesome.

At all.

Because by the time I wrote it, I knew a lot more about my characters and their motivations. And the reactions of both characters in this particular chapter didn’t really ring true for the stage they were at in their relationship. This realization was incredibly frustrating and at first I tried to force a solution, which only made it worse.

Last week I was on vacation with my family for spring break. I had lots of time to let my mind wander and when the answer finally came to me, I realized where I’d gone wrong and what I needed to do to fix it. But I was only able to do this by looking at the story as a whole (and allowing myself the necessary time to figure it out). Interestingly, I had originally planned for this chapter to occur earlier in the book but then moved it a few chapters later. This no longer works, so I’m re-writing the whole chapter and moving it to where I’d originally planned for it to go. Sometimes this is the only course of action and I’m just thankful it was one chapter and not half a book. However, any time you pull a plot thread you run the risk of loosening something in another location, which means I now have a few other things that also have to be changed and moved.

That’s okay. That’s revision.

One of the other things I’m able to do once I have a completed first draft is look at my story arc. I like using a three act structure (you may need to click on the picture to see it better).

3-act-structure

This doesn’t mean it has to be followed 100%. But it’s a great way to see if I’ve got rising action (including enough smaller conflicts), a big enough main conflict, and a nice wrap up.

I hope to be done with my revisions by early May. Then I’ll send the manuscript off for beta feedback. After that, I’ll write the third draft, do a hard line edit for grammar and rhythm, and give it a final polish. This is why I’ll probably always be a 1 book a year (or maybe 1 book plus a novella) author. I’ve learned (the hard way) that I really do need this much time in order to be satisfied with a book.

I would love to give you more details about this book (including why I decided to write it) and hope to do so in the next couple of months. I can tell you that it’s not The Girl He Used to Know, which is what I had planned to write next. I’ll still be writing that one, but not until I’ve completed my current project. This new book is straight-up adult contemporary romance, which is something I haven’t done since On the Island (at least in a full-length novel). After the heavier subject matter of Every Time I Think of You, I really needed to write something a little lighter (and I think my readers are ready for that, too).

In one word, this book is fun. The hero and heroine have lots of dialogue (and banter!). There is an external conflict in addition to the romantic conflict, which is my favorite kind of contemporary romance. Many of you have asked for a bit more steam, and I tried my best to kick it up a bit. However, you still won’t see certain words because I don’t think they’re necessary, nor do I personally find them romantic. The heat level of this book is similar to Jill Shalvis (who’s an author I love).    

So there you have it! I’m very excited about sharing more on this project in the coming months.

Tracey

 

 

Fiction Friday – What Am I Writing Now?

Happy (fiction) Friday, everyone!

I’ve been getting a lot of questions about what I’m working on now, so I thought a Fiction Friday post would be the perfect way to let you know. 

When I’m in the drafting stage of a new book I don’t usually talk about it that much. It’s not that I’m trying to be secretive, it’s just that for me, the drafting stage is a very solitary endeavor. I might bounce things off members of my writing group, like POV questions or other technical things, but for the most part I spend a lot of time in my own head, just thinking. What I’ve found is that if I try to tell someone what my book is about before I’ve finished writing it, it will sound kind of stupid. I have a tendency to leave out key things when I’m describing it and there will inevitably be a lot of, “Wait. There’s something else that happens before the part I just told you about.” The end result is that the premise will sound like it’s all over the place.

Then, the person I’m telling it to will look at me like this:
 
 
And then I’ll want to do this:
 
 
 
 
 
 
So that’s why I don’t usually share much about the manuscript until it’s done. Not even my husband really knows what this next book is about. I mean, he knows the high-level plot points, but that’s about it.
 
But here’s what I can tell you: My new book is a contemporary romance (it could also be described as commercial fiction or possibly even romantic suspense). There is a mystery element with this book because the inciting incident (the event that sets the plot in motion) involves a crime being committed. The victim of the crime is the female protagonist’s grandmother (who has raised her). The male protagonist is a crime reporter. So these two characters will be spending quite a bit of time together, and the way their relationship will develop reminds me a bit of T.J. and Anna. By that I mean that their relationship develops alongside other things that are also happening. But unlike T.J. and Anna, these characters are fairly close in age (he’s thirty-five and she’s thirty). The female protagonist also has a three-year-old son from a previous marriage, which gives the story a bit of a Jerry McGuire feel that I especially love. I still don’t have a title, and I don’t have a publication date or any publication details. I will share all of these things when I know them. For now, I’m just focusing on writing the book.
 
The book I’m going to write after the one I’m writing now will probably be categorized as women’s fiction (like Covet is). I love the song “Same Old Lang Syne” by Dan Fogelberg. Here’s part of it:
 
Met my old lover in the
grocery store
The snow was falling Christmas Eve
I stole behind her in the
frozen foods
And I touched her on the sleeve
She didn’t recognize the
face at first
But then her eyes flew
open wide
She went to hug me and she
spilled her purse
And we laughed until we cried.
We took her groceries to the
checkout stand
The food was totalled up and
bagged
We stood there lost in our
embarrassment
As the conversation dragged.
We went to have ourselves
a drink or two
But couldn’t find an open bar
We bought a six-pack at
the liquor store
And we drank it in her car.
We drank a toast to
innocence
We drank a toast to now
And tried to reach beyond
the emptiness
But neither one knew how.
 
That, in a nutshell, is the premise of the book I’m going to write. I don’t have a title for this one either, but I have a loose outline and a document full of notes.
 
So there you have it! I’m very excited to share these upcoming books with you. Please remember that things can and do change, but this is where I’m at today.
 
Have a great weekend, everyone!
 
xoxo,
 
Tracey
 
 
 


Fiction Friday!

Happy Friday everyone!

I hope you’re all enjoying the summer so far. Here in Iowa, we’re still waiting for it to arrive, but I’m confident it will make its appearance one of these days. Our 40-degree shifts in temperature, and the incessant rain is making everyone a bit cranky but the roller coaster weather doesn’t bother me too much because I am unemployed (by choice) and I’m loving being at home with the offspring for the summer (never mind that I promptly shipped my talkative eight-year-old daughter off to acting camp for the week). I do plan to return to my contract recruiting position in the fall, but in the meantime I’ve got 8 weeks left to catch up on sleep and work on my tan (and I’m grateful that I’m able to do that).

I have been (slowly) querying my manuscript. I have sent approximately 14 queries, which is a pretty low number, and have not received any nibbles. Basically, no agents have requested the manuscript yet so either my query letter isn’t working, or my premise is not something agents are interested in. I have a feeling it’s the latter. I did have one agent give me feedback on my first chapter/synopsis (this was via a contest win) and while it was very helpful, and she told me she didn’t necessarily feel this way, she said that editors would probably have a knee-jerk reaction to the premise (she didn’t say they would drop my query letter and run screaming from the room, but I can read between the lines).

I won’t lie; this makes me sad, especially because those who have read it (I think I’m up to 17 readers at this point) have been overwhelmingly positive with their feedback, and have told me how much they loved the story and that they were still thinking about the characters days later). However, my premise IS unique in that it doesn’t fall neatly into one genre. Those of you who have read it know what I mean. It’s part women’s fiction, part romance, and part adventure. I sat down and wrote the book I wanted to write, and I couldn’t be happier with the way it turned out, but I do need to acknowledge that I have not written something that is in line with what’s selling right now. And probably won’t ever be.

Lest you think I’ve written some porn-y, shocking book, the title is On the Island and it’s a desert island book. Think Castaway with two people. Or Lord of the Flies without the killing and savage behavior. I love desert island books, and I’m a big fan of Lost and Survivor (not to mention The Blue Lagoon), so that’s what I wrote. I put my main characters in a lot of survival situations in On the Island and they were exciting to research and write. It’s set in the Maldives which was a place I knew nothing about. Looking back on it now, this book was so research-heavy that I’m not sure I ever want to do that again. I also know how to build a fire without matches so if you ever want to go extreme-camping, I’m your girl.

One of the hardest things has been receiving form rejections on the same day I receive feedback from someone who has actually read the manuscript. I was reading a rejection letter and at the same time I received a text from someone that said, “I loved your book, I couldn’t put it down, and it made me laugh and cry.” I texted back and said, “Well that’s wonderful because I just received a rejection letter in my inbox.” I’m not taking the rejections personally (okay maybe a little). I know that agents reject because they don’t think they can sell the manuscript or they don’t love the premise. But I won’t lie: form rejections will take the wind out of your sails and your confidence will plummet.

I’m at the point where I’m leaning toward self-publishing via Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing program. I could also publish to Smashwords and my book would be available to Nook users as well. For those that don’t have e-readers, they can download the Kindle and Nook applications to their desktop, laptop, tablet, or phone. My book will probably be priced at $2.99. I would rather go this route then let the manuscript languish on my hard drive forever. I have contracted with a free-lance editor, to make sure the book is as polished as it can be, and I’m also researching book covers because you do have to provide your own if you self-publish and it can’t look like something a demented six-year-old designed and then drew with crayons. I’m connecting with a lot of self-published authors right now, via Twitter and blogs, and their excitement is contagious. There are definite benefits to self-publishing such as complete control over content and distribution, and also the freedom to write what I want. The only deadlines I’ll have are the ones I self-impose.

I’m also really, really immersed in my second novel, Covet. I would love to have it polished and ready to publish by this time next year. Will I query it first? Probably. The premise is definitely more mainstream and this book is solidly in the women’s fiction genre so that may help. Or I may decide to self-publish that one too. I have no idea at this point, I just know that I’m falling in love with another story and the characters have taken up permanent residence in my head and that is why I write (incidentally, Covet is NOT the book I mentioned in my Shiny New Ideas post. It’s an idea that came to me shortly after and it knocked the other idea right out of the running). It explores a similar theme found in On the Island and that’s good for building a readership (which is totally putting the cart before the horse, I know, but I’m pretty sure I’ll continue writing books so I might as well work toward author branding while I’m at it).

One last thing, if you are one of my blog readers, and I know you via real life or Facebook, Twitter, etc., and you’d like to read the manuscript, I’d be happy to send it to you. I am hoping that those who have read it would be willing to post a link to the Amazon listing if/when I do self-publish (sort of like a virtual book launch) which probably won’t be until mid-August. If you are interested, please e-mail me at traceygarvisgraves@yahoo.com.

In the meantime, enjoy your summer!

I hope your weather is better than ours.

Fiction Friday – Shiny New Ideas

I’m feeling a bit out of sorts this week. Now that my manuscript is complete, and I’ve started dipping my toe in the query pool, I don’t know what to do with myself.

After getting up at 5:00 a.m. for the last year, not having to get up and write feels really weird. I’m still getting up early, but now I’m just dinking around on Twitter and reading blogs before I head off to work.

A couple months ago, when I was still polishing the manuscript, Dave said, “You’re not going to write another book are you?”

“Oh God no,” I said. “I want my life back. I need to catch up on sleep. Start exercising again. Read a million books on my Kindle.”

But here’s the thing. Now that I’m not writing, I don’t know what to do with myself. And I want to write another book. Just thinking about writing again makes some of these angsty feelings go away.

So many people don’t finish their first book. They get to the hard part, which – at least for me anyway – is the revision stage, and they get a Shiny New Idea, with Shiny New Characters. And pounding out a first draft with this new idea, and these new people sounds like a hell of a lot more fun than ripping apart the current manuscript and fixing everything that’s wrong with it. I never had the urge to abandon my manuscript, though, for two reasons: I was going to finish what I started, dammit, and I didn’t have any Shiny New Ideas. And that worried me for a while. Ideas are a dime a dozen, and you can’t copyright them, but I was sorta wondering why I wasn’t having any. It could have been that I was so immersed in my current manuscript that the part of my brain that would have handled those new ideas was blocked off. At least I think that’s what happened because the minute I started querying – you know, all of one week ago – those old characters left my mind and Shiny New Ones started flooding my head. I now have about 37 post-it notes stuck all over the place and I opened up a word doc that I titled New Book Notes.

So Dave? DAVE? Are you reading this blog post? I don’t think you are so I’m going to admit something.

I was fibbing.

I fibbed.

I’m a big giant fibber.

Common advice for writers is that the best way to get your mind off the agonizing query process is to start writing something else. Put your manuscript out there, and query widely, but start focusing on a new project and just write.

So I’m going to. My contract position ends at the end of next month, and I’ll be home with the offspring all summer. This will be a good time to start writing the first draft of my next book. I want to experiment with point of view and an expanded number of main characters. This book will require quite a bit of research and I’ve already started on that.

Regardless of what happens with book #1 (and sadly, as a debut author whose manuscript will languish in slush piles all summer long, the odds of getting an agent are pretty slim), it’s the writing that I really enjoy. Don’t get me wrong – rejections will hurt, but that’s all part of the path to publication and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Some of you may remember the psychic party I hosted a while back. Dixie is a psychic who has done several readings for me. It’s always been just for fun (I don’t have her on, like, speed dial or anything), but some of the things she’s told me over the years have been right on the money. Anyway, my friend Bobbi and I went to see Dixie for private readings about eleven years ago. As she was talking to me, she said she thought it would be a good idea if I wrote a book someday (and she didn’t know I liked to write so when she said it I sat up a little straighter). She didn’t say anything about what would happen if I did write a book (and I wouldn’t want to know anyway), but she did say, “I just think when the kids get a little older, you’ll want something just for you.” I thought what she told me was pretty cool and then I forgot all about it.

A few months ago, when I was really in the thick of revising and polishing, Dave and the offspring were giving me a hard time – no one likes it when mom is busy, at least in my house. Dave has always been supportive of my writing time, and I’ve always been careful to make sure it balances out with whatever he wants to do (and don’t forget Matthew and Lauren because Dave and I put them before any needs of our own, as we should). But I was having a bad day, and all I really wanted to do was open my laptop and get lost in some writing. I *might* also have had a bit of PMS. But anyway, I said something about being tired and then Dave said something about me not getting enough sleep, and then I said something about how important the book was to me, and he said some more things, and blah, blah, blah, and then I yelled, “I just want something for me!” And then I went, “OMG.” Because I had forgotten what Dixie had said until the words came flying out of my mouth.

Maybe I sound totally selfish, but now that the kids are older I don’t feel like I need to spoon-feed everything to everyone in this house (Dave included). And I get up at the ass-crack of dawn to write so that I can minimize (as much as I can) taking time away from my family. I think that it’s easy for moms to put things they want on the back-burner sometimes, and I’m definitely guilty of that. I’ve spent almost twelve years either as a SAHM, or working a contract/temporary job so that I can be home when the kids need me, and I’m eternally grateful that I can do that.

But Dixie was right.

I do want something for me.

P.S. I swear to God I still have a sense of humor.