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

 

 

Have You Ever?

Laid awake until two in the morning turning over plot points in your head?

Found yourself telling little white lies to people you love? For example, “I’m sorry I can’t go to your party/open house/dinner/sporting event/concert because I’m busy” except busy really means you just want to work on your manuscript instead?

Spent upwards of three hundred dollars on ink cartridges and printer paper so you can edit on a hard copy?

Given up newspapers, magazines, and most television shows (except DVR’d episodes of Glee and Modern Family) so you can work on your manuscript?

Sat in a chair with your laptop muttering lines of dialogue out loud so it looks like you’re talking to yourself?

I answered yes to all of these questions which is why I haven’t posted anything for two months.

Revising the manuscript is the hardest writing I’ve ever done. I’ve been revising 50-60 pages at a time and then e-mailing them to my super awesome author-beta. Revising includes adding, deleting, moving things around, making sure each sentence flows, and that every single scene moves the story forward. It’s amazing how much my novel has changed during the revision process.

I have about 40 pages left to revise. My progress is slow because I can only work on the manuscript for 1.5-2 hours a day (usually from 5:30 AM until 7 or 7:30). Then I go to my real job. I’m very lucky, though, because I usually have at least one long writing day on the weekend where I can get in 6-8 hours. Sometimes I have to lock the door so Dave and the offspring will leave me alone but generally, they’re pretty good about staying out of my hair.

My word count is 80,000, give or take. I don’t expect that to change much, even with final editing and polishing. That’s the number I was shooting for so I’m happy it worked out.

In February, I’ll start final edits which will incorporate feedback from my beta and Trish. Trish has been a wonderful (and totally unexpected) early reader. She paid me a nice compliment when she said she couldn’t wait for the next batch of pages. “I want to keep reading and I don’t even read books,” she said.

Once the manuscript is polished, I’ll send it out to 5-6 more betas. I plan on taking a month away from the manuscript to get some distance so while they’re reading it, I thought I’d make some changes to this blog.

I am planning on splitting it three ways:

One blog will be funny in the ‘hood. Remember when I used to write amusing things on the Internet? I’d like to do that again but because I sometimes use the f-word, I thought it would be a good idea to have a separate blog with posts about my sometimes alcohol-fueled dipshittery personal life.

The second blog will be written anonymously and not linked to this one as I do not wish to be sued by the *jackholes I’ll be writing about.

And the third will be my www.traceygarvisgraves.com address. It will focus on fiction writing.

Making these changes will keep me busy during the nail-biting querying process which I’ll start in March or April.

So. That’s what I’ve been up to. I’ve really missed this blog and I appreciate anyone who is still stopping by to check for new posts. Thank you.

I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas and happy new year. I am off work today and tomorrow and three days next week. I’m looking forward to spending time with my family and getting in a little extra writing.

I hope Santa is good to you all. I heard he’s bringing me a Kindle (okay, it’s not really Santa, it’s Dave) and I can’t wait to start loading it with books.

Cheers,

Tracey

* My neighbor Julie came up with jackhole. It’s my new favorite word.

Fiction Thursday (or just insert whatever the hell day you want)

One of these days, it would be nice not to have to start my blog posts by apologizing.

But, sorry.

I know I’ve been really MIA lately, but after working forty hours a week, and making sure Dave and the offspring have food and clean underwear, I only have a little bit of time to write, and I’m concentrating on manuscript revisions. I am almost to the halfway point, and I am so ready to be done. It’s not that I don’t like revisions, because I love this part, but revising a novel is much harder than writing a first or second draft, and one of these days, I’d like to get the rest of my life back.

This is just my opinion, and I’m not sure if other writers feel this way, but revising means you have to fix everything that isn’t working. You can’t say to yourself, “I’m not thrilled with this section, but I’ll clean it up during revisions because, um, that would be now.

The wonderful thing, however, is that after the revision stage, you’re one step closer to final editing and polishing, and I’m really looking forward to that.

For those of you who will be beta reading for me, expect the manuscript sometime in February or March. I’d like to start querying in April, if possible. I started writing this book last April so if I meet all my deadlines, it will have taken about a year from start to finish. Not too bad considering I worked full time for much of it.

Also, I can’t say enough about my wonderful author-beta reader. I am absolutely indebted to her, with no idea how to repay. I am getting ready to send her my next batch of pages soon (on Halloween), and her feedback on the previous installments has been nothing short of spectacular. She is that good.

She paid me the highest compliment by writing this on the last page I sent her “Now I want the next 50 pages right away because I’m definitely hooked. Take your time, of course, but just a kudos, this is where you want the reader.”

Feedback like that is why I never hit snooze when the alarm goes off at 5:00 AM. I get out of bed, fire up the laptop, and get one page closer.

Thanks for still stopping by. I really appreciate it!

Tracey

Fiction Saturday

Totally glossing over the fact that there was no Fiction Friday last week and that this week’s installment is happening on Saturday.

First things first, Snooki sold a book. Say it with me: WTF?

It’s bad enough that Tori Spelling and Lauren Conrad are crowding the shelves at my local Barnes and Noble. But now Snooki? Really, seriously?

I mentioned in my last post (eons ago) that I found a fabulous beta reader (okay actually, she found me on Absolute Write.

I was blown away by the amount of time she spent on my manuscript. I sent her a PDF of the first fifty pages and she edited them, scanned them, and sent them back. On the left margin, she made a note of the things she liked,

The are two things driving me right now: my beta reader’s feedback is the first. She said she thought I had a real chance with this story. I wasn’t sure how the premise would be received, or if it would “work”, so it’s very encouraging to hear that. To me, the writing can be fixed, but if the premise doesn’t work, you’ve got a problem. And I am firmly in the “story versus writing” camp. I want to read a great story, and if it keeps me turning the pages, you won’t see me getting all highbrow about the writing. People love to criticize Stephenie Meyer’s writing, but if Twilight can make me stay up until 2:00 AM reading, she’s doing somethign right (and probably laughing her ass off all the way to the bank).

I’ll write more about the premise as I get closer to querying (and I’ll post the query letter too so you can see what I’m sending to agents).

This has been the most amazing experience and I encourage anyone who’s ever wanted to write a novel to, in the spirit of Nike, just.do.it.

I probably won’t be querying until after the first of the year which means my novel took about nine months to write. I’m rewarding myself with a Kindle as soon as I type THE END.

Fiction Friday

Good Morning and happy Friday everyone!

Once again, I apologize for blowing off this blog but I have a good excuse.

I got a new job and I started last week.

As some of you already know, I went back to work last year at the offspring’s school. I have a degree in business, not education, but there wasn’t anything available in my field of HR recruiting (which is what I used to do before having kids). I worked as a teacher’s associate in the 8th and 9th grade building and met a lot of nice people and got really attached to the students (and I just went out to dinner with some of my fellow teacher co-workers Tuesday night – we had a great time – I miss them).

Anyway, I decided not to return to the school because I wanted to see if there might be something that, you know, utilized my prior experience, and I was extremely fortunate to find a contract recruiting position at a local West Des Moines company. It happened a little faster than I had anticipated (I’m certainly not going to complain about that), but I still had a relaxing two weeks after the offspring started school to sit down and write (which is how I was able to finish the second draft of my book).

The contract is expected to last anywhere from 6-18 months and that’s perfect for me. I am really liking it so far and I can’t believe I’m saying this but it’s been nice to return to corporate America (but maybe that’s because I’m just, shhh, visiting.)

The only drawback to this whole OMG-I-got-a-job-thing, is that it cuts into my writing. I’m getting up around 5:00 and as soon as I’m out of the shower I power up the laptop and try to write for an hour-and-a-half or so. I also print pages and make some edits on my lunch hour.

As I’ve already mentioned, I finished the second draft and I’m now working on revisions. I also decided to work on my query letter (I’ve blogged about it before, I think) which is a business letter you send out to agents hoping to entice them into requesting a partial (usually the first fifty pages) or a full (the whole manuscript). If the agent likes it (and, almost as important, thinks they can sell it), they will offer representation and you are one step closer to seeing your book on the shelf at Barnes and Noble. They still have to sell it to the publisher, but once they do, it’s time to pop open the champagne.

I posted my query letter in Absolute Write’s Query Letter Hell section. In a query, you have to boil down your whole 350 page book into 250-300 words. Think of a query as a pitch, almost like the back jacket copy of a book. It tells the reader (and in this case, agent) what it’s about but also makes them want to read the book.

I do not ♥ query letters. I would rather write another damn book then finish this query letter.

The problem I encountered in QLH, is that everyone has a different opinion: Some love the title, some didn’t. Some think the second paragraph should have more detail, some didn’t. Some thought the query should focus more on the characters, and their motivation, and some thought it should focus on plot.

Seriously, fifty responses later my eyes were bleeding and my brain hurt trying to absorb it all. I decided to pull back, work on revising the book, and return to the query when it’s closer to the time I’ll need it. But it’s really important and it has to be good.

Now, the really cool thing that happened in QLH, was that I got an offer of a beta read from a published author. She provided great feedback on the query and then shot me a private message saying she liked my premise and would I be interested in letting her read it.

Uh, that’d be yes.

And here’s the thing about Absolute Write. Published writers, some of them NYT bestselling authors, hang out there. Some of them are anonymous and some aren’t. For a huge fangirl like me, this is like the coolest thing ever. . Agents hang out there too but I haven’t posted any of my current book online for a number of reasons, namely that after QLH, I know I would receive feedback that may conflict and do nothing more than confuse me. It’s a great resource, and I have posted in the share your work forum, but not for this book.

Anyway, I am in the process of revising the book and I am breaking it down into fifty page increments. I just sent her the first fifty pages and she sent me a very nice message this morning that did not say:

OMG, I am putting this in my shredder because you suck!

She liked the dual narrative and thought that the first person POV worked perfectly for two characters. She also said the main characters were likeable which is very important and something I tried hard to achieve. I want everyone to really, really, like these two because I want you to root for them later on and you can’t do that if one of them is a total putz.

Anyway, she just started reading and she will be sending the pages back with her feedback and notes. I am still blown away that she would be willing to do this for me and I have no idea how to thank her. I did ask if there might be something of hers she would like me to read (which is kind of like asking a pro basketball player if they want your advice on how to shoot free throws) but she said okay and shot me her latest manuscript.

Hers WILL be on the shelf at Barnes and Noble and when I walk by I’ll be all, “Yeah, I totally already read that – it’s awesome). Her writing is so, so, good so I know I’m in really good hands.

Wow, this post is getting really long: does anyone want to take a break to pee or get something to drink? Sorry…..

Once revisions are complete, I will be sending the MS to my readers: Taylor, Penne, Gillian, Beth, Amy, and my hairdresser’s sister. Oh, and Trish (because she’ll be brutally honest).

I know that this blog isn’t very funny right now, and that a lot of you have read it because it gave you a chuckle or two, but stick with me. I’m getting closer every day to this whole I-want-to-write-and-query-a-book goal. I’ve been working toward it for almost six months and realistically, probably have 3-4 more to go but eventually I will return to blogging about my neighbors and my ‘hood and all the other things I used to blog about.

And I want everyone to know that I appreciate it when you ask me why the hell I haven’t posted because I know that just means you’d like to read something I’ve written and that’s all a writer (published or otherwise) can hope for.

So thanks, and happy Friday dudes!

Peace out,

Tracey