Fiction Friday Query Edition

Hey blog readers!

I know it’s been a while, but I’ve been spending what little free time I have on my manuscript, and I’m happy to report that it’s been edited, revised, polished, beta read, and polished some more. I’m finally D-O-N-E, done.

I realized over the last few days that I’m just tinkering with the manuscript. I’m moving commas only to move them back when I read the sentences again a few days later, and that means it’s time to send the manuscript out into the world.

Here are the final stats:

Word count: 81,000
Genre: Commercial/Contemporary women’s fiction written in an alternating dual narrative.
Months to write: 7
Months to revise/polish: 6

I want to send a giant shout-out and thank you to Meira, Trish, Tami, Stacy, Stefani, Penne, Elisa, Heather, Beth, and Taylor for not only agreeing to read the manuscript, but offering their support along the way. I really appreciate it girls!

Now it’s time to start sending query letters. I’m excited but also anxious. I remember last summer being envious of all the writers posting about querying their manuscripts on the various writing blogs and message boards I frequent, and now it’s my turn.

The query process is a long one, and I’ll be sending the letters out in batches of 5-10. Once I’ve received a certain number of rejections responses, I’ll send more. I expect to be querying through the summer, and I’ll keep you posted if I get any requests.

Maybe you can cross your fingers for me. Or send alcohol. Both would be greatly appreciated.

Happy Friday everyone,

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

Fiction Friday

I’m sorry I haven’t been doing a better job of blogging. I really meant to but the house has been so nice and quiet with the offspring in school and I’ve been trying hard to finish the second draft of my novel.

I finished about an hour ago.

I also wrote the epilogue, which I hadn’t yet, not even in rough draft form and it made me cry so I hope that’s a good thing. Actually I’ve cried several times when writing this book and I have no idea if that’s normal or not.

I hope it is.

I am feeling pretty good today, now that I’ve reached this point. The book is not done, it still has to be revised and edited and polished and read by those who have graciously offered to give me feedback, but I am really happy to have made it this far.

I printed it out, all 356 pages. They won’t fit in the binder Lauren decorated for me but that’s okay.

I’m just glad I have them.

Have a great holiday weekend everyone!

Tracey

Fiction Friday!

I know, I missed last Friday. It’s been crazy around here. The offspring have been busy guilting me into taking them swimming and to the mall and out for fancy lunches and to the place where we painted our own pottery and the zoo and the bookstore and a whole bunch of other places because, “Mom, school starts soon and we haven’t done ANYTHING ALL SUMMER! Which, hello? I totally beg to differ because all I’ve done this summer is drive them all over town bleeding money and don’t forget the trip to Disney World that jump started their summer vacation.

Ungrateful little mess-makers.

Seriously, the idea of hiring a nanny next summer and paying her to drive them all over town while I work has crossed my mind.

But! School started two days ago and I.Am.In.Heaven. You know I love the offspring with all my heart but my tolerance for their knock-down-drag-out fighting and whining and yelling is at an all-time low and frankly I’m surprised I didn’t start swilling wine as soon as the school bus pulled away from the curb on Wednesday.

I didn’t, yanno, in case you were nodding your head and thinking, “Yeah, that totally sounds like something Tracey might do.”

I wrote instead. Approximately 2,500 words.

Frankly, I had been a little worried about my WIP. I found it hard to write the last couple weeks of summer vacation. I was tired of snatching two minutes of writing time here, or fifteen minutes there and having my train of thought constantly interrupted. I started to question everything about my novel because I was so used to it pinging around in my head constantly that when it wasn’t, I worried I’d lost my focus and might not have what it takes to finish and I’ve got way too much invested in it to quit now.

Luckily, the one thing I needed to pick up steam again turned out to be SILENCE and I’m thankful for my (now) quiet house. And I’m back in the groove so my head is all crowded again but that’s fine with me.

I am still working steadily toward the completion of the second draft. I have about 10-15k words left to write (give or take) and I’ll be done with it. Then the real fun starts – revision. I’m actually looking forward to this step because I’ll have the major creation of drafts 1 and 2 behind me and will move on to the editing and the tweaking and the polishing. Then my readers will get a copy and then I can start final edits.

I’m in a good place. The three days I’ve had to write this week have done so much for my confidence and reminded me why I started this project in the first place.

Because I just love to write.

Have a great weekend everyone!!

Tracey

Fiction Friday

Happy Friday the thirteenth everyone!

Hey, you know what sucks?

WRITING A NOVEL.

Yeah, it’s really hard and I’ve hit a rough patch. You know how I was all “Oh, I’m just gonna write to the end of the first draft and then start the second?”

Yeah, well, there was a lot of writing left to do. There’s a big difference between knowing what’s going to happen and actually writing it.

As I mentioned last week, I’ve been getting up at the ungodly hour of 6:00 AM to write before the offspring saunter into the family room demanding that I turn on SpongeBob. The problem is that I’m in such a groove when they come down that I wish I didn’t have to stop. And sometimes I don’t. I’m amazed at how much writing I can do with so much background noise.

I have no intention of stopping as I’m certain I will reach my goal of finishing a novel and querying agents. I’m just not sure of my timelines anymore. And that’s okay because there’s nothing worse than an undercooked novel.

But it’s kicking my ass right now. I won’t lie.

I think the best remedy is a two-day hiatus from writing, a big glass (or two) of Sauvignon Blanc, and reading a novel.

I just started Girl with The Dragon Tattoo. Something better happen soon.

Just sayin’.

Also, Suzanne Collins’ Mockingjay comes out August 24th and the offspring go back to school August 25th. Don’t call me that day. Don’t text me, or tweet me, or e-mail me. Don’t ring my doorbell. I’ll be on my patio reading to see who Katniss chooses.

*crossing fingers* Please be Gale!

Have a great weekend everyone!!

Tracey

Fiction Friday

Happy Friday peeps!

I don’t have a lot to report on from the fiction front other than to say I’m still plugging away on my second draft. I’ve been waking up around 6 AM most days to get in a few hours of writing before the offspring come downstairs and turn on SpongeBob SquarePants and as long as I don’t get lured away by the shiny Internet, I can usually meet whatever word count goal I’ve set.

I read something on Absolute Write that really resonated with me this week. Someone posted about not putting too much stock in critiques of your work done by other fiction writers. Writers all have a personal style and a favorite genre and if your chapter or novel doesn’t match up well with either of those things, the critique can leave you feeling dejected and suddenly doubting any word you’ve ever written. The post pointed out that it’s often readers that give the best critiques because they are able to see the story and not get hung up on technique. That’s not to say that writers don’t give great crits, it’s simply a reminder to have a mix of both.

My sister Trish is the only one who has read anything from my novel. I chose her because she has no tact whatsoever will be honest with me and not pull any punches. It was her enthusiasm about my first chapters and my premise that helped motivate me to continue writing and I was very appreciative of her feedback. Trish will probably always be my first reader. Cowboy Dave also fields his share of questions regarding my male main character and whatever he can’t answer, my pal Google does. If you pulled up my search history right now you’d be all, seriously, wtf?

Hopefully I’ll have something for Trish and my other readers to read by the end of September but if it takes longer than that, well, that’s okay. If there’s one thing I know it’s not to rush the process.

That’s all I’ve got today – Have a great weekend everyone!

Fiction Friday

Happy Friday everyone! It will be a busy weekend for us because Matthew turns eleven today and this weekend is all about him with a family party tonight and a sleepover tomorrow. Sniff, sniff, my little boy is growing up!

It’s been a good writing week. I didn’t get as much blogging done as I wanted but I’m really happy because I finished the first draft of my novel a little ahead of my August 1st self-imposed deadline.

I think I have already mentioned, ad nauseum, that I don’t know what the hell I’m doing and I’m learning as I go. And for some reason I got really antsy this week and just started “writing to the end.” A lot of the final chapters are only three or four paragraphs (to capture the main idea). I wanted to know where I was with the pacing so even though it bothered me a little to have such a skeleton version of the final chapters, I did it anyway. Then I asked Dave, “what should I do?” Should I go back and expand those final chapters before I start the second draft or should I just start the second draft?

Dave was, as always, worried that it was a trick question or at the very least, completely rhetorical, so he suggested I ask someone else. I posted the question on the AbsoluteWrite.com forums. I got lots of helpful answers, about the methods everyone uses, but it really came down to “You’ll just have to figure out what works for you.” But, um, I don’t know what works for me ’cause I’ve never done this before.

So, what I decided to do was go ahead and start the second draft. I had things in the first that I already knew were going to be changed and moved around and deleted so I opened up a shiny new document and started writing.

I’m glad I did. When I first started writing this book, I decided to tell it in first person, past tense, from the point-of-view of my thirty-year-old female main character. But about a third of the way in, I decided it would be even better if I did alternating points of view with my other main character, a sixteen-year-old boy. That meant I had some chapters to fill in so I went back through the first draft and, at the top of each section or chapter, reminded myself whose POV I wanted it to be in.

The first chapter is told from her POV but the second is now from his. In the first draft, the second chapter was only 284 words (I inserted one of those paragraphs to remind myself what needed to happen and then I moved on). When I re-vised chapter two on Tuesday, it grew from 284 words to 1,110 for a gain of 826 words. That made me really happy because, not only was it a way to show the voice of the other main character early-on, he was able to provide information that was missing before. I am happy about my decision to do the dual narratives and wish I had thought of it sooner.

The second draft is going to be harder. As I mentioned, not only are there summaries that have to be expanded into whole scenes or chapters, there are also places where I wrote “show don’t tell this here” or “use more description” or the even more worrisome “more!” so now I have to do that. I’m also a little worried about word count. The first draft came in around 60,000 (once I added 8k from my “scenes to add” document) but ideally, I want the word count of the final draft to be approximately 80,000 so hopefully all the things I need to add will get it where it should be while also allowing for the words I’ll need to cut.

So, that’s where I’m at this week. Hopefully I can keep moving forward and also try to get some more blogging done next week. And start that super-secret blog I hinted at because, holy smokes, that story needs to be told.

Have a great weekend everyone!