27 February 2009

Go, Book 2, go

The proposal I sent in a couple of days ago (with my slightly nuts overachieving PR heroine, my lone wolfish hero and the ex-drug addict handbag-designing sister) has been approved.

Three quarters of the synopsis dealt with the characters, a quarter with the plot. Given recent discussions on Jackie's blog I was a bit worried that the heroine's conflict might be too defined by her parents, but I seem to have somehow avoided this particular pitfall.

However, the plot isn't problem free. No indeed. I might have given them only a 200 word summary, but my editor spotted a potential plot device which I must Avoid At All Costs, and as I suspected Scotland may have to go. Other than that it's full steam ahead. Or in my case, chugchugchug. I feel like I'm about to set out across the Atlantic in a dinghy.

26 February 2009

What's in a name?

My previously titleless novel has a title! And it doesn't contain ANY of the following words:


Which is slightly concerning since these labels must sell books. However the title is alliterative and does, at least, contain the word 'bought'. Phew.

The book is called.......wait for it.......

Bought: Damsel in Distress.

23 February 2009


I have a paperback publication date - October 09! My revisions were fine (some of the dialogue has been cut for pace, which will be interesting to see), and the book is now with copyediting. Am slightly in shock.

22 February 2009


Yesterday I offered to wade through Chapter 1 of ‘A Bid for Love’ to see if I could spot the conflicts. Both the chapter and synopsis are already in the public domain, so I didn’t think I’d be giving anything away by taking a little analytical look. I also didn’t expect it to be as hard (or as useful) as it’s turned out to be. When I wrote the first draft of the first chapter, I didn’t consciously think ‘Ah, good. Inner conflict. Tick.’ I didn’t use flowcharts, diagrams or post-it notes and I didn’t have much of a structure. I had to go and rework it hundreds of times at various stages to add foreshadowing and to strengthen motivation of subsequent action and behaviour. Analysing it is kind of tricky, but here goes.

Chapter 1 is entirely from the heroine's point of view so I’ll stick with her for the moment. The main external conflict point in this chapter is that Emily is going to a wedding that she really doesn’t want to go to with a complete stranger. So that’s the external conflict sorted (I think). Now how about the internal variety?

Well, the short answer is there isn’t any. At least not the gut-twisting, heart-wrenching, deeply introspective type. Intense emotional conflict prevents the characters from being together when they want to be. At the beginning of my story, Emily and Luke are strangers. Like many people, neither is the sort to jump into bed with someone they’ve only just met and then declare their undying love, so as I see it, they don’t need intense emotional conflict to keep them apart. And as they don’t really know each other, neither of them has much to lose if they walk away and never clap eyes on each other again, so the emotional stakes are not particularly high.

Emily’s inner conflicts then, the ones that affect her behaviour and reactions in this chapter, are not intense. They’re more about revealing her character and moving the story forward than causing deep emotional angst. She doesn’t want to go to the wedding of her ex-fiance to another woman (franky, who would?) and so she's cross with her bossy older sister for interfering. However she's also battling this guilty feeling that she really owes it to her sister to go. Additionally she thinks that she’s over her old relationship, but then reflects that maybe she isn’t. Internal conflict, yes, a bit. Angst, yes, but minimal.

But then there’s also the hint of conflicts to come, like Emily’s attitude towards motherhood and her reaction to her sister’s revelation that the money raised in the auction is to go to a charity that prevents maternal mortality. Things which are far more likely to cause major anguish if they’re challenged (and of course they will be) further down the line.

Luke, without his own point of view, is more shadowy. What’s going through his head only comes out through his actions, reactions and words. He’s attracted to Emily but probably doesn’t want to be. He’s also reluctant to reveal the real reason why he bid for her, which means it must be a big deal to him and very personal. If it wasn’t he’d just come out and say it. But he doesn’t. Just as Emily doesn’t tell him the real reason why she doesn’t want to go to the wedding. What’s more, they each suspect the other is holding back on this. (Could this be construed as conflict? I’m not sure.)

Which brings me on to another point: how do you know what to reveal when? Now this is only my very inexperienced opinion, but I reckon that backstory should be woven into the action/dialogue/introspection if and when it’s needed to explain a character’s motivations. (I think I may have broken a rule or two with my flashback though, so don’t take my word for it.) And it's a similar thing with foreshadowing. Which is why I have to constantly dart back and forth through my ms as I write filling in bits to make sense of what I've just written.

I think it's Kate Walker in her 12-Point Guide to Writing Romance who likened emotional conflict to an onion. Lots of layers. By peeling off and dealing with each layer, you reveal another and another until you get to the heart of the matter. In the case of Mills & Boon romance, each layer also tends to be worse than the previous one.

To continue with the onion analogy, I reckon that each layer should be peeled off at the point where it’ll have most impact. At the beginning of my story, if Luke said to Emily as they’re getting off the plane, ‘Enjoy the wedding. Oh, and by the way I’ve sworn off love because my wife died and I never want to go through that again’, she’d probably think she’d had a lucky escape. If, on the other hand, he tells her that just after she’s realised she’s in love with him, well, that’s going to have a dramatic effect.

Does any of this make any sense whatsoever? Obviously my waffling above is only my opinion and refers to my story and my characters. The intensity, nature and focus of emotional conflict will be different in each story and there are many other more experienced writers out there who are far better at dissecting this sort of thing than me. Anyway, I've gone on for quite long enough, but I’d be fascinated to hear other opinions and if anyone has any questions, do ask.

20 February 2009

Contracts, characters and conflict

I sent off my contract this morning which was most exciting. I have no publication date or title or the slightest idea if my revisions were any good, but not to worry, there have been distractions aplenty.

Not only is Mills & Boon going militant, up in arms about Warrington Station's kissing ban, but Feel the Heat runner-up Jackie Ashenden has been running a fascinating series of posts about external v. internal conflict, stereotypes and editorial feedback.

Which got me thinking about how I go about setting up a story. Messily and randomly, generally; my thought processes are a work in progress in themselves.

But take my latest WIP which is still by-and-large plotless. I recently read an article about how one of the few industries to actually do well out of recession is PR. So I thought, OK, my heroine will work in PR. A good excuse to write glam launch party scenes, if nothing else. So what sort of person would work in PR? Extrovert, good at socialising, confident, a people person. Fine.

Now, let's make her the owner of her own PR agency. She's obviously driven, successful and independent, but why? Well, what if she comes from an over-achieving family where great things are expected from all family members and failure is not an option? And what if (given the brilliance of her siblings) she's not entirely convinced that she's up to the job? How would that manifest itself? And what if she's rubbish with men? As she's been brought up to pursue success and avoid failure, she'd probably steer well clear.

So what would be her greatest fears? Failure would be one, I guess. And that someone will see through her. Oh, and (to a lesser extent) meeting an irresistible man who's not much of a people person and is a bit of a loner. For her inner conflicts to really come into their own, then, she needs to fail at something. Big time. And she needs to meet the hero, who naturally is not much of a people person, is a bit of a loner but has an uncanny ability to see through people.

And then we start on the hero. If he's going to be a loner then he'll rely on himself and he'll have a loner-y kind of job. But why would he be a loner? Why wouldn't he rely on anyone else? And why is he good at seeing through people? And what would he really really hate to happen?

Crikey, this sort of analysis could go on for ever. With any luck the answers will lead me to the plot, although I'm rather hoping my characters will do it for me. The only thing I do know is that whatever does happen, it'll make them confront their fears and they'll hate it.

I think.

And as if that wasn't enough, all this needs to happen against a backdrop of sparkling repartee and smouldering looks. I suddenly feel quite weak.

16 February 2009

Sizzling in Scotland?

A couple of weeks ago, while brainstorming my current wip, I decided to send my new hero and heroine to the hero's island off the west coast of Scotland. This may have been subconsciously inspired by my (then) forthcoming trip to said west coast of Scotland or it may have been due to the range of my hero's plane. Or it may be that I have this image in my head of my heroine marching around in the rain wearing a silk negligee, a battered Barbour and a pair of wellies. Who knows?

Anyway, I had hoped that the trip last weekend to meet my new nephew might provide some inspiration. But through the mist and drizzle it was hard to see much at all (although a visit to the Glengoyne whisky distillery was, um, illuminating).

This is worrying. Scotland in February is cold, wet and windy and my heroine, I fear, will spend quite a bit of time being cold, wet and grumpy. Not very glamorously sizzlingly Modern Heat, is it?

11 February 2009

Valentine's Day

You know Valentine's Day is looming when the BBC turns philosophical and ponders the question 'What is Love?', newspapers lament the demise of the love letter and American psychologists reduce a kiss to a chemically-induced sensation of cortisol and oxytocin.

There is even a suggestion that an ideal Valentine gift For Her might be a silver-plated afternoon tea stand. I kid you not. This is apparently the ideal gift because 'afternoon tea is always well-received'. Better not come and visit me then. (Not only because of the lack of afternoon tea but also because I currently have my nose stuck in 'Love Letters of Great Men' which serendipitously arrived in my Amazon delivery yesterday and wouldn't be the best company.)

So what is love? What is romance? Is it lovenotes stuck to the bathroom mirror? Two dozen roses? Being told that 'a reasonable man might gladly travel three or four thousand leagues to see your nature, and your wit, in their full perfection'? Or is it silver-plated afternoon tea stands?

(I'm off to Scotland tomorrow for a few days, so Happy Valentine's Day!)

07 February 2009

I'm stumped

I'm trying to complete a biography and interview for the authors' pages on the M&B/eharlequin sites. There are two questions which have me stumped:

a) What tip would you give your readers to make their lives more romantic?
b) What is the one thing you've always wanted to do, but never had the courage to try?

My immediate thoughts were a) Me? I'm not one of the most romantic people on the planet and am therefore hardly qualified to give tips and b) Naturally the only things I can think of are either illegal or immoral.

But I don't think this is quite what they're after so unless anyone has any better ideas, I shall probably have to plump for a) take time to listen and b) bungy jumping.

05 February 2009


My new WIP now has a working title of 'Private Relations' (a bit cringe-worthy, I know) and a wordcount of 2800. My heroine now has a fear of failure and my hero now has a handbag-designing ex-drug addict of a sister. I, on the other hand, still don't have much of a plot.

They say that writing the second book is much harder than the first. I don't know about this yet because goodness, it's hard to concentrate when you're waiting for the verdict on revisions...

02 February 2009


I spent the weekend brainstorming ideas for a new story and researching personality types on the internet. (How on earth did people ever do research in pre-internet days?) As a result I have an over-achieving PR girl, a lone-wolf business angel but not much of a plot.

I also tried to set up a website but after about half an hour my brain melted.

What did you get up to?