Waiting for "The Call"

“Honey, it’s always crap. Every book I write is crap. It’s my job to fix the crap afterwards,” according to Nora Roberts. Well, I've got it half right. Still working on the "fixing it" part. "Trust your characters to be complex enough and to have enough emotional baggage. Force them to make hard choices." Advice from Michelle Styles that might help!

A “bathtub moment”- on internal conflict March 30, 2009

Filed under: Writing and Life — Autumn Macarthur @ 10:35 pm
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 (Dream bathroom from Castello Baths)







I had something of a revelation this evening. In the bath as always! Reminds me of one of the codebreakers at Bletchley during World War 2 who did his best thinking in a warm bath, so had one installed in his office. Or Archimedes and and his Eureka moment. Instead of lightbulb moments, bathtub moments.

Anyway, the where is irrelevant. The what blew me away!

Okay, it’s basic. Embarrasingly basic. So basic anyone reading this is probably thinking, “Der, how could anyone not know that.”

I finally got internal conflict at the relationship block level and why it’s so important to a good romance.

It’s important not just because it is where the emotional intensity is, but because it is also the key to reader identification. The thing I realised about internal conflict is that it is universal.

The external conflicts are specific to the situation of the characters in the story. Not many readers are going to be surprise princesses, billionaires’ mistresses, or blackmailed heiresses. Nor are many of us lucky enough to meet princes, sheiks, or drop-dead gorgeous mega rich CEOs in our day to day lives. But we all know those internal conflicts, because in one way or another we will all have experienced at least one  of them at least once. Those potential or real blocks to realtionships, that are just part of being a human. The core, gut-deep beliefs about ourselves and love that will feel the same for a waitress as a princess, a bricklayer as a billionaire.

Things like “I don’t deserve to be loved because of the things I’ve done”. “No-one loves me for myself, only for what I do for them.” “I want to take the chance of loving, but I’m afraid of being hurt again.” “It’s selfish to choose love over duty.” “I’m not worthy of love.” “It’s not safe for me to let someone know I care for them, because that makes me weak.” These are the things that would get in the way of this character having a relationship with anyone, not just the hero or heroine.

The internal conflict is the character having to make a difficult choice between options- choose the relationship, or choose the relationship block. Do they go for what feels safer based on their core belief, choosing aloofness, power, strength, safety, silence, duty, affairs? Or do they choose the risk of a committed loving relationship, with this one man or woman who is challenging their most central beliefs?

So the real internal conflict isn’t “Can I give up being a Princess to marry this man?”, it’s “Do I deserve to choose personal happiness over doing my duty?”, and “Can I believe I am worthy of love?”. It’s not “Can I give up my single life in New York to marry this woman?”, it’s “Can I risk letting go of control over my life?”, and “Dare I risk letting someone close again when the end of a love is so painful?”


Getting unstuck March 29, 2009

Filed under: Writing and Life — Autumn Macarthur @ 1:45 pm
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000-title-page-detail-angel-with-whip-q75-449x500Hmm, thinking about that pitch contest and my frustrations with the current story has me ready to, well, probably not give up, but definitely take some time out. A looooong time out.

It’s official- I hate Luk and Gabi. I just want to put them in a car and drive it off a cliff into the sea, and type The End.
Well, not really. I actually like both of them a lot. But I am so fed up with struggling with their freaking going-nowhere story! I’ve done no other writing apart from their story for nearly four months, and where am I up to? Half way through chapter two, for the fourth time! Arrrggghhh!
I really do want to just stop, have a break from them. Spend a week doing no writing but lots of reading, or go back and edit last years JanNo, or play around with some different story ideas, or something. Anything that’s not this story!
But maybe I won’t, maybe I’ll keep going with it. Thinking about how I would pitch the story, not just for a contest but for my writing group,  just gave me an idea for what the story might need. Because if I can’t get the essence of the story in a few simple sentences, my plot is too convoluted and the characters’ internal conflicts aren’t central enough to the story.
Funny how giving myself permission to moan and say I want to stop produces more ideas! Looks like I didn’t really want to give up, I just wanted to get unstuck.
Hopefully this idea will make sense of things that didn’t make sense in the story once I took out the villain. He needed to go, he was becoming too much the driver of the action rather than the H and h, but then I didn’t have a strong enough reason for Gabi becoming princess to be important. I’d lost a big chunk of motivation. But this might put it back! It does require some changes,  actually it’s closer to my original premise for the story.
So it’s not a new idea at all, it’s taking my new knowledge of the characters back into my very first setting and premise, that the country Gabi finds herself princess of is one that has just come out of communism. Okay, I know all that happened years ago in the real world, but this one little country didn’t do it then, held on to the old ways, and now they want to reinstate the monarchy. That explains why all week I’ve wanted to change Gabi’s name to Emma, too. It was Emma in the original version, then when I changed the setting and situation, I changed her name to Gabriella.
Yippee! I can have some fun playing with this, I think it might just work and I can just write forward from here. I am not going back to rewrite what’s already been done! And I might just escape the wrath of my writing group’s motivational expert, who uses techiques rather like the avenging angel in the photo. I know, I know, some people pay good money for a whipping. But pain is just so not my thing!

Agency pitch contest

Filed under: Writing and Life — Autumn Macarthur @ 12:08 pm
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Thought I’d post this here in case anyone who visits hasn’t seen it elsewhere- a fab opportunity for anyone with a single title story ready to go. The Knight Agency is running a “Book in a Nutshell” competition- send in a 150 word pitch for your story, it has the chance of winning representation by the agency. They handle a range of genres including romance and women’s fiction, paranormal, suspense. The twenty best pitches will be invited to submit a full for consideration. Heres the link to the announcement on their blog. Closing date is 20th April.

I’m not planning on entering as I don’t have anything single title in remotely submittable form. My chick-lit JanNo is still a first draft disaster area, I’ve got so bogged down with my WiP I haven’t even started to edit it yet.  But go for it guys and girls who do!

Hmm, I am so tempted to take a break from my princess story and play with the older story for a month. I can justify it- I’ll come back fresh to my WiP and actually make some progress, plus I wanted to edit my JanNo for my RNA New Writers’ Scheme entry. Decisions, decisions! The girls in my writing group will probably murder me if I take time off the WiP now, I did promise I would keep going ’til I first drafted it. Problem is, I am stuck. I’ve been going round and round in circles on this same story since December, I’ve written God knows how many words on it, probably fifty thousand counting all my agonising about the plot as well as the twenty something thousand of story, and I’m still only on chapter two! For the fourth time. Ack! Maybe the private jet taking them to Melusia can crash and they can all die, and I can start another story!

Tempting, but I guess not. I do like to keep my promises. This is a good question though- when should we give up on a story that sounded promising but ends up going nowhere?

Anyway,  even if I’m going to stay with the current story, working up a pitch will be helpful. It’s a useful exercise thinking how I can summarise my story in a 150 words or less. Asking- what is the essence of my story, my characters, their relationship blocks and conflicts?  To have distilled the key features of the story down to a few words should help me to stay focused, when I’m going adrift in my writing.

I seriously need to do it now, to get that strong handle on what is essential to my plot, what has to happen for each character to reach their HEA. I love thinking up new ideas, digging deep into my characters, but can end up losing focus, making things too complex and messy and diffuse, having too much external stuff happening and neglecting the internal conflict, where the real emotional intensity lives. I need to go back and not just read but do what Laurie Campbell describes in this article on putting together a Pitch . I am sooooo bad for that, reading some fab advice but failing to ever follow up by doing something about it!


Stephanie’s book! March 9, 2009

Filed under: Writing and Life — Autumn Macarthur @ 6:35 pm

Perfect Target

Here’s the link to Perfect Target, Stephanie’s new book for Harlequin’s  Love Inspired Suspense. See why I said it had the coolest cover- that is soooo atmospheric!

I can only imagine how exciting it must feel to see the book she’s worked so hard on in print, her name on the cover. But I’m sure I’ll be finding out, sometime…. a lot of words in the future!

The first of many books for you, Stephanie. I love seeing writers I know from eHarl and other blogs and discussion groups getting published!