Monday, July 31, 2006

The Blank Page - How Inner POV can contradict Dialogue

Remember we talked a little about how a woman tends to think about things and read between the lines more than a man? Yes, c’mon, you know we *all* do it!

Well, add some of that inner POV to your dialogue and you can create conflict with very little effort… What you need to know before you use this method, is whether or not your heroine is the kind of gal that would do that… Which brings us back to knowing your characters before you even start…

I can’t stress how important this is. Because the whole story hinges around these two people and who they are; their emotional issues, what has happened in their lives to shape them, and a hundred other small things will all add together to make up their personalities. And just like making a new friend or learning to care about someone in real life, it’s the personality that can make all the difference – looking great is one thing but in a book we can’t *look* at them, not beyond what’s on the cover – it’s the personality that will make us give a damn what happens to these people!!!

And if we give a damn then we’re gonna wanna know what happens to them, aren’t we? Which adds to that elusive page-turning quality…

So, let’s say our heroine is a guarded type, holding back a part of herself and cautious… she doesn’t want to give to much away, and she isn’t getting too much information from the hero… what’s she gonna do? She’s gonna think things through and quite often make assumptions or try reading between the lines, cos she really has no other choice… Being honest and saying aloud what she thinks or feels may take half the book – and is a massive part of her EMOTIONAL JOURNEY… so let’s see how that inner POV may contradict what the dialogue is saying to us…

Again, we’re going to use Project: Parenthood and we’re starting with the dialogue alone and using our checklist from before to ask – does it make sense (even when spoke aloud) – Does it flow like a normal conversation – Has it let us know something about the characters therefore moving the story forwards???

“So. No kids of your own then?”
“No. No kids of my own. I’m too busy with my career.”
“Not for as long as you have these three, you’re not.”
“No, the busy part is still there. This wasn’t a booked visit.”
“How are you going to manage then? Will your husband help?”
“I’m too busy with my career for a husband.”
“You must be doing great in work, then.”
“As a matter of fact I am. Thanks.”
“Well, good for you.”
“I suppose you’re moving a nice wee wife and twelve kids in across the road, then?”
“Nope, just me.”


So, have you done the checklist? Did the dialogue on its own do what it had to do?

With this passage of dialogue we could then go several directions when we add in our next layers. Remember a ‘layer’ is things like POV, outside action, movement, physical reaction, scents, sounds… layers…. So when we add some layers to this scene we could make it a normal, polite, pass the time kind of conversation, couldn’t we? But is that going to add to the conflict in some way? Is it going to give us insight into our characters thoughts and feelings so that we understand their personalities better and can therefore understand why they do the things they do?? Nope. Nice and polite, unless layered with deep POV that tells us it’s a farce, really isn’t going to encourage us to keep turning a page…

On the flipside of that we could add POV that will suggest at severe paranoia on both sides, with them both reading something into every single line… Well, we could if we wanted them to come across as psychos…. But these are supposed to be ordinary human beings with their own set of understandable problems and a reasonable amount of emotional baggage. (For these lines anyway) Like everyone else the same age in real life… And really, do we want the reader to think they need therapy and throw the book down in disgust???

Dunno about you, but I’d prefer it if that didn’t happen…

So, what we need to do, is keep enough POV and doubt and conflict and emotion on each and every page for us to understand our characters and want to know what happens to them next… We want to will them to a HAPPY EVER AFTER

Dialogue is the backbone for this scene. With added layers of movement and POV from the heroine you get this….

“So.” His voice sounded from her knee height, “No kids of your own then?”
“No. No kids of my own.” For some completely unknown reason she felt she had to justify that. “I’m too busy with my career.”
“Not for as long as you have these three, you’re not.”
Well, thank you, Brendan, for stating the obvious. She scowled at his back as he finished jacking up the car and reached for the wrench. “No, the busy part is still there. This wasn’t a booked visit.”
His voice came out with a slight grunt as he worked on the first wheelnut. “How are you going to manage then? Will your husband help?”
Subtle one.
“I’m too busy with my career for a husband.”
“You must be doing great in work, then.”

“As a matter of fact I am. Thanks.” Her scowl promoted itself to a frown.
He nodded as he freed the last nut and wrenched the tyre off. “Well, good for you.”
If she’d been a dog she’d have growled at him. In the space of a few sentences he’d made her feel as if the years since she’d parted company with him had been achievement-free. Just because his goals were different from hers, it didn’t mean hers were any less fulfilling!
After all, she owned her own house - along with the bank. She almost completely owned her car. Her bank balance was healthy enough to allow a shopping spree at least once a month, and she paid every one of her bills before the ink turned red. She thought she was doing pretty well for someone her age.
Who was he to waltz in and criticize?
“I suppose you’re moving a nice wee wife and twelve kids in across the road, then?”
He rose and turned round, lifting the spare tyre with one hand as he grinned at her, “Nope, just me.”
Damn it, he’d caught her hadn’t he? He hadn’t been trying to criticize her life: he’d been fishing for information. And he’d got it. And now he was grinning at her with a sparkle in his eyes that’s said,
Gotcha.


On its own the dialogue could have been a simple, pass the time while a tyre was changed kind of a conversation. But when you add in the layer of POV then it takes on a whole new dimension. Now we have gotten to know more about our heroine – she has the same issues that women all over the world have – that little part inside of herself that is still warring with that age old feminine battle of career Vs family. And she may even be projecting some of her own guilt with that choice onto our hero. When all the poor bloke was trying to do was suss out whether or not she was still single… and then subtly or not so subtly letting her know he was too…which is in direct contradiction to the nice and easy tone he was using as he went along…

Make sense?

And we can use this method to do all sorts of things. The heroine could have gone further with her assumptions and turned her thoughts into snide little answers that could have led to an argument. Which the hero wouldn’t have got. After all, he wasn’t looking for an argument, was he? And so we are adding to the conflict…

Incidentally, that’s exactly what the heroine does later on...

But gradually, as the relationship progresses, just as in real life, things happen and information is gradually given, until there is a level of trust where sharing can begin more freely. And this is pretty true to life I think. And it shows an emotional development between them, perhaps a changing of opinions and something learnt about themselves through the growing relationship. And that’s an emotional journey….

Now, I might just have to have a wee think about what to cover next… Maybe do another poll and you guys can tell me what you want to chat about???

I’ll do one tomorrow then shall I?? You say… I Blog….

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Day Full of Mega NEWS!!!!

So much Good News today that I barely know where to start!!!!
First up I'll do the news I've had to hold inside for over a week now. And I don't do secrets or lying well... They try so hard to claw their way out of me!!!
This is my very lovely Critique Partner and good, good friend Donna Alward. And Donna has had one heck of a year! To top it all off she has just sold her first title to the new Romance line - entitled Hired By The Cowboy - It's a May 2007 release and Donna now has the rare accolade that I myself hold, she's the only one of her nationality in the Romance line!!! Great fun! Please do pop over to her Blog and tell her congrats! She's earned it!!!

Anyhow's I met Donna through the eharlequin boards and when she mentioned she had entered a contest I went over and read her excerpt. Mmmm I thought. This gal has something! I'd never had a cp myself, but I offered to critique the entire book for her if she wanted me to and surprisingly enough she did! Hence a working relationship was born... And I have to say I've learned plenty along the way too... But then if you don't learn something new every day then why get up??? Donna made her first two sales to Samhain Publishing this year and it was only a matter of time before she sold to Romance - so I'm chuffed to bits for her!! Very very proud!!! And thrilled to welcome her to the family!!!! Now may have to go have a glass of something sparkly and a Mother hen weepy moment....
And from the newest signing to the line to the Queen of The Line!!!!
The very gorgeous and lovely Liz Fielding has won the RITA award from the Romance Writer's of America for Best Short Contemporary Romance 2005!!!!!!!
For those of you that don't know this is like the Oscar of the writing world and it's a mega mega achievement!!! Liz won with the truly gob-smackingly superb The Marriage Miracle and although she may argue this, I think there were dozens of Writers in the online community and beyond - who never had a doubt that this book was gonna win!!
And d'you know - it couldn't have happened to a nicer person! Liz was one of the first big name authors I met at my first AMBA Lunch in London three years ago come this September. I even sat next to her very gorgeous husband at supper in the lovely Sophie Weston's house that evening. And I have never forgotten how very nice they both were. You've only to *meet* Liz online to get a sense of that. She's very supportive of new writers and the line that we write for, consistantly writes sensational stories that the rest of us get to bask in a reflected glow from within the line and she sets a benchmark that we can all aspire to. And she does this with a grace and modesty that honestly, put's her up into the status of Literary Royalty as far as I'm concerned!
So, pop by Liz's Blog to wish her a huge congratulations and if you haven't already then Read The Book!!! Whether you wanna study writing or you just want a great read... Liz is your gal!
CONGRATULATIONS LADIES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, July 29, 2006

The lovely Ally review & Writing tips links

The very gorgeous Ally Blake has been kind enough to post the very first review of White-Hot! and d'ya know - she made it sound not half bad!!! We love Ally!!!

To read the review go to Ally's Blog.

Ally is doing a talk at the Romance Writer's of Australia conference in a couple of weeks entitled Sexy vs Sweet - The Ultimate Showdown where she will be comparing books from the Tender/Romance/Sweet line with the Modern/Presents/Sexy line and the new Modern Extra/Sexy Sensation line. I'm disgusted I'll be missing it!!! Maybe if we all suck up to her lots she'll post it on her site when she comes back??? It's worth a try gang...

And on a side-note... Isn't she just too good looking for her own good??? It's as well she's married so we single gals don't have to hate her... Though how someone can eat as many M&M's as Ally does and still manages to look that good...!!! I've only to write the word M&M and I put on a pound... so that's two for this blog already... Grrr...

Meanwhile. Back here in the cave. I've finally got round to making a page on the website that links to all the different blogs we've done on writing. We'll add each blog as it appears so in the meantime, if you've missed any of my ramblings you can catch up on the Writing Tips page...

And calling all you Pink Hearters out there! Exciting things are happening this next month!!! And we'll be seeking you all out to put your opinions in! We have set up a Yahoo loop that anyone - readers, writers, bloggers, reviewers and general appreciators of hot men/Rom-Coms and Shipper Shows can join - so do pop over and add your name on the Pink Heart Society Homepage. And we have a sample blog page up here so you can watch as we work our way throught the set up process and you can tell us what you'd like to see... It's free to have your link added to the Society so just e-mail us if you'd like to join and Watch This Space.... I'm excited!!! The Society will launch officially on 1st September with competitions and goodies galore so I do hope you'll join us!!!

Friday, July 28, 2006

The Blank Page - Using Dialogue For Back-Story...

Just in case I haven’t said it already, I think the thing to remember when you’re writing, no matter what category you’re writing for, is that the characters will always have one vital thing in common…

They are all human beings …

This means that they all have to figure each other out, learn about each other and communicate, in the same way the rest of us do. So in writing believable characters you have to understand people. I think this is why you’ll find very few writers who haven’t been crowd watchers at some point in their lives…

So, as ‘ordinary’ human beings, our characters don’t have the narrative or layers of deep POV to understand their counterparts that we would find in a book, any more than we do in real life. And it’s this very important detail that I’ve learnt the hard way to keep to the front of my mind as I write.

Keeping in the back of your mind the two pertinent facts we’ve already discussed:
The Emotional Journey &
The fact that we only have 50-60k to play with;
Then this human aspect becomes all the more important. Because through the dialogue we can add information, dribble in back-story and allow for all the types of misinterpretation that can occur in real life without the benefit of a narrative on the person we’re with…

How many times growing up have you heard a friend bemoaning the fact that she just doesn't get what's going on in her boyfriends mind? You may even have said it a time or two yourself. I know I have! And it's simply because she/we/I don't have a manual that we can read that let's us inside this person's mind to read the POV they have. So how do/does she/we/I find out? We talk, we have conversations, we ask questions. Quite often to the disgust of the guy in question. Cos they don't always feel the need to talk things through like we do!!! Mind you, in a book we can make up for that with the odd secondary character...

Now, keeping in mind that the lines I write for are heroine driven (mostly), we have yet another opportunity for added conflict. Cos there’s nothing like a woman to read between lines and interpret dialogue in such a way that 2 + 2 equals 7…

And as a woman I can say that!!!

So your characters dialogue can cause as many problems as it might solve…

For now, let’s look at the dilemma of back-story. As we’re jumping straight into the ‘action’ with a short category, due to the word count restraints, we really can’t spend a lot of time on long passages of narrative that fill in the back-story, the lives our characters had before the book started that make them who they are when our story starts. Exactly the same as any people we may meet in their twenties and thirties; they have a wealth of experiences and emotional issues that have shaped them.

So, what we’ve got to do is try and drizzle all this through the story as we progress. We can use hints of it in the way they react to a given situation, we can add little lines here and there in the narrative to tease the reader and get them thinking and, we can allow our two main characters to get to the heart of it through the dialogue…

Even two people who knew each other before, may not have really known each other as well as they thought they did. So, with dialogue alone, let’s look at Teagan and Brendan in my November Romance release; Project: Parenthood.

“Anne is very fond of you.”
“She’s been a great neighbour and very friendly since I moved in.”
“Not too close, though?”
“I don’t have that many close friends outside of work these days.”
“So, I’m not the only one you keep at arms length then?”
“No, I guess not.”
“Tell me about Eimear?”
“What do you want to know?”
“Anything you think you can tell me without it starting another argument would be good. This could be a pretty long journey if we spend all of it not talking.”
“She’s beautiful. But then I’m a little biased, seeing as I was kind of a Mother to her most of her life.”
“She’s younger than you, I remember that much. By how much?”
“Four years. She was my parents’ second attempt at making things better.”

When you read over that dialogue, or read it aloud – ask the questions off our dialogue check list again… Does it make sense? Does it flow like normal conversation? Has it let us know something about the characters thereby moving the story forwards?

People discover things about people by talking to them. You know that. I know that. So why would we try to be clever and change that when we come to tell a story? After all, we want these people to be as real and believable as possible, don’t we?

So, even if we do tell the reader a lot in narrative and deep POV, we’re still gonna have to find a way for the characters themselves to discover that information, right? Which means we could end up telling that part of the story twice; a use of words we really can’t spare in a short contemporary! So let the characters and the reader know at the same time through the dialogue… It's what works for me…

Then, once you’ve allowed the information to start to seep through you can let it either make sense of some of the characters past or future behavior promoting a greater understanding between them. Or you can use it as a way for them to discover more to keep them apart, adding to the conflict. The thing is, it has added to the flow of the story without you having to add a large paragraph of background ‘dump’.

Make sense?

Next up. How inner POV can contradict the Dialogue, adding to the conflict…

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Word Count & Writing Tips & More reasons to watch Golf

I have just had the best day's writing! 5000 words! And not even a sniff of a late deadline in there... There's nothing beats a nice evocative setting, lots of fog on a dark night and a good aul row! Keelin may be small in stature - but she's a fiesty one... Poor Garrett... ;) So watch the wormie thing ladies... hee hee... I might actually *make* this deadline...

Meanwhile, newest Romance writer Fiona Harper has been blogging about Goal, Motivation, Conflict. A very good writing exercise gang! So pop on over and have a look see... This gal is way way too organized if you ask me... But it makes a whole heap of sense! If I was just less of a panster...

And that other good reason to watch the Golf when the US Open plays next month? Meet Adam Scott... Phew! Now that is one beautiful man. And if one pic isn't enough then allow me to show you another... (I *cough* have *cough* more *cough*)... Anyone suddenly feel a renewed interest in watching that little white ball hit around a course??? I can even tell you about birdies, eagles and pars now... the other famous golf term is too full of innuendo for me to post on here... Maybe I should have a golfing hero in my next Modern Extra???

I'm gonna try and drag myself away from Keelin and Garrett tomorrow long enough to do the next bit on Dialogue. It's just, you know, when the words are flowing...

As for my creative current mood. No, I'm not thinking of taking up portrait painting - and yes, it may have something to do with the subliminal message my brain is getting from all the fence paint that is currently in my shed... but I like to think it's cos Keelin and Garrett are making me believe that I might not actually have peaked with Breathless and every book from there on in will be all downhill...

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Parties & Writing & Golf...

Well, I'm still struggling away with the WIP... Have decided that Garrett does indeed have a daughter - a teenage one - And surrounded as I am by teenage neices and nephews I can't begin to tell you the amount of conflict that's gonna add to the story...

Now, if, like me you are feeling vaguely left out not being at the RWA Conference in Atlanta this week, then why not head over to Lucy Monroe's Blog where they're having a huge NANTY party (Not At The Nationals This Year)... They're having loads of guest appearances from Authors - including my good friend Nicola Marsh - and a tonne of giveaways! Some really interesting blogs so far so why not head over for a wee visit? I'm already way too distracted by it... It's a great way of meeting new authors and seeing a little of their work and you can throw your two-penneth worth into the comments and win some goodies! Wish I'd known about this last year - but next year - I'll be in Dallas!!! WOO-HOO!!! We're already planning a party in Jenna Bayley-Burkes Room.... ;)

Meanwhile, over on the eharlequin boards the lovely Barbara Hannay has supplied us with a link to some great writing articles - Which are really worth a look-see - especially while you wait ever so patiently for me to drag myself away from the hellish place of doubt and uncertainty that is Chapter Three... (insert usual scary music and lightning...) - Anyway this first link gets you to a great page where you can have a look see if your writing is Character Driven or Action Driven - which, if you've been following our talks on writing in here you'll know is an important thing to look at... What are we looking for in the lines I write for do you think...mmm??? If you let me know how your test works out I might share my results...

But the site itself is a great resource, well worth book-marking! Go have a browse around and let me know what you think....

And another distraction I have managed to find in between moving horses and worming everything with four legs - was the British Open Golf Championships. Now, I'm not a golfer (it once took a group of friends and myself five hours to get round a nine hole Mini-Golf course!!! And the poor man in a JCB in the building site next door to the place took a hammering...) And normally I don't watch golf on TV. But this year... well... apart from the fact that it was a close run thing until the last nine holes... I discovered something else interesting about Golf... well, two things actually... The first one being Sergio Garcia...

I feel a whole new era of the Hero Database approaching... The things I watch for research!

And if you're all good little gals then I might even introduce you to Adam Scott...

Any bit of wonder Golf is suddenly so popular again!!! Mind you, some of the fashion still has a lot to answer for. Seriously. In the meantime I say bring on the US Open!!!!!!

Friday, July 21, 2006

The Blank Page - Looking at Dialogue

First up a big thanks for your patience while I gradually melt my way through the days here… The Met office promises a few days a degree or two lower… here’s hopin!!!

Now, dialogue. You’d think this would be a breeze, wouldn’t you? After all, we spend every day of our lives speaking , right? But when it comes to using it as a part of the greater puzzle that is putting together a book it transforms into something very different and often difficult.

‘Cos we’re not just using it as a way of getting our characters to talk; we are also using it to show their attitude, their mood, their personality, their relationship with whoever their talking to and even the small matter of where they’re from…

Oh, and it also has to flow – pulling the story along…

So, let’s think about this logically. Well, at least as logically as you can from the recesses of my mind.

And remember, when we talk about dialogue, you need to see it as a layer. You’ll hear writers talking a lot about adding a layer of one thing or another. A layer is an ingredient, a part of what makes up the whole, and hopefully some of this little chat will show you that…

For me, the real test of good dialogue is if it can have everything else around it pulled out, and still make sense and give us information…

Let’s work on Marriage Lost And Found:

First with dialogue only…

“Hello A.J.”
“Ethan.”
“Happy Birthday.”
“You know this guy?”
“You could say that.”
“I don’t believe we’ve met, I’m Abigail’s Mother.”
“It’s nice to meet you.”
“You’re American.”
“Yes, I am. And you are?”
“I’m Abbey’s boyfriend.”
“That’s nice. I’m Ethan Wyatt. Abbey’s husband.”

From this you can see the dialogue has flowed along like a normal conversation. It’s a first meeting for many of the characters, and that’s apparent from the way that much of the dialogue is polite, maybe even a little formal. Try speaking it aloud, does it make sense? Do you get a sense of what’s going on?

Dialogue is the first of many layers. It should make sense on it’s own, especially when spoken aloud. And accents in bold should make sense when emphasized as you speak them. Then we add another couple of layers in the form of movement and inner thought to complete it…

She watched Karyn’s eyes as they gradually moved up to look at the man, felt the air displace behind her and was about to turn when a deep voice sounded,
“Hello A.J.”
Her breath caught in her chest and she slowly turned to look up into familiar hazel eyes. It couldn’t be, but it was. He was here.
“Ethan.”
Ethan smiled a slow, lazy smile at her, “Happy Birthday.”
Karyn moved slightly to stand at their side, “You know this guy?”
Abbey’s heart pounded noisily against her ribcage, her eyes still refusing to believe what they saw in front of her. She’d thought about it for so long. What she’d say and do, every reaction rehearsed a million times over in waking and sleeping moments. And when it came down to it, she’d managed his name. Stunning repartee.
“You could say that,” She murmured.
They continued staring at each other as Paul and Elizabeth moved closer too.
“I don’t believe we’ve met. I’m Abigail’s Mother.”
Ethan turned slightly and smiled more broadly, “It’s nice to meet you.”
“You’re American,” Paul stated the obvious.
“Yes, I am. And you are?”
“I’m Abbey’s boyfriend.”
Ethan raised a dark eyebrow as Paul shook his hand, “That’s nice.” He glanced at Abbey from the corner of his eye, still shaking Paul’s hand as he added, “I’m Ethan Wyatt. Abbey’s husband.”

So here you can see that the dialogue is a building block. It carries the scene forwards, allows us to then add the extra layers that fill in the missing pieces for the reader so that a more complete picture is formed.

And then we have the subtleties – for instance let’s look at Abbey’s name. She’s Abbey to the reader, to her boyfriend Paul and yet to her Mother she is Abigail and to Ethan she is A.J. These differences then become threads as the book progresses. We discover that her relationship with her Mother is strained, hence the more formal use of her name. It’s not until they begin to bond a little better, and their relationship improves, that her Mother then refers to her as Abbey. She is always Abbey to her friends and those who know her best, including the reader we want to feel knows her too. And she’s only ever A.J. to Ethan, so that we can see that the relationship she had with him was very individual. It was his nick-name for her, so she immediately knows it’s him before she even recognizes his voice or turns around to look at him. But that was a nick-name in the past and again, as the story progresses, he uses both forms of her name; Abbey and Abigail. Abbey when they are together and close, Abigail when he wants to tease her… Showing progression in their relationship in the here and now…

Clever huh? I have my moments you know…

But as this story progresses the dialogue tells us many other things. One of the major things it does in this story is highlight the different places our Hero and Heroine come from. She is Irish, he is American. So where she will refer to a footpath; he will refer to a sidewalk. She may talk about the boot of a car; he will refer to the trunk. This means we are always reminded of the differences in their backgrounds.

So, think about where your characters come from. How do the people there speak? If you have them very upper class British then they will speak terribly correctly; will use 'because' instead of ‘cos'. If English is a second language then their dialogue may be stilted at times, may well be interspersed with words from their own language.

I’m often told that there is a very distinct Irish-ness to my books. A compliment I love to hear. But it’s not something I find myself very conscious of doing. I don’t add a lot of background description apart from naming places and making the scenery green. But what I do do is have the people talk as they would over here. Something which ironically enough a reviewer criticized me for in the book we have been using as an example. This particular reviewer found it 'too Irish' in places. And I think I have one character in particular to blame for that…

Hearing music from inside the Fiddler’s as he grew near, he poked his head around the door to see if she was there.
“Ethan!” A chorus of greetings met him from inside, “Come on in and have a jar.”
His eyes glancing round in a unsuccessful search, he moved closer to the bar, “Hey, Tom. How’s that arthritis of yours doing?”
Tom rubbed at his hip, “Sure it’s playing me up all right. I need you to mix me up some of that cure of yours again to make it better.”
Ethan grinned, “Not right now Tom. Maybe later,” He glanced around again, “I don’t s’pose
you’ve seen Abbey anywhere?”
“Ah, sure, she’s away off to Dublin.”
His grin faded, “You sure about that?”
“Aye,” Tom nodded wisely, “John, my youngest, works down at the garage at the other end of town and she filled her car there this mornin’. Off back to Dublin she said.”
“I see.” He frowned hard.
Tom reached out and patted his arm, “Have a drink Ethan.”
Much as he suddenly felt the need for one, he shook his head, “Thanks Tom, but I have to be going. I’ll have to take a rain check on that.”
“What’s that then?”
He managed a small smile, “It means
I hold you to that drink ‘til the next time we meet.”

Tom, bless him, permanent resident at the bar of the Fiddler’s; speaks exactly the way most older Irishmen in bars in tiny villages in Ireland do. His dialogue reflects that. As does Ethan’s Americanism when he uses a phrase that Tom doesn’t understand and has to then explain it…

And if you took out the movement and inner thought layers would that dialogue still make sense? Would you still get that sense of Tom being Irish? And would you still get what was going on???

I read a lot of the works of other Author's both in the lines I write for and beyond. And all of them have this stand-alone quality to their dialogue. Even if they may not realize they're doing it as they write it. Try it with a book from your keeper shelf 'til you see! I bet you'll still have a clear idea of what's going on and I bet if you read the dialogue aloud it will seem very real to you. If it's well done you may even find youself acting out the parts as you speak!

Now that's a sign of good dialogue!!!
There’s so much to go through with dialogue that I’m gonna split it into a few sessions again…

So next time we’ll look at some examples of how we can reveal back-story through dialogue rather than through long descriptive passages…

If everyone hasn’t disappeared off to the conference that is and I'm here talking to myself….

It's off to the heat and the WIP I go...

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

It's too hot!!!

Your Theme Song is Born to Be Wild by Steppenwolf
"I like smoke and lightningHeavy metal thunderRacin' with the windAnd the feelin' that I'm under"
A total independent spirit, you can't be held down or fenced in.You crave the feeling of wind on your face... and totally freedom.


Okay, so I haven't posted on Dialogue yet... I will. Really. Just as soon as I finish MELTING. I live in Ireland for crying out loud. I'm designed for rain. I am not designed to be slow roasted. And I'm blonde. I burn. And I live in a wooden cabin. Which is like being slow roasted in a wood burning stove. Did I mention I BURN???

So I've taken to transporting my wonderous Alphasmart to the waterfall, avec blanket, cushion and bottle of Diet Coke (which goes in the river with some string attached to a rock to keep it cool) 'cos it's the only place that doesn't feel like the top shelf of an oven. But there's no internet connection there. And by the time I come back in to the sweltering hot cabin in the evening and transfer my work across, I'm pooped...

So, can I do it tomorrow? Pweeze?

Did I mention HOW HOT IT IS???

Monday, July 17, 2006

New Beginnings

Well, we're up and running again chaps. New deadline, new story, new hero, new heroine, new research and new bottle of wine... ;) Happy Days!

So meet Keelin O'Donnell, heroine of Love Letters (our new working title) . Dragged all over the world as a child by her famous artist & poet Mother, Keelin has just recently lost that Mother to breast cancer. She finds a pile of old love letters while going through her Mother's things... And now, as she finds herself at a crossroads in her own life, she's going to walk in her Mother's shoes for a while...


And Garrett Kincaid, who gets the most fabulous of entrances as he walks through the mist with his dogs at his feet... Sigh... He's the son of the man who wrote the letters to Keelin's Mother...
At this point he may/may not have a child of his own - not that he doesn't know - I haven't decided yet - he hasn't piped up to tell me and neither has he/she... so time will tell...

And the setting, oh-my-word the setting!!! One of my favourite parts of Ireland, and somewhere I was lucky enough to stay for a few weeks one summer. It's beautiful, inspirational, mystic... And as rural as rural can be without becoming deserted or abandoned...

I give you, in the lovely county of Kerry - Valentia Island, or at least my version of it. The scenery, remote locality, and the fact that you pretty much have to get there by ferry or tiny bridge - well, thats all fact... Just look for yourself... To find out what pieces of it I make up, well, you'll just have to go visit won't you?! I tell you, it's worth the trip...

Now all I need is some kind soul to tell me how many weeks I have 'til 1st September so I can work out a word count target per day... There's always someone who does that for me... Bless...

Saturday, July 15, 2006

The Blank Page - 1st Chapter Relationship Set-up

Okay so here we are, finally I can hear you all say... With the chat about what I’ve learnt about characters and the first chapter.



First chapters aren’t easy. There’s no doubt about it. And even after ten books I still find the first third of the book, particularly the first chapter, the part I end up doing the most work on. So don’t be disheartened. You’re not the only one going through it. And I bet if we ask any of the usual gang which chapter they worry the most about it’ll nearly always be the first few. ‘Cos by the end, inevitably, we pick up ‘speed’, everything falls into place and we can see light at the end of the tunnel…

So, in our first chapter we are setting everything up; we are introducing our characters to the world and inviting the readers to take a walk in the world we have created. As the saying goes; It is the best of times and the worst of times…

The relationship with your characters before the book even begins, before you even put fingers on keyboard, can decide the way that you approach that first chapter. If they have any sort of a past then it can effect the way they are when they meet. Friends have a different rapport, an ease with their conversation and body language around each other that won’t be there with people who have never met before. And people who don’t like each other at the beginning will be different again…

So, once again, it comes back to knowing your characters before you begin.

Remember, we’re jumping the reader straight into the story, we don’t have time for a long lead in or a huge back-story dump. So that first chapter has to show us the subtle differences in the relationships without us having to actually spell it out…

Let’s look at two different stories that start out with two completely different relationships. My two linked stories; that were only available in the UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand…

In Her Real-Life Hero we had two people who had never met before. But a heroine who had been ogling the hero through her window for weeks:

“Stopping in front of the heavy oak, she straightened her robe and swung the door open. The rain-soaked man immediately stepped on past her, shaking his head before he turned to look at her. Then he stared, blinking his blue, blue eyes.
Tara blinked back at him.
He studied her, from her lemon face to her reindeer-clad feet, before raising his eyebrows and smiling, ‘Is this a bad time?’
She continued staring. Him. There he was, right there, larger than life, in her house. Was it Christmas already? What a gift. Water dripped from his rapidly spiking hair, catching her attention. It was raining? Well, that explained her recent meanderings on the computer.
He waved a large hand in front of her face, ‘Hello?’
‘I’m guessing either it’s raining or you just went swimming fully clothed.’ She glanced out through the doorway before closing the door. No jolly man in red in sight.”

Now apart from the fact that the heroine’s sense of humor is plainly obvious, you can also see clearly that the conversation is not that of two people who have met before. As the scene continues we are then given their impressions of each other as those of strangers seeing each other for the first time, they'll have to make introductions, as they continue to talk they even find themselves in a bit of a row; due to a misunderstanding. All things that wouldn’t necessarily have happened if they had already met or were friends before the story started… So we then have to wonder how these two people get to know each other better, how they get past this initial row and the pre-conceptions they have of each other from this first meeting... which draws us into the story...

Let’s then compare this to Her Unexpected Baby, the linked book, which has two characters who have been working together for six months;

“Adam Donovan had the most amazing effect on women.
It was a gift really, and probably had more to do with the way he looked than anything else. Though he could be charming when he really wanted to.
Dana watched as he managed to charm the pants off yet another customer.
It was truly disgusting.
She shook her head the tiniest amount. What on earth did all those women see in him? She decided to make an inventory of all things good about him. Though that did mean putting to the back
of her mind the list she’d already formed of all things bad.
She’d worked with him for months now, and that latter list was getting long…”

So in this case we have a ‘relationship’ already in place, if a somewhat antagonistic one. We can tell that the hero is a good looking guy and that the heroine isn’t exactly swayed by that. So we have established where their relationship is at and it’s a very different case from Her Real-Life Hero, isn’t it? And from this set up in the first chapter, seeing that they don't like each other, you kinda gotta wonder how the heroine ends up pregnant with the hero's baby... Which draws us into the story...

Take one that has an already established friendship like The Bridal Bet and you get;

“ ‘… How anyone over six foot two can possibly have vertigo stuns me. If you were any sort of a gentleman you would have gone up there to rescue Houdini yourself instead of sending me up there!’
‘I hate heights- you know I hate heights. And I still maintain if you didn’t keep rescuing that stupid beast every time he gets stuck then he would soon learn how to get out of these messes on his own.’
She stuck her tongue out at him, then laughed, ‘You always bring out my mature side, It’s one of your less endearing qualities.’
Ryan bent down until his nose almost touched hers, his breath fanning her face, ‘Molly, all my qualities
are endearing. You just haven’t noticed that yet.’
‘You wish!’ “

So here we have a couple who very clearly are already friends before the book begins. The way they bounce off each other, the way they are easy in each others company, tells us that the relationship is already in place, and warm and easy… Which then leads us by the end of the chapter to wondering what changes to make their relationship take that leap from friendship to something more... Which draws us into the story...

Yes, much as I hate to sound like a broken record; it’s yet another case of knowing your characters prior to writing and knowing where you’re headed. What you already know will then have a very direct knock on effect in the way you present them to the reader. In their dialogue. In their body language. Is a stranger likely to lean nose to nose to someone to make a point without the other person thinking it strange, an invasion of their ‘personal space’ or, quite simply threatening?? Unless it’s threatening you’re aiming for then the answer is, no, they wouldn’t.

If it’s enemies meeting then they’re likely to be cold towards one another. If it’s a couple with a painful past then the meeting will be difficult, awkward, they will avoid talking about the things that took them apart in the first place; maybe simply hinting at it because the other person already knows what happened…

In the first chapter, when you drop the reader straight into the story; the kind of relationship they have needs to be made clear to us through showing us, rather than telling us, where they are and what they mean to each other. So think about that. Think about the kind of things they’re likely to discuss, the way they’ll look at each other, little bits of body language that may tell a story in themselves; a nervous tucking of hair behind an ear, a moment of avoiding eye contact, a small smile, a grimace. The little things that tell us more in less words than a full paragraph of back-story would…

Remember: 50-60k odds, depending on the line. So we need to use every scene to its best advantage as succinctly as possible so we can concentrate on that emotional conflict that we may have talked about a time or two…

SHOW RATHER THAN TELL…

And in showing us the kind of relationship already in place before the book even starts, you’ve led us into your story, left us asking questions. You’ve set us up to turn that next page…
It all goes back to what you have in place before you start…

Next up we’ll look at dialogue, if that’s okay with you…???

Thursday, July 13, 2006

And another cover...


And they just keep a-comin!!!
This is the cover for my only ever Silhouette Romance release - O'Reilly's Bride (aka The Pineapple Book). It's part of the programme to amalgamate the line with Harlequin Romance, the first phases of which start in September to create our new Romance Line. So it's the only Silhouette Romance cover I'll ever have...
The book is out in October, sandwiched neatly between White Hot! in September and Project: Parenthood in November... Busy? Me? Nah...
The back blurb reads thus:
"Sean O'Reilly had become so close to his colleague and friend Maggie Sullivan that he was beginning to imagine their friendship could lead to more. Only now, bizarrely, she's backed off - and, even more strangely, she's started looking for love on the internet! Well, if he can't beat them, he'll have to join them...
Maggie can't let herself get close to Sean. Not now. Not when she's discovered something that will break all his dreams of happy-ever-after. But she has no idea how much she has hurt Sean - nor how much she has fuelled his determination to make her his... by any means necessary!"
And following on our theme of first chapters and the importance of that opening... The book begins thus:
"We're just going to have to face up to the fact that we have no choice but to sleep together."
Maggie watched with widening eyes as Sean launched himself into the air and landed on his side on the huge double bed. After a couple of large bounces, caused more by the weight of his large frame than overly generous springing inside the hotel bed, he rolled onto his side and propped an elbow so he could rest his head on his hand.
He patted the mattress with his free hand, "Come on over."
She blinked as he winked at her.
"You know you want to."
So, would you say we've jumped straight into the scene???
Now, I'm off to write the next installment of The Blank Page... ;)

Sunday, July 9, 2006

The Blank Page - Importance of that opening line & what the 1st chapter should tell us

So, you’ve spent some time with those characters of yours, you now know them pretty darn well and you’re sure of the basic place you want them to start off and head towards. Everything is in place… We’re good to go…

So, what do we need this first chapter to do?

I like to think of it as a ‘taster’, you know, like in a ice-cream shop when they let you have a little plastic spoonful before you decide if you want a small cone or a huge tub!! This is our selling platform for the reader, a way of easing them into a story that we hope will hold their attention for the next 250 odd pages… It’s their first glimpse into our world and it needs to make them want to jump straight on in…

One of the biggest compliments I receive from readers is when they tell me they couldn’t put the book down… It means I’ve done my job. Cos, I know, for me, there’s nothing I love better than a book that encourages me to read ‘just one more chapter’ before I switch off the light or go and do what I *should* have been doing.

So, what does the first chapter need?

It needs to introduce us to your hero and heroine as soon as possible. Getting them onto the page together at the start is crucial in a shorter format book. You only have 55 to 60k to tell this story, so you need to get going…

It needs to give us a flavor of their personalities and an idea of what they look like; particularly the hero. Cos if there’s a gorgeous hero in that first chapter it fires the readers imagination and we want them to want to know more, see more… turn that page! For me, I always run with the theory that a heroines physical description can filter through the book beyond the basics in the first chapter. Anyone who has read my work will realize I’m not a big one for descriptions of what she’s wearing… And the thinking behind that, for me, is this; the reader needs to be walking in her shoes… she needs to feel for her, understand her, and almost replace the person on paper with themselves! So I like them to have little detail at the start – and let them use their own imagination as to what she looks like, beyond how the artist has portrayed her on the cover that is…

It needs to lead us into the plot, give us the reasons why these two people are about to embark on that romantic journey. Chapter One sets up the premise, gives us a basic understanding… but leaves us wanting more…

It needs to be ‘snappy’ or ‘punchy’ without too much emphasis on the back-story. (A mistake it has taken me MONTHS to overcome) Its all too tempting to try and flood the reader with information in that first chapter, to try and get them to understand our characters as well as we do so that they understand everything that is yet to come. But that kinda ruins the surprise doncha think??? Its much better to ‘drip-feed’, give us as much as we need to keep the story going, but use the really important background info as a tool later on to create conflicts or black moments… and it stops us from falling into that trap of downloading in the first chapter which slows down the story…

It needs to leave us on a ‘page-turner’ of some kind so we keep going…

How do we manage all this???

Get comfy gang and I’ll tell you what works for me…

The opening segment can tell us so much about the personality of the people in our story. I nearly always start with a single line or a short paragraph…

In The Bridal Bet we had;

“Yes, I am still standing at the bottom of the ladder, and yes, I am looking straight up your dress.”
Ryan grinned and tried valiantly to avert his gaze. It wasn’t easy. Molly O’Brien had great legs; he had never once argued with that. In all his years as her nemesis, friend and elder brother figure he had never once been blind to her good points or her bad. The moment he glanced upwards he was awarded an eyeful of two of those good points…”

So, what have we learnt in that short space of time? We know that their names are Ryan and Molly O’Brien; Ryan’s surname is then revealed in the next line. So we’ve established our hero and heroine…
We know that Ryan has a sense of humor and the kind of relationship with Molly that will allow him to say something that outrageous to her… A fact that is then backed up in the next paragraph by establishing their relationship while at the same time hinting at his awareness of her as a woman, crossing the boundary line between friendship and something more…

There are no written rules for how a first line or paragraph or page is approached, but we do want to ‘drop’ the reader straight into the story, involve them from the first line…

How different would it have been if I’d tried to establish the relationship through a dump of information like;

“Molly O’Brien and Ryan Callaghan had been best friends for their entire life. Molly, twenty-eight and Ryan, thirty, now find themselves sharing a house following Molly’s return from America after six years away when she split up with her boyfriend, who also happened to be Ryan’s friend from University.
Molly has bought a kitten, and it’s stuck on the porch roof. So, with Ryan holding the ladder, they go outside to rescue it, while Molly forgets she’s still wearing a skirt.”

It’s basically exactly the same opening, the same scene. But the information has been ‘dumped’ in one lump. SHOW rather than TELL is the name of the game here… And both examples are six odd lines long. The difference is the first, in print example, shows rather than tells. It ‘drops’ us straight into their world. Involves us from the get go… and therefore draws us into the story…

In a longer novel we can take our time more, we can set up a beautiful atmospheric story with long descriptive passages of the scene around them… But in these books we have 55-60k to work with. So, we’ve gotta get straight to it…

The way that you treat your first chapter can be very dependant on the type of story you’re telling, whether they’re friends or strangers from the start… whether your story requires a short Prologue to set up the premise…

But no matter what you do… the story should draw us in straight away…

Am I the only one that does this? Not in the Romance/Tender line I’m not…

From Natasha Oakley’s 'Ordinary Girl, Society Groom':

“It was true what people said – you were more alone in a crowd than any other place on earth. Eloise Lawton felt as lonely tonight as she ever had.
All she wanted to do was go home, run a bath and soak away her troubles. Instead she was here, making social small talk and avoiding the barbs of people who were fearful of what she might say about their dress sense. As well they might; she’d become more vitriolic of late. She couldn’t seem to help it.”


So Natasha too has told us who her heroine is and has eloquently told us, while setting up the scene, of her heroines sense of loneliness and the fact that she’d really be rather somewhere else than where she is right that moment. Straight into the scene, straight into the characters head, and all in the space of six odd lines…

From Nicola Marsh’s 'Contract To Marry':

“Fleur Adams rushed into the cafĂ©, trying to juggle a portfolio, a laptop, umbrella and handbag while shaking raindrops from her curly hair and cursing the fickle Melbourne weather, a lousy public-transport system and men, in that order.”

So Nicola has told us who our heroine is, where she lives, a brief hint of what she might look like, the fact that she’s a career girl (from what she’s carrying) and that she’s having a pretty rotten day. Straight into the story, smack bang into the characters head, and all in one short paragraph – incredibly that’s all that information in ONE sentence… Wow!

And from Ally Blake’s 'A Father in the Making':

“Ryan pulled off the winding country road onto a long gravel driveway and slowed his car to an idle. A weathered wooden sign at the turn read Kardinyarr. He looked to the return address on the letter laid flat on the passenger seat of his car. Youthful handwriting on lavender stationary, dappled with fairies, smudged with tears, scrunched into a ball, and flattened again, told him this was the place. Kardinyarr was where he hoped against hope to find her. Though she had written the letter several years earlier, Ryan had only stumbled upon it that week, and it was all he had to go on.”

So Ally has introduced us to her hero, has bounced us straight into a scene, inside the characters head as he tries to find what’s he’s looking for. And has also, very cleverly, set up the back-story by telling us about the letter. Lavender paper tells us it’s a woman, fairies tells us she’s whimsical and maybe a little bit of a romantic, tears tells us the letter was hard to write, scrumpled up and flattened tells us she almost didn’t send it. And I don’t know about you, but now I want to know why….

It’s not just me that does this. And it would be worthwhile going to your keepers shelf and seeing how some of your favourite authors managed this. What can those first few paragraphs, that first page, tell us? How fast do they draw you into the story?

And this is part of the reason you need to plan beforehand. Because in order to give us all of this information in such a short space of time, you need to know where you’re going, you need to know your characters and their motivations… You need to have planned ahead.

And then you bring us straight into it!!! Introduce your characters quickly, get us inside their heads, draw us forwards into the story and then ‘drip feed’ little bits of what we need to know as the story progresses; through conversations, a little inner thought, emotions that remind them of things that came before the story started… Threads, my friends, threads… They should run right through your story…

Now, if it’s okay with you lot, next time we’ll continue on this theme and look at how your characters relationship before the book started can influence the way you approach your first chapter… So…

Coming Next: The Blank Page – First chapter relationship set-up….

Saturday, July 8, 2006

The Blank Page - Starting A Story From Scratch...

So, you’ve sat down at the computer, you have coffee/tea/wine/nibbles and a quiet hour to work… You’ve opened a new Word Doc, you have your title page and your header and footer all in, the words Chapter One neatly typed and you’re ready to go…

There’s just that small matter of the cursor blinking at you…

The Blank Page (enter scary music that ends with Dah-da-da!!!)

The thing is, before you even start that first chapter, before you type that opening line, you need to go back a step further. To the BEGINNING…

And where is that I hear you ask. Why, it’s with your characters of course…

There’s no point even thinking about starting to tell their story if you don’t know them first. And I don’t just mean their age, height, hair/eye colour, what they do for a living or even the plot and conflicts that you have in place in your notes.

You need to know them like they’re old friends or are sat in the room with you. They need to be real so that they’ll jump off the page and draw the reader into their world!

That’s why I tend to need a few days to swap over from a newly finished story to a new still-to-be-told one. I need to be ‘in the zone’. So once I have a story idea in place, I take a few days to think about them, to get to know them…

And this is actually quite a good time for us to be talking about this. ‘Cos that’s where I am right now. Breathless is done and dusted barring the copy edits and I’ve been having to think about what I’m doing next.

So, here’s how I’ve approached it.

I named them.

Sounds like a dumb place to start maybe, and is a great source of debate amongst authors. Some find that it's better to plot out their story first, some will change the names to match the characters personalities as their story progresses... But I find just by choosing their names I discover a little about their personalities. Francis isn’t going to have the same personality as Jack, Louisa isn’t going to have the same personality as Cara and so forth. So, I go look up my database of baby names and I name them both…

I found pictures of people that fitted the names.

I know I’ve talked about this at length on this blog before, but having a visual reference is such a help, particular if I find a picture that shows a hint of personality; a sadness, or a mischievous twinkle, something that hints to me what my character is like. And then I add that little ephemeral something to the people I’m creating.

I created the outside conflicts/plot.

This is my back-drop, remember? It’s the tool I’m going to use to get them together so that they can take those first steps onto the emotional journey I’m about to put them through. I need to understand that part of the puzzle, and have it believable before I start. It also needs to sustain the story, draw them together when they'd maybe rather be apart, maybe even throw them together unde rone roof to heighten the tension...

I decided on a setting.

Now I tend to stick with places I know, to keep it simple. Remember the country or city you live in may not seem glamorous or romantic or cosmopolitan to you, cos you live there, but to someone half a world away it can seem as exotic as anything! If you pick a place you’ve never been to then that means research, or keeping it VERY simple… I’ve come to the conclusion that Ireland has more than enough great places to use. And I’m a tad lazy when it comes to research. And I want the focus on my characters at the end of the day. So I keep it simple…

I've done whatever research I needed to do on subjects I'm not familiar with.

This is where Google is such a wonderful tool in the modern age. If I want to use Braxton Hicks like I did in my pregnant heroine book, I can google it. How long it takes to train to be a lawyer or an architect, I can google it... And again, even though I may only briefly mention it in the end story, I'll have made sure that my information was correct to add to the believabilty of the story...

And then I spend some time with my characters…

When I’m writing I know the rest of my life goes to hell in a handbag so I clear the decks before I start. But ‘cos I’m a woman and can therefore multi-task I also spend that time walking in my characters shoes. Now I’m not one of those people that makes notes. I think it’s ‘cos the people become so real to me. But first time out, as an experiment, it might be worthwhile making out a character sheet so you get the gist of them.

This is where that old saying ‘Write what you know’ can come into play. There’s not much point trying to ‘write what you know’ if what you know is not much beyond surviving each day. But, as women, we tend to be talkers. We’re much more interested in getting into each others psyche than men are. So we’re more likely to understand why people do the things they do. We might disagree with how they do it, but we’ll get it. And it’s this knowledge you’ll need when you start to delve into your characters…

So let’s take a heroine. We know her height, hair colour, eye colour, what kind of clothes she wears, what she does as a job, her best friends name and her basic history. But we need to think further than that. It’s a running joke that actors will ask the question ‘What’s my motivation?’ but that’s pretty much what we need to know. We need to be inside these peoples heads!

If she’s been hurt in love before is she likely to jump straight in with both feet this time?
If she has lost a child how will she feel every time she sees one with a friend or a sibling – will they be different around her because of it?
If she comes from an open loving family how will she deal with someone who’s very private?
Is she afraid of spiders? What wine does she drink? Is she a neatness freak? Is she able to walk past a shoe store? Does she have a large group of friends or a few intimate ones? What’s her relationship with her parents like? Does she have brothers and sisters? A love for old movies? A pet? Own her own house or rent? Live in an ultra modern interior or a cosy chaos? Is she quit witted, sarcastic, open, reserved, shy? Is she likely to eat a meal she doesnt like to be polite?

And any one of a dozen other things...

All of these questions, and more, that you can answer like a questionnaire on your character sheets, will give us a in-depth picture of who she is even if we never use a quarter of it. It will give us her ‘motivations’ and make it easier for us to understand how she will react in a given situation or with a particular person. I find that it even tells me how she will speak, how she may spark off someone in conversation. How she may fight against herself when we, the reader, can clearly see that this other person is perfect for her. She needs to be a believable, rounded, multi-faceted being. Because that’s what people are. And she’s the lead player after all….

Then you get to do the same things all over again with your hero…

You could even make up a questionnaire and fill it in for yourself or someone you know, or a character in a book or film you've just read/seen so that you can see what you've learnt. You might be surprised by how much information you discover that wasn't apparent as you read/watched! And just think of the million and one small things that make up a friend you know...

So, my advice before you start would be; spend time with your characters. Maybe, like me, you’ll even find yourself rehearsing entire scenes in your head, speaking the lines out loud like you’re an actor playing the part. If I were to tell you the number of times I’ve been cleaning house, or sitting on a horse and been caught having a conversation with myself… Well, it’s as well I’m a writer really or I’d have been committed by now…

So when you feel you really know these people, you’ve created every facet of their personality and can understand what motivates them and what might make them draw back… (Even as I've said if you only use a teeny part of all that information!) Then and only then are you ready to open that brand new page and start writing…

Next up in The Blank Page: The importance of that opening line and what the first chapter should tell us…

Friday, July 7, 2006

Hotness!!!!

And How HOT is THIS cover???

And yes, we're TWO FOR TWO in the new LOVING THESE COVERS league... THIS one says:

"It takes just one sexy fireman to set her ablaze...

Circumstance has left Finn McNeill without a place to stay. Which means her only option is the spare room of friend and firefighter Shane Dwyer. Soon Finn's burning question is: what's worse - living with a rugged fireman who's off limits, or having no home and no rugged fireman at all?

Memories from Finn's past refuse to let her act on her present desire. And Shane has promises to keep that mean Finn is forbidden to him. But how long can they resist temptation when the tension's sizzling, the attraction's simmering, and the flames of passion are licking at their heels? Perhaps one secret, white-hot night will be enough to put out the fire?"

This is my first Modern Extra and I have been waiting on this cover with bated breath... MAN was it worth the wait!!! And Shane looks EXACTLY how I pictured him... All bow to the Editors in London who came up with both these gorgeous covers!!!!

You can kinda see why I leave all the difficult stuff to them, right???

White-Hot! is out in the UK and Ireland in September and is scheduled as Her Wildest Dreams, a Sexy Sensation in Australia and New Zealand in December... But again, if you can't wait, there's a bit of an excerpt on the website here.

Now... I'm off to write up our first blog on the subject of The Blank Page...

Cuteness!!!


HOW CUTE IS THIS COVER???

I got two gorgeous covers in the post today - This is the first of them... And isn't it just the cutest??? It's now officially my favourite Romance cover to date... The back cover says:

"She hid from love, but it found her anyway...

Teagan Delaney has made sure she's too busy for love... too busy to get hurt! But when she has to become stand-in Mum to her sister's tiny kids, and enlists the help of her gorgeous neighbour Brendan McNamara, the rules Teagan has lived by begin to crumble...

Brendan has already proved with ease that he's perfect father material, and as his new found family quickly nestles it's way into his heart he has to show Teagan that they can be the perfect family too..."

This is my first new cover for the new line and I have to say I have yet to see a bad one! It bodes so well for the new launch and I for one, CAN'T WAIT!!!

Project: Parenthood is out in the UK, Ireland, USA, CANADA and ALL OVER THE PLACE in November.... But if you can't wait there's an excerpt on the Website here...

Thursday, July 6, 2006

Coming next...


You say - I blog...
So the next up according to the Poll Vote is The Blank Page - How to start your story...
Come back tomorrow and we'll start at the very very very beginning...

Wednesday, July 5, 2006

Synopsis Q&A and Summing Up...

Gosh, it’s good to know that I’m not the only one that finds these things so all fired difficult!!! The hits on this blog have gone through the ceiling the last few days…

So, I’m going to go through some of the interesting points you guys have brought up in the comments and then try and sum up what we’ve talked about so far… Unless you come up with a billion more questions for me…

And our Poll under the ‘Watching Paint Dry’ post is currently neck and neck for Editing and The Blank Page – so this is your last chance to vote before I change subjects and then I’ll add another poll ‘cos I’ve thought up loads of things! If it works for you guys it works for me!

So, Q&A first:

I'm particularly interested in how to balance internal and external plot when writing a 2 page synopsis for the Tender line.

This is no easy feat and a problem that a lot of people, pubbed and unpubbed, have had since the Tender/Romance line changed and merged with Silhouette Romance. It also in the end helped with the demise of the old Temptation line I believe (which is now Modern Extra). Readers want a deeply satisfying read for their money. They want that rollercoaster ride. And within the short format of a Romance or a Modern Extra (Though Modx is slightly longer) – that’s not always easy to do. Hence the emphasis on the internal rather than the external which needs to carry through to your synopsis…

Think of the external as the stage setting for a play, as we’ve discussed, and what’s going on centre stage with the characters as the internal. Or if you like think of the external as the driving force behind the story. It’s what moves it on, but not what we’re watching… In Titanic with Leonardo De Caprio and Kate Winslet, the sinking ship was the external, a pretty flipping large external it has to be said but external nevertheless, and the love affair and character development of the two leads was the internal, the heart of the story. Internal emotional conflicts would then be Kate wanting to;

a) Please her mother hence marry secondary character of evil fiance or

b) Take the steps towards being an independent woman by choosing to love who she wants to love and hence car scene with Leo…

Make sense?

It was the internal that kept us riveted, otherwise we had two hours of a big hunk of metal sinking… Historically correct, but a documentary without that story at the front of it, without those characters at centre stage. When you think of that film do you think about the ship sinking or that timeless moment when the hand appeared on a steamed up window??? It’s that human element, that growth of the characters, that we’re interested in with these lines.
So when we write our story and our synopsis that’s what we want to convey. Which is why I bullet point them under those headers and save space on the explaining of things like setting, who the characters are and what they do for a living and the kind of hooks I’d see appealing to the line. So in answer to:

Do you keep those paragraph headings you have in your template (ie characters, setting, conflicts etc) or delete them and just start a new paragraph for each point?

Yes. I do keep them. But that’s just me, as I’ve said every author has their own method. In fact, I have a bit of a challenge for a few friends at the end of this blog to demonstrate that…
I find I can keep it brief and to the point that way and focus the Editor’s attention on the scenes I feel best show how my characters change and the problems they face as the story develops…

And I always get reactions to issues the syno has, that don't exist in the book…

This is a case of what I lovingly call ‘The Psychic Reader’ and what we need to do is remove the margin of error in interpretation. We are so close to our story and know what we meant to say, that we just don’t get it when someone else doesn’t read it the same way. Remember no two people think the same way, not exactly the same anyways. So sometimes I’m stunned when my synopsis/pitch is interpreted differently from what was in my mind…
Again, this is where I found this template worked for me. I had to teach myself to focus less on the little things, like a one-liner I love for instance – and more on what they want to see; which comes down to the emotional journey – again and again and again… ‘Just keep the emotion up’ is a favorite line and I always try to keep that forefront of my mind. Maybe I should write it on a post it and stick it to my screen??
The Psychic Reader will appear quite a bit in my blogs on writing… you wait and see…

I read your next entry (your synop) and do you always structure them that way with setting ,etc.? Also, I noticed you didn't put in the ending. Is that something you don't usually do either? I've always heard editors say that they need to know how it ends, and not to end the synop on a hook.

As I’ve said above, yes I do. Even with a pitch as it happens – Though I do tend to dress those up these days… ;) With the setting it’s important I feel, ‘cos I need them to know that it fits into what they want from me with a particular book – If a line wants a ‘cosmopolitan feel’ then there’s not much point in me setting it in a teeny village somewhere… And if its an office story I want to show a range of business settings… The key is to remember that setting is another backdrop, the less places you have them then the tighter you can keep the focus on the emotional/internal story. Unless of course you’re doing a story that runs from exotic location to exotic location or has ‘cosmopolitan characters’ in a teeny village – It’s all in the delivery after all… It really depends on the line. And how tight you can keep the focus on the main internals…

For me, I don’t think I’ve ever written a book that didn’t run the whole way through with three or four settings excluding the base city. First book was – village, park, house… Second – House, house, village, beach – Third – office, house, house, party in hotel… The less the better for me it would seem. But again, that’s what works for me. It’s only 55 – 60k we’ve got here gang after all and the focus has to be on the.... altogether now!

And as to the ending… We’ve been focusing on the Romance and the Modern Extra Lines as these are both lines I write for. They’re category romance, and they’re all known for having a HEA – A happy ending. It’s what is expected by the reader. So I don’t always put the ending in. In fact, I don’t think I ever have. If you know the editor you’re pitching to and they’ve been fairly vocal about what they want then stick to what they say. But Richmond Editors tend to be quite invisible to new writers, unless you directly ask them directly on the eharlequin boards (they're busy clearing up after the likes of me after all!) and they’re a clever bunch… If they can see from your synopsis that you’ve done your research and you’re clued into what they want then the way I've always looked at it is they’re going to be pretty surprised if the Heroine dies at the end!

It’s all about what works for you and the line you pitch at. A story that has a heavier, more twisted plot, or a mystery interwoven through it will most likely require that you spell it out…Like I’ve said – Do your research gang!

Just out of curiosity would this story have fit the new Romance line? I'm guessing that most of the recent stories in the present Tender line would, but I'd be interested to hear what you think.

Yes, with The Wedding Surprise I believe it would. But I would probably have been asked to go into even more depth with their conflicts. They're there. And the story works. But I do feel with my last two that I’ve learnt how to make the most of every moment, particularly with Rescued: Mother To Be which is due for release next April! If you don’t learn as you go along then you’re in trouble, right? If I had to look back at my titles there would be two that I definitely think would have struggled and needed a lot more work to make it through… I’ll let those of you that know my work decide which ones… ;)

And you'll see, if you've done your research, that they have been very clever about filtering the type of stories they want through into the Silhouette Romance line from September as the change over happens… There are definite similarities!!! The very fact that there’s such a wealth of talent from both lines making up the new line-up is testimony to that fact! Is there that big a difference? Well, you the reader will best judge that as time goes on. The writers that fitted the new criteria, whose ‘voice’ best suited where the line is headed, are all still there. Will their writing change so drastically that you see a real difference? You guys tell me… I’d love to hear what you all think… I think it’s very exciting myself! And it has a wealth of opportunity for well told stories and new ways of telling the stories we’ve all loved for years…

And after reading the synopsis and extract I just had to dash to Amazon UK and buy a copy!

AHA!
Thank you! Then, you see, if you were an Editor my synopsis and partial would have done their job!!! Cos you have just requested the Full… Gotta love it when a plan comes together…

So there you go gang. That’s all my experience with synopsis writing shared with you…
Remember the most important thing is to KNOW YOUR MARKET – do your research, make sure you are giving yourself the best possible opportunity to sell! There’s no point in trying to sell meat if you know the company you’re selling to markets vegetarian meals… no point in trying to persuade a company that markets beer that your milk drink will do well for them… And the whole point of marketing your product to a company that can sell that product well worldwide and to it's best advantage is that the benefits aren't just for them...

Have a look at the lines the company currently markets and keep an ear to the ground for future plans and then hit them with the fact that you have exactly what they’re looking for!!! If you lay it out succinctly and hitting the key themes they want then, as I’ve said, the only thing you need to worry about is your writing…

And one final tip would be DON’T TIE YOURSELF UP IN KNOTS… It’s an ulcer waiting to happen. Yes do research, yes sell the key themes to them that they want, yes try and hit all of that in your synopsis, yes do the best job you can with your writing. But once you find a method of layout and a way of doing a synopsis that works for you… Calm down. Take deep breaths. Don’t sweat it cos someone else did it differently…

And on that note I’ve decided to see if we can get some of my Author friends to lay their reputation on the line by showing you what works for them! You’ll see that even once published… we still do what works for us… If you find similarities we could maybe discuss that too… And if they do anything great that I haven’t discovered yet then I’ll be stealing it right along with you… I can add more to my bullets if I want to. Cos its mine… bwahahahaha!!!

So, I’m Tagging…

Natasha Oakley – English writer for the Romance line
Ally Blake – Aussie writer for the Romance line
Nicola Marsh – Aussie writer for Romance and Modern Extra

And all new writers since 2000 as you'll know if you've done your research... And all very good friends of mine (though possibly not after this)...Lets see who we can get to come play shall we?????

Just on a side note I've done a complete website over-haul - feel free to visit and let me know what you think! I've added more new authors on the links page, new excerpts from my latest two sales and you can even enter the competition if you'd like to...

Monday, July 3, 2006

News Update


Hurrah!!!
Had a lovely phonecall today from lovely Editor to say that Anticipation has gone through for the Modern Extra line! It's a February 2007 release and is title 'Breathless'... Thank heavens!!!
Cos I may have mentioned how much I love this book... here's hoping readers feel the same way...
She has also nailed my feet to the floor with a four book contract so that's me kept out of mischief til next February. What is it they say about bad people and lack of down time??? But still, it's great to know what I'm doing and for when. I like to have my schedule clearly mapped out so that I can feel guilty when I skive off... These things are important...
So this is my TENTH book for Mills & Boon chaps!!! Woo-hoo! And my fourth in eight months... To celebrate all that and 'cos we're getting closer to the launch of the new Romance line (and 'cos it's sorely overdue) - I've spent the weekend swearing, sorry, working at my website. I'll add excerpts of both Breathless (aka: Anticipation) and Rescued: Mother To Be (aka: Baby Makes Three) and a link to the blog posts on writing and THEN I'll add a new competition... As the new pages load up, if you find any diffs in display or links can you let me know? It'd be much appreciated...
Meanwhile, I'm gonna post a bit later today for the last time on Synopses... Just to recap and to make sure it's all crystal clear. And then we're onto Editing...