....welcome to my blog on writing, reading and living in London ......

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Internal and External conflict for Mills and Boon

I have been lucky enough to get a slot with a Mills and Boon editor at this year's Romantic Novelist Association conference. To make the most of it, you are invited to submit a first chapter and a synopsis and I have just sent mine off.

Now, I tried Mills and Boon years ago, I gave it my best shot and although I came close-ish with a request to see the whole manuscript (after submitting the required three chapters) I ended up with a rejection.

Part of the reason, I am sure, is that I did not understand the difference between internal conflict and external conflict. After many years which has included on/off flirtations with writing for M&B, reading many examples and attending a couple of sessions at writers weekends listening to their editors and authors I believe I have now got to grips with internal/external conflict. So I will try and do my bit for other aspiring writers to explain it here.

An external conflict is basically one that someone or something else can resolve. So, if your hero and heroine have been marooned on a desert island because of a plane crash someone else could send in a rescue craft. If they are in conflict with one another because of a case of mistaken identity, a simple conversation with one of the other characters (or with each other) could put the situation right. More importantly, with external conflict the reader will be able to see that there are easy-ish ways out of the problem. A Mills and Boon can of course contain both external and internal conflicts but the internal ones are by far the most important. They are the problems which are not nearly so easy for the hero and heroine to extract themselves from - their own internal conflicts. Internal conflicts are the things inside us shaped by our personal histories that make us the people we are and on occasions form blockages to relationships.

An excellent book by Penny Jordan, one of the acknowledged queens of Mills and Boon which I read years ago concerned a woman who had been raped by an ex husband. This had lead to her finding it almost impossibe to let another man near her, even one to whom she was deeply attracted. This afforded all sorts of opportunities to display the hero's sensitive, persuasive and very Alpha characteristics - those of the ultimate nurturer. I am at present reading a fabulous Mills and Boon by Annie West (www.annie-west.com) 'Scandal, His Majesty's love-child', about an Arab prince - sheik books are enduringly popular - the ultimate escape!

Annie West's prince has many redeeming characteristics but these are hidden behind a cold exterior borne of a childhood with a brutal father. Given that sort of history he has built a wall around himself brick by emotional brick which our heroine is very slowly having to knock down. I will not reveal any more as it is on the shelves now and do not want to destroy an excellent read. But this is an good example of internal conflict, mainly in this case the hero's, which prevents him forming strong relationships. These sort of internal conflicts are difficult for us all to address and require the characters to undergo a considerable amount of change within themselves but of course they cannot do this on their own. The other half of the pairing has to help them through the conflict to a happy conclusion and thereby lies a good read! Fiendishly difficult to write, I take my hat off to all the Mills and Boon authors who do this so well.

Monday, 21 June 2010

London to Brighton Cycle Ride - we did it!

Well, we all survived the 54 miles from London to Brighton even though it took us ten hours! You'd think ten hours in the saddle would be excruciating and although it was, all time seemed to go out of the window as you just focus on the goal of getting there. Bit by bit, mile by mile.... It's a bit like writing a novel, word by word, chapter by chapter ...... you just have to keep the faith and know you will get there in the end. Here's a picture - I'm the short fat one - of our team at Ditchling Beacon. At the top of Ditchling you are rewarded after a hideous climb (which we walked up, we were too exhausted to cycle up that massive hill) with stupendous views of the South Downs dotted with poppy fields. The other reward is that after that it's about 9 miles all the way downhill into Brighton. Will I do it again next year? Don't know! This year I was on the back of a tandem where you have someone to chat to and can forget the pain. Not sure if I'd make it on my own. I'll see how I feel in 12 months time when the agony has worn off a bit!

Friday, 18 June 2010

New book 'Leaving Home'

Hurrah. Complimentary copies of my latest new book, 'Leaving Home' have arrived on the doorstep from those lovely people at Ulverscroft. In the Linford Romance Library range, there is a lovely picture on the cover of a very happy young lady. As it's a feelgood romance (albeit with a few bumpy moments along the way) it's great that the cover has a warm feel about it. Thank you Ulverscroft, and D C Thomson (My Weekly) who originally published it as a novella.

Elephants in London

London is full of elephants! Elephant Parade 2010 is all about raising money for the endangered Asian elephant. Walk more than a hundred yards in the West End and you're bound to come across one of the elephants. Last night in the ten minute walk from Covent Garden to Charing Cross we spotted two. They're everywhere! Brightly coloured, painted or, in the case of the elephant twirling around on its electric turntable in the window of Coutts on the Strand, encrusted with Swarovski crystals and little pearls. This is the most luxurious I've seen so far and very pretty he was too, http://www.elephantfamily.org/ are the charity raising awareness.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Wish me luck as you wave me goodbyeeee......

I am terrified, petrified, that awful rising wall of terror hits me whenever I think about it. Yes, I have signed up to do the 54 mile London to Brighton cycle ride this Sunday. Nooooooo!!!!!!

I have got myself a gel saddle, and a gel saddle cover and will shortly go out to buy myself a pair of gel shorts or whatever other padding it is they slip into those hideously unattractive black lycra short-thingies. I do actually have a massive gel bum sad to say but somehow it never seems to be quite enough cushioning. I shall be on the back of a pink tandem and have been told I must not peddle and I am not to try and steer. I have also been told, rather menacingly by the front part of the pairing, 'I will know if you aren't pedalling'. Drat and there was I thinking I could put my feet up, cross my legs and catch up on Facebook and a bit of e-mailing!

The longest run I've ever done is 8 miles in total and that nearly killed me so heaven knows what I will be like physically and mentally after tackling the hills around Brighton. Ah well, tis now or never I guess. Why on earth I didn't choose to just go down on the train like sensible people and tottle on down to the front with a bag of chips to welcome all the lunatic cyclists in I don't know. Instead I shall indeed be one of the puffing, pink, pelvically pulverised who limp of their machines at the end and never want to see a bike again as long as they live. The only good thing is that we have raised nearly £600 in sponsorship for Mind, the mental health charity.

So, wish me luck as you wave me goodbyeeeeee........

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Writing a Mills and Boon

Oh, I've tried, and tried and tried..... But not for some time. At one time I'd tried so hard, I thought I might have made it as my whole manuscript was requested after sending them my initial three chapters. There was one problem though. I'd only written the first three chapters! I foolishly dashed off the next nine chapters and whizzed them off. A rejection letter whizzed back. It taught me a lesson though which is that at least 90% of success in writing is completion. Also that it's one thing to produce three fizzing chapters. It's quite another to produce a whole, coherent, gripping, well-crafted twelve chapters. There is loads of advice around such as this great and succinct summing up of the alpha male on the Mills and Boon website at http://community.millsandboon.co.uk/forums/write-stuff/how-write-modern-romance (After reading that, I'm in love with him already). Also, as one of my writing friends so succinctly put it, 'never leave their side'. That is, the hero and heroine and I think those four little words sum up one of the essences of a Mills and Boon, so thank you Jan S, it's something I keep remembering whenever I start to veer off on a pathway away from my two main protagonists. Never leave their side........ I'm 8881 words in so far, around two chapters and I've stuck with them all the way like their consciences, on their shoulders, interpreting their every move and studying their every motive. Only 41,119 words to go...........

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Short story competition - The Lady with Mills and Boon and the National Trust

Good news for all short story writers. The Lady in conjunction with Mills and Boon and the National Trust is launching a short story competition. It's all part of the drive the National Trust is making to pull more people into their properties by emphasising the romance element. Personally I find their houses and wonderful gardens a constant source of inspiration as a writer. The most atmospheric recently was a trip down to Ightham Mote a medieval moated manor house on one of the few balmy evenings we had recently. We had mistimed it and got there just as the property closed. But a secluded walk nearby took us to the back gate of the house from where we could peer in and see the grounds, deserted under a golden evening haze. In the silence you could feel you were looking through a window into the past. Magic! Details of the competition can be obtained from The Lady's website by following this link http://www.lady.co.uk/?q=node/94482. Stories should be no more than 2000 words and the closing date is 31 July 2010. This is excellent news since The Lady recently stopped their regular fiction slot following the appointment of a new editor to the magazine. Maybe this latest move means that they are reconsidering their break with fiction. We live in hope......

Friday, 4 June 2010

Waiting for a result ........

Why have I decided to Blog? I guess every writer feels they have something to say, and hope that there is someone out there who wants to hear it. That's one reason to blog. The other, in my case is that I have four things out there waiting for a result. That is four pieces of writing. Firstly I have a novella with a publisher, then I have a proposal for a serial with a magazine as well as two short stories which I have sent off to magazines. The wait is horrendous and in the meantime I feel I need to do something constructive. So, here I am creating a web presence. People tell me blogging can be fun so, here goes, and welcome to my blog!