Had a day out today at the Hexham Book Festival. Evidently I missed a great workshop on synopses yesterday, but today I learned a lot by listening to M&B author Sharon Kendrick in the morning and a trio of authors plus a senior editor in the afternoon.
Some of the stuff can be found on the website, but here are a few words of wisdom that stuck in my mind -
"Remember not to overplay the arrogance. Weave in layers of conflict. As one question is answered, a second is revealed. Signposts are necessary sometimes. Beware coincidences, especially trite ones. (I don't suppose anyone will own up to that one!) 'She stopped at the gate and wondered if Tino would remember her' was deemed an excellent opening hook. You need to know their characters inside out and their backstory so you can set up and be clear about the internal conflict."
And at last I think I know what internal conflict really is.
The afternoon session authors were Natasha Oakley, Michelle Styles and Sharon Kendrick.
They were informative and enthusiastic, and all agreed that M&B romances are character driven and that constant change keeps the books relevant to the next generation. Good motivation makes a book work, poor motivation can ruin excellent writing.
For M&B you need tunnel vision on the central romance. If something doesn't affect the romance, take it out. It's got no business being there. In case you wondered, the other woman scenario is deemed to be 'external conflict' because she is outside the central romance. But a woman who has been raped and has ongoing problems with any future relationship is internal conflict. So is a grasping, greedy step-mother who makes the hero suspect that
Psychological conflict should mount in stages to the resolution, but takes a nose-dive at the Black Moment when all seems lost.
M&B are looking for new authors. They get around 1,500 submissions a year and they take on 1% of them. But all 3 ladies talking to us today came through via the dreaded slush pile. What will catch the eye? Great characterisation, good voice and Something Different.