So now Harlquin has lit a proverbial fire under my butt by requesting a full or partial manuscript of Meg and Jon’s story, I am spending every spare minute writing. It’s such a luxury to have the excuse. The feedback I received from the Harlequin editor was to make sure there was enough internal conflict to sustain the story. Romance editors bang on about this. But if you’ve ever wondered why a romance you read wasn’t quite satisfying, it’s usually because of the lack of internal conflict. It’s a challenge to create two characters who will eventually be perfect for one another, but who initially have personality traits or needs or desires that mean they won’t just have a few nice dates and then fall into happy ever after.
Internal conflict needs to be designed with purpose and plotting to make sure it’s not too simple that everything is resolved in chapter four or too complex that it removes the focus from the process of the characters falling in love. You don’t want to waste the whole word count resolving the issues. You want to have time for the chemistry to develop.
I’ve been reading a lot of romantic suspense because of what I had mainly been writing until this point. I’ve a soft spot for military heroes, even though the suspense is sometimes unpleasantly real in a military setting. Military heroes come with built-in conflicts, so in a way they’re cheat heroes. They struggle with their duty to their country and feel like having a partner isn’t compatible. It’s an easy example of conflict that can sustain a story at lower word counts.
I thought I had conflict covered with Meg and Jon’s, but I had to look again when I received the feedback. Then I started writing and went a bit overboard with Meg’s conflict. I’ve now got her torn up over her ex, who was a professional footballer, and unwilling to date another famous sportsman. But I went back and deleted a few passages that laboured the point. The other challenge is to drip-feed the reader the elements of conflict as slowly as you can while building tension. Meg and Jon had enough issues at the start, each feeling betrayed by the other. I can take some time to explain why Jon deeply resents royal privilege and Meg doesn’t respect car racing.
And then I’m going to run out of words. Harlquin Romance is only 50,000 words per book. I’ll be doing lots of deleting until hopefully it’s just an awesome story left and two characters who’ve been with me for years, finally working out their problems and falling in love.