Wednesday, April 27, 2011

What I think I've learnt: Part 2 - plus, an exciting announcement!

I'll leave the exciting bit until the bottom of this post, and start with the second thing I think I've learnt thanks to Secrets & Speed Dating:

  • Use what I've already got
I'll be honest and admit I didn't figure this one out myself. My lovely friend Nikki Logan introduced me to this concept when I got really stuck about three quarters into the manuscript (the "right" version, for those who read Part One). My hero and heroine had just made love for the first time, and I'd written this lovely "morning after" scene. But... now what? I knew what my black moment was, but it was far too early for that. I knew I needed to show both my hero and heroine's reactions to this first night together and how nothing could ever be the same again... but the scene I was writing just felt boring.

I'd made the mistake in a previous version of the book of adding in a random plot twist ("ooh, let's have my heroine's mum turn up!"), so I knew that didn't work. But I needed *something* to happen. Something that wasn't contrived but that would keep the tension rolling along nicely.

And so Nikki said, "Didn't Sophie say in the previous chapter something something, why don't you use that?" (I'll let you read the book to find out what it was). This was a massive lightbulb for me. I'd had no idea I'd already set up the absolutely perfect scene (yay for my subconscious!) but I never would have noticed without Nikki's prompting. 

But of course, it makes perfect sense. By looking back what you are really doing is revisiting your characters - and their conflicts and motivations. By making sure you use something you've already got, you're ensuring it's the characters that are driving the story forward.

While I was fortunate to have a throw away line of dialogue to set up my next scene, I'd imagine that this probably isn't always the case. But I think the lesson still stands. Next time I get stuck, in a "what happens next?" moment, I'm going to go back and review what's come before. What have my character's already done? What have they talked about? What has happened? What would they do next?

So what do you think? Am I onto something here? (with apologies to Nikki who I have stolen this from - and quite possibly butchered in my expansion and explanation :) ).

And... now for the big news!

In about two hours, I become a LoveCat!!! I feel incredibly fortunate to have been invited to join the LoveCats - a group of Australian and New Zealand Harlequin Mills & Boon authors who have the fabulous LoveCats Down Under blog!

My official welcome post will appear very soon, where I get to answer some fun questions, and visitors get the chance to win an awesome book bundle prize!

Please come along and say hello - I'll be popping in as much as I can tomorrow.


  1. Great advice from Nikki. And yay on becoming a LoveCat, Leah :) Will pop over there now....

  2. Yeah you on becoming a LoveCat :) fantastic news!!!

    and well done to Nikki - what a fab buddy.

  3. Great post Leah and congrats on becoming a LoveCat!

    Ooo and a wedding! So exciting! Congrats, congrats, congrats!

  4. Thanks Anita, Joanne and Lacey - it was so exciting to be invited to join the LoveCats!

  5. Leah THANK YOU for this post. You've made me see that I have to face the truth - a 'random plot twist' is not working however much I am trying to make it. So I have accepted that, ripped out the chunk that wasn't working and now suddenly think (!!!) I can see the way forward - the ones my characters would take...
    Nina x

  6. No worries Nina! :) I was hesitant to post any of these "what I think I've learnt" posts as I still feel like not much more than a beginner... but then I figured this is all stuff I wish I'd known so why not? Really glad it was helpful.

  7. Very good advice! My H & h have just kissed for the first time and pulled apart shocked, and I'm thinking, now what? I shall look back and see if my subconscious has been busy! Congratulations on becoming a LoveCat.

  8. Glad it was helpful Alexandra! Now the tricky bit will be remembering to take my own advice in the future :D No more random plot twists!

  9. Wow. I rock! LOL. Kidding, obviously... *cough*

    It took me a few books to finally realise that the best conflicts and the best scene moments aren't external to the story, they're internal. By taking what the story gives you and making as much as you can out of that you avoide that awful 'c' word (contrivance) and you make your book more credible for readers.

    As Nina has said 'random plot twists' feel exactly that to the reader -- random. But it's so easy to do when you start brainstorming and you get deep into 'what if' territory. But sometimes out of 'what if' comes the kernal of an idea that (as you've said, Leah) your subconscious has already given you.

    (And now going to take my own advice and see what my WIP will deliver me for a saggy, middle scene...)