Sunday, August 29, 2010

Back and Backlist

Back home from a wonderful weekend in York. The roads were clear - in spite of it being Bank Holiday weekend. The sun shone. The company was wonderful - so very special to meet up with dear friends from Caerleon Writers' Holiday when we usually have to wait until July or February (For Fishguard) to get together.

York is always beautiful and we wandered round the city just enjoying the place and being together. Past the Minster, down the Shambles, then headed for Bettys Tea Rooms where we all had afternoon tea. Then a quick break before heading out to the Ghost Walk. This was great fun with a wonderful story-teller leading the walk, plenty of laughter and some spooky tales- appropriately enough just as dusk was gathering . . .

So now I'm back home and need to regroup and plan workshops for the next event - the NAWG Festival of Writing in Durham next weekend. It's all go! If you're going to be in Durham - I'll se you there.

Oh, and talking about Workshops - to those of you who have written to ask, yes it's true. I talked with Anne & Gerry who organise the Fishguard Writing Weekend as well as the fabulous Caerleon Writers' Holiday and they confirmed that my Advanced Writing Romance course at Fishguard is already booked up, 6 months in advance! So I'm really sorry to disappoint anyone who was hoping to book for 2011. I hope that I will be running it again the following year so you can put your name down in advance if you want. Or check out other courses listed on my Events page - but do remember that to attend an Advanced course, you must first have been to aprevious basic Writing Romance course at Fishguard, Caerleon or elsewhere. (There is on at Caerleon next July)

Finally those backlist books - if you've seen I heart Presents receently, you'll see that Harlequin are regularly bringing out authors' backlist books in ebook format. There are quite a few of mine already republished as ebooks - and the good news is that two more have just joined them -

A Sicilian Husband was first published in Presents in 2004
That's available now

And coming on October 1st is The Christmas Baby's Gift (2003)

Oh - and perhaps more importantly, if you've been waiting for the USA Presents EXTRA edition of The Good Greek Wife? that is available in ebook form from September 1st over on eharlequin

Friday, August 27, 2010

Doncaster and New Voices

Yesterday I was in Doncaster for the workshop on writing for Mills & Boon at the library there.

The weather was cold and wet so that was perhaps why half the people who had signed up for the event didn't turn up. A pity, but that was their loss. The group who were there may only have been small but there were lovely - lively, interested and enthusiastic so I had a great time. Thanks to everyone who made the morning so enjoyable including the young man who had just had his GCSE results and braved a room full of women discussing sex scenes and condoms with great composure. I know it must have been enjoyable because we didn't finish until almost 45 minutes after the alloted time.

Thanks too to Sandra the Librarian who made me so welcome and dealt with all the practicalities. The supply of tea, coffee - and wickedly tempting millionaire's shortcake and flapjacks was lovely and the ones the Babe Magnet and I took home we thoroughly enjoyed.

This workshop was part of the run-up to the New Voices Contest which launched officially this week so don't forget that the dates to start uploading your entries start on September 6th which is only just over a week away.

Thank you to everyone who came to Doncaster - I see that Sally is already blogging about it if you want a report.
And good luck to everyone with your entries for the New Voices Contest.
I just want to thank everyone who has commented on the Conflict Q&A posts. I'm sorry that I haven't been keeping up with responding to your comments - life has been so hectic plus a couple of health problems that have meant I haven't kept up with anything much recently.
And I also haven't picked a winner for the name of my new monthly column - must get to that too. But this weekend I'm off to York with the Babe Magnet to celebrate a friend's special birthday. SO looking forward to it as Kathy is someone I met through Caerleon Writers' Holidays and many of the Caerleon gang will be there too - not sure if York and Bettys tearooms can handle this! We're also going on an evening Ghost Walk which I have always wanted to do.

So Does anyone remember which of my books opened in York, with my heroine being part of the Ghost Walk? Anyone who's been on my Fishguard course should know the answer to this.

Clue - it was republished as part of the Centenary Celebrations in 2008.
I have a couple of signed copies to give away to someone who guesses right - please DON'T leave the answer in the comments but send it to kate AT

Back on Monday - suitably spooked I hope

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I have another question to answer - or rather two questions, both from Johanna. But as they're really both parts of the same question and the answers tangle together, I'm going to deal with them together -

Johanna says:

We're told to 'raise the stakes' and create really strong conflicts for our characters, but do you ever worry that they might not be able to overcome their problems in order to find a HEA? (I ask this from the stance of someone who's dug herself into several holes that she couldn't get out of!)

Oh yes I worry that my characters might not overcome their problems and I might not get them out of that hole easily - often- but I really believe that that's when you have created a real 'dig deeper' gut twisting, soul wrenching conflict for yourself - and your characters. One that can create a dynamite story. And one then that can be sustained right through the book, changing, developing, adding more complications until you resolve it at the end. For me that is often the start of a book - and the challenge in writing it - the fact of digging a hole for my characters and chucking them into it and then seeing how the heck I get them out of there.
But you asked about the resolution and that 'how the heck I get them out of there' is very important - vital here.

You see it depends how they got in that hole. Did you decide just to put them in there - or did they dig the hole for themselves?

If that hole your characters are in is purely a plot device - you as the author put them in there because it seems like a great idea. It will make a great scene, create a great conflict, then it may well prove impossible to resolve that particular conflict because it is one that hasn't grown organically from your characters. It hasn't developed from who they are, what they believe in and why they are feeling the way they are right now. But it it's a hole that that they've dug for themselves, by the things they've said, the way they've acted through the story then looking (again) at why they've behaved as they do, asking them questions, how are they feeling, why have they reacted in that way, what could make it worse, what could make it better will usually find a way out of it.

I think that a lot of the answer to this question comes with the answer to another one you asked: after reading a comment Lynn Raye Harris had written on the Pink Heart Society blog, you quoted:

"What the editors had done for me on the continuity was think very long and hard about the internal conflicts of the characters. They gave me a roadmap of events that needed to occur, of course, but the internal conflict was so strong there could be little doubt how my characters would behave when confronted by the external events."

and said : This made me wonder, could you maybe list a few examples of good strong inner conflicts? to help us differentiate between a strong one and a weak one. (Asking this feels a bit like asking you to come up with an idea for a book, so maybe it's too much to ask!) But it was just an idea I had, because I often come up with story ideas, then find halfway through the book that they're too weak on their own, not strong enough to fill a whole book.

I'm not actually going to list what I think are 'good strong inner conflicts' - not because I'm mean or because I don't have the time (I don't really but that's another matter!) but because I want you to look at this problem from a different angle. I'm going to say that if an inner conflict peters out halfway through a book, if it's 'not strong enough to fill a whole book' then probably the problem lies, as it usually does in most conflicts that go wrong, with not knowing your characters enough.

Because the truth is that a conflict that is important enough to your hero or heroine, one that goes deep into their character, their beliefs, their values, is one that they re not going to give up one, concede on very easily.

Take a look again at what I said and then what Anne McAllister says about The Virgin's Proposition in an earlier post: There is the basic conflict that I looked at, Anne's additions - what complicates that orginal conflict and then changes it as her hero and heroine get to know each other - and then there is this important line -

It usually comes down to a question, at the end, of "what one of them wants the most, the other fears the most" for whatever reason. It's real conflict on a gut level that comes from externals (the real world), internals (past experience) and the now which is: are they able to love each other unreservedly and give the other what each of them needs. Love is always a risk. And they have to find the courage to take it.

Because even when the external conflict and some of the internal conflicts are taken away, there is still this one huge emotional conflict - Love is always a risk.

I think in real life, we all find that out anyway. Even with the easiest and most straight forward of romantic relationships, ones where we meet our 'other half' and look forward to happy ever after, there is always that risk - that worry for some, fear for others, doubt, uncertainty that will the other person feel the same? For most of us, thankfully, there is no other conflict complicating that risk, but if you add in the other emotional conflicts that we write into a story then as Anne says, everything combines - externals (the real world), internals (past experience) and the now to create a real conflict on a gut level.

For me the real answer to a sustained lasting, strong conflict is that you know your characters deeply and intimately. You know why they act and feel as they do, why something is a conflict to them - something that may not be a conflict to anyone else. You know why they actually feel that, no matter how fiercely attracted they are to this one person (their hero or heroine) deep down inside they really feel that this person is absolutely the wrong person for them to fall in love with - or they are absolutely the wrong person for that other to fall in love with. Usually this is because they don't know the other person - or themselves - well enough. They think they are acting in one way because it's the only way.

You as their author know that there is another way but they just can't see it. Your job is to create reasons why they just can't see it and why - slowly, perhaps painfully, stumblingly , they come to realise that other way. I say slowly painfully because I have never ever believe in the 'quick conversion' - the 'Road to Damascus' conversion where, say, the hero, having believed that the heroine is a slut and a gold-digger suddenly sees that she is doing all this for her sick mother/father/baby brother . . . and sees the light in a blinding flash. That's the 'rabbit out of a hat' resolution and I can never believe in their happy ever after ending. Happy for now perhaps, but the reasons for the way he thought of her like that are still there - in him. Because they came from him and there hasn't been a fundamental change in him, only someone giving him proof he can't deny. It is that fundamental change that you are looking for. And it comes about purely because he has met this other person and wants to change for them.

But being a fundamental change, people don't do that easily. They resist it, fight it all the way, try to change then fall back into their 'default' position. Each couple of steps forward has a balancing step backward because this thing that they are groping towards - Love - is such a risk.

The initial conflict starts off the story but gradually that story becomes one of resisting the inevitable - so that along with the 'fight' over whatever conflict you have set up you have the emotional conflict which is that person fighting themselves because they don't want to take that blind leap out of the plane and into the unknown when they have no idea whether their parachute (ie the other person's feelings) will even open for them and they might crash to their (emotional) death. Because somewhere through that stumbling journey they have reached a point where there's no turning back . Where they can't walk away, never look back because they will always leave a part of themselves in the hands of (metaphorically) this person. So the original conflict morphs into this particular, very personal, very internal, very emotional conflict - which is the real reason why your reader is reading the book - for the emotional journey.

The way to follow your characters on that journey is to know them as well and as deeply as you can.

And - you knew it was coming - always, always, keep on asking WHY?

To go back to your original question, for me there's a special thrill in knowing that my characters - and I - have got themselves into such a hole it's going to be tough, painful and emotional to get them outof there. But I love that challenge. The challenge of finding out just why they are in this situation, what can help them get out of there - and how - and why that will come about.

It isn't always easy but those challenging 'holes' often create the best stories if you don't let yourself lose your courage and run away from them.

(C)Kate Walker

Monday, August 23, 2010

New Voices - Workshop reminder

I have a couple more questions on conflict to answer so as to round off the whole series but today I want to remind those of you who are anywhere near Doncaster that I will be doing my workshop on Writing For Mills & Boon in the main library there on Thursday. This is in conection with the New Voices contest that M&B are running which starts on September 6th.

Places at the workshop are lmited and the last I heard they were well on their way to being booked up, so if you'd like to attend make sure you ring the library to book yourself a place as soon as possible.

Date: Thursday August 26th

Place: Doncaster Central Library Waterdal Doncaster DN1 3JE

Time: 10 am - 12 ( I will hope to have plenty of time for Q&A )

To book: Phone 01302 736000

Friday, August 20, 2010

Conflict - Questions and Answers

Another question - this time from Janet:

I've read romance novels where the hero is opposed to the idea of a lasting relationship because he's been badly hurt in the past, or he's lost his fiancée, or been abandoned by his mother.

You said somewhere that as an internal conflict this doesn't go far enough, that writers must ask themselves not why this man would be wary of any romantic relationship but why would he be wary of a relationship with this particular woman?

This is why I get stuck so I wondered if you could expand on this with a few examples.

Well, Janet the first thing I'm going to have to say is that if this is the point at which you get stuck then you can't know your characters well enough. You really need to dig much deeper into their emotions and beliefs and goals to see why they (hero or heroine) should have a problem with a relationship with this particular person (ie each other.)

Let's go back to the start of this question. If your hero has a problem believing in lasting relationships because of a problem with his past fiancée or his mother or some woman in the past, and only that, then the story you are working on is not the emotional journey he makes in the present - in the time of the story - but it's all about his past. And the past is not what a reader wants to know about. She's reading a romance for the story in the present.

Another point - if your hero knows he was hurt in the past and he's still letting it affect his life so much then he can seem immature, that he hasn't got beyond this problem. As one very intelligent editor once said - it your character knows something about themselves, for example, that they have low self-esteem - or that they were hurt in the past . . .then the reader will immediately ask why they are not doing something to change.

But if there is something in the heroine that appears to reinforce that problem - that seems to show that she's the same type of person as his mother/fiancée/past girlfriend then it will reinforce his opinion.

You've done a workshop with me where I point out that a romance is not the story of a hero and heroine who are just made for each other ands recognise it at once and so fall into each others' arms and live happily ever after.

Instead it's the story of a hero and heroine whose conflict - which is what we've been studying for the past weeks - appears to show them that they are the worst possible people to come together in a relationship. It's about initial impressions being badly wrong and the need to dig deeper into what each other is really like to find out the truth. It's not about the hero's mother or his past lover - but about the way that the experiences he had with those people made him the person who sees the heroine in the wrong light and misinterprets the things she is doing and being like the people who treated him wrongly.

I just read Anne McAllister's The Virgin's Proposition. In that Demetrios has been deceived and treated badly by his late wife. That leaves him wanting to avoid the emotional complications of love and feelings in the future. As the blurb on the back of the book says 'his heart is empty and that's the way he likes it.'

When he meets Anny he thinks she is fresh and appealing - and her proposition of one night together makes him feel that she is as uncommitted emotionally as he is. One night is fine. Even if he wants more - physically at least.

When he realises that Anny has not told him the truth about who she is and what her situation is, then that starts to change everything. It makes him look at her in a different light. One that is made worse by the betrayal he had in the past.

And later, when he realises that Anny is much more emotionally involved he wants to hold back on the relationship because he believes he doesn't want to get involved, it's too complicated.

So although the baggage he brings with him from the past affects this relationship, it is what happens between him and Anny, who Anny is and how she behaves, that creates the conflict between the two of them in the present. A conflict that is complicated by his past experiences but not created solely by it.

(c) Kate Walker

I showed my comments above to Anne McAllister and asked if it was a fair assessment of her conflict in The Virgin's Proposition. I think that her response is really helpful and adds to this discussion by showing the way that that one same conflict can become more complicated, have added layers to 'the onion' and so develop into a conflict thyat can carry through a whole book, and create a story rather than just 'Demetrios's conflict with is that he doesn't trust her because he has been badly hurt and let down by her late wife'.

Anne says:

I would add that Anny's day job -- as a princess -- complicates things, too, because it isn't just her he'd be marrying. It's a whole damn country.

And the time they spent together one-on-one on the boat is like a little idyll where none of the outside stuff matters. It makes them think about 'what might have been' if they had only themselves to please. But the fact is, the real world and obligations and suchlike will intrude once they get back on shore -- and they both know it.

Still, love is hard to deny. But once they give in to it, they have to face the question of whether or not they can try to make the relationship work when it's more than just the two of them. And even more important, they have to decide if they are willing to take the risk of trusting the other person. Anny is more willing to do that -- she hasn't been hurt the way he has. But it isn't just his own possible hurt that Demetrios is risking if he tries to have a relationship with Anny. It's worrying if he can be all that she needs, too. He feels emotionally damaged and not sure he can give her what she should have. He has to come to realize that what she needs -- and should have -- is him!

It usually comes down to a question, at the end, of "what one of them wants the most, the other fears the most" for whatever reason. It's real conflict on a gut level that comes from externals (the real world), internals (past experience) and the now which is: are they able to love each other unreservedly and give the other what each of them needs. Love is always a risk. And they have to find the courage to take it.

(c) Anne McAllister

Thank you Anne - The Virgin's Proposition is out in Presents in September. The UK Modern Romance edition was on the shelves in May but is still around on the M&B web site or on

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

CONFLICT - Questions and Answers

Jackie wrote to me with a question about conflict:

I do have a question about conflict and mine is how NOT to complicate the conflict, I sometimes have too many layers in my onion! What's the best way to keep it simple?

Now I think I'd better make it clear that I use the simile of the onion precisely because I think a conflict needs lots of layers. A conflict that can simply be cleared up with one decent conversation is too simple to sustain through the book.

But by layers of that onion I don't mean adding lots of new details and new complications to the conflict - even worse, I don't mean adding lots of new conflicts. That's adding a whole lot more ingreients - peppers, tomatoes, cucumber etc etc instead of peeling away the layers of your actual central conflict.

I quoted Donna Alward wrting on conflict in her blog earlier this week. Also in that blog she says something very important - and relevant to what you're asking Jackie.

Donna says:

So can you have too much conflict? Surprisingly, yes. Because what you really need is a CORE conflict - and complications that branch off from that. The core conflict is your trunk, the complicatins are the branches. If you have too much conflict, you end up with too many trunks and not enough branches. Not a very pretty tree. . . Think of summarizing your book in a one paragraph pitch, or a back blurb. What do you state? WHO your hero and heroine are, and what the PROBLEM is. ONE problem. Core conflict.

. . . I want to share something of my farm roots. When you are pruning a tree (I was brought p on an apple farm) you trim so as to promote what's called a central leader. That's the branch that's going to go right up the centre of the tree and form the structure. If you don't prune for that central leader yu get completing branches. The tree does not grow as well as it is trying to support all the leaders, and you get mayhem in the structure of your tree. Nor will it produce to its potential. The same thing happens with your conflict. Too much conflict competes, creating NOISE as I like to put it. Your structure will be off. And yur story will not reach its true potential because without a central leader - a core conflict - you will lose the heart of your story.

Thank you Donna!

So Jackie - you need to look at your 'complications' and see if they spring from the original, the core conflict. Can you trace them back to that one event/problem/belief and see that they developed from that? If yes then they are part of the core conflict. If not they are complications that will muddy the water, confuse the reader - and worst of all diffuse the emotional tension because the reader doesn't feel connected to the central problem.

I hope that in my post about threading conflict through a book, changing and devloping as you go, that I showed you how you need complications of that one conflict not lots of different confusing ones.

The important quote is KEEP IT SIMPLE. DIG DEEP.

To test for the 'core' conflict of your story - try writing out your conflict . Just your conflict - asking what is this book really about?

For example - The Good Greek Wife? is about a couple who married for very different reasons and have never resolved that problem because fate intervened between them.

The Konstantos Marriage Demand is about two people who were torn apart by the feud between their families. Now they must learn to trust each other again.

Kept For Her Baby is about a couple who married without knowing each other so when a problem hit they couldn't share it.

Blake Snyder listed five questions to 'find the spine' of your story

1. Who is your hero
2. How does this story begin and how does it end. (This is quite simple for a romance - but it should also give you an answer to the core conflict - eg in The Good Greek Wife? to have the happy ending, Zarek and Penny must learn why each married the other initially and whether those reasons still hold true after what they have learned about each other.)
3. What's the problem (and how will it eventually get fixed?)
4. What's the tangible goal and the spiritual goal of your story (ie what do your characters 'want' - but what do they really 'need'?)
5. What is it about? (What's the theme of the story?)

So, basically Jackie I think that when you are tempted to add in another complication to your story you need to make sure that it is connected to your core conflict.

Ask yourself WHY am I putting this in here. If it's because you feel that not enough is happening then perhaps you haven't dug DEEP enough into your character's emotional reasons for behaving as they do. Perhaps you don't know them well enough.

Events are not reasons. They are things for your characters to react to. Too many events can cloud the issue and diffuse the tension

As I said earlier - it's all about the EMOTIONAL JOURNEY

Look again at the idea of writing a synopsis showing only the EMOTIONAL changes and turning points - Keep it simple. dig deep.

And always ask WHY?

(c) Kate Walker

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

CONFLICT - Sarah Duncan

Another great quote about conflict that I had in my RNA Workshop handout. This time it's from Sarah Duncan - you can find more about Sarah and her writing on her web site.

Thank you to Sarah for letting me use this here.

In real life most of us avoid conflict, but our characters should embrace it. Without conflict there is no drama, and without drama the writing is dull. But because we get brought up to smooth over disagreements there's a tendency to smooth over them in our writing too, even the little conflicts that we hardly notice - who took the last of the milk, where's my pen?
No conflict = boring to read.

So, how to add conflict? First think about the levels of conflict.

Conflict in your head - eg doubts, uncertainty, anxieties, negative personality traits.
Conflict with your body - eg ill health, physical disabilities.
Conflict with your family - eg domineering parents, disobedient children
Conflict with friends - eg rows over actions
Conflict with lovers - eg adultery, desertion, betrayal
Conflict with institutions - eg the tax office, the law
Conflict with individuals in society - eg policeman, traffic warden, doctor
Conflict with the environment - eg floods, cold weather, drought (natural) war, concrete jungle (manmade)

Now think about your main character. Going through the list, how many conflicts could your character potentially have.

Now I'm not suggesting that all these conflicts will have a large place in your writing, but they should be there supplying the grit that will create a beautiful pearl. Make your characters struggle against life, make life hard for them in every way, large or small, you can come up with. Isn't that why characters like Scarlett O'Hara, James Bond and Jane Eyre still resonate today? We follow their struggles and relish seeing them triumph in the end.


Monday, August 16, 2010

New Voices Workshop - just to clarify!

In case anyone is hoping to come to the workshop I'm giving in Doncaster in connection with the Mills & Boon New Voices contest I may need to clear up some confusion that has been causing a bit of hassle and a flurry of phone calls this afternoon.

So - if anyone has rung the library and been told that this event is only open to readers' groups and members of Doncaster library - this isn't actually the case. The workshop is open to all and there are still places available as I write this.

But because of space restrictions, the library is limiting numbers to 25.

The last I heard there were about 15 people already booked in for the workshop so if you want to make sure of a place, I suggest you ring the library and get your name down pretty promptly.

To recap - the workshop is

Date: August 26th

Place: Doncaster Central Library Waterdale Doncaster DN1 3JE
Time: 10am - 12
To book phone: 01302 736000

CONFLICT - Donna Alward

I have another great quote about Conflict this morning. This is from Donna Alward and if you want to read more about Donna and her books, you'll find her web site here. She also did a section on her blog about conflict, which is where this quote is taken from.

There are two kinds of conflict and both SHOULD be present in any story. The balance changes according to the kind of story you are writing. So for me, Harlequin Romance is very internal conflict/character arc driven. For Intrigue, the balance will be different with loads of fast-paced external conflict and a smaller internal conflict arc operating within it. I used the word balance for a reason. If you take a book that needs high external conflict and add in too much internal, what happens? You bog down the action. You kill the pace, filling up crucial moments with introspective narrative. And yet you need SOME, so that the reader cares about the characters making it through.

In Romance, the external conflict is a place to hang your hat, so to speak. It's the hook that brings the two characters together in the same place at the same time, with problems to solve that have nothing to do with each other. A classic hook is the marriage of convenience. The hero needs a wife because....the heroine needs a husband because....and they fit the bill. But guess what - here's where the internal conflict takes over. WHY does the solution to the problem now BECOME the problem? Because of the internal conflict each brings to the table.


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Kate's Corner and a contest

It's the 15th of the month so that means that it's my day for blogging in Kate's Corner over on We Write Romance.

Today I'm talking about the new cover designs and the changes that are happening in Harlequin Mills & Boon in the upcoming months. If you haven't seen the new designs then now's your chance - and they'll be out on the bookshop shelves next month.

And thinking of Kate's Corner reminds me. I've been asked to write another regular column on a great blog site, starting with the new year in 2011. Of course I've said yes.

But - and here's where I need your help - what should I call my column this time?

Heather at We Write Romance came up with Kate's Corner which I like a lot - but now I need another name for this regular column - so

I'd love it if you could suggest some possible ideas for the name of this new column
Walker's Warblings?
Kate's Crazies?
Queen's Queries?

I'm sure you can think of something much better.

How about posting your suggestion in the Comments section of the blog and I'll pick my favourite (s)

I can't guarantee that it will be the one that gets used but I will offer a prize to the winner
So - what are your ideas?

Oh - and my thanks to Marilyn who drew my attention to this good review of The Good Greek Wife? on The Good The Bad and The Unread
I'll be thinking of you on Tuesday Marilyn and hope that knee op goes smoothly and your'e soon up and about again
Thank you too to Lynne Connolly for the review

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Mills & Boon New Voices Contest - an update

The August birthday celebrations continue today with the special day for my lovely 3rd twin Donna Alward

(And if you think it's not possible to have three twins, then you've never seen Donna, myself and the other 'twin' Holly Jacobs together !)

Happy Birthday Donna!

With the announcement of the Mills & Boon New Voices Contest and the need to get your entries in between September 6th and 22nd, I have been asked by a few people whether there are any copies of the 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance still available.

As I've already announced, this book is currently being reprinted and copies are now really quite scarce and difficult to find.

So I thought I'd better let you know that if you are looking for a copy to help you prepare your entry for the New Voices contest then the publisher has just let me know that they have found a few extra copies that are available right now.

In the UK there are just 20 copies left in print - these can be bought from either or The Book Depository- or indeeed from your local bookshop, particularly if it's Waterstones. Just take the information and the ISBN from the Writers page on my website to the shop and they should order it for you.

In America, there are about the same number of copies of the USA edition - available from or again to order from a bookshop - with these details:

ISBN: 9781842851319
Price: $19.99

From Studymates Publishing
Chicago Distribution Centre
11030 Sth Langley Avenue
Chicago IL 60628
Phone: 773 702 7000
Fax: 773 702 7212

Once these copies are gone, there will be no more available until the book is reprinted. (If you're coming to my workshop in Doncaster, I'll have some copies available there.)

And if you have any success with the contest and feel that the 12 Point Guide has helped you, please let me know.
Good luck!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Taking A Break from Conflict

The discussion on Conflict is interesting - even to me after all these years but I want to take a diversion from conflict and into friendship to celebrate another friend's birthday in August.

Many of you who have read this blog often will know who I'm talking about but for those of you who don't know - today is the birthday of one of the best friends that this writing life has brought me - the fabulous, RITA winning (several times) and RITA nominated (
several times) and Sid the Cat's favourite Lady Across The Pond - Anne McAllister

As I said before, I seem fated to have friends with birthdays in August - obviously I get on well with Leos - and Anne is no exception. We are kindred spirits, in fact her most recent post over on her blog or Tote Bags 'n' Blogs is one that I could have written myself. And of course she is a very special person to A Very Special Cat (A Cat of Superior Breeding) Sir Sidney himself.

To celebrate I have been treating myself to a read of Anne's latest Mills and Boon Modern/Harlequin Presents - The Virgin's Proposition.
I loved her closed off, wounded hero Demetrios, and I adored watching her innocent but far from naive heroine Anny open up to life and love and experience.
I loved every word of it and reading it was almost as good as hearing Anne's voice in my ear. The next best thing to celebrating her birthday with her in person.

The Virgin's Proposition is out in Presents in September - and as a May book in the UK it's still available on Amazon and the Mills & Boon web site.


CONFLICT - Layering it through the book - the Onion

Something that seems to give a lot of writers probelms is the idea of 'layering' a conflict, using the same conflict but changing and developing it through a story so that the conflict becomes more complicated - but not the book!

I had two questions about this that I'll deal with over the next couple of posts but the first one is from Racael who simply said:

I'd like to learn more about layering the conflict through a story.

So let's take a look at:

Adding layers to a conflict

Very few reasons for conflict, however powerful, can actually last through the whole of a book without changing, adapting, developing, or just varying in tone and emphasis. The best sorts of conflicts are those that have layers and layers of involvement, and as each one is dealt with and peeled away, it reveals another complication, another aspect of the same problem, or a different development of it, going deeper and deeper until finally the central core of the problem is exposed, ready for you characters to tackle it.

That's why I use the image of an onion for a conflict because the real 'heart' of the story, the real core of the conflict is not revealed until you have stripped away so much of the outer lyers.

This pacing and staging of the revelations that make up the conflict adds to the suspense and the tension that keeps the reader turning the page. It also has the bonus of increasing and building on the sexual tension between the hero and heroine as they want more and more to be together but feel more and more that it will be a mistake/a danger/a disaster.

I tend to start out with a main character - either the hero or the heroine and a situation that they are in -

Okay - classic secret baby conflict (overused - but it's quick and easy and I have a book of my own kin mind to be able to use to list the stages of development of the conflict. Also, it's surprising hgow often I read this one when the writer simply thinks that it's the baby that is the cause of conflict. And it's so much more than that.)

So she has a baby - So the first question you need to ask is what happened in the past?

Obviously the H&h had a relationship - an intimate relatinship but now it's over so -
Why didn't she stay with the father/tell him about the child ?

The answers to that will give me some more idea of what the conflict issues will be -
- In my story she left him because she knew he never wanted children and she feared he would force her to choose between the baby and him and she knew she could never have a termination

Next - What is going to bring the two together

He comes back into her life

Has he been looking for her - or is it by accident?

Each of these will have a different effect, different tension, different initial conflict

The answer to that will give me an idea of how he's feeling and so how he's going to react when they meet again.

Then putting the two together creates the initial conflict.

And if you want to split it up - the

External Conflict is that her ex lover and the father of her child has come to stay in a cottage on the farm where she now lives and works

and the
Internal Conflict is all the rest!

Short term conflict - She doesn't want him to know about the baby He believes she walked out on him for someone else because this is what she told him to protect herself from him trying to keep her with him

Long term conflict - the unresolved problem of the fact that he doesn't want children and she does and he thinks she has a new man in her life. Also her fear of how he will react when he knows about the baby - and what he will then want to do (claim the child? Reject the baby? Reject her totally?)

So - the first conflict we see is that she hides the child's existence That's stage one
But they still share the sexual passsion they had before

But she can't give in to that because of her secret

Stage two: - But then he sees her with the child - doesn't realise it's hers - a different conflict - should she tell him or not?
Especially as he is clearly taken with the child

But she is fears his reaction when he discovers that she lied

Stage three : Her friend gives away the fact that the baby is hers

He now knows about the baby - but thinks it is younger than it really is - so the conflict shifts again He thinks the baby is with her new man and that's why she left. Same original conflict - but it's changing and reshaping with additional information

- He gets to know the child - thinking it's someone else's.

- But the 'other man' isnt in her life - so maybe they can be together - because he still wants her sexually so very much

Stage Four Then he finds out the truth - the age of the babyand the fact that there is no other man - makes it clear that she is his

A new slant on this stage - how will he react to the realisation that he's been deceived?

He also has to face the fact that it was his own refusal to have children that made her hide the child in the first place

He also needs to come to trust her enough to tell her the reason WHY he doesn't want children
His emotinal development/internal conflict is vital at this point.

Stage Five: He comes to love the child - but does he love the heroine?

Stage Six : He explains why he didn't want children Which adds another complication.

They are building peace in order to care for the child but is there any more to it?

Stage Seven: Black Moment He has fallen in love with his baby and insists that he wants more than just access - he wants the child in his life The heroine sees this as a demand to take the child from her - that he wants the baby not her

So you see, this all started from the original conflict of him not wanting children but not saying why

Which leads her to react in one way

And he reacts to that - which changes the situation

And she reacts to the changed situation . . . .
Very little else is brought into the story but the characters and their inner conflicts

So the way to develop a deep, emotional conflict is to work from the inside - to go with the characters' feelings and the way they react to each stage of the developing conflict (Keep it simple - dig deep) That reaction will spark off an answering reaction in the other person - emotional reactions, not conflicts created by outside forces.

And because the reactions, the emotions and so the conflicts come from deep inside the characters' hearts, the conflict in the book will have the emotional punch that editors are looking for.
(c) Kate Walker

If you want to see these changes in action - the book is HIS MIRACLE BABY (Presents Feb 02)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

CONFLICT - GMC -Black Moment and HEA

A lot of people find the 'Goal Motivation, Conflict' analysis a help when working on the conflict between their characters.I discussed the sort of goals characters can have earlier -


– Something to strive for, for which he/she must prove himself worthy.

-Goals should not be easily obtained, but earned through choices under pressure and through changes in the character.

-The goal your character starts out with may not be the same by the end of the story


- Your character must have logical, believable, in character reasons for wanting that goal so badly they’ll do anything to achieve it

– under the circumstances they are in


- a seemingly insurmountable ‘something’ that will hinder your character from achieving that goal

- something that will force him/her to make difficult choices.

External forces of GMC manifest themselves in a physical way

Internal forces come from inside the character, from their beliefs and emotions

To get a handle on your characters’ GMC –do this test


He/she WANTS – what?

BECAUSE - why does he want it?

BUT – what is stopping them (Conflict)

- at this point the relationship seems doomed- because the characters are unable or unwilling to resolve the core conflicts that are keeping them apart
- Both the characters and the reader can’t see how the problem would be solved.
- In order to reach HEA (happy ever after ending) they need to learn something they didn’t know before
- Events beyond their control make an about-face
- They COME TO REALISE that love is more important than their problems


- The ending must come about from what has already happened

-What your H&h have learned about themselves creates changes in their attitudes, beliefs and personalities that bring them closer together and can resolve the conflict

- no DEUS EX MACHINA - something that suddenly happens, some new and unforeshadowed startling piece of information changing everythingat a blow

- Your characters should reach the happy ending by CHANGING/LEARNING/GROWING

(c) Kate Walker

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

With the Minxes

I went to bed last night feeling rough and headachy and have woken (very late) today with a raging sore throat. So while I find some honey and hot lemon, you can find more to read today about me and my work over on The Minxes of Romance's Blog.

Thanks to all the minxes - several of whom I've met in person - for inviting me.

And thanks to Lorraine for reminding me that this was my week as I'd forgotten!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

CONFLICT - Sustaining and Working it Through

Unsustainable conflicts - conflicts that don't go deep enough, that are based on one small disagreement or that aren't important enough emotionally will run out of steam, leaving you struggling. You will have the dreaded 'sagging middle' or, worse, will run out of story before the book is finished so the novel stops dead, never to be revived.

The answer is to not introduce more conflicts, different conflicts, conflicts from different sources - these will complicate the story, muddling the emotional impact rather than add tension. You need to add complications to the original conflict

You need to make sure that you start your book with a STRONG major conflict

How do you do that?

- if you can’t finish the synopsis, it could be a sign that your conflicts are weak
- think through the story again until logic says it will hold together
- write a synopsis based on the internal conflict alone. Write a synopsis, then peel it right back to just the emotional tensions and the emotional turning points. When you strip the story down to just the conflict, it is much easier to see where the holes are.

- know their strengths, weaknesses and their goals
- Tailor your conflicts to their personalities.
- Constantly ask yourself - or your characters
- what are you feeling right now?
- Why?
- What does his/her behaviour strike off inside you?
- Why?
-Why do you react so strongly to this?


You need to keep the conflict at the forefront of your characters' - and so your readers' thoughts at all times. Even when they are doing something else, it should be preying on their minds.

1. Keep them together – close proximity gives the characters the opportunity to externalise their internal emotional conflicts.

2. Let conflict complicate your plot – basing key decisions on characters’ emotions and not just on logic.

3. Take two steps forward and one step back
- Follow success with a reversal
- Play the scene from another angle
– H believes he’s making progress – show how the heroine has interpreted it differently
- The closer they get the more they WANT to stay close. The more they taste intimacy and love the worse this step back feels

4. Don’t have a conflict that can be solved with one simple explanation.

5. Sexual tension deepens the conflict- Sexual longing never wanes when a couple is meant to be together- Sexual tension heightens the tension between the to in one way- Sexual fulfilment without emotional fulfilment deepens the problem. Emotional issues separate them

6 Being intimate physically while not being intimate emotionally opens a whole new set of problems. Your characters may think that by 'getting it over with'/'scratching an itch'/not fighting it will mean getting the problem out of the way. In fact it is far more likely to add to and complicate the situation.

7. Create emotional tension by holding off on the words 'I love you'.
WHo is holding off on saying this?
What is the effect on the other character? Why?

Always WHY?

(c) Kate Walker

Sunday, August 08, 2010

A Special Day

I have some more posts about Conflict coming up but I'm pretty busy today with something special to celebrate . Two special things really. Two special birthdays.

One I'm a bit late - a day late - with so I have to say sorry to my lovely 'twin' Holly Jacobs for that. Holly's birthday was yesterday. So Happy Birthday for yesterday Holly! I hope you had a very special day.

And today's birthday? Well that's really special - to me anyway.

Some years ago (quite a few of them!) in Leeds, West Yorkshire, a baby boy was born who was destined to become my own real life hero. I had to go to Aberystwyth in Wales to meet him, in spite of the fact that while he was growing up in Leeds, I was only 20 or so miles away in Halifax. But destiny knew what she was doing and it all worked out as a HEA in the end.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY BABE MAGNET and here's to many many more of them!

It doesn't seem right somehow to be talking about Conflict today though, so if you're looking for Conflict posts then come back tomorrow. We're off out into the sunshine for the day to celebrate. And then dinner tonight with The Offspring and his Lovely Girlfriend.

But on a small intriguing coincidence thought - Holly's birthday is August 8th, the Babe Magnet 's birthday is today - August 9th. And when I was at school my best friend then was born on August 8th too. There must be some special connection between me and these dates at this time of year.

So Josephine West - if you're out there - Happy Birthday too!

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Conflicted and New Voices

I hope that my posts on Conflict are helping you grasp this topic. Thank you to everyone who has commented or sent me private thanks for the internet 'workshop' - I'm really happy it's giving you the information you need. I'll be coming back to the final posts, and to answering some more of your questions about conflict in the next few days. But, as the title of this post says, I'm conflicted about what to give my attention to as I am so very very busy right now (nothing new there!)

And I'm really glad that I had some of these posts ready and scheduled to post on here because if I hadn't I don't think I would have found time to put anything on my blog. As you'll know, I'vebeen away in Wales at the fabulous fantastic Caerleon Writers' Holiday. It was particularly lovely this time, though saddened by the news that our dear friend Iris Gower had died. The final Cwmbach Male Voice Choir performance at the end of the week was particularly poignant when they sang her favourite song Myfanwy as a tribute to a lovely lady.

As always, the Babe Magnet and I just didn't want to come home. But before we left we were already booked to teach at Caerleon again next year (July 24th - 29th 2011) - so the Magnet will be teaching the Writing Poetry course and I will, of course be teaching Writing Contemporary Romance. This has become a slightly more important course now for would-be romance writers as it's Part One of the two part course - Writing Romance and Writing Romance Moving it on. The second part will be taught at Fishguard Writing Weekend.

But of course I will be teaching other courses and workshops before then. If you are a member of a Writers' Group that is a member of NAWG (National Association of Writers' Groups) I will be teaching at their festival in Durham 3rd-5th September 2010.

And as part of the New Voices Contest that Mills and Boon are organising, I'll also be running a workshop in Doncaster central library
So if any of you live near Doncaster and would like to come along, then the details you'll need are:
DATE: August 26th 2010
PLACE: Doncaster Central Library Waterdale Doncaster DN1 3JE
TIME: 10am- 12
For more details phone: 01302 736000
And of course the details of the New Voices Contest can be found here

Friday, August 06, 2010

CONFLICT - Emotions

Conflict is all about the EMOTIONS. You need to use the way your characters are feeling about each other, about the problems that come between them, to build the emotional tension and so build the sense of conflict in the book - even at the time when your Hero and heroine are not really fighting each other but that worry, tension, conflict is still in their minds.


Even if a conflict is not one you are likely to face you can imagine what your H or h would feel and express that -
Emotions like
- fear
- anxiety
- anger
- guilt
- apprehension
- terror

Use them

If your conflicts don’t evoke strong emotions in your characters – and you – and so the reader then they’re probably not worth writing

Historical romances can obvioulsy have more dramatic events like
- war
- famine
- plague

Bit these aren't necessarily better or even more dramatic within your story that the way your charactres are feeling. And the most dramatic events in the world won't tug at your readers' heartstrings without the character empathy they should feel.

But you are writing ROMANTIC fiction so your Number One concern is how is the relationship developing in the fact of this conflict ?Is it being derailed or can they work through it?

Once again, it's not the size or the drama of the event but the way that it hits home to your character because of their personality, background, beliefs etc.

And don't pound the reader into numbness with dramatic event, or discovery or emotional
development one after another - they will just end up feeling punch drunk.


Wednesday, August 04, 2010

CONFLICT - Turning up the heat

The important thing to remember about creating an effective and emotionally affecting conflict is that the key to a conflict that has your reader emotionally involved is to focus on the characters.

With characters that your reader cares about then they will be cheering for your hero and heroine and wanting them to win through, to get together and to reach that happy ever after ending.

Without that emotional involvement, you can create the most violent, intense, tragic conflict and the reader will not feel the emotions you are aiming to create.

An INTERNAL conflict does not need to be over-psychoanalysed to be effective

- You don’t need to over load with deep-seated fears and abusive childhood to make them reluctant to accept love.
- - a couple of serious issues, a cynical outlook, a misguided personal goal can have the same effect

- Explore the subtleties of LESSER PROBLEMS

- To make these work really explore the FEELINGS your characters would feel


No more Ms Nice Writer -you have to treat your characters mean and make those problems get worse

For example -
1. If you have a villain (External) make him a strong one – one that might just overpower the hero

2. Give the hero and heroine conflicting goals

3. Let your hero/heroine inadvertently make things worse by their own actions – maybe the heroine’s honesty hurts the hero’s cause

4. Let outside forces unexpectedly turn the tide against your protagonists – a burning house and the wind changes – a stock market crash

(c) Kate Walker

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

CONFLICT - Intensifying


1. How much character desires the goal
- characters will fight hardest for what they desire most intensely
2. How confident the character is of achieving the goal
- If a character is confident, they may be slow to see a threat
- If character fears it won’t happen, they may fight over much smaller signs of opposition

3. How flexible the character is about how and when the goal is achieved
- Needing it today/next week will mean they will fight harder than if they want it ‘one day’


Sunday, August 01, 2010

CONFLICT - Anne McAllister

Another quote on Conflict from another of my fabourite authors - Anne McAllister :

What I would say, I guess, is that the conflict has to exist on at least two if not three levels in a romance.

There can be external imposed conflict from outside -- like the family or father who objects to a marriage. External conflict is more important in other kinds of fiction than it is in romance. Sometimes in other kinds of fiction -- mysteries, thrillers -- it carries much of the story. In romance it may be a starting point, but it won't carry a relationship story because it comes from outside the characters and isn't strong enough to support that kind of story.

The second level, which every romance has, is conflict between the two main characters. They are in conflict with each other for one reason or another. My friend, writer Maddy Hunter, says that the best of this sort of conflict is when what one character wants the most, the other character fears the most. That is always something I keep in mind when I'm writing.

The third level supports and integrates with the second. It is the conflict within the character him or herself. In this case what the character himself discovers that he wants is what he fears. To have to battle not only the heroine, but also his own fears, makes for more compelling and urgent fiction. It also provides room for growth and, ultimately, a satisfying resolution.
Now, that said, of course, it's all in the execution!


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