Editorial Comments on Chasing Kate

Hello lovely blog readers. Thanks again for your great comments re my synopsis! Maybe I’m not as lousy at writing them as I thought… πŸ™‚ Right, prepare for a long post…

You’ve probably seen the editorial comment go up on I Heart Presents. I want to say Anna wrote an extremely flattering and lovely piece – I don’t know if it’s fully deserved but I’m extremely grateful to her for her faith in me. It does seem to be true what they say – the editorial staff at Mills and Boon are great!

Right, so the editorial comment. She says that I leaned quite heavily on stereotypes and she’s absolutely right. This was part of the whole ‘lack of of internal conflict’ thing. Now, poor old Kate seems to exist in a vacuum. There aren’t any reasons given for her to act in the way that she did. Why does she feel so passionately about her beliefs? My only excuse is that ‘she’s a hippy. That’s what she does’. Stereotype? Uh huh. Anna told me I needed to provide reasons for her to act the way she does otherwise she doesn’t come across as a fully rounded character. She said that at every step you have to keep asking yourself why your characters do the things they do. What made Kate lie in the dirt? Why did she go with Alex to his office? Why did he threaten her? ‘Just because’ isn’t a good enough reason! Providing reasons means providing backstory and you’ll notice that there wasn’t any backstory in that first chapter. Now, I’m no expert, but I’ve been told a number of times that because these are short romances, you have to get all the information out there quickly. And do it without info-dumping. Who said writing Mills and Boon was easy again??

Now, what else did they say? Kate’s appearance was an issue. She’s got a nosering (thank God I didn’t give her a tattoo!) which may be a turn-off for some readers. Readers have to identify with the heroine so you can’t go for extremes. They also thought the whole protest scene was a ‘gimmick’ and over shadowed the rest of the story. Does that make sense? Their conflict stemmed from the setup and not from their internal conflict. A no no.

And the humour. Yes, I’m a dialogue girl. I love writing it. I can hear my characters talk in my head like it’s a movie. I am extremely flattered that some people found the dialogue funny because humour is just one of those things that’s hard to do. But (you knew there was a but didn’t you?) I got kind of carried away with it in this chapter. They told me that the humour was great but it couldn’t be there just for the sake of it. The dialogue should drive the romance forward and if it doesn’t, you should cut it.

Do you see now why they didn’t want it? I did revise and give Kate some backstory, toned down the protest scene (should have not put it in at all in retrospect but I liked it!) and gave them a bit more in the way of internal conflict. But I didn’t go far enough. The archetypes were still there. Again, stick your characters in a room, with no external plot or sub characters or anything else, and what is it that keeps them apart? If there isn’t anything, then there is no internal conflict and therefore no story.

However, all is not lost for Kate and Alex. I am going to write their story. It will be a new story though and hopefully with lots of internal conflict and absolutely no archetypes!

Okay, I’d better stop now. Does this help people? Feel free to ask me any questions about it. Again, I’m not an expert (hello! Still unpublished!) but I hope that by passing on comment like this, it helps others get an insight into their own work.

24 thoughts on “Editorial Comments on Chasing Kate”

  1. Jackie, thank you. This is all incredibly helpful. I think the most helpful was the part about sticking the two protagonists in a room on their own to check there’s enough keeping them apart – that clearly explains the difference between internal/external conflict.

    I can’t wait to read Kate and Alex’s new story (and I hope you don’t tone down the humour too much).

    Congratulations again on the very positive feedback. And I know you won’t be unpublished for long.


  2. No problem, Suzanne! It’s nice to be able to help, honestly. It was such an eye-opener for me that I thought it worth passing the info they gave me on to others. You don’t often get to see a peice of writing and then the comment about why it wasn’t suitable. The why it doesn’t work can sometimes be more helpful that why it does.

  3. Hi, fellow series writer here. I’ve been plugging away for years, getting a little closer to figuring things out with each book. They’re not as easy to write as most people think. I admire you for putting your work out there and letting others learn from your experiences. I read your entry, synopsis and the feedback. You definitely have talent and tackling inner conflict will bring your writing to a while new level. You sure got the attention of the M&B editors. That’s a huge step in the right direction. Best of luck in your future endeavors.

  4. Thank you, Jackie, it’s really nice of you to share what your learned from the editors.

    I get it now. The external plot’s reason for being there is to force the characters to confront their internal conflicts–and we need to show those internal conflicts from the very beginning of the story.

  5. Hi Cat, thanks so much for your comments! No, they are not easy to write, not in the slightest! Yep conflict is a toughie. These days, when I’m planning a story, I start with the conflict first and then build a plot around it. Works better I think.

    Thanks Janet! No problem, it’s good to share this kind of stuff if it helps other writers I reckon. You’re absolutely right re the external plot. Its purpose is to bring the H/H together, while the internal conflict keeps them apart. And yes, you do need to at least give some idea of internal conflict at the start – at least that’s my understanding.

  6. Thanks JAckie for sharing! There’s some real gold there to think about. It comes at the perfect time as I’m planning my new mss.

    It is hard to get the balance of backstory in the first chapter isn’t it!

    Can’t wait to see the revised and published version of this story πŸ™‚

  7. Hey Rach, thanks for that. I’m meaning to do the lemonade thing btw, just wanted to post this first.
    Anyway, yeah, getting the backstory in there is hard. I’ve got a completed one where the H/H have a lot of history together and getting that all across in the first chapter, without doing a huge info-dump was hell! Even now I don’t think I’ve got it quite right.

    Anyway, good luck with the new ms.

  8. Jackie, thanks for your insightful and helpful post, I’ve found it very interesting!

    You definitely have talent and I hope you’re published soon.

    BTW – cant wait to read your revised story

    Thanks again for sharing


  9. Joanne, thanks for your comments. I was going to wait to write Kate and Alex’s story – I have a wip already on the go and one I’m rewriting – but maybe I’ll have to do it sooner rather than later!

  10. Thanks Jackie,

    Hearing other people’s editorial feedback is always incredibly useful. Certainly if you hadn’t passed your comments on to me I would have been stuck writing stories laden with complicated external plots.

    Thanks again πŸ™‚

  11. Forgot to say I meant to do the lemonading thing too but don’t understand backlinking.I shouldn’t be allowed on the web really πŸ˜‰

  12. Oh God, backlinking. I don’t even know that word let alone understand what it is!!

    Great posts over the last few days Jackie and soooo useful. I’m in the middle of a plotting via motivation course. It has shown me exactly what you said, Jackie. Characters, conflict, then plot.

    Of course, I am now worrying excessively that my current WIP has too much external and not enough internal …

  13. This is all starting to come together, so thank you very much for sharing these hints and tips, Jackie. That Eureka moment (yup, typed it correctly this time around) is starting to slowly turn into a lightbulb moment. lol;

    I can see now what MH meant about Kate living in a vacuum, which I didn’t get before.

    And I do – now – understand Kate and Alex’s conflict stemming from the protest situation.

    However I would not have thought either of these two points were beyond the scope of a rewrite.

    I still loved the sparkle and wit of your writing, and will be very disapointed if I am not buying a “Jackie Coates” story soon.

    And now I am going to add something quite contentious.

    I absolutely loved Lucy Roberts 1st chapter as well, BUT nowhere at all in that chapter did I see ANY conflict at all – external or internal – between the hero and heroine. Just humourous, sexy banter. There was some backstory for the heroine, but none at all for the Hero. He was living in a vacuum in that chapter, as far as I could see.

    Which leads me to despair at times. It seems to me that although there is a set of rules for wannabe writers to follow, the editoral staff dispense with these when it suits them. Which in turns means that trying to meet their criteria is very hit and miss.

  14. Interesting comment, Elisabeth (and not in the slightest bit contentious, at least not to me!).

    I guess this is one of the points about external v. internal conflict. If internal conflict is what I think it is (and heaven knows I’m no expert) then it’s likely to be a pretty big deal to the character concerned and not something you’d be all that willing to share with someone you’ve just met. I reckon this builds the tension. The more they get to know each other as the novel progresses, the more their internal conflicts matter and the more they have to lose.

    My Chapter 1 (I’d thought!) had hints about my heroine’s inner conflicts. As it was all from the heroine’s pov there was no opportunity to go into the hero’s backstory/motivations. Chapter 2, on the other hand, does, I hope, shed light onto this!

    Phew, it’s lucky a chapter isn’t a story, eh?!

    Lucy King/Roberts (who has no idea how to backlink either)

  15. Jackie, thanks for the inside information.

    As writers I think we pay more attention to the ‘negatives’ than to the ‘positives’, as it’s the constructive criticism that makes our work better, rather than the praise – but you must have noticed that you got more praise than you did criticism. Yay!

  16. Lucy – quick question, but I’m not sure how to ask this on your blog, so I’m posting here.

    Did you get the inspiration for “Bid for Love” from James Blunt?

  17. Thanks for your comments, everyone! Elisabeth, you probably won’t be buying Jackie Coates – I’m hoping for Jackie Ashenden! πŸ™‚
    Anyway, as Lucy says, getting the internal conflict across in that first chapter is tricky. Even in my revisions I didn’t give Alex much. She’s right, it’s not something you would tell a complete stranger. But you can give hints, either in introspection of via dialogue, that something is up with them that obviously makes them do certain things.

  18. Jackie,

    I just wanted to take a moment to say thank you for the excellent post. This is very helpful for me. There is so much detail, I am going to have to print it out and keep it for reference!

    I am looking forward to seeing you published as well!

    If I could comment on Lucy’s chapter, I saw the heroine’s internal conflict as that she wasn’t the type of person to just take a plane flight with a total stranger. Plus, was she really such a person that her sister had to put her up on the internet as a “damsel in distress?”

    Lucy did a great job of putting it in the chapter without throwing it in the reader’s face.

    Now, I may be wrong about what I saw, but I bet each one of us would have different impressions.

    Keep up the great work, Lucy and Jackie!


  19. Hiya, I think my comments re Lucy’s brilliant 1st chapter may have been misconstrued.

    It was the lack of conflict BETWEEN the hero and heroine which has me bemused, as we are told in the writing guidelines to have the hero and heroine not only meet as soon as possible, but start revealing clues about the internal conflict which will keep them both apart as soon as possible so the reader is given a hook by which to judge the characters actions.

    But I can’t see any signs of conflict BETWEEN the hero and the the heroine anywhere in Lucy’s first chapter.

    That is why I made my (contentious?) comment about MH guidelines being so fluid that they are not particularly helpful to us wannabes.


  20. Thanks for posting the process you’ve been through with this story- it’s a fascinating insight into how editorial works and what they may looking for in a story. I loved Chasing Kate, it certainly won’t be long until you get that Call!

    Elisabeth, we love a bit of contention! I think we can drive ourselves crazy trying to work out what the “Rules” are and then apply them religiously to our stories. The danger there, for me anyway, is losing my voice and losing the story ‘cos I’m so busy making sure I’m ticking off the boxes!
    The internal conflict, I think, has to be the source of the relationship block, the things that need to be resolved so they can get together. It’s often the deepest darkest secret stuff than no-one wants to ever reveal to another person. The characters may only hint at it in their thoughts, or the clues will be there in their reactions to situations. Early on in the story, the external situation probably will dominate, but we need to have those clues and hints there, alluding to the internal conflict that must be the driver for the black moment.
    Anyway, that’s what I’m trying to do, with varying degress of success, in my WiP! Must go read today’s post as I think this is probably just what Jax is talking about today.

  21. Okay, I apologize to everyone because my response wasn’t at all intended to be an attack. It was supposed to show that internal conflict is not always readily apparent. (I think that is what mulberry said as well.)

    Also, like any good literature/fiction, everyone sees the story differently.

    And Elisabeth, I agree with you that the MH line/guidlines are hard to figure out. But, the only way to get there is to keep trying.


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