… and discovered I had no story.
Ok, that’s not entirely true. I had A story. I just didn’t have THE story.
But I do now.
When I set off on my first ever Melbourne Romance Writer’s Guild annual retreat [PS: who knew Phillip Island was so far away from e-v-e-r-y-thing?], I’d been working on the synopsis for my current WIP for a few weeks and was feeling pretty damn confident about it, if I do say so, myself.
Everything was chugging along nicely. I had a feisty heroine, a sexy hero, and a vile antagonist. I had a strong plot, a solid three-act structure, and a breathtaking black moment. There was snappy dialogue, hilarious pop culture references… I even had an ending that wrapped everything up in a neat little bow, eluded to a second book (yep, we’ve got ourselves a series, peeps!) and it all left me feeling pretty satisfied.
Of course, 15 minutes into the first workshop on day one of the retreat, I discovered what I DIDN’T actually have: internal conflict. Not a single drop!
I had external conflict out the wazoo. There were bad guys and beasties and more plot twists than the first season of Jane the Virgin… but internal conflict–nada, nothing, zippo. And I don’t know if you know, but without internal conflict–especially in the romance genre–well, my friends, you got nothin’.
Talk about deflating.
For those of you playing along at home, internal conflict is a pretty big deal in romances. I mean, let’s face it, we all know how the story is going to end: with a happily ever after (or a happily for now, at least). So there has to be something in it to make the reader keep turning those pages. That’s where the internal conflict comes in; that deep emotional source that has us holding our breath and wondering how on earth the hero and heroine will ever get their shit together long enough to ride off in the sunset together.
That ^^^ I had none of that.
But it wasn’t all doom and gloom. Despite the fact that my story lacked emotional depth (I’m still eye rolling myself so hard over that), it did have a lot going for it: it was funny, and action-packed, with a strong voice and well-rounded characters (shallow, but well rounded).
And it’s a bloody great story, which is nothing to snivel at.
So, determined to right this epic wrong, I set off to find some internal conflict. I pondered and scribbled notes, chided myself, ate chocolate, pondered some more, chatted with my super-supportive, mega-talented MRWG friends until I was hoarse, and then eventually revisited something I’d written in the very first draft of my opening chapter (literally months ago), but had deleted out.
Could that be the internal conflict I’d been looking for?
So, I mentioned my idea to our guest speaker (and fount of all awesomeness), Rachel Bailey, who very promptly tapped her nose, pointed at me and said, ‘Yep, that’s it.’
I nearly wept with joy.
Talk about not seeing the forrest for the trees. I mean, who takes a critical aspect of their story–it’s raison d’être, FFS–and throws it away???
I know; I only have myself to blame.
So, with that in mind (and filled with renewed vim, vigour and vitality), I’m now reworking my story and weaving through the internal conflict I’d discarded, and have to tell you, it’s goooooood! You’re going to love it!
Best of all, this whole thing encouraged me go back and revisit all the other “crap” I’d thrown out from my earlier drafts, and tah-daaaah! I found more nuggets of gold that I’ll definitely be working back in.
So, what’s the moral to this story?
- Don’t throw anything away–ever.
- Listen to your gut. Deep down you know exactly what works and what doesn’t work. Don’t second guess your instincts.
- Chocolate helps you think clearly.
- There’s nothing that can’t be fixed, so never give up.
- The support of friends, old and new, can never be underestimated or overvalued.