What do you do when your story has no conflict?
This happened to me lately. I started the story WINTER BREAK as a Christmas Quickie for Ellora’s Cave. But I’m a pantser and the story, while set at Christmas, doesn’t contain the holiday as an integral part of the story (EC’s requirement). It also doesn’t have a lot of sex in it, which makes it more a traditional romance than an erotic one.
Finished, I sent the manuscript off to several of my Sizzling Scribes sisters for proofing/editing. I always ask them to be brutal, because I want the best story I can put out there. Many thanks to both TaraNina and Lynn LaFleur for their comments (and expertise at finding my typos!).
It was Tielle St. Clare, however, who pointed out (rightfully) that I had no real conflict in the story. It was a slice of life piece – which is fine if that’s what I meant, but she rather thought it wasn’t. You see, as a pantser, I discover the characters like to drop little clues, hints about their problems that they divulge rather early in the story. As the plot progresses, I take these clues and follow them, determining as I go which are important and which are not. In the re-write, I take out the false clues (unless I’m writing a mystery like SHOOTING STAR – those red herrings are there specifically to mislead you!).
Except in WINTER BREAK, I hadn’t done anything with the hints at something in the female protagonist’s past that might hinder a current relationship.
Now mind you, I knew what it was in my head. I knew the hero and heroine would have trouble because of it. It was all right there – the characters had told me fairly early on and then trusted me to deal with it later.
Except I hadn’t. And Tielle called me on it. This is why writers need editors!
So I’ve been rewriting the story. It’s gone from just over 10K to 14K in the past week as the conflict has come home to roost. Tara and Lynn think it needs another sex scene (grin) and it might get that as well. Haven’t decided yet. Will let the characters make their choices (although I have a sneaking suspicion what they’ll want!). If they do, it will probably end up closer to 18K by the time I’m done.
Writers need editors. Writers know the story too well to have an objective eye—we miss the obvious. Thank you to Tara, Lynn and Tielle for their editing help. I couldn’t do this without you sisters!