Thursday, December 31, 2009

Things that I noticed about the Modern Heat winner's first chapter

Well now the dust has settled on the Modern and Modern Heat competition, I have a few things that I noticed about Gill/Jilly's winning chapter that I found very interesting. Firstly, I'd like to congratulate Jilly on a great winning chapter, the characters are gripping and I definitely wanted to read more. Bravo!
The chapter opened with the heroine (Felicity) in the middle of a kiss-a-thon. She kisses one man, then is faced with another, who she thinks is 'pretty damned hot' who rips off his shirt, and kneels before her. She kisses him.
I've spent so much time analysing what I thought Modern Heat needed, and somewhere picked up that the first man to appear in the book should be 'him'. I've even culled earlier appearances of secondary characters because of it. In 'The Boss's Intimate Takeover' the hero (Ross) doesn't appear until 'man 3' and this doesn't take from the story at all.
Later in the chapter Felicity spends time with her 4 best friends. The bond between them is livened up with dialog, and their characters are well defined. Once again, this is an element that I would be nervous of introducing, having been told that the focus must be on the main two.
The editors said there were some main elements they loved about the story:

Gill has a cool, sassy, natural voice that leaped out at us immediately.

The hero and heroine were likable, intriguing, well motivated and had real layers and depth to them.

The sexual tension between the couple was absolutely sizzling!

Emotional conflict is woven in subtly but convincingly to ensure that we have a good sense of what will be keeping these two apart.

There is some great dialogue with a good helping of wittiness that had us laughing out loud at times!
To me, Jilly's win was well deserved, she has an excellent voice that I'm looking forward to reading more of. What I've learnt from the competition? That sometimes its right to go with your heart and write the story that's there, rather than limiting your options by thinking 'that's not right for Modern Heat.' Modern Heat is a young line, with more flexibility than Modern, and a line I'm pleased to see is continuing to evolve.


  1. I agree, it's a terrific first chapter. Huge congratulations to Jilly.

    As you highlighted from your analysis, it's almost impossible to predict what the editors will go for. I'd been mindful of keeping my heroine alone with her hero for my chapter (and I'd cut out secondary characters). You're so right, we just need to write what we feel's right, rather than trying to stick to the rules too closely.

    Thanks for posting this, definitely lots to think about.


  2. Jilly's chapter was great eh? The thing to really note is that it's all in the execution. You can get away with heaps if you do it right. :-)

  3. I agree with Jackie, AITE!
    Like you I've strayed away from secondary characters etc and been anxiously bound up by 'rules' but the more I've learnt I think they're just guidelines to help you maintain that emotional intensity.
    Focus on the emotional intensity and you can't go far wrong I think...

  4. Hey Sally,

    Caught your post on iHeart and came dashing across here to find you! And I don't have a blog, I'm afraid. As one of my crit friends recently remarked, I have the day-job-from-hell instead, so writing time is all too precious and scarce at the moment. I'd never be able to keep up with it :-)

    Thanks so much for your lovely comments - I still can't believe it, to be honest. I'm sure there were loads of fabulous chapters just as deserving of this great opportunity, and I count my blessings that Meg picked it up and got what I was trying to do. I genuinely believe there's a hefty chunk of luck in all this; another editor might just not have 'got' me at all, much preferring a different voice and set-up - I'm sure even editors have their own preferences :-)

    And I had exactly those same concerns: Ross not being the 'number-one-man' to appear; the three-page scene with just Fliss and her friends; the two of them not being together on the page 'til nine pages into the chapter. I hadn't planned it out that way (I am, I confess, an incurable pantser, which leads me into all kinds of scrapes if I'm not careful)but it just seemed to suit the premise I'd chosen so I just decided to go with it. After getting the flat R from the Feel The Heat comp, I felt I'd got nothing to lose.

    And maybe that's really the key: if it fits the situation, the characters you've created, it becomes believable and the reader will be happy to tag along with you (hopefully!). Different strokes for different folks and, more importantly perhaps, the situation in which they find themselves.

    Guess what I'm saying is, one size doesn't fit all. And you're certainly right about one thing there, Sally: if you write from the heart - from your characters' heart - that vibrancy and warmth will shine out from the page and convey itself straight to the reader.

    As someone once said, 'Rules were made to be broken, right?' Sometimes, at least :-)

    A happy 2010 to you and all of the writers who follow your blog. I hope it's a succesful and rewarding one for all of you.

    Best wishes,


  5. I'm so behind on my blogging it's embarrassing! I haven't gotten to the winners chapters yet, bad Lacey! But before I do I just wanted to say HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

  6. Happy New Year, everyone. and thanks for all the insightful responses! I'm particularly delighted to have Jilly visit as she's new to my blog so welcome Jilly! The one thing that shines out from the blog entry and the responses is that if you write from your heart and write it well you'll get there. I'm wishing us all the best for the New Year, I know we can all do it, we just have to keep on doing what we're doing and keep eyes focussed on the fact that we're telling the hero and heroine's story, and dig deep.

  7. HAPPY NEW YEAR, Sally!!!! Love your blog -- Kristi

  8. Those "rules" will get you every time. Good luck everyone with the writing in 2010.

    Happy New Year!

  9. I'm with Sally and Jilly on this... As they say in one of my favourite movies 'the code is more what you'd call "guidelines" than actual rules'.. So write from the heart and don't be derailed by the rules, because the one thing that will always catch an editor's eye is a strong, distinctive voice and that's what you want to showcase (plus it's good to know we're all in the company of pirates).

    Happy New Year all... Especially to Jilly who wrote a terrific first chapter and now has me panicking about raising my game! And best of luck with everyone's writing in 2010.

  10. As a writer who's been slammed by HP editors for secondary-character-isis, I was in awe when I read Jilly's entry. It is true that it's AITE, but until I master that particular art, I will be staying with my H/h at the beginnings of all my HP books. Me, chicken?;). That said though, I have recently sold a story to A.N. Other publisher where I have four friends out on a hen party at the beginning of the book. And I must say, it was very enjoyable writing their scenes, so who knows?

    Happy writing to all in 2010!