One of the things in contest entries that drives me crazy is where a judge deducts points because they have questions about where the plot is going. If picked up a random book off the shelf at the bookstore, and read only the first 25 pages, with no cover picture and no back cover blurb to help out (i.e. no synopsis), I’d probably have questions too. If I didn’t, I’d put the book down. If I know in 25 pages exactly where a story is going and how its going to get there, I’m bored. With my Sci Fi, you really can’t guess on page 1 or 25 where the book will head. I hope that’s a good thing because I had no idea exactly where that would be until I got there, but I know the characters ended up in the right spots. Yes, I’m a pantser :) And some parts of my plot are kind of unexpected (I hope). I like it that way.
These aren’t short stories, folks. You don’t get the whole scoop in 25 pages, and nor should you. In my opinion, the first 25 pages should be starting the action, starting the conflict, starting the plot. Not handing it to you wrapped in dancing snowmen and ribbons. I do think that the suspense judges were kinder about not knowing everything on page 1 (or on page 25).
I also get a lot of questions on romantic conflict. And I think its related to how I’m showing my stories and the same comments about wanting to understand where the book is going. I don’t necessarily delve into every romantic conflict on page one. I’ve been trying to uncover them, layer by layer. For example, in my single title, its clear from page 1 (or maybe 2) that the hero is engaged to someone other than the heroine. But you have to get much further in the book to understand why he’s rather adamant about staying engaged, despite events that keep leading him elsewhere. Nope, I don’t feel like speeding that up. I’d kind of like it to be frustrating to the reader until they get a little aha moment where things really click into place.
Again, don’t think I had any questions about it on my suspense entry—I guess FBI agent vs someone on the run makes the romantic conflict pretty darned clear, even though as the author, I know that there is more to come.
I also had entered Leap in the Daphne last spring, which is a suspense contest that has categories for various flavors of romantic suspense. Leap didn’t final, but I got rather consistent feedback (I forget the actual numbers, but they were all between 80-90% of total points, and I’ve made improvements since then). I wonder if the storytelling I’m doing is leading me down the suspense road. Its definitely something to think about.
Oh yeah, my scores for Leap: 100, 85, 70 Interesting spread, if you ask me...