Writing by Numbers

In looking at the last batch of judged contest entries, I’ve begun to notice a pattern. For the Golden Opportunity contest, two of the judges gave me nearly perfect scores – one shredded me. Fair enough – it happens often enough that I can’t really put much weight on it. Judges either love the writing or hate it – as long as the opinions are inconsistent, I can’t worry about it at this point. Certainly if a particular aspect gets pointed out again and again, then it’s worth looking into – grammar, plot or what have you. But in my case, it seems to be coming down to more of a personal preference – someone didn’t like the cursing or thought there wasn’t enough info in the beginning (or too much) – etc. (Lots of opinions there where some aspect either is too much or not enough, but it’s not consistent enough for me to really be able to fix it).

One thing I have noticed, though, is how when a judge or a critter can’t seem to articulate their point, many of them trot out the old GMC argument. GMC stands for Goal-Motivation-Conflict. There’s a book out there on these concepts by Debra Dixon. I haven’t read it, although it’s on my list of books to buy. But to be honest, I may be too right-brained to really work that way. (More info on GMC here –> http://www.hodrw.com/bookindaydebdixonworkshop.htm). On the surface, I admit that the concepts make sense, but I don’t think I can always articulate them in a fashion that would enable me to put my character in a box like that. I know several authors (aspiring and otherwise), that work themselves into a tizzy with every new wip, trying to make sure each character has an internal conflict and an external conflict, an internal goal and an external goal, etc. I get it, but I can’t define my characters that way. I’ve tried and it just sucks the life right out of them. Not saying that I don’t have a general direction with those things – I do, but most of the time I don’t figure out what those inner goals are until I write them. Just the way I work, I guess. But it seems to me that sometimes people get so swept up in the minutiae that they don’t actually write the story – it just becomes an endless cycle of evaluating and re-evaluating. The sad thing is that it paralyzes them – in the end, all this evaluation doesn’t mean shit, because they’ve got no writing to show for it.
I mean – sure, editing sucks – but I’d much rather rip apart a few chapters and rework them, as opposed to having nothing but a few pages of character notes to look at six months later. (And yes, obviously the above is just my opinion – I know plenty of writers who outline everything in every chapter and it works for them perfectly…but the point is, they write the book, regardless of how they prepare the set up).
The judge who gave me the low score also shredded my synopsis (the other two judges gave me perfects) – also mentioning the GMC, as well as giving me the following advice:
Since this is a book with strong romantic elements, the last component that must be outlined in the synopsis is the love story development. This means that we need a line/paragraph dedicated to the major milestone moments in the development of the relationship between the hero/heroine. These are: first meeting, first kiss, first love scene, first realization of love, first declaration of love, big black moment, happily ever after. The trick to doing these is that each of these moments (with exception of the happily ever after) is that each scene (e.g. first kiss) should make the situation worse for the characters. For example: the heroine shouldn’t want to want the hero, and when she kisses him and she likes it and responds to him in a way she likely never has before, this should make her internal/external conflict worse not easier.
I suppose I could fret over the fact that my synopsis doesn’t really go into any of this – I don’t mention a first kiss. First realization of love. First declaration of love. Or really…any of it. I look at that above paragraph and my skin starts to twitch. I realize it’s just one person’s opinion, and maybe it’s a formula that works for the judge – I don’t know. When I read that, I see someone who’s writing by numbers – forcing a story to fit a certain motif, simply because it might be a romance. I’ve never made any bones of saying that I’m probably not cut out to be a romance writer…I’m probably not. I like romance in the books I read. I like sex in the books that I read. But I hate predictability. I hate formula. To me, writing a book that is forced within those sorts of boundaries is akin to staying in the lines when you’re coloring. It’s boring.
(And no, not all romance books are boring or predictable, duh!) I just feel that when people force themselves to write within certain constraints simply because of the genre, they’re probably stunting their creativity. Of course, YMMV. 🙂 In the end, write the damn book. The rest will take care of itself.
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2 Responses to Writing by Numbers

  1. Michelle Miles says:

    But what that judge is describing is a ROMANCE. Not a story with ROMANTIC ELEMENTS. To me, there's a vast difference. And your synopsis SHOULDN'T go into that. Your story isn't about the couple falling in love or getting an HEA. Hence, the ROMANTIC ELEMENTS. I think sometimes people forget that. My 2 cents. 😉

  2. mynfel says:

    Eh. Technically, I think I did brand it as a romance…but maybe romantic elements is closer. I honestly don't know *where* the the story falls sometimes.

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