Pretty Good, Really Good or Great?

I’ve been reading a lot of “meh” books lately. In fact, I’m starting to wonder if it’s really the books or if I’ve just been in one of those moods. You know, kind of like those times when we don’t feel pretty (I say pretty because I don’t think guys go through those mood swings, at least not as much. Either they know they’re good looking or they know they’re not. None of that, “I don’t feel handsome today.” Right?) Anyway…ladies, you now what I mean. We just don’t feel it. So maybe I just haven’t been feeling the books.

But I know that’s not entirely it. After all, a really great book would have pulled me out of this funk by now. So why are these books “meh”? They’re by seasoned writers who’ve had great books before and have gone through the editing process with big-name publishers. I don’t understand how they’ve been allowed – or have allowed themselves – to release these mediocre stories.

Or maybe I do. As discussed previously, I’m in the midst of revising Devotion (did you see that new title???). I read it through a couple weeks ago and thought, “Wow. This isn’t bad. In fact…it’s even kind of good.” I mean, I knew it wasn’t perfect. Not even close. Parts needed to come out. Characters needed more depth. Descriptions needed to be improved. And so did the writing. But, overall, I was happy with the plot.

See that “was”? Yeah…in the time since then, I keep coming up with more ideas to make it even better. New twists. Something about a character I missed before that changes things. Etc. Ideas that will require a lot more work than I thought when I first read the draft. A lot more time. A lot more blood, sweat and tears. When I first read the draft, I thought, “Looks like revisions will go quicker than expected.” Now, I think (and tell my publisher), “Well, revisions are going to take longer than expected.”

But, to me, it’s worth it. I hate putting a book out there that I know I’ll be thinking, “But it could have been so much better.” I mean, I think we all feel that way about earlier writings, when time has passed and we’ve learned and grown in our craft. But when it first goes out, we want it to be our best work we could produce at the time. Right?

So how could all those “meh” books be on the shelves? I mean, the stories aren’t bad. The characters are likeable and relatable. There’s just not a lot of “great” or even “really good” about them. Even when the same author has produced really great before. All I can wonder – and maybe it is just because I am in that mood – is if the publisher or author rushed it. Didn’t want to put the time and effort into making the book truly great or, at least, really good.

I don’t ever want to be that author or publisher. The one that says, “It’s pretty good. Good enough.” I want to feel, at least in my own heart, that it’s really good. Or, even, great. And, hopefully, others will feel the same.

What do you think makes books “meh”? Do you ever feel like taking the short cut or not taking the long way because it’s easier (in your writing)? How do you motivate yourself to do what’s best for the story, even if it means a lot more work? And what would/do you do when under deadline and you realize how the book can be even better but it would require significant (time-consuming) changes?

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5 Responses to Pretty Good, Really Good or Great?

  1. yes, i’ve felt like taking the short cut for a long time now. but like you, i know the story can be better, so i’m letting it stew some more.

  2. Sometimes I even feel “meh” about classics or best-sellers. Responding to another’s writing is such a personal and emotionally-tied thing. Time-consuming changes are always worth it (but I’m not published, haven’t been under a writing deadline, and am a new writer). In addition, writing never is finished, just the best we can make it at the time, like you said.

  3. Dawn Embers says:

    Good topic for the post. I’m not quite sure I have any answers, but I’ll try.

    I started a book club on writing.com and the first two books, both YA, have been meh. The first had a main character who rarely acted with stuff just happening to her and the couple times she did anything it meant someone else had to save her. Yet the author has a supposedly successful adult urban fantasy series and with that one I wondered why she chose to do the young adult fantasy one. Now we are reading a dystopian and the general group opinion is the story is kind of bland. There isn’t much going on and the character doesn’t have the intrigue and actions that I would have expected in the book.

    As for my own writing: no idea. I just write and haven’t gotten anything to that submission stage yet. Might have more to say if I wasn’t so easily distracted and focused on one novel at a time but oh well. One of these days I’ll know what I will do in those situations with deadlines and such.

  4. Stephanie says:

    I’m not a writer, but I tend to apply my mother’s theory about friends/people to my reading choices. Mom told me years ago that certain people move in and out of your life at the time you need them, but they may or may not stay life-long friends (i.e. a new friend who can make you laugh after a bad break-up, but drifts out of your life when you’ve learned to smile and laugh on your own).
    For me, books are the same way. Some were meh last summer but awesome today – some were ‘exactly what the doctor ordered’ a few years ago, but just can’t hold my interest beyond the first paragraph since then. That is why there are so many awesome writers in so many genre’s – to serve all us fickle readers! Believe me, we appreciate you!

  5. Heather says:

    I’ve been reading a lot of “meh” books released by big publishers lately too. It makes me angry since I can’t catch a break but they’re publishing mediocre novels. GRRRRR. It does push me to get better and better but it also makes me start looking at alternatives.

What do you think? Leave a comment and let me know.