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?