A shallow book - what to do?

The writing process, writing advice, and updates on your work in progress
Post Reply
casnow
Posts: 159
Joined: December 7th, 2009, 1:51 pm
Location: Cairo, Egypt
Contact:

A shallow book - what to do?

Post by casnow » December 31st, 2009, 12:24 am

So, I'm basically sitting on a novel that I don't know what to do with (don't get me wrong, I definitely know how to garner my fair share of query rejections)... the book is sitting at 75K words, and this is after thorough scrubbing to eliminate any garbage/fluff/extra words that I originally included, so I feel like it is grammatically well written. And I like the story line.

However, when I read it, it just seems a little shallow. There's not enough intrigue to be a suspense novel, not enough action to be a thriller, and it's not deep enough to be a true work of literary fiction... however, it's too mature a subject for kids (I think the target audience would be 15-30 year old males that have insomnia).

Any advice?

User avatar
polymath
Posts: 1821
Joined: December 8th, 2009, 11:22 am
Location: Babel
Contact:

Re: A shallow book - what to do?

Post by polymath » December 31st, 2009, 12:28 am

A perusal of Donald Maass' Writing the Breakout Novel might address how to proceed with punching up a "shallow book." Mr. Maass' entire point of the book is just that, enhancing reader engagement.
Spread the love of written word.

User avatar
Holly
Posts: 500
Joined: December 21st, 2009, 9:42 pm
Location: Gettysburg, PA
Contact:

Re: A shallow book - what to do?

Post by Holly » December 31st, 2009, 6:42 am

Do you have an honest, down-to-earth friend? Beg, bribe or pay him/her to read your novel. Your friend doesn't have to be a writer, just somebody who will level with you.

Read, read, read. Go back and look at some of your favorite books. What makes the descriptions, the action, and the dialogue work?

Read your novel out loud. This can be an enormous help.

I'm no expert, but the bottom line is to keep the reader turning the pages. It doesn't matter how great the writing is if the reader yawns and puts it down. If your novel was a movie, what would happen to engage your attention?

The Maass book is a good idea, too.

Good luck!

User avatar
poptart
Posts: 127
Joined: December 7th, 2009, 2:25 pm
Location: Scotland
Contact:

Re: A shallow book - what to do?

Post by poptart » December 31st, 2009, 7:25 am

Good answers so far. And Holly has a good point - has anyone else read it? And how long is it since you finished writing? You can't judge your work without giving it a few weeks to cool off while you're working on something else. I'd wait and get a few other opinions before you slash and burn.

And what do you mean by shallow? Is it that the characters are two dimensional, the situations cliche? Is there not enough at stake to make the reader care? I think your vagueness about the genre is telling. Maybe you should decide what kind of a story you are telling and that should help you decide what needs to be done.
Annoying people since nineteen fifty-seven.

I blog here: http://flyingtart.blogspot.com/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/sandr_patterson

casnow
Posts: 159
Joined: December 7th, 2009, 1:51 pm
Location: Cairo, Egypt
Contact:

Re: A shallow book - what to do?

Post by casnow » December 31st, 2009, 7:34 am

I've had this book critiqued by a couple of people and the response I got from both people was something along the lines of, "It's not bad, and I was interested, but it just felt like it was missing something" but neither of them could say what it was missing.

I'll give the Maass book a try - I just came across it the other day, so I'll order up a copy and see what I can add.

One thing that I've been wondering, which maybe is a question for any agenty types on here: If I query with a novel, you reject it, and then I re-write parts of it, add new twists, etc. is it okay to requery?

casnow
Posts: 159
Joined: December 7th, 2009, 1:51 pm
Location: Cairo, Egypt
Contact:

Re: A shallow book - what to do?

Post by casnow » December 31st, 2009, 7:44 am

Hey Poptart,

You replied while I was typing my reply, so here are the answers to your questions:

I did have a couple of beta readers, and I got so-so responses, and they couldnt' really tell me what it was missing, but they just felt it was missing something. They said they could identify well with the two protagonists, and they said they like the premise of the story, but they just felt it "was missing something".

When I originally came up with the plot, it was inspired by the common escape/rebirth theme that you see a lot in Mexican cinema. The story has two parallel parts that tie together in the end. The two main characters are best friends. One of them acidentally kills a girl in an auto accident - he didn't know he hit a person - and now he is being railroaded into a guilty verdict. The second story line is about a young man whose grandfather dies, and leaves him a small fortune - he gives a bunch of it away to his family to help relieve some of the tensions caused by the inheritance - only to find out that the will he received was invalid, that his grandfather wasn't who he thought he was, and that he is suddenly on the hook for all the money he gave away because his family spent every penny he gave them and he has no way to recoup it. This leads them to flee the country to escape their problems, except they are being chased (b/c the first guy jumped his rather large bail).

So, the book was originally designed to explore what will push a person to run away from their problems, the guilt they feel, etc... but then it kind of morphed. So, I don't know... maybe I need to sit on it for 3-4 months, work on other projects and then dust it off and give it another run.

thanks for the advice everyone

User avatar
Holly
Posts: 500
Joined: December 21st, 2009, 9:42 pm
Location: Gettysburg, PA
Contact:

Re: A shallow book - what to do?

Post by Holly » December 31st, 2009, 7:57 am

casnow wrote:I've had this book critiqued by a couple of people and the response I got from both people was something along the lines of, "It's not bad, and I was interested, but it just felt like it was missing something" but neither of them could say what it was missing.

One thing that I've been wondering, which maybe is a question for any agenty types on here: If I query with a novel, you reject it, and then I re-write parts of it, add new twists, etc. is it okay to requery?
Is your writing guilty of being too nice/are you holding back? That's always a killer.

I'm not an agenty type, but I understand no is forever no. if you revise, rename the novel, etc., it's still no -- unless an agent suggests revisions, and then you should contact them before you query and ask if they would be interested to see your work again. While you can just query once per agent, sometimes an agency will let you query another agent in the same house. Check agency websites. That's why it's a good idea to query in small batches. It gives you time to revise the query letter and even the novel.

User avatar
BransfordGroupie
Posts: 98
Joined: December 6th, 2009, 6:10 pm
Location: Australia
Contact:

Re: A shallow book - what to do?

Post by BransfordGroupie » December 31st, 2009, 9:25 am

Holly wrote:
casnow wrote:I've had this book critiqued by a couple of people and the response I got from both people was something along the lines of, "It's not bad, and I was interested, but it just felt like it was missing something" but neither of them could say what it was missing.

One thing that I've been wondering, which maybe is a question for any agenty types on here: If I query with a novel, you reject it, and then I re-write parts of it, add new twists, etc. is it okay to requery?
Is your writing guilty of being too nice/are you holding back? That's always a killer.

I'm not an agenty type, but I understand no is forever no. if you revise, rename the novel, etc., it's still no -- unless an agent suggests revisions, and then you should contact them before you query and ask if they would be interested to see your work again. While you can just query once per agent, sometimes an agency will let you query another agent in the same house. Check agency websites. That's why it's a good idea to query in small batches. It gives you time to revise the query letter and even the novel.
I just found a great place to keep track of your queries http://www.querytracker.net. I don't know why it took me so long to look at it.

BG
Image
REVELATION: The Book of Angel - First draft complete :-)
Facebook

User avatar
Mira
Posts: 1354
Joined: December 7th, 2009, 9:59 am
Contact:

Re: A shallow book - what to do?

Post by Mira » December 31st, 2009, 11:51 am

Hmmm, this is a really interesting one.

First, I think this is one of those case where you really probably know the answer deep down. You may want to check in about it. I'm saying that, because I don't want to give you the wrong advice, and possibly steer you in the wrong direction.

But my advice would be - given that I don't know you, what the book is about, or anything else, so take it with a grain of salt - my advice would be to put the book aside and work on the next one. Let this one develop in your unconscious.

You may find that you go back to it in a year, and you see where it can deepen. Or, who knows, maybe it will take longer than a year. It literally took 10 years for one of my stories to mature. I'm not saying that to scare you, it 's just we have to trust the process. You may find that you write another book, and suddenly realize that you could combine it with this current book, and together they really make it. You may find that this book morphs into something else entirely in the next book. Either way, I think I'd move on for awhile, and let this one breathe.

Which could be completely the wrong advice!!! :)

In terms of the re-querying an agent, oh goodness no. Absolutely not. They make it very clear, don't requery.

On the other hand, I've heard of people waiting several months, re-titling their work, changing their letter and synopsis significantly and requerying anyway. Agents get hundreds of these a day, they probably won't remember it. Abit risky, but up to you. :)

Good luck!

GabbyP
Posts: 15
Joined: December 8th, 2009, 12:34 pm
Contact:

Re: A shallow book - what to do?

Post by GabbyP » December 31st, 2009, 1:09 pm

Could it be that this is your second book? Maybe you could start a new novel, using all the tips/tricks/strategies you learned from writing the previous novel. Then send the new novel out for representation. By the end of writing the new novel, the problems within your 'shallow' novel should become obvious, and then you can start fixing up the problems and have that novel ready as your 'second novel' when your agent excitedly asks if you have anything new you are working on.

Happens to lots of writers. The first book they got published is rarely the first book they wrote. Often it is book #5 that gets published first. Then a revised book #4, then a revised book #3, etc.

All the best with your project!

User avatar
A La Vanille
Posts: 22
Joined: December 22nd, 2009, 12:04 pm
Contact:

Re: A shallow book - what to do?

Post by A La Vanille » December 31st, 2009, 2:30 pm

I agree with Mira, put down the book and get to working with the next one.

A few weeks after Nanowrimo, I began to reread my book. It gave me a headache. I didn't want to read it anymore. I was very discouraged at these feelings. So, I stored it safely away in my USB drive thinga-ma-bobber (always a good idea to back up your stuff!). I think I'm going to look at it in the new year, with new fresh eyes. :)

Yesterday, I was curious and I was bored so I went to my old writing folders and began to read some random passages from one of my completed novels.
And I kind of liked it.
It was weird, because I wrote this in January and after I wrote it, I edited it and, like my nano novel, hated it. But now (after a year, goodness!) I see it with new eyes. I can pick out mistakes in my writing. But it actually engaged me. I hope it will be the same for my nano.

Anyways, the point is: Let it go for a while, then come back and you'll see what I mean. ;)

ErinGayle
Posts: 16
Joined: December 7th, 2009, 4:30 am
Contact:

Re: A shallow book - what to do?

Post by ErinGayle » December 31st, 2009, 6:38 pm

All the posters have given good advice. The 'put - it - away' suggestion is a must, I think. So is the Maass book. I would add using the 'what if' trick, and pushing it to the limit to create sub-plots (you can always pull back). E.g. "What if the accident was a set - up and the victim was dead before he hit her? Which other character would benefit from this scenario?"
Obviously that particular 'what if' may be a load of baloney when applied to your plot, but you'll know.
What about the dialogue? Can you make it more provocative with the addition of innuendo? E.g. can you have a previously supportive character begin to voice concerns/suspicions etc. re the protagonist's innocence?
Hope this helps.
Eringayle.

robena grant
Posts: 10
Joined: December 24th, 2009, 5:10 pm
Contact:

Re: A shallow book - what to do?

Post by robena grant » January 2nd, 2010, 12:03 pm

I'm sure it isn't shallow. : 0
After putting the ms. aside for a bit take another look at the internal motivation for your characters. It seems to me that it's easier to write the external motivation, but to dig really deep and put those emotional bits into the prose that let the reader know and understand who the character is from their deepest most private thoughts, and sometimes less than stellar background or upbringing, well that's hard to do. Often when we edit we remove some of the juiciest parts because we think they're sappy, but honestly, those are the blood of the book and they have to stay in otherwise the characters become two dimensional. So I say dig deep.

casnow
Posts: 159
Joined: December 7th, 2009, 1:51 pm
Location: Cairo, Egypt
Contact:

Re: A shallow book - what to do?

Post by casnow » January 2nd, 2010, 4:42 pm

Thanks for all the advice all - I've nearly got through with my next novel now, and I think it is much better because the villain is more tangible, the two protagonists have more to lose, etc...

In a way I think the "shallow" one would be a much better screenplay than movie - when I'm reading the scenes and the dialogue, I think that a good actor making the right facial expressions and the right subtle motions would be able to convey what I'm writing, using the exact same words...

OH well, weekend is over and it's time to get back to writing.

Ermo
Posts: 111
Joined: December 7th, 2009, 12:22 pm
Contact:

Re: A shallow book - what to do?

Post by Ermo » January 4th, 2010, 11:30 am

I agree with Mira. Time will help you figure this out. I was in a similar situation with a novel that I wrote. My problem, however, was more that my plot was shallow and forced. I started another project and now I know how I can fix my other novel, although not without a lot of work. I think that sometimes, as writers, we have to realize when perhaps a project just isn't publishable.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest