We talk a lot about making our writing sparkle, different, unique. We talk a lot about finding that pure voice, the one that’s ours. And there are many variables that can make writing, ‘meh’. Meh – it’s serviceable. It’s technically proficient. But it doesn’t resonate.
A lot of us writerly types, myself included, advocate working with critique groups. I’ve run the gamut from sending out to crit partners and beta readers privately to posting excerpts and query letters publicly – both here and at other boards and blogs. I’ve heard people argue about doing this, some of which is laughable and some of which has a point. I can’t just take every rewrite suggestion, input it into my work, and voila – fixed. I think some people do just that. You have to think it through though and try to figure out 1) if the suggestion is subjective and doesn’t fit with your vision 2) if it is the work that’s off, how do you fix it? A lot of critters will tell you exactly how to fix it, but keep in mind, what works for them might not work for you. The point to me is not to work by committee but to get a completely outside opinion of something that I can’t possibly see clearly. Let me tell you, there are a number of things I’d never have noticed if I hadn’t spent so much time critting and being critted. Critting others, by the way, has taught me more than actually offering up my own stuff.
But Meh, as I stated earlier, is more than technical proficiency. Critting helps with that, but it can’t give you the X factor. Sometimes it’s purely subjective.
I just read a book that made me cry three different times during the course of the reading. That’s not usual for me. That’s not even usual for me in real life. X factor. There are parts of that novel that just roped me so far in I could feel it. X factor. BUT, big but here, one of the main story lines bugs the living hell out of me.... meh. Someone please tell me why, when it’s a novel about two women or four women or whatever, it’s always the character who gets married and has a family and is giving to everyone else and not at all self or career oriented... she’s always the one who dies of a terminal disease... WHY? What, single professionals never get cancer?
It’s a legitimate storyline, but it bugs ME. That’s subjective. Okay, it’s also overdone, but you can have overdone if the writing is good and the writing was good in this one... but I still felt, ‘meh’.
So how about you guys? Is there a specific storyline that will always make you feel ‘meh’ regardless how well it’s written? Have you nailed down why some things fall short for you, is it a subjective thing or is it always in the writing itself? Is meh always fixable? For me, the story in question would have been much better if it was another character that gets struck down. I’m sorry; I’ve seen it too many times. Or how about if they actually survive it... doesn’t that happen occasionally too? All ME issues, not necessarily something wrong with the actual story.
When’s the last time you read something that was off for you? Did it not have the X factor? Or did the X factor just fall short of propelling you past your own subjectivity?