My friend, Kristine's post about emotion in writing (see http://kristinecoblitz.blogspot.com/) got me thinking more about my own writing. Although I think I've succeeded for the most part in feeling (or showing) rather than telling, I still think I play it too safe.
I've been sending queries out for awhile for Lost Summer, and I've had a lot of requests for either chapters or the entire manuscript. One agent even did a line edit and gave me many suggestions to improve the book, but then when I sent it back after the revisions, she said she couldn't take it on after all. I've gotten all good rejections (if you can really call a rejection good). Every agent who's read the whole manuscript said that I'm an excellent writer and they love the character, but it just doesn't "do it" for them. They all want me to send them the next book.
I've come to the conclusion that my writing is too safe. Sure, there's a serial killer and dead bodies, and a realistic investigation, etc., but there's no "wow factor." Like Kristine, I avoid conflict in real life, and I think it shows in my writing. If I compare earlier drafts of Lost Summer to the latest, I've greatly increased conflict and tension, but maybe not enough.
I've been trying to read and analyze a lot of books over the last few weeks to see what it is that made them sell. Several, like Karin Slaughter's and M.J. Rose's books, it's obvious. Great writing combined with great characters and unique plots. A couple of books I tried to read were so poorly written (POV problems, stilted dialogue, etc.) I couldn't finish them. But even the bad books had that "wow factor." They had over-the-top plots and unique ideas that make for good sales. I think a lot of readers who aren't also writers just want a good story. They don't care if POV changes in the same paragraph.
So, where are am I going with this? I'm in search of that illusive "wow factor." I know it's here somewhere...