For the first time in quite a while, I am once again sending out manuscripts without a contract in hand. And today was only the beginning. I’ve got another one to submit tomorrow. And another to go out on Wednesday. Still another is ready and will go out Thursday. Deep breath. Tale a deep breath, Sue.
It doesn’t matter how many sales I have. If I’m lucky, sending material out like this means that I’ll get a rejection. If I’m not so lucky, I’ll get feedback with an offer to read it again. How’s that unlucky? I’m only joking, a little. Getting feedback of any kind is actually great but it means that I’m running the risk of hearing one of the phrases that I dread. “You need to add depth.”
I know enough to realize that this doesn’t just mean add to the word count. Adding another scene isn’t the way to get the job done.
But what does it mean? For different writers or different stories it can mean different things.
For some writers, your story may be too slight. Yes, you have a plot. It is a well-developed plot and your hero has to put out some serious effort to succeed. That may be enough if you’ve written a picture book, an early reader, or a chapter book. But novels, both for middle grade and young adult readers, often have subplots. You may need to add one or more subplots that in some way mirror the main plot.
Sometimes the problem is that the reader needs more insight into your character. Fixing this problem may be a matter of inner dialogue or making sure that some of the dialogue has not just text but subtext.
Last but not least, what is lacking may center on the setting. You have details. You have descriptions but they seem to be incidental to the story itself. You need to find a to have the setting speak about the character, the story problem or a theme.
If an editor describes your story as slight or asks you to add depth, give the comment some thought. Read your manuscript again with this comment in mind. The key is to craft a solution that fits right into your story, seamlessly, as if it has always been there.