After my live-in editor finished the latest rewrite of 'Arlo and Jake Enlist' we had a great talk about what A&J has and does not have.
It has a good premise, good characters, good plot for the first book and setting up future books in the series. We like the main characters and the growing list of supporting characters.
The enablers (see my post 'The making of an AI') are clever and after the rewrite they are more 'believable'. Like most SciFi you have to suspend belief/disbelief in lots of things like faster than light travel (FTL), alien beings and cultures, the ability of alien cultures to co-exist (don't get me started on why that will never happen with humans in the mix, we can't even agree to disagree on the simplest of concepts here on Earth) and much, much more. Enablers allow us to do that.
It has a good plot 'arc' with multiple highs and lows and a final 'hero wins over obstacles' scene. It even has a setup for the next book in the series 'Arlo and Jake Galactic Boot Camp'.
What it's missing is 'more'. I had a friend read it. He basically agreed with all the above, including the 'needs more'. His only real complaint was that it was too short and that he wanted some of the scenes to be 'meatier'. Otherwise he enjoyed it more than 'Genome'.
Now 'Genome' is a 68,000 word (about 200 pages) novel. I believe it's at least a 2.8 out of 4.0 (2.5 is 'acceptable' in the military) on the 'goodness' scale, especially for my first novel. A&J is intended to be much shorter, probably only around 100 to 150 pages or say 30,000 words. I want each book in the series to be an afternoon read over a plate of nachos and a couple of 'Fat Tire' beers. A fun read with cool ideas and characters you'll want to have more adventures with.
So for Bill to say he liked A&J better than Genome was both great and a little of a 'huh?' moment. But it boils down to Genome being 'full bodied and aromatic' where this version of A&J is 'thin and missing some chunks of 'meat'.
So I spent time with the editor going over where I could add more content and flesh out existing scenes. The result brought the story up from a 2.5 to at least a 2.9 with more stuff to add before my eyelids glued shut at 11:00PM. And the page count went from 43 to 68.
The point other than the one on my head?
Give your reader more than some clever dialog or unique plot/universe/enabler. Give them scenes that are full bodied and satisfying to the mental palette. Take the time to go over the whole story, over and over again, looking for those scenes that are still too quick or unsatisfying. A meatier story is more satisfying and more likely to gain you a following. And it's fun to do.
At 'The End' they should want more for sure. Another book from you. Wouldn't that be nice!
Be in the moment and keep the stories flowing!