Picture this. Your good friend texts you to say he just got home from a first date. You call him right away to see how it went.
“Well?” you ask.
He says, “Meh.”
“Just meh? Why just meh?”
You can practically hear him shrug. “She was nice-looking, smart, kind, and interesting. But I’ve met a lot of girls who are nice-looking, smart, kind, and interesting. This one was no different.”
Believe it or not, many manuscripts get rejected for the same reasons that this hypothetical date didn’t work out.
There is a lot of competent writing out there. Editors’ desks are piled high with submissions from writers who have MFAs, endorsements from important people, and impressive query letters. With enough practice, fortitude, patience, determination, study, and seriousness, it’s possible that almost every writer can become a relatively strong writer.
But let’s face it: Because there are so many good writers, editors and literary agents are often looking for writers who are more than good. They want the X factor. They want to have their socks knocked off.
Let’s replay our first date situation.
“Well?” you ask. “How did it go?”
“Incredible,” your friend says. “Amazing! Great! She was pretty, smart, nice, and interesting!”
“Really? What made this one different than all the others who were pretty, smart, nice, and interesting?”
“She was everything they were,” he says. “PLUS a little more. I think she’s the one.”
Oftentimes, literary agents will describe their reactions to a given work in terms of love. “I really wanted to fall in love with this project, but I just didn’t,” they’ve been known to say.
If you want a literary agent or editor to fall in love with your manuscript, you MUST make a big mental leap.
Some writers take years to come to this realization, but you can come to it right now—if you’re truly open to it. Are you ready for this?
Here’s the revelation:
Want to get noticed? Want to be the one?
Go the extra mile. Transcend good. Break out of the hordes of competent writers. Push yourself. What can you do that’s bigger? Better? More?
(HINT: In order to know how you stack up against the competition, you’ve got to know what the competition is. And that means reading, reading, reading. If you’re not reading regularly and voraciously, it’s like you’re asking to be put on the Olympic figure skating team having studied Olympic-level talent only once or twice.)
So—if you think your writing is good, but literary agents and editors just aren’t that into you, it may be time to up your game. To dig deep and find your own personal X factor.
But don’t worry. We’ve got real, practical, concrete tips that are going to help you make the leap from “pretty-good date” to “dynamite date.” Just stay tuned to Submit Write Now! next week.
And remember: If you’ve been wishing on shooting stars that someone would come along and help you make your submissions, it’s time to put away the telescope and submit your writing to Writer’s Relief’s Review Board!
READ MORE: How To Amp Up Your X Factor
QUESTION FOR YOU: Have you ever encountered writing that is “just okay”? What made it mediocre? Why didn’t it stand out to you?