X is for X Factor

Hello, and welcome to the April A-Z Blogging Challenge! Over the first 26 days of April, we will explore aspects of writing and marketing books – authors, feel free to weigh in, and readers, feel free to observe and ask questions!

-M

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You know, the X factor. The thing that makes you different from all other authors. …X is really difficult, okay?

Because, you see, you are in many ways a special snowflake. There neither is nor ever will be another person on earth who has seen what you have seen, interpreted it as you have interpreted it, and had your exact view on the Nature of All Things. Which is pretty cool, because it gives you an automatic niche as an author. Your X factor, however, is a double-edged sword that can be used not only to propel you to the bestseller lists, but can also (when handled clumsily) put you in the ebook equivalent of the bargain bin.

So today it’s time for the tough talk, my dears. But let’s start with the good stuff, shall we? Your status as the one and only you gives you the opportunity to…

  • …create gorgeous metaphors
  • …build characters who will live in readers’ heads for decades
  • …make relevant, necessary, and apt analogies to the world in which we find ourselves
  • …bring hope

And, if you work very hard at your writing, seek feedback and listen to criticism (even if you don’t always make the suggested edits), revise drafts, and otherwise strive for perfection, these are things that are within your reach. I do want to warn you that even in the face of eventual success, it will be a path that contains plenty of disappointment. Your first drafts will not be what you want them to be. Your third drafts, polished to within an inch of their little wordy lives, will have areas that your beta readers (or editors) do not understand. Suggestions will be made. You will have to tear your beloved book apart at the seams and stitch it back together.

It is going to be the literary equivalent of training for a marathon, or studying for the bar. It is not going to be easy, but you can absolutely do it, and furthermore, it is worth it. Authors have a sort of literary echolocation, telling them whether they’re getting closer to correct, or further. Maddening as it can be, when you listen to it and keep trying until you stumble onto the Right Words, it is as if the heavens open and the angels sing. And only you, only you, can produce that draft. Pretty cool, huh? There isn’t anyone else in the world who can do it.

So it can be done. You can do it. Or, and I am being quite serious here, you can fall into a trap that will rob your writing of its power and make little use of your talent: confronted with negative feedback (invariably on your favorite scene, by the way), you can believe that your special-snowflake-ness is so special that readers simply cannot comprehend its wondrous qualities. You can, unless you are very careful, believe that the words you used are more important than the concept you meant to convey – and that your beta readers’ incomprehension of those themes is their fault and not yours. You can tell yourself that it isn’t for those people. You can tell yourself that you poured so much effort into this that it can’t possibly be crap.

Now, let’s take a short sanity break. The things in the above paragraph are all ideas that you will entertain at one point or another in the face of criticism. They will show up in your head, and that’s not a sign that you’re a Crazy Author. It really isn’t! We all get those thoughts. When we get them after the book is published, we call them reviews, and it’s no easier then, either. You will rage internally.

And then, my fellow authors, please remember what is important, and unique, and wonderful:  your vision, your take on the world, your story. Go back to your manuscript, and make it what it can be. That is your X factor, not any of the arrangements of words you have chosen so far.

Good luck.

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