Monday, October 28, 2013

We Have To See Potential In A Submission

We look at a lot of things when it comes to the submissions that cross our desk. We look at the characters, the plot the marketability and so forth. But along with these elements, we also look at the issue of the author's potential as a writer. This potential is not the desire the author has, or for that matter the time the author is willing to commit to be that successful writer. The definition of potential, I believe sums it up nicely: "having or showing the capacity to become or develop into something in the future; latent qualities or abilities that may be developed and lead to a future success of usefulness."

You will notice that this is not something that can be seen only in the plot or the characters. This is something that really cannot be "taught" so to speak.

Writers often ask me what I look for in a writer, and, along with someone with a product that we can sell and do well with, I am looking for someone who really has a sense of who they are and where they are going to as a writer.

As I look at that definition again, I think the one thing that stands out is the ability of that writer to be "shaped." This is someone who can adjust and adapt to the times with their writing. This is someone who can see weaknesses in a block of writing they are working on and can make those adjustments. Their minds are always open looking for ways to improve, to make things better and to do a little more.

In Shakespeare's play, TWELFTH NIGHT, Malvolio makes that fantastic statement, "Some are born great. Some achieve greatness. And other's have greatness thrust upon them." I love that quote, because, in reality, only the middle person he describes, I believe, shows a sign of potential. Being born with a talent to write is one thing, but, unfortunately, many authors don't know what to do with it once they have that talent. If they do recognize it, they often take things for granted. The last group is where many of those authors who land that great contract before they have really learned to be a writer. These writers were thrust into the spotlight and really don't know A) why they got there; or B) how to keep learning and growing.

But it is that middle group that stands out. To achieve greatness means a lot of hard work. It takes introspection. It requires sweat and tears. It takes potential.

Now I know what some of you are saying. "Scott, how can you see potential from simply a query letter, a partial or a synopsis?" The answer is we can't. Those rejections are coming from those first things I mentioned in the first paragraph. Those rejections come from the things you say (and we hear) at conferences. Yes, agents and editors are listening and watching at conferences. But, when it comes to the potential, if you do have that great product and we get to reading a full manuscript. If we get to the point we talk about your writing to make sure we are all "on the same page" your potential comes out.

I don't care what platform you are writing in. I don't care what profession you are in. Having potential is what it will take to succeed. You have to look to yourself first and recognize that you are someone who is not perfect and can adapt and change.

Are you that person? Or, are you just someone who says that you are?

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