Thursday, April 17, 2014

Why Is Your Story Special?

I remember teaching a session at one of the RT Conferences and a writer came up after the session to chat about her book. She was writing a memoir and wanted to know about how well the story would do in the market. I had to give her an answer that I don't believe she really wanted to hear. The outlook was grim. In simple terms, I asked her why her story was so unique and something the general public would want to hear.

This is something that I think a lot of writers do not take the time to consider. They have the characters in their heads. They have a plot and they just start plowing through that story. Prior to doing this, however, they needed to take some time to consider what makes their story special. In today's publishing market, this couldn't be any more important considering the number of books available on a daily basis.

The easiest way to think of this is to reverse roles. You are an editor or you are an agent now. Every day you receive a ton of new submissions. What is it about this story you are now reading that would make you want to stand up and say "WOW! I NEED THIS!!!" You can't just rely on the quality of the writing or for that matter your back history as a writer. Focus only on the story.

Finding that unique twist to your story is really important for those of you writing in pretty popular genres right now. Considering that New Adult and YA are so popular, you have to find that twist that makes your project stand out. For example, a New Adult story cannot be just about a young girl trying to figure out what to do with her life now that she has graduated from college. Ho hum!

When we talk about this twist, you also need to know that we are not simply talking about a plot approach that you take, or a setting. Moving the college student to a college of witchcraft isn't that different. You just changed a setting. We are looking for that approach, that angle you are taking with the story that is a "variation on a theme."

As you think of this and develop that unique twist, you also have to find a way to "demonstrate" that twist in your query letter. Remember in writing we "show" and don't just "tell"! Therefore, you cannot just tell me this is a new twist on the girl leaving college. Show us. Along the same lines, you cannot just tell us this is very similar to Bella and Edward's story of high school love, just with Vampires. Show us how it has something new. By limiting your self to this first comparison just tells the editor or agent you have nothing new to offer.

I will also add that if you have finished your story and you haven't thought of this unique new twist, the odds are there isn't much more you can do. Coming up with the twist AFTER you have written the book probably isn't going to happen. You have to plan this out in advance.

1 comment:

  1. I would like to ask a question.
    I looked through your blog post topics but I couldn't find anything on this subject.
    So here goes: How do you choose the best title for your book?

    1. Is there a formula a writer uses to create or find a title?
    2. Must a title always be an intriguing phrase in the story or can it be something different but reflective of the story?
    3. Is there such a thing as a magic number of words in a book title that makes it more appealing or sell better?

    Yes, I am trying to untangle the conflicting information I've received. If you have some thoughts on the matter and time to share them, I would so appreciate reading them.

    Kate M.