There are a lot of great books out there. There are also a lot of great unpublished manuscripts. The thing is, there is so much information on the web, in books, and in conferences that helps writers take their writing to the next level. But if everyone is improving their writing from okay to good, good to great, then what does that mean?
It means the agent slush pile is even more competitive than it was before. That’s not to discourage you. In fact, it’s the opposite. It’s to inspire you. Writing a great book is admirable and a glorious achievement. However, getting it snagged by an agent or editor is making your book go from great to exceptional. This in itself is an amazing creative challenge and one people should never be afraid of. It allows you to stretch your skills, learn how to tell your story in the best possible way, and to stamp your uniqueness over every page of your book. In short, it will make you better.
As you’re probably wondering, how does one go about making exceptional work that can raise its head over the sea of other great writing in the slush pile? I believe it is one simple thing. Yes, just one. But okay, the concept is simple but putting it into practice might be a little harder. So what is it?
This is actually synonymous with be yourself. A lot of writers fall into a default when they write. They use not just story tropes, but technical writing defaults, too. What I’d recommend is to literally go through your manuscript from top to bottom and check off these points:
Is the character someone you can really visualize in real life? How are they different from the 100s of other characters out there? Dig deep. No generalities, no watery allusions, no skimming.
Same goes for setting.
And world building.
And…well, you get the jist.
And for good measure, to reference Alexandra Alessandri’s post, look at your sentences. Yup, right down to the nitty gritty. Does every single sentence have your unique stamp on it?
As they say, no one can tell your story like you do, so why use general techniques? Push yourself to create every single element in your story to be uniquely yours. It might be grueling work but the concept is simple: be yourself starting from word choice all the way up to big macro level stuff. You won’t regret it.