I’ve been to several writing panels with various agents and editors and indubitably this question always gets asked:
What kind of manuscripts are you looking for?
And, indubitably, at least one answer goes something like this:
I’ll know it when I see it.
As frustrating as that answer is, it makes sense. There are so many talented people out there writing amazing stories, there has to be something that stands you out from the rest. Maybe it’s an unbelievable premise, maybe exceptional prose. Or maybe they’re looking for a story with that amorphous je ne sais quoi also known as
Here are various interpretations and definitions I found courtesy of the omniscient Google
a special quality, especially one that is essential for success and is difficult to describe
an unknown quantity which only becomes known after following a prescribed process
a certain indefinable quality which may promote one candidate over another in the eyes of his or her critics or examiners
Indefinable, unknown, difficult to describe? Great. How am I supposed to achieve that? I feel like my students when I ask them to solve for X.
And then I found this answer…
Those with the “X factor” have a way of pushing our buttons psychologically. They make us feel good or inspired. Pissed off or aggravated. Challenged or validated. Regardless of how they affect us, they engage us emotionally and the “X factor” that lives within them, speaks to something inside of us, often times, something that we are not even in touch with. (Music Biz Academy.com)
The great thing about writing, reading, all of it—it’s subjective. My belief is that the X factor is a little different for everyone. Books that hold that X factor for me may not do that for everyone else. Stories that linger for weeks, months, years for some people may have registered a meh on my X-traordinary meter. I’ve observed the same thing in publishing. What might not work for one agent might WOW another. Even if I don’t know exactly what they want, maybe my story will have that X factor for someone. And in a time where so many people are writing so many Xceptional stories, X factor is the hope that keeps me going.
So, what's YOUR definition of X factor? Who are your X factor authors?