Putting your best foot forward

Hi Victoria! I’ve written what I feel is a great book. My readers love it. But I know that a well-written book isn’t enough to land an agent. How can I tell if my story stands out enough? I read plenty in my genre, so I know how it’s similar, but not necessarily if it’s ‘hooky’ enough. I’ve been told it’s all in the execution, anyway. Does it just come down to how I present it (in the query, for example)? (Unless, of course, I am paranoid, and it is different enough already, or can be with some more revision.)Jess Tudor

I’m glad you asked, Jess, because the answer is definitely NO, it is not all in the presentation.

It’s in the plot.

And the only way to really know your story is plotted properly is to know it from experience with the craft, not through querying agents.

Read the right books on writing (not the ones promising a list of easy steps that lead to a best seller, but books that go in-depth with craft) and industriously practice coming up with good, tight, gripping-yet-surprising plots over and over again until you know you can do it right. That means not just this one plot, but a dozen plots centered around this theme, with roughly these characters (or someone similar) in this genre. And a handful of others around another theme with a different cast in this genre. And yet a third handful around a completely random theme with the casts of characters all switched around. Then try it for different genres.

Practice until you know your hooks glue your reader to the pages, your development of conflicts is a rollercoaster ride, and your climaxes knock it out of the park.

Then go back to this book and apply what you’ve learned to it.

Alternatively, hire a really good developmental editor to help you with this one book.

Daunting, eh? I know. And I truly do understand. That’s why the biggest section of The Art & Craft of Fiction is all about plotting.