Monday, April 28, 2014

X is for X-FACTOR

We all strive for the elusive X-FACTOR, that quality that will distinguish our novel from every other novel in our genre. That special something that will set our prose a flame and drive us to instant stardom.

It happened to others; others being authors like Mordecai Richler, Alexandra Sokoloff, Yann Martel, Alice Munro, Margaret Lawrence, Leonard Cohen,. Their work includes the X-FACTOR, and it shows.

So, where do you get it? This X-FACTOR?

If Tolstoy were here, he'd say you do your homework and more. The man understood what he was talking about. He spent 4 years researching Napolean before ever thinking of starting War and Peace. And this was before electricity~!

You never get lazy and pick the easiest word to describe what others have described before you. You write from your gut, not that safe place that has ample verbs that are so predictable. You create a hero that we can cry over, yell at, cheer for. And mostly, you drive yourself nuts trying to get it perfect. Oh, and you treat your reader like an adult.

I read a novel recently for the sole purpose of writing a review and posting it everywhere. That's what we're here for, to support each other. I couldn't finish it. The writing was fine. But it was clear the writer didn't stretch, didn't go that extra mile to write original prose, or most importantly, give me a protagonist I could cheer for.

There was no X-FACTOR.

Now I'm left writing no review (I can't lie) and hoping I never get asked why.

joylene, who's off to make sure the X-FACTOR is in her story.

ps. If you haven't already, read War and Peace. Honestly, it covers every theme you can think to write about.


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Joylene - x is a tricky one isn't - looks like you've sent us off to read up on Tolstoy - one day perhaps - cheers Hilary

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That certain something that makes our story unique and compelling.
Sorry you couldn't finish the book.

Anonymous said...

I've never read it. Maybe one day I will.

Gosh, I hope I never write a book that causes someone to say, "I just couldn't finish it."

AJ's wHooligan in the A-Z Challenge

LittleCely said...

I've been wanting to read War and Peace for a while now. I really should. I love reading books with that X-Factor and I hope that I'll be able to find mine soon enough as well.

LittleCely's Blog

Unknown said...

Wonderful post. The X-Factor comes when we let go of ourselves and write the story that needs to be told, that's trying to be told and is telling us to "get out of the way!"

War and Peace is on my TBR pile. It's been there for a long time. I'll make it there...eventually!


Christine Rains said...

Awesome post! I've come across a few books lately that have lacked the X-Factor.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Finding that X-Factor takes effort.

Pat Hatt said...

There will always be some that like and some that don't, but yep, should go the extra mile indeed

cleemckenzie said...

You're the third blogger I've read this month who flat out states they couldn't finish a book. I think it's great to be honest with the author. If it's the missing X factor, they should know it, so their next book stands a chance of having it.

I started War and Peace, then I had kids. Maybe now I can get back to where I left off.

Great post this morning!

Nobu said...

I will read War and Peace. Thanks

Chrys Fey said...

I haven't read War and Peace, but I have wanted to. :)

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

@Hilary, you won't regret it. War & Peace truly is a fantastic read.

@Alex, me too. The author's a great person.

@ Elsie, let me know if you do. I'd love to hear your opinion.

@LittleCely, it took me several months to read W&P, but I loved it. I kept wondering why I'd taken so long to pick it up.

@Jennifer, thanks. Hope you let me know what you think of Tolstoy.

@Christine, I know what you mean. Makes you wonder what editors and publishers are thinking.

@Diane, that's so true.

@Pat, I agree. And I also believe just because I didn't enjoy the book, doesn't mean others won't.

@Lee, that's true. I just couldn't finish, and I wanted to. Part of the problem is these days I want to spend my time doing what makes me happy.

@Nobu, great!

@Chrys, I hope you find the time. Don't let the size fool you. The read will go by fast.

@Finley, hi! Thanks for stopping by.

J.L. Campbell said...

Interesting. There aren't that many books I haven't finished. Maybe those had a missing X factor.

Haneen Ibrahim said...

I never read War and Peace but I understand what you mean by the X-factor, it really sets the difference between a good book and a great book, there are many dystopean books like the Hunger Games out there yet it still remains the greatest.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

It can be elusive. And I think sometimes it's difficult to know if we hit that X factor.

klahanie said...

Hey Joylene!

How's it goin', eh?

Thank you, once again, for guest posting on the dedication site in honour of me. IWSG aka "I Was Seeking Gary". I'm crying tears of euphoric exaltation. Thank you, dear Joylene.

Seriously, Joylene, I know you have the X-Factor in regards to being a jolly nice human being. This X-Factor exudes in your writing. I know this and so does Penny the Jack Russell dog and modest internet superstar!

Your adoring fan,

Penny's fictional human,


Birgit said...

It is like with film stars they need the "It" quality. It draws a person in so the same is for an author and how they write. Agatha Christie has it in spades

Bonnie said...

Visiting from A-Z and belong to a women's monthly creative writing circle. The x factor for us i think is that spontaneous " just write " and removing the self critic that may be the barrier.

Ragtag Giggagon said...

Joylene: Shame about the writing and review. It's terrible when this happens. Happy AtoZing.

kaykuala said...

The idea is to read a couple each time.One can switch from one to the other to rekindle the interest. Nicely Joylene!


Michelle Wallace said...

I always think of the X-factor as indefinable... that elusive "something" that you can't quite put your finger on... you can't pin it... but it's there...

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

@Joy, you have a point. If I read only those in my genre, it's much easier to finish. Hadn't thought of that.

@Haneen, I read the Hunger Games trilogy in one week. Excellent books. The author definitely understood the impact of war on children.

@Susan, so true. I worry constantly. The only time I know or think I know is when I'm reading a book and my mind keep wandering.

@Gary, it's going well. Hope you're having an easy move.

@Brigit, I agree. I love her books. Read them all before I was 25. BTW, I loved your theme for the A-Z challenge. Excellent.

@Bonnie, true. Though I think you can't forget your reader either.

@Scribbler, thanks!

@Hank, good point. I could do that. I will.

@Michelle, you're right. We may not be able to point our finger at it, but I know when it exists.

Thanks, everyone.

Toi Thomas said...

I sometimes wonder if the X-factor isn’t more of a placebo. I certainly agree that some stories are naturally more appealing to some than others, but what about all those “so so” stories that people rave about? Is the X-factor something you feel after you’ve been properly hyped or do you sense it after making or attempting to make a connection? Is it really something you can measure or is it something that’s more subjective?

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Toinette, good points. I think you're right when it comes to marketing overkill. Because we're directed to believe that the story we're about to read is absolutely awesome. In my case, I'm stressed when it's someone I know who is hoping I'll support the book. And frankly, I'm hard to please in that respect. I love what I love and feel numb over those books that I believe don't measure up. But you're right, it's all in the individual's perspective. Certainly doesn't mean I'm right. In fact, I'm often concerned when I don't like a book that everyone else raves about. Same with movies. Can't tell you how many times I shook my head over the academy's choice for best picture.