Agents are often asked what exactly they are looking for and writers often receive a nebulous response from them. We’ve all heard agents say that they are looking to ‘fall in love’ with the story. That’s a given. If an agent cannot emotionally respond to a story and feel passion for it, then it makes complete sense that the agent wouldn’t want to use his or her valuable time and resources to represent the writer.
To me, the most important thing is the story. Without a story worth telling, something someone hasn’t said before or maybe something that has always been said but not in this particular way, most people probably wouldn’t be interested in reading it. There are so many fine writers out there but sometimes I wonder, where the story and why should I be interested? Some people are natural storytellers and highly entertaining in person. The question is if that translates on the page.
I believe that writing can be taught and honed but there are individuals out there who have more talent than others. However, if you don’t nurture that talent by writing, critiquing and generally engaging in the process of writing on a consistent basis, it’s going to be harder to reach your goals.
At a bare minimum, both good writing and good storytelling ability is critical to developing a manuscript that will be attractive to editors. Forget the other hurdles of platform, sales, comparable titles. The marketplace can wait until you, dear writer, have polished and finally made your manuscript ‘ready’ for other eyes to pore over.
What do you think is harder to master, good writing or good storytelling?