Does your story have what publishers want? At the recent YA workshop I attended hosted by Jeni Mawter, we discussed what publishers look for in a novel. This was the consensus (for YA fiction):
- YA appeal - but what appeals to young adults? They want a story they can relate to, but also different enough from the everyday that they can be swept away. Paranormal fiction is so popular because it's dangerous, but the magic element means that the reader is safe - this doesn't happen in real life (unlike thrillers).
- Morally acceptable - What? I hear you say - sounds boring? No. There can be unethical characters, but the essence of the story will support the societal concept that this is wrong. For example, you can have racist characters, but it will be made obvious in the story that this is not the way to live among each other.
- Innovative - Vampirebots? Time-travelling monkeys that can tell the future? Every now and then a novelist hits on something fresh. The irony of this is that the market will then demand a stream of the same type of novels.
- Characters you can't forget - Who can forget Rue from Hunger Games? (sniff). Write characters that haunt our memories long after we close the last page.
- Original Voice - The best way to do this (I think) is to write true to your own voice, don't try to imitate someone else's style. The world does not need another Steinbeck, we already have his novels, write your own.
- Fresh use of language - language evolves radically, in fact 'radically' is not a buzz word anymore, nor is 'buzz word'. Although I see it in a lot of novels, none of the teens at my high school spell out OMG when they're speaking. It's not hard to see how teens and YAs speak, just check out their Facebook pages and blogs (but not in a stalky way).
- Story that moves the reader - does your story evoke emotion? It doesn't have to be sadness or joy, perhaps fear or anger?
Can you think of anything else to add to this list? I think if I was to ever self-publish I'd still use a list like this to make sure my work measured up.