Thursday, April 28, 2011

5 Ways to Gain the X Factor in Writing

Ever notice how some writers seem to have a talent that stands above the rest? We love their novels, their characters have a special something that make them likable and interesting, and their stories stay with us for a long time after we’ve read them. These writers have the x-factor. So, how do we gain our own x-factor?

Is it something we either have or we don’t? Can we learn the x-factor? I say yes, it can be learned, but it might come more easily to some than others. Below I’ve listed some basic ways to gain that elusive x-factor:

1. Read a lot. Read, read, and keep reading, and don’t forget to be analytical while you read. Work out what it is you like about the stories as well as what you don’t like.

2. Write a lot. You won’t find the x-factor if you don’t practise writing. It’s as simple as that.

3. Voice. Find your voice and develop it until it’s yours and yours alone. This might take some time and a lot of experimenting, but it’s worth it in the end.

4. Learn the craft. Oddly enough this might be the most neglected of all the elements that lead to the x-factor, and yet this is one of the most crucial. Sure, anyone can write. Do you want to be thrown into the ‘anyone’ class, or do you want to shine above the rest? Then, learn the craft.

5. Passion. Remember your passion for the story despite the number of revisions or rejections. Passion shows through our words.

Can you think of other ways to gain the x-factor? Who are the writers you think have the x-factor?

Note: This post is part of the A-Z Challenge. To learn more about the challenge click the image on my sidebar.

Photo: I had no idea what image to use for the x-factor, so I chose a pic of Melbourne at night. What can I say? I'm a sucker for pretty lights.


  1. Thanks for this great post reminding us of the X-factor! It sure is an elusive quality..

  2. I think that the X-factor usually hides in originality and believing in your inner wonders and worlds.

    People who usually strike us the most are the most unique and original ones.

  3. All good advice!. Just visiting from the A-Z Challenge.

  4. I would add that writers who find a way to work their personal expertise into a story display a certain level of passion that the reader picks up on. Like knowing or loving the city you live in, and depicting it as a thrilling setting for your novel.

  5. I'm thinking you pretty much covered everything :)

  6. These are great--I guess I'd add "don't pay too much attention to trends". But I totally agree-read, write, learn. Great post.

  7. It's always the simple advice that's the most overlooked. Your five tips seem pretty much spot-on.

    Duncan In Kuantan

  8. Perseverance is a big thing that I would add.

  9. I love this post. Especially the first sentence of #3. Each of us has a voice, and a unique one at that. It's incredibly gratifying to read a story in which the author has found a way to translate that into a spellbinding narrator. And the narrator certainly doesn't have be larger than life, just humming with it. :)

  10. Nas, yes indeedy.

    Dez, I'd have to agree with you on the originality. It's not necessarily original stories, but stories with an original twist.

    Sandy, welcome

    L G Smith, yep, I included passion in the list. Nicely expanded though.

    Alex, hehe ;)

  11. Reading and learning the're right. Its hard to remember that its an art that you need to expose yourself to and learn the technique.
    Edge of Your Seat Romance

  12. Trisha, thanks

    Sarah, for sure. That's part of Dez's point about originality.

    Duncan, thanks

    Josh, absoutely. Without perseverance, the x-factor would never be achieved.

    Suze, nicely said.

  13. I think the ultimate x-factor is having something orginal and unique. Not easy to find but, as you say, reading and writing a lot helps you to find it!

    Ellie Garratt

  14. Hi Lynda..I was wondering what you would do for the X post. But, your post was a pleasant surprise. Loved it.
    Completely agree with your points. Reading a lot, constantly writing not just to shape up our story, but also to find our unique voice will surely help find that elusive X factor.

  15. Your pic definitely has the x-factor!!!!

    I love these tips too,thank you. I'd add perseverance, patience, perseverance, luck?

    Take care

  16. These are great tips! Right now I am reading The Call of the Wild, and Jack London sure seems to have the X-factor.:)

  17. I think you have it. For me, the more you write, the stronger your voice comes through. And you shouldn't fight your voice, just improve on it.

  18. Great tips on finding the x-factor. Well done!

  19. I really enjoyed Nancy Werlin's Impossible. I haven't read any of her other books, but that one really stuck with me.

  20. Great points, Lynda! And Oooo, pretty photo!! ;o) Have a super writing day.

  21. Excellent points and I like the photo you chose!

  22. Jodi Piccoult comes to mind immediately. Her novels never disappoint.

  23. I think this is great advice for finding the X-factor. I would also say don't give up. The next revision might be the one that gives the work the X-factor.

  24. I like Dez's comment. If you're immersed in the world and being true to your characters, hopefully it will come out.

  25. Great points!

    I'll admit I have to learn more about the craft. Right now it's mostly blog posts and what people advise/don't advise--which can be excellent--but I've never picked up a book exclusively on writing or anything like that.

  26. All the writers I know have the X factor. :D

    I've recently read Alex Bledsoe, Cherie Priest and Paolo Bag ... The Windup Girl, and I think they all have the x factor. Lindsay of Kindle Geeks - just started reading one of her ebooks and I think she has magic.

  27. Begin dedicated, writing is a job.

    I think Kathi Appelt, Kate Dicamillo, and John Steinbeck (to name only a few) have that X-factor.

  28. I believe that writing can be learned as a craft but I don't believe that talent can be learned. Some people just have that raw talent from the beginning. The question is whether they develop it with practice and dedication.


  29. Ellie, yes exactly

    Rachna, hehe it took me a while to come up with x-factor. I almost did X marks the spot.

    Old Kitty, and a bit more perseverance ;)

    Emily, yes, definitely I'd include Jack London as an author with the x-factor

    Clarissa, yes, sometimes we over think our voice and kill it.

  30. Anne, thanks

    Angela, I love those kinds of books

    Carol, thanks. I will... I know you'll have a super writing day :)

    Laura, thanks.

    Karen, yes, an excellent writer.

    Carrie, great advice. And so true!

  31. Lydia, yes, that's so true.

    Golden, do it! Do it now. It's so worth it. I recommend James Scott Bell's The Art of War for Writers.

    M Pax, I think you've spoken about the Windup Girl before. I haven't read it yet. Sounds like it's worth it.

    Bish, yes, dedication is important.

    Jai, I think with enough work and enough passion talent can be learned in time. But, yes, some just have it.

  32. Great post!

    I do think some people are born storytellers (though they have to learn the craft of writing for their natural talent to shine through), and that the X-factor is in fact elusive and not easily learned.

    Part of that is that so many of us learn the ropes through workshops. Though they have their place, workshops tend to focus on rules, because it's easy to spot violations and offer corrections. Unfortunately, you can be a technically proficient writer with beautiful prose and your work can be utterly boring.

    I try to learn from the folks who, as far as I'm concerned, have that X-factor. I think I've read all the essays Lois McMaster Bujold has written, and I've listened to a lot of the DVD commentaries with Joss Whedon (dialogue master!). Sometimes it's depressing (because I realize these people are a lot smarter than I am *g*), but I always learn something. :)

    Happy blogging and writing, everyone!

  33. The first four can be learned. The last one has to be a part of you. Those who lack passion, I believe, are those who give up when things get tough. Only if you have an innate passion for writing will you put up with the roller coaster of emotions and blows to your self-esteem in order to break into (and survive) in this fluctuating industry.

    Great post, Lynda!


  34. Thank you for this post. Number 5 resonated with me. I'm struggling through revisions and I need to remember my passion for the my story. I will.


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