Dear Miss Snark,
I've had a few partial requests for my novel and most of them sent back rejections saying that although my writing was good and the story interesting it wasn't competitive enough for the market. I'm not exactly sure how I'm supposed to make it more competitive. Do I polish my voice more? Make the writing tighter? Tweek the plot? A combination of all of them?
In a market this tough I'm not sure which direction to go. I've heard that voice is everything, well there's no discounting the plot, but does competitive equal voice?
Thank you for any help.
I'm assuming these are agents saying this, not editors. If it was editors "not competitive" means they don't think they can sell enough.
For an agent "not competitve" means you aren't distinctive enough. This is where the dreaded fresh and original comes in. I see quite a few books as partials or fulls that are pretty darn good but there's nothing there that makes me say "aha!" I have to be able to answer the questions "what makes this stand out from the crowd" "what is going to surprise me" when I send this to editors. Business as usual will not do that.
I suggest stepping back from the project for a bit. Work on something else for awhile. Then go back and really look at your characters and plot. You have to be able to look at your work with an objective eye. That's the single biggest weakness in writers: they can't see how their own work looks on the literary buffet.
It's not easy sometimes to see this when you are in deeply involved in it. It's a little like the third date with Mr Wonderful: everything about him looks perfect and you're thinking how fun a summer wedding will be but by June you've discovered he reads Danielle Steele and thinks poodles are merely decorative. Time for renovation or removal.