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#atozchallenge : X is for X-factor #fiction #writing #quotes

 Theme: Quotes from Authors and Bookish People about Writing
Loads of people talk about the X-factor, and none of us know what that is. The A to Z Challenge definitely has it because it is growing from strength to strength! 

 The X-factor is important in fiction as well as life, so here are some authors talking about why a writer writes (or should write), why he/she is successful or not, and whether there’s a magic formula to fiction:      

“Beware of self-indulgence. The romance surrounding the writing
profession carries several myths: that one must suffer in order to be
creative; that one must be cantankerous and objectionable in order to be
bright; that ego is paramount over skill; that one can rise to a level
from which one can tell the reader to go to hell. These myths, if
believed, can ruin you.If you believe you can make a living as a writer, you already have
enough ego.”
— David Brin

“Fiction that isn’t an author’s personal adventure into the frightening
or the unknown isn’t worth writing for anything but money.”
— Jonathan Franzen

“Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and
widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul. When writers
make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their
truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is
restored. We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping
along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over
and over again. It’s like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at
sea. You can’t stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts
and spirits of the people who are together on that ship.”
— Ann Lamott

“The main rule of writing is that if you do it with
enough assurance and confidence, you’re allowed to do whatever you like.
(That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it’s
definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be
written. Write it honestly, and tell it as best you can. I’m not sure
that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.”
— Neil Gaiman

“If there is a magic in story writing, and I am convinced there is, no one
has ever been able to reduce it to a recipe that can be passed from one
person to another. The formula seems to lie solely in the aching urge
of the writer to convey something he feels important to the reader. If
the writer has that urge, he may sometimes, but by no means always, find
the way to do it. You must perceive the excellence that makes a good
story good or the errors that makes a bad story. For a bad story is only
an ineffective story.”
— John Steinbeck 

“Currently nobody really knows how to sell books. The whole system is
changing, and nobody knows how to make money in this industry in any
kind of reliable way. The industry has this blockbuster mentality that
permits a shitty TV star to publish his shitty book and sell three
million copies in hardcover, and then you never hear about it again. All
the energy is focused on those blockbuster books because they have the
most immediate, short-term return. People have been saying it’s the end
of the novel since Hemingway. I don’t feel that dire about it. I think
more people read than used to read. You have more people reading worse
books, but they’re still reading books.”
— Mary Karr


What do you think makes successful fiction– what is the X-factor for a book or an author?

Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her literary crime thriller series, the Blue Mumbai, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency. Both The Blue Bar and The Blue Monsoon were published in 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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  • I've used the 'X' factor as my post for that letter too and for me it is authenticity. If we look at it as a reader, we want to feel the emotion, smell the aromas, sense the heat or the cold.
    As a writer, it is our job to produce these emotions, smells, and sensations so clearly that first we feel them, and then our readers feel them.

  • Susan Scott says:

    Terrific post Dimyanti thank you. You've got the X factor here … the quotes are superb and on point.
    Garden of Eden Blog

  • I agree with the aching urge. Fantastic quotes.

  • lillian888 says:

    Wonderful choice for X Day. The other outdated stereotype is that of the writer as addict. Yes, many have been, but it doesn't have to go with the job. Honore Balzac was addicted to coffee, and that did him in.

  • Trisha F says:

    I can't imagine every being any of those things as a writer. Though sometimes I guess I'm a little cantankerous. 😉 Just not out where the public can see it. 😛

  • shelly says:

    The last quote is sooo true.

    Hugs and chocolate!

  • Joanne says:

    good post and very pertinent quotes. I liked Mary Karr. I have no clue about the X-Factor. Obviously I haven't figured it out based on my book sales and I'd like to think my books aren't shitty. Something just has to click and hit the right people at the right time. The old luck of timing perhaps.

  • Excellent interpretations of X-Factor. Love the idea of singing while the ship sinks because it restores a sense of control.
    Gail visiting for AtoZ

  • Nicole says:

    I have no idea what makes successful fiction because I rarely read fiction, but, having the X-Factor for a book or an author would entail a story that can only be written by the person who is writing it, in the way that they are writing it. At least, that's what it seems to me regarding books.

    On another note, whaddya know…my X post is about having the "X-Factor" too. I think I might change the topic since I still have yet to copy my draft post and paste into my blog to make it live, lol. Time will tell.

    A-to-Z Co-Host
    The Madlab Post

  • T. A. Miles says:

    I definitely agree that there is no recipe and writing your story as it 'needs to be written'. 🙂

    The Immarcescible Word

  • Neil Gaman and John Steinbeck's quotes are two that I agree with the most.

  • I agree with Steinbeck – there is no formula for it.