In agent Steve Laube's Seekerville blog interview, he indicated that he takes on very, very few new writers a year. In response, I mentioned how depressing his statistic was and encouraged us to think of ways we might get an advantage to beat the odds.
Steve took the time to make a comment in response to my post (click here to read the post). Here are his exact words. (Forgive me if you've already read the comment.)
"Sorry that the statistic was depressing (rejecting 99.9% of what I see). But I'd rather be honest than lead a new writer down a path only to break their heart.The math speaks for itself.
If I took only 1% of the proposals I see it would mean 20 new clients per year. That would make sense if I was just starting out, but it would also mean that less than half of those would find a publisher in a reasonable time.
I prefer to look at it this way. We should demand excellence from each other because we are in the "business" of changing the world through our writing. The reading public is pretty savvy and usually sniffs out the dreck (not always, but usually). So if a writer is commited to a career they need to be better than the writer next to them.
Therefore most agents are very picky. They should be. In a sense the agents and editors are a line of defense against mediocrity. I never intend to disappoint. But I try to be intentional about excellence. From your list I would pick...the idea. And then executing the idea in an excellent manner."
So, there we have it, straight from an agent. Another way we can get an advantage is by finding an incredible, fresh, never-been-touched story idea. Along with finding the idea, we need to execute it in an excellent manner.
I would have to add that even if our over all story concept is fresh, we have to go even deeper to make sure our characters and scenes are not cliche. Maass, in his Breakout Workbook, suggests cutting scenes that take place in kitchens, living rooms, cars, or where a character is drinking coffee or tea (especially in the first 50 pages). Such scenes are usually cliche and often lack tension. The point is that we want to be fresh and unique with just about every aspect of our stories.
With so many writers striving to find new ideas, how can we ever hope to find one that's never been touched? Is it even possible? Do you have any secrets for where or how you find yours?