My dog and I like to take walks through the park by our house. We pass a pond with a pretty sizable duck population. For quite a while now, I've noticed one duck in particular who is always alone. Some days he's the only duck on the pond.
And some days he's surrounded by other ducks, but still remains separate. This little guy is, without a doubt, his own duck.
Of course, this got me thinking about my writing (I mean really, what doesn't?) It brought to mind a recent rejection I received. Here's the gist of my query:
Not long after 12-year-old Nadine Foster moves into her great-aunt's house, she realizes something tragic happened in the stable, something her mother and great-aunt don't want her to know about.
At first Nadine thinks she's imagining the mysterious unseen presence in the stable. She can even explain away the terrifying dreams of a young couple trapped in the stable as it burns to the ground. But when a hostile ghost begins waking her before she can identify the concealed third person in her dreams, the person everyone insists was not there, she knows she has to find out what really happened.
With the help of her new friend and her eccentric neighbor, Nadine digs for answers. When at last she uncovers the shocking truth, the lives of those closest to her, including her own, will be changed forever.
The response I received: "This isn't a bad idea per se...this story doesn't seem big enough to stand out against other middle grade mysteries. I feel like it's been done before."
Even though this wasn't "a bad idea," it didn't stand out from the crowd enough to capture this agent's attention. There are millions of good ideas out there. An idea has to be unique, original, something the agent doesn't see all the time, maybe even never before. They say there's no new ideas under the sun, and I'm sure that's true. But even if an idea has been done before (ghosts, vampires, boarding schools for wizards...), it still needs to find a way to be original. This query reminded me not to settle for a good idea. I have to go beyond that, to push myself harder and dig deeper until my query makes an agent jump up and say "I've got to read this!"
It's not good enough to be part of the flock. Those who get noticed in this business are those who dare to be their own duck.
Until Thursday, happy writing, and may your coffee pot never run dry.