The dictionary defines the X factor as “a quality that you cannot define that makes someone or something very special.” The judges on the X Factor reality shows claim to know which singers have this indefinable quality; the members of the public sometimes have different ideas.
The same applies to novels. I’m not talking about professional critics versus the reading public, but about how different people can have very different ideas about what gives a book the indefinable X factor.
Has anyone ever recommended a book to you –and then you’ve read it (or maybe just started to read it) and wondered whatever they saw in it? That’s happened to me several times.
I’ve seen plenty of articles online that tell us the ‘essentials’ for a successful novel but, in the end, it’s not the writing tutor or even the writer who can pinpoint the X factor. It’s the readers – and, of course, their perceptions of that X-factor are individual to each of them. That's very apparent when you look at reviews, which can range from 1 star to 5 stars for the same book. Each review is valid, because it represents that person's reaction to the story.
As writers, we can’t hope to please all the readers all the time. All we can hope is that some of them find that 'indefinable quality' in our stories.