Thursday, April 06, 2006

Just a Few Thoughts...

Asking a working writer what he thinks about critics is like asking a lamppost what it feels about dogs. ~John Osborne, Time, 31 October 1977

I watched American Idol last night and was surprised (as was the rest of the world, I suppose -- judging by the absolute silence in the auditorium when Mandisa was voted off) at the choices "America" had made.

Mandisa. Elliot. Paris.

Arguably three of the best voices in that competition.

So, why were they at the bottom last night? Oh, I have my own thoughts: Really bad song choices (especially Mandisa's -- she has a powerhouse voice, and chose a song that doesn't show anything off), flat personality (this would be Elliot's problem - I think he has an amazing voice, but there's nothing memorable about the guy) and youth (Paris is a sweetie, but doesn't really know who she is).

It got me to thinking about writing. And publishing. And the capriciousness of the American (and International) public.

When we, as writers, throw ourselves on the mercy of that public, we never know exactly what we're going to get or what they're going to like (and buy).

And, I think the same factors I mentioned above will count toward our success:

Bad plot choices. It's tough to write to the market, considering the lag time in getting your query read, your partial or full manuscript read and then, even if it's selected for publication, getting it printed. We're talking years, here. So you have to figure out either something timeless or something fresh. Ugh.

No personality -- not having a unique voice. If I pick up a Jenny Crusie book, I know, without looking at the cover, who wrote it. Same with the other "biggies" in romance. They are unique. They stand out. That said, many of them didn't in the beginning (in my personal opinion, Nora Roberts earliest stuff is boring and average)... which leads me to --

Youth -- or inexperience. Not learning your craft. Not reading within your genre. Not submitting your writing to other writers for feedback. It takes time to polish and hone your craft. Whether you do that using short pieces and your first novel comes out perfect, that doesn't matter. Learn, learn, learn.

And then, maybe America won't vote you off.


Ceri said...

Excellent post! While I'm not crazy about Elliott, he has a good voice, but not for me. Maybe its the personality thing and his musical leanings. But thats okay.

This morning I was sitting at the laundramat and I picked up a copy of a magazine that I've submitted short stories to (don't know if I should mention its name, but you've subbed there too) and I started reading the short story. This is what their readers want??? This is the kind of story they're buying? I was flabbergasted. Why in the world have I had such a hard time getting a short story accepted by them??

It boggles the mind.

Kim said...

The show has some other great lessons.
Like if the last Idol was country,
the next Idol is less likely to be.
What writer hasn't heard that?
"We just purchased a cowboy novel so we're passing on yours."