Thursday, June 21, 2012

Reality TV Tips for Writing

by Leah Hultenschmidt, Senior Editor

I admit it: one of my favorite summertime guilty pleasures is So You Think You Can Dance.  There's something really special about helping discover amazing new talent. 

Kinda like when reading submissions, come to think of it. 

If you've ever seen the show, you know it's not always the most talented dancer who wins the day.  And I do think there are a number of lessons applicable to  writers from the show--

1. You have to be good at what you do.  There's no denying that you have to be a great  dancer to make the top 20 on the show.  The dancers prActice and hone their craft for years before trying out.  Same with writers. Have patience.  Get better.  Dont give up.  Become amazing.

2. The dancers who go the farthest on the show aren't just great dancers; they have distinctive personalities or styles or stories that separate them from the pack. Remember Mark, who did an amazing bird routine?  He didn't win, but I'll always remember his dance. The writers who have the longest career distinguish themselves.  What do you have to be remembered?
 

3. Sometimes it takes help to show off your best work. We've all seen on the show how an amazing choreographer can get a dancer huge votes by crafting a routine that plays to the contestants strengths, that strikes an emotional chord with the audience. Travis is one of my favorites for this. It's often an editors job to do the same thing for writers. We need to show you off to your best advantage for the reading public. But it certainly helps to have great raw materials to begin with. 

So as we head into conference season and contest season, think about the winning traits of So You Think You Can Write?  And break a leg!

18 comments:

  1. Great post, Leah. I wouldn't have thought to make those comparisons. :) And when it comes to rushing to submit before editing/polishing your ms, you could liken that to going on stage in a stained, torn costume. We all want to look our best, and our books are no exception.

    ~Macy, who's logged in under her super-secret true identity.

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  2. Absolutely, Leah! Great post! I so agree. Sure, some authors get their start on their first submission, but lots more take years before they get anywhere!

    The process, as much as the end result, is reward in and of itself. It's proving to ourselves that with persistence and a lot of hard work, we can do it. And maybe even someday we'll be able to share our stories with the world!

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  3. Inspiring post, Leah. I accompanied ballet classes to get through college, and came to the conclusion that of all the creative professionals, dancers work the hardest, suffer the most physically, get paid the least, and have the shortest performing careers. Makes writing books look pretty attractive, come to think of it...

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  4. Your post couldn't have come at a better time. I'm right at the end of my next cowboy book and about to do some polishing. Must have Colton meeting Deb for the first time at his sexy best!

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  5. Hi Leah, great post! I've never used that comparison before, but it certainly fits.

    Having the ability to tell a story is a gift that I feel is meant to be shared. Working with an editor who believes in my writing and is willing to push me to become a better writer is an even greater one. :)

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  6. Leah, I LOVE SYTYCD! Last year, the day after Melanie won, I did a much-too-lengthy post here at Casa about some of my favorite all-time SYTYCD dances, tying it to genre. (The post is at: http://casablancaauthors.blogspot.com/2011/08/summertime-heat-sytycd-way.html)

    One association I've always made between dancing and writing is how they both, when done really well, convey emotion in a visceral way. I have to admit that I'm not a huge fan of the show's 'personality' focus - I want to see great dancing, done well - but it looks like we'll have plenty of both in this year's crop of finalists!

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  7. Whether writing or dancing, any amazing ability comes at the end of a lot of hard work. Makes me tired just thinking of it!

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  8. As a dance writer who has covered SYTYCD in the past, and also as an aspiring novelist, I love this post! I often think about the similarities between writing and dance - although one expresses through words and the other expresses without them. :o)

    I'm currently shopping around my novel that has taken me a few years to perfect...so I guess you could say I'm auditioning for So You Think You Can Write. Hopefully my "judges" are much nicer than Nigel! LOL

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  9. Love the comparison! I think writers have to have stamina because this business is a marathon. It's so exciting at the beginning of a new book or contract, but that feeling doesn't always last, and it becomes a job like any other. It takes staying power to write book after book and keep them fresh and fun.

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  10. Macy - so true. First impressions are key!

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  11. My daughter was quite the dancer--she studied ballet at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet for years and quit last year due to an injury. She was recently interviewed along with author Amanda Brice who writes YAs about a heroine in a ballet school. They asked about the similarities between dancing and reading and writing. Here's what she said:

    "Anna: Words paint a picture to explain the story; dance movements do the same thing. When I read I see the story unfold before my eyes. Dance is taking that unfolded story and putting it into words within my subconscious. Dance and reading are far more alike to me then I think it would be to a normal person."

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  12. Terry - It can be hard to be patient when a ms doesn't sell right off the bat, but I've seen persistence pay off over and over again.

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  13. Carolyn - You are one author who never has to worry about being memorable!

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  14. Colleen - anyone with a true passion for something wants to share it, right?

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  15. Tamara - I'm 100% agreed on having talent back up personality. It's always so sad to see good people go home because some guy is cuter.

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  16. Melissa/Macy! Thanks for tweeting this post. Love to dance, write, and read. Leah, I can't wait to read Sultry!

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  17. Oh I LOVE SYTYCD! One of my writer friends is inspired by great dancers and I love pointing out ones that I know will give her story ideas.

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