Has anyone been watching American Idol this year? I just started watching the show three years ago. I love the first half of the show most. The part where the judges travel to different cities and watch a wide variety of people perform, all who hope to become the next American Idol. Some people are really good. Others, well… they clearly haven’t heard themselves sing.
I think the singer’s journey on American Idol can easily be compared to the writer’s journey.
It never ceases to surprise me how those who lack the talent of singing react to the judges. Some of them receive the critique with cool maturity and move on with their lives. Others flip off the cameras, shout profanities, and declare that the whole world will know their name by the end of the year. Well, the whole world might know them, but not in the way they had hoped….
In the same way, some new writers receive feedback from others and they build on that. In turn, they study the craft and grow and become better writers. But then there are those who proclaim to agents/editors, “God gave me this story and told me it must be published, so if you don’t publish me, you are sinning against God.” Or something along those lines. The say their book is the next bestseller, and instead of taking the agent’s/editor’s/reader’s advice on honing their craft, they go and self-publish it before it’s ready for an audience.
“I think it’s the people who have no doubt that every word they put down is gold that probably don’t write very well.” ~Dean Koontz
The in betweeners.
Then there are those singers on American Idol who are in between beginners and experienced singers. Those people who are almost there, but their voice just isn’t strong enough. Sometimes the judges even tell those singers to come back next year.
This is the place in a writer’s journey where their persistence is truly tested. They know they’re almost at the point of being published, but they’re not quite there, and they’re not sure how long it’ll take to get there. They receive feedback from multiple professionals that their writing still needs work. Maybe the characters in their stories are well developed, but their plot is found lacking or vice versa.
In the beginning stages, this feedback may anger or humiliate a writer. But the more we writers work at our craft, the more we come to appreciate, and even seek out, that special critique. That’s why critique groups can become a writer’s best friend.
Finally, there are the really really good singers in American Idol. Those who get the golden ticket. Those how have received confirmation from the professionals that, yes, they have potential in the music industry, and yes, they could be the next American Idol. But at the Hollywood rounds, the judges still have to weed out the best of the best from, well, the best. They can’t take all two-hundred contestants to the final round. The singers rejected in this round may be rejected because their genre doesn’t fit what’s popular right now, or their singing, though brilliant, my need just a little bit more work.
In the same way, those writers accepted by agents may still be rejected by editors because their genre doesn’t fit a category in that publishing house, or their writing is only subpar to the other submissions editors receive. At this point, I think it’s okay to seek out other options, or even go the indie publishing way (such as self-publishing), which is a rapidly growing option in the writing industry now. Many best-sellers have made their beginnings as self-published books. Just make sure, if you self publish, that your book has been edited by a professional and is truly ready for the masses.
Reality show for writers
Wouldn’t it be fun if a reality show was created for writers? It would be something like American Idol meets Shark Tank, where the writers show/read their work to the judges. Then the writer is either sent home or offered another chance in round two, and the winner is offered a publishing deal.
What about you? Any writers out there feel like they’re stuck in one of the stages above? How do you move past rejection? How do you work with the critique offered?