No Reality Shows for Budding Writers

The  airwaves are full of  reality shows that focus on talent, American Idol, Next Top Model, Americas Got Talent to name a few. The one that best exemplified the journey of a writer is The Voice. Four coaches, all well-known successful singers in their various genres, sit in chairs facing the audience. Hopefuls sing to the chair backs pouring their heart into their 90 seconds of music, sight unseen—no prejudging of appearance. During that time, based on what the coaches hear, they may push the button that turns their chair around signaling that coach is interested in having that individual on their team. If more than one coach turns their chair around, the contestant gets to choose which team he wants to be on.  These teams compete musically with each other until there is only one Voice left.

Parallels

The Voice parallels the experience of writers who enter contests. We put our best words on paper, polishing them to attract the judges. We agonize and get nervous before we submit our piece, hoping it grabs the attention of the sometimes fickle judges. The bottom-line, the final choice for a winner may have no rhyme or reason. Watching The Voice, I may hear someone I love and not one judge turns around. While another singer that just doesn’t move me grabs all the judges’ attention.

The things these competitors have in common with writers are their preparation. All of these singers have been asked to compete by special invitation because they have worked at their craft. While they work their day job, they sing wherever they can at night. They may take lessons or be backup singers for other artists. Each has sacrificed much in their lives for the privilege of following their dream of a successful career.

Serious Writers Prepare

Serious writers write every day. They take classes, attend webinars, and join critique groups. Following the instruction and encouragement of successful writers, agents and editors improves their chances of standing out.

The Voice is looking for a unique artist that will stand out in the music business. When we write, that same stand out quality must permeate the page. We need a unique style, a unique plot line, quirky characters, creative phrasing that will put us on top in the contests.

Contestants Take Risks

I admire the contestants for taking the risk, putting themselves out there hoping someone will turn their chair around. When no one does, they graciously thank the coaches for their time and leave the stage with grace and dignity. I’ve been in meetings at conferences with agents or publishers that just were not interested in what I was pitching. The conference experience was worth the time despite the rejection.

Writers are faceless

Contests are always a challenge but nothing ventured, nothing gained.  Like the contestants on The Voice, we writers are faceless. We are judged not on our outward appearance or experience but the words we have carefully crafted that speak to them from the pages we have submitted. Unlike the TV contest, we may not get to hear the comments as the judges debate the value of our work.  If we are not the winners, we will more often than not get no feedback at all.

Getting Readers to sit in the chair

Unlike these contenders for stardom, our carefully crafted words rarely go viral on YouTube. Sometimes as we network with other writers, we may acquire a mentor who comes along side holding us accountable to finish our work, pointing out our weak sentences and lack of strong moving theme like the coaches on The Voice taking the prodigies to stardom.  Unlike these musical artists, we work alone.  We don’t form bands or ensembles to blend our unique abilities.  We draw from others feedback and coaching, but the work is all ours. The sweat, the tears, the time spent at the keyboard is all ours. The ultimate success is based on how many people we can get to sit down in a chair and read our words.

How do you feel about writing contests?  What kind of experiences have you had?

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Setting Simple Goals for the New Year

As a list maker I can really go overboard in setting goals for the new year. Goals for writing, housework, outside activities and daily chores all get sub-categories to guide me to completion.  My lists become so detailed that I feel overwhelmed, resorting to ignoring the lists and accomplishing very little.

While reading various blog posts from other writers, I am reminded that life happens around me, and I can’t make plans engraved in stone. This year I want one thing—to make more money writing. With that in mind I gave myself four goals.

Send out more queries.

Time must be set aside to send queries. It requires rewriting queries to fit publisher’s demands. I set a goal of sending out at least one a week. In truth I would like to do more, but if I set one as a goal, I will be inspired to surpass it.

Rewrite and edit existing things

I have short stories, articles and devotionals that could fill volumes, not to mention my finished novel and new novel outlines. I want to take the time this year to reread and polish each one. Some may require total rewrites others deleted, but there are those gems which need only a good publishing home.

Team writing with my spouse

This past year my husband and I have been writing web content and other components for a foundation we are assisting. He is a grant writer and together we have been crafting some interesting copywriting. I need to carve out time to work with him when I am home while not robbing my own personal writing time.

Take time to write everyday

This is the mantra of every writer. Looking at my weekly schedule, I realize there are hours of time already committed. I work 7:00 am-3:00 pm three days a week and 7:00 am-11:00 am every other Saturday. I know that my most creative time seems to be in the morning. I rise at 4:30 every morning. On non-work days I try to write at least a couple of hours. However, I’ve learned if I look at my email and Face book and other blogs first can led to the death of my creativity. I feel compelled to comment and update and reply. I need to set a time aside each day for this necessary distraction without taking time from my daily writing commitment. I haven’t decided if rewriting and editing old stuff is part of the two hour commitment.

 

Research takes time

Some of my goals will need research time carved out such as perusing through 2011 Christian Writer’s Guide and various websites for submission prospects, researching information for copy content, articles and blog material. Let’s not forget reading books and magazine articles on the craft of writing and research material that adds depth and accuracy to article content. Checking out freelance jobs online is another piece of the research puzzle. All this takes time that is not supposed to be part of my actual sitting in the chair fingers on keyboard writing time.

Life Happens

I have a house full of adult children who are in-between apartments for various reasons that disturb my writing time and sometimes my creativity. They each have a dog that I become responsible for when their masters aren’t home.  My aging parents call to request help saying no hurry but meaning take care of it now. My writer’s group needs my encouragement as much as I need theirs.  I serve in various capacities at church. The latter things I can control; the former are interruptions to work around.

There is a whole world of endless possibilities to take hours from my day. So limiting my goals for this year to these four: queries, rewrite, writing with my spouse and writing every day makes carving out time to achieve more manageable than long lists and sub-lists for every area of my life.

I’ll let you know if I am successful. I hope to exceed my expectations and collect some wonderful extras along the way.

What writing goals have you set? What robs your writing time?