February 25, 2011

Lessons Learned From American Idol

Is anyone here a fan of American Idol?

I am! I am! Although the past few seasons have been kind of meh, I'm loving the new judges this year. (J.Lo is very down to earth and Steven Tyler is just so wacky!)

So on Wednesday night, I had American Idol flipped on in the background as I pounded away on my new WIP. I'd write a few paragraphs, then listen in on the auditions. Then I'd write some more, then listen in again.

As the night went on, I couldn't help but notice that the pursuit to becoming a singer with a record deal strangely mirrors the struggle to become a published author. Here are a few similarities I gleaned that night:

1.) Sometimes the timing isn't right.
At the start of the season, a Texan rancher named John Wayne Schulz made a big splash at his audition. But alas, John got the boot last night. I guess the final 24 contestants had too many country singers in the mix, which meant John was sent home.

This same thing goes with books, I believe. Just last week, I decided to shelve my YA dystopian for the time being because the market is simply too saturated. I still believe in this book---and I will work on it again---but my timing is off at this point. Two years ago, dystopians were hot and I think my book (maybe) could have stood out from the crowd. But now? It seems like everyone I talk to has a dystopian in the works or on submission. Alas. Timing can be everything sometimes.

2.) Sometimes you're just not ready
One of the biggest underdogs this season has been fifteen-year-old Jacee Badeaux. Look at him! Doesn't he look like he's twelve?!


Jacee definitely garnered a lot of fans during Group Night (he was unceremoniously booted out of his first group so he had to scramble to find another) but he didn't make the Final 24. I just don't think the judges thought he was ready. Ultimately, Jacee got cut because he needs a couple more years to development his talents and find his voice.

Again, I think this applies to writing. In early 2009, I finished my MG novel and promptly started querying. Nobody had read my novel or query letter but I knew in my heart that the book was publishable. Ha! Twenty rejections later, I realized my book needed more revisions. And twenty rejections after that, I realized the entire first third of my manuscript needed to be redone.

My book wasn't ready to get an agent at that point. And I don't think I was really ready either. I needed more time to learn how to revise and how to take a critique without becoming a slobbery crying mess. Like Jacee, I needed to develop my skills and talents before I could play with the big girls.

3.) Be unique. Offer something different. 
Okay, my favorite contestant this year---hands down---is Paul McDonald. *Fans self* When he started to sing the Beatles' "Blackbird" on Wednesday night, I immediately lost my train of thought and gaped at the television screen.



He was just so different! I had spent most of the night listening to country singers, rocker bad boys, and Christina Aguilera wannabes---so Paul really stood out.

And this applies to writing too! I've read dozens of dozens of YA novels in the past three years and there are times when I start a new book only to get a sense of deja vu. Haven't I seen this plot before? Haven't I gotten to know this protagonist already?

So it pays to be different! For instance, my good friend Ellen Oh recently landed a three-book deal with HarperCollins. The premise of her book? A demon hunter in ancient Korea will stop at nothing to protect her cousin, the young prince, even from the reincarnation of evil itself. How cool is that?! I've never read a book like this before, much less one set in Korea. Thus, I'm not surprised at all that Ellen's book got picked up so quickly.

Anyway, I've just blabbered on for way too many words. Do you of you guys watch American Idol? Who are you rooting for? And any fun plans for this weekend? Justin is going out-of-town so I'm trying to figure out what I should...

6 comments:

  1. So true! Rachelle Gardner had a similar post this week and she adds to your points: Everyone here is good. You need to be better than good.

    Oh, and I'm so glad we don't get book deals American Idol-style. If I had to stand in front of a panel of editors as they dissected by book on live TV I think I'd cry.

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  2. All of these are so very true! A manuscript needs to stand out among other great manuscripts in order to be accepted, nowaday.

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  3. I love this post. Not an AI fan but I love the way you weaved it in. . . makes things much less intimidating!

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  4. This is a fantabulous analogy! I love American (well, Canadian) Idol, so I'm positive these notes will definitely imprint into my brain. :P

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  5. Great post! I'm really enjoying American Idol this season, although I'm not a fan of many of the people who made it into the top 24. I think my fave right now is the guy with the red hair--I think is name is Brett. He's just so different--and I love how he chose to sing his own song. :)

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  6. I'm liking this season and all the changes. Jacee was my favorite though...super :(
    I guess I'll have to pick a new one now.

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