As one of the many millions of viewers who watch the American Idol selection process, I think that much of the advice given by judges Randy Jackson, Steven Tyler or Jennifer Lopez to aspiring singers applies equally to writers.
Here are three tips from Season Ten:
#1 Find Your Lane.
Love this phrase, don’t you? Judges frequently counsel a singer to find his/her “lane.” From a writer’s perspective, it means write what best suits your voice, style and interest. Don’t force yourself to write in a genre that’s uncomfortable to you just because it’s currently what’s popular or you feel you’ve a better chance of making a sale. An old axiom is “write what you read.” That’s a good indicator of your “lane.” Of course, it’s not always this easy because it might–like many of the American Idol singers–take more time and experimenting before you settle into a genre or writing style that best suits you. Take a risk, don’t hold back and keep pushing yourself to experiment with your writing until you do find this lane. If you keep this wonderful phrase–Find Your Lane–foremost in your mind, it will help you to know when you’ve found it.
#2 Song Selection.
Contestants who frequently win approval are those that choose songs that showcase their unique voices. Contestants who pick a song that suits their particular voice are memorable. Some examples: Scotty McCreery singing “The River” and Paul McDonald choosing Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May.”
If your writing is “hearts and flowers” don’t attempt a mystery suspense novel and vice versa. Analyze and compare your writing style with what you see in books of various genres. Be brutal with yourself when determining where your writing fits. This study will also show whether you need to make necessary changes like trimming adverbs or adjectives, using less description and more dialogue or using fewer point-of-views. Once you’ve identified the genre that best suits your writing style or voice, don’t forget to also be original, be unique and truly own whatever you write. Make the “song” fit you, rather than you fit the “song.”
#3 Connect with your Audience.
Okay, let’s assume you’ve found your lane and are writing with passion in a style and voice that is unique to you. Once you’ve gotten into a groove you’re allowed to give yourself a pat on the back.
It’s not just about delivering a wonderful performance, it’s about hitting all the right notes with passion and joy so that you embrace your audience and pull them into a song or, in the case of a writer, into your story. Don’t be afraid of emotion. Dig deep and you’ll draw your reader along with you.
What have you heard on American Idol that you apply to your own writing?