Which is why I brought back teaberryblue to serve as your Tim Gunn figure for the week in helping you figure out how to "make it explode", or whatever his catch phrase is!
I like to change these things up, but I figured having a familiar face, and one who is actually working in the publishing industry, would help calm some nerves. So that I can better jump out from the bushes and freak you out later. :D
So without further ado - other than this ado, here's Tea!
Some of you are new to LJ Idol, and some of you are coming back for a second, third, fourth, or maybe even billionth year. (That’s how many years you’ve been running this for, right, Gary? A billion?).
I am not the most experienced Idoler in the world, but over the past two years, I’ve seen folks talk about how they’re unsure about what to write apart from where they live, what they do for a living, and who’s in their family. I’ve seen people complain about reading entries that all blur together. I’ve seen veterans frustrated because they feel like they used up all their stories, and don’t know how to do it differently this time. I've seen newcomers frustrated because they feel like someone else has already told their story.
If you’re new, you don’t want to be one of those people who blurs together. If you’re a known quantity, you don’t want people to assume that what you bring to the game this year is going to be the same as what you brought last year. Heck, we also have enough new folks that no one is COMPLETELY a known quantity at this point. So you still need to be concerned about blurring together.
Part of my job is reading submissions from people who would like my company to represent them. A submission usually includes a query letter, which is a letter telling me about the person writing the submission. I've gotten pretty much every type of submission you can imagine, from “I am the greatest and if you don’t hire me, you’re a nitwit!” to "I know my work isn't very good. I'm terrible at this, but I really want a job!" to “I got bored and decided to send you a submission.” Hint: none of those will get you work with my company. It's also a good thing to avoid in Idol. Telling us how much you like the topic, or don't like the topic, or like your post, or don't like your post is a super thing to talk about in the Green Room or the Work Room, but in your post itself, it can distract your readers. Some of our best writing is the stuff we write when we're struggling. If you tell your readers how much you're struggling, you may run the risk of encouraging them to look for the signs of how you struggled with it, instead of just letting them be impressed with a unique perspective on a challenging topic.
Probably somewhere around middle school, you had a teacher who trotted out the “show, don’t tell” lesson for the first time. And it’s probably the most important lesson I’ve ever learned in writing. Idol is no exception. If you’re at a loss for what to write about, remember that early in the competition, you’re introducing us to your writing. You’re showing us why your writing is writing that we’re going to want to come back to week after week. Lots of stories have been told before, but in the end, it doesn't matter if you're telling the same story ten other people are telling, or telling us something brand new we've never heard. It matters that you tell it in a way that makes us want to read. You have a special perspective and a special voice. Take advantage of your own strengths-- and figure out how to exploit your weaknesses (it's possible, believe me!!). Not to Mister Rogers it up here, but there is no one else quite like you, and remembering and embracing that will make your entries shine.
Neil Gaiman once gave some great writing advice, and I wanted to share it with all of you as a little bit of inspiration:
"Start telling the stories that only you can tell, because there’ll always be better writers than you and there’ll always be smarter writers than you. There will always be people who are much better at doing this or doing that - but you are the only you.
Tarantino - you can criticize everything that Quentin does - but nobody writes Tarantino stuff like Tarantino. He is the best Tarantino writer there is, and that was actually the thing that people responded to - they’re going ‘this is an individual writing with his own point of view’.
There are better writers than me out there, there are smarter writers, there are people who can plot better - there are all those kinds of things, but there’s nobody who can write a Neil Gaiman story like I can."
So remember that: You are the best you writer there is. There is no one who can write your story like you can.
Here are some questions. You can discuss the answers here, or just think about them on your own as you craft your entry for this week.
--What do you think you did RIGHT the first week? How do you plan to repeat and build on that success?
--Where do you think you made errors, and how are you planning to correct them or improve upon them this week?
--Is there anything you were pleased, proud, or pleasantly surprised about in your own entry that is helping you carve out your Idol goals, or that might serve as advice to others?
--Is there anything you were unhappy with in your own entry, that you would like help trying to improve upon?
And, since this is a competition (but let's keep this academic and constructive; no ragging on anyone's entries!):
--What were some of the common traits of the entries you voted for this week?
--What were some of the common traits of the entries you didn't vote for this week?
I am sure that some of you chose not to vote for an entry because of poor grammar or spelling, but how about content? Were there certain types of content that were really enjoyable for you to read? What made an entry a "YES" entry in your book?
(Gary note: Concrit is, by definition, constructive. It's easy to say "I hated it". More people will believe that you actually know what you are talking about if you not only can make your point, but show someone how it might work better.)