Friday, 10 September 2010

Why All Wannabe Writers Should Watch the X Factor Auditions

The process of going through the slush pile is a private one. A single agent or editor at a desk reading covering letters, glancing at a synopsis, casting their eyes over the first few pages. No visible drama, no visible excitement. We can't be there. But we can watch the X Factor.

The situation is similar. Hundreds of thousands of wannabes turn up in the hope that their few minutes in the spotlight will change their lives. What we see on the programme is highly edited of course, but it is quite clear that the good shine out. What is also clear is how many completely deluded people there are out there:

People who don't practice before coming.
People who don't learn the words.
People who are aggressive.
People who can't sing in tune.

Then, when they get turned down:
People who blame the microphone/the audience/the backing track/the judges.
People who plead for a second chance, promising that they'll improve next time.
People who have a complete tantrum.

The people who shine are usually quietly confident. They perform a song that they've obviously practiced many times before. They've had positive feedback from people other than their immediate family. They are polite. They always sing in tune.

It's really not that different to writing. You should be professional as possible. You write and re-write. You've had sensible feedback from a variety of outsiders. You have belief in yourself and your writing in a quiet, non-pushy way. You're taking the opportunity seriously.

The good news is that, as the X Factor shows, there are enough delusional people out there who make the good ones shine even more brightly. The bad news is all the people they don't show on the television programme. The ones who weren't laughably bad, who were actually quite good but not good enough to shine. I suspect there are an awful lot of people who fit into that category.

But more good news! Unlike the X Factor, your writing life isn't based on just one audition and one panel of judges. You can send out, re-write, improve, send out again, and again. And more good news again - sometimes there are people who might not be able to sing with the best, or dance with the best, but who have a certain something that entertains the socks off us. Jedward, anybody?


Lizzie said...

Hi Sarah,

A very entertaining and true post!

But isn't there some event where writers get to pitch in front of a panel of agents and editors – plus all the other writers taking part? That sounds tough ... but at least Simon Cowell isn't there, rolling his eyes.

Would being the Jedward of writers be a good thing?!



Ann Patey said...

Loved it Sarah. A brilliant and accurate analogy!

Sarah Duncan said...

Yes, there are some pitch events - usually for screen writers where pitching is a big part of the business.

The only one for prose writers I've heard of was at the the Harrogate Crime Festival in the summer. People pitched their ideas for a detective novel and the winners had their mss read by an agent or publisher - a journalist was one of the lucky ones, and wrote about it here