I was watching The Voice right before I wrote this post. Wait...What? You don't watch The Voice?
Okay, for those of you who don't, it is the best show on writing to be found today. Yes, I said on writing! Why?
The Voice is four top-level professionals (think Lee Childs, Suzanne Brockmann, Michael Connelly...you get the idea), mentoring the superstars of tomorrow. It isn't a case of, "Sing that higher, you missed that note"--or at least not often. Rather it is a show of advice from the very top performers on what each aspiring artist is lacking.
Okay, so, I was watching The Voice right before I wrote this post.
A contestant went into rehearsal and sang very respectably. (He had no choice when facing Pharrell Williams and Sean P. Diddy Combs.) One of the coaches looked at the contestant and said (I'm paraphrasing), "You didn't go for that high run because you weren't sure that you could those notes."
Contestant looks on in amazement, "That's right."
"And that," the coach answered, "is precisely what's holding you back from achieving those notes."
The contestant was rocked back on his heels in shock. It was as if he'd been handed the keys to the magic kingdom. He tried the song again and soared into the notes magnificently.
That is FANTASTIC writing advice. Frankly, it is fantastic advice for any endeavor. If you don't try, you can't win.
I challenge myself with every book. I spent an entire book working primarily on cliffhangers so that the reader couldn't put the book down. It is the technically most complex book I've ever written despite its short-novel length. It is a love story in two timelines (the present and the twenty-five years building up to the present). Frank's Independence Day still sells very strongly three years later.
I spent another entire book working on pacing to make it exciting. My thriller One Chef! is a no-holds-barred foodie thriller. (Foodie thriller? Sure, when the North Korean government starts hunting America's top television chefs, mayhem is bound to ensue.)
As a writer we are offered two paths.
1. To be complacent and write what we read or, even worse, write what we've already written.
2. Push ourselves. Discover, learn, experiment. Go forth with an absolute willingness to fail. "Wow! That one flopped. Let's see what I can try on the next one."
Another contestant on The Voice wasn't chosen last season. She sang her heart out and not a single judge chose to mentor her. She failed in front of a television audience of approximately 4,000,000 people. (No, that's not a typo.) Six months later she dusted herself off, studied like mad, and is doing very well, headed to the third round of the competition. I can't even imagine the fear of returning and trying again with the chance of not being chosen...again! And she had to SING! I just have to sit in my corner and write. She is sixteen years old.
Back to our first contestant.
The transformation was spectacular. In a follow-up interview, he said, "It's like a whole new world had been opened up inside me." The contestant then leaned right up to the camera and shouted, "Be Unafraid!"
Starting writers are always asking me for advice. I have now found the answer that I intend to give from here on:
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