Friday, June 18, 2010

Tony Awards! Tony Awards!

Did you actors out there watch the Tony Awards?

I'm embarrassed to admit that this is actually the first time that I have ever watched the Tonys. Every actor should watch them; theatre is an important element of our field, and we should watch them because it's important to know what's being done out there, and also because it's important to recognize and honor excellence in our craft. On the other hand, I don't live anywhere near New York and I never have, so I've never actually seen any of the individual performances/musicals/plays being nominated in any given year. (Unlike the Oscars, which I've often seen because they're movies and are therefore available pretty much in any given place at any given time as long as you can get to a Blockbuster.) I had no idea that the Tonys were even televised before this year. So, I feel that my lapse, while shameful, is excusable. But no more!

Watching the Tonys was, for me, by turns entertaining (Matthew Morrison singing and dancing live? Yes, please.), awe-inspiring, and demoralizing. Awe-inspiring because I was truly shocked by the percentage of huge Broadway stars who are also huge film stars, and also because I got to see clips from musicals and plays being performed right now on Broadway and I LOVE LIVE THEATRE. I wish I could go to the theatre every day. Just watching it had me itching to get back out there and DO some live theatre.

And then came the demoralizing part, as I realized that all of those people can sing. And I mean, really sing. They can bring the house down. And I can't. And by that I mean, even my kids and my own mother beg me to stop when I try to sing, and we're just talking about lullabies and things like that. I mouth "Happy Birthday" as I carry my kids' cakes to them at their birthday parties. I sound that bad. I can dance a groove in the floor, and I think I've probably got some acting chops hidden away somewhere (although sometimes I doubt myself - I think we all do), but I sure can't sing. And I wonder: does this mean that live theatre is out for me? Will I ever be able to "make it" on acting and dancing alone?

I sure hope so, because that's all I've got.

Thanks for stopping by.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Knowing your Market: Part II

The last time I posted on the topic of knowing your market, I focused my post on what this means for me as an actor. This time around, I want to focus on what this means for me as a writer.

The first part of knowing your market is knowing what books are out there, what books are selling, and what a book in your genre typically looks like. Do I mean that you should find out what the biggest-selling genre is and research the biggest-selling books in that genre and then go and try to duplicate them? No, of course not. You have to write your own story, in your own way. Manufactured writing is never as good, in my opinion, as writing that comes from within you. But you need to know enough about what is out there to be able to identify the genre in which you are writing, and you should probably have a sense of how much of a market there will be for your story. I believe that this type of research will help me when it comes to querying time.

You also need to know what people out there are buying. Again, don't try to identify the latest trend and come up with something to fit. But if you have a story kicking around about vampires, and it seems like vampires are big, then polish up that baby and send it on its way. Equally for romance, and cookbooks, and everything else.

AND, you should know the general shape of the type of story you're trying to tell, too, but that's more of a craft issue and so I'll save it for a later post.

Also, it's important (and really, REALLY takes the pressure off, at least for me) to know, if you're writing YA urban fantasy, roughly how long books in that category typically are, or if you're writing picture books how long those manuscripts typically are, and where things like page turns and chapter breaks fall, and whether ending on an ambiguous this-might-turn-into-a-series-but-for-now-I'm-not-really-sure note is a good idea or a done thing. If you write suspense, learn how to weave the suspense in without leaving the reader feeling like you've dropped the ball.

In other words, READ. Read widely, in many genres, across many age groups, a lot. Consider it part of your job as a writer, and make time for it every day. I read most things for pleasure, but I consider a lot of my reading to be "market research". Read.

The other part of your market is the potential publisher or agent, and thinking about this part of the market is still a mystery to me, primarily because I have not yet sold a book manuscript. I look at the books I have enjoyed reading, and I think, "There's a 'rule' about not overusing adverbs, but this book does it all over the place, and it's by a debut author," or, "They say to avoid info dumps, but there's this huge three-page one right here." And I wonder: what did this manuscript look like when it first arrived on the editor's desk? Did it have even more unnecessary adverbs and info dumps than it does now? Or did it have less, and did the author have to add them for clarity?

I realize that I really have no idea of what this part of the "market" really wants, because while I see the same books that the general public buys (and can therefore study them and learn about what people like about books and why they buy these books and not those books), I don't see the manuscripts that agents and editors snap up. I don't have the first idea of what catches their eye, because the "rules" as handed down from them don't always line up with what leaves their houses and ends up on bookstore shelves.

So I'm left with this: read a lot; write a lot; improve a lot; and tell the best story that you can.

Thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Mea Culpa, and CONTEST!

Did I say "this weekend" in my last post? I meant "next weekend", and I apologise to any blog readers who might have tuned in only to find the same old tired post sitting there. "This weekend" (meaning this past weekend) got a little busy, what with shoveling coal raking gravel and laying sod and moving mulch, and until I figure out how to write posts ahead of time and have them appear later, I guess I just shouldn't promise things like that. I'm sorry. I will absolutely have a post on Knowing the Market for Writers up next.

In the meantime, though: literary agent Nathan Bransford is having a contest! And if you're not daunted by the 300-plus entries he's already received, you should go and enter it right now.

Thanks for stopping by.