Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Australian Book Idol or So You Think You Can Write

I was watching an episode of So You Think You Can Dance last week, where the last few hopefuls were told whether they had made it into the Top 20 or would be doomed to disappointment for another year (at least).
At first I was whimsically imagining what Australian Book Idol, or perhaps So You Think You Can Write, would be like.
We'd have a team of judges, eager to put the book into the hopeless hopefuls.
``If I see another vampire story, I'm going to scream!'' the nasty judge would bellow, before throwing piles of paper onto the floor.
``Honey, you need to learn how to spell, you hear what I'm saying?'' the nice judge would offer.
``I can't believe someone tried the `It was a dark and stormy night' opener!' the credible judge would gasp.
But, jokes aside, watching shows like SYTYCD or Idol, at the moment when the final cut is made, can offer the budding writer some really good advice.
A few years ago, while I was nervously waiting to discover if The Wounded Guardian would be picked up by HarperCollins, I watched a similar show, and the desperate desire of young dancers/singers to make their dream come true really resonated with me. It still does.
You work hard, you train, you pour blood, sweat and tears into your craft, all in the hope of being able to share it, because it is something that burns deep inside you.
No wonder they burst into tears, even when they get the good news.
Apart from the human drama, I do like some of the advice the judges offer.
One line in particular struck a chord with me: ``You have to believe you deserve to be here, or you won't be''.
For a writer, nothing could be purer. Everyone suffers rejection, and it is only when you truly believe in your work that you can pick yourself up and try, try again.
Sure, your work can always be improved - there are few books that cannot be made better with advice from expert copy editors and proof readers. But there must be something inside that you believe so passionately in that you are prepared to put yourself out there, prepared to suffer humiliation for it.
Perhaps there is no national television audience but sending your work away to be `judged' by agents and publishers takes courage. But maybe seeing the young hopefuls on Idol or SYTYCD might help writers in their journey.
I doubt there will ever be a Book Idol. But every day, in agencies and publishing houses, the equivalent of So You Think You Can Write is going on.
It's made me look anew at these TV talent shows.
And marvel anew at the good fortune that allowed me to be one of the lucky ones.

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