Thursday, April 3, 2014

Lessons From The Voice

I’m a big fan of the singing competition shows. I could live without the competition part. I just love to see people perform.

Season after season, hopeful performers cross the stage. Some are picked. Some are left behind never to be heard from again. Some of the decisions I do not comprehend. 

Someone eventually wins. It isn’t always a performer I liked.

So what does that have to do with writing?

It is a very similar selection process. Writers submit their work. They wait to hear if they have been selected. Even after they are selected, audiences may not love them. They may be one-hit-wonders. Once in a while fifteen minutes of fame translates into a life-long career.

What separates one-hit-wonders from stars?

1) They never give up.

Nothing ventured; nothing gained. You can't win if you don't play.

There are contests provided by Writer's Digest, Amazon, etc. Find them and submit. It might help you jump ahead of the line.

2) Original content is crucial.

Artists that write and perform their own work have more staying power. Otherwise they are reliant on someone else’s compositions. There have been successful collaborations between singers and songwriters.

3) They offer consistent quality.

In the days before digital downloads, an album with only one good song did not sell well. Now fans can download that one song. The more hits the artist offers, the more popular they are. Make every chapter and book a hit. Don’t write clunkers.

4) They connect.

They capitalize on their fifteen minutes by building a relationship with their fans through concert tours, videos, special content, and social media.

5) They continue to produce unique material.

They don’t regurgitate the same song over and over. They may take a break and reinvent themselves. It is risky to be too experimental. Fans expect you to continue to do what they first loved about you. That’s why bands are still playing the same favorite songs in their geriatric reunion tours.

Public consumption is fickle. The darling of the moment may not be the love of tomorrow. A great writer transcends gimmicks and fads to provide long-term fan pleasure.

Check out these posts for information on writing contests:

Diana Hurwitz is the author of Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict, Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict, Story Building Blocks III: The Revision Layers, and the YA adventure series Mythikas Island. Her weekly blog, Game On: Crafting Believable Conflict explores how characters behave and misbehave. Visit for more information and free writing tools. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.


  1. I love the comparison between writers and singers. We writers—especially if our chosen genre falls under the general heading of fiction—are also entertainers. As you mentioned, we must connect with our readers if we want to be invited back onto their shelves (or Kindle) with our next book. Consistent quality, fresh material, and the determination to provide reading pleasure for our fans with each offering will help us escape the "one-hit-wonder" designation and offer us a lifelong career.

    Excellent post, Diana.

    1. I love that line "If we want to be invited back onto their shelves." :)

  2. Well, Diana, I'd be thrilled to be a one hit wonder ... if I could get past rule number one. Oh, and don't get me started on the singing competitions.

    1. Chris, you could try singing the words to your books on YouTube. :)

  3. I gave up on American Idol a few years ago, but I really like The Voice. It's all talent from the start and I enjoy watching the mentoring process. It usually motivates me to write, so I see the parallels!

  4. I don't watch the singing competition shows, but I get your point. Thanks, Diana!

    1. I'm actually losing interest in them. The latest crop of entertainers haven't been very entertaining. I wish they would come up with a show for new material rather than repeating the same song books over and over.

  5. Good comparison (although I've never watched any of these shows). It's about doing the best job you can. Every. Single. Day.

  6. "Don't write clunkers." Ha! That's it, in a nutshell.

    And sometimes what grabs you in a writer's "voice," as in singing, isn't technical perfection, but something raw and real. Something Springsteen.

  7. I love the Voice and other singing competitions -- like you, I love the music and watching the singers grow. Your comparison with writing is very appropriate! Thanks.

  8. I don't watch them either, but for some reason, my current characters have unleashed my musical muse. My characters are into music, I've started listening to all kinds, and I've even taken up guitar again. No idea why! A good post and analogy, Diana.


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.


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