HH and I watch The Voice on TV on Monday nights. Neither of us know anything about music. We just enjoy it. And this year, we enjoyed the show more than usual. For one thing, it was only on Monday nights instead of Monday and Tuesday. So we didn’t get as tired of it as we did some years. It felt as though there were more talented singers competing than usual, too.
Maybe because there was so much talent, we became more aware than ever that the people who moved on in the competition were the ones who made the right song choices. We listened to singers do a wonderful job when they performed, but the next singer chose something with a little more drama, a little more range or flare. And they won. Singers, just like writers, have to come up with a little something extra to make them stand out from the crowd.
One way some of them do that is knowing what their strengths are and playing to them. They know their weaknesses, too, and stay away from them. The farther the singer goes in the competition, the harder it gets to move on. Last week, a singer HH and I both thought would make it to the finale was sent home. Why? Because she picked the wrong song. What she sang was good. But it didn’t stand out. Good isn’t good enough. Same with writing.
At the end of the show, there’s only one winner. The odds of winning a book contract, of finding readers who follow you, aren’t that cutthroat, but they’re sure hard. I read a Q & A blog by Ilona Andrews once about how to write a query letter. It’s been a while ago, but the thing I remember is that it advised the writer to identify what they wrote. “I’m X, and I write urban fantasy.” That way, editors and publishers know where to put you, what genre to market you in. BUT then, emphasize what makes your urban fantasy stand out from the rest. What makes it unique, instead of the same.
On The Voice, the best singer doesn’t always win. The singer who connects to the audience and stands out has a good shot. And there are singers who do a great job who are sent home. One wrong choice, just one, and they’re gone. That doesn’t mean their career is over. It doesn’t mean they won’t go on to great success. But it’s something to think about. Some music is more popular than others. Some types almost never win. If a singer comes on the show and sings rock, I think the odds are against him or her making it to the finale. A country singer has a better chance. RB and pop, even folk, seem to fare better. Opera? Good luck with that. When a writer decides on his or her niche, what sells is worth thinking about.
We’re not all going to be #1 on the charts, but that doesn’t mean we can’t find success. Good luck!