QueryTracker Blog

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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

What SYTYCD Taught Me About Writing

I’m going share a secret. I’m a huge fan of So You Think You Can Dance Canada. Here are a few tips I gained from watching it that can benefit writers.

Don’t be afraid to mix up genres and try new ones:
During his audition, Denys Drozdyuk (season three) wowed the judges by not only performing the Paso Doble on his own (something unheard of since it’s a partner dance), he combined it with a touch of contemporary dance. The result landed him a spot in the top twenty-two. He went on to win the competition.
All twenty-two dancers selected for the show had to learn and perform dance styles they had never studied before (contemporary, jazz, ballroom, hip hop, Latin dance). The dancers only had a few days to learn the routine, yet all did an amazing job.
As writers, we should push ourselves to try (or at least read) different genres, and see how aspects of them might combine to produce something more exciting. You might even develop a new trend. Isn’t that what we all want? To be on top of a trend instead of racing behind it (the latter which is never recommended).
Warning: Please try to limit the number of genres in one story. A paranormal thriller mystery romance literary novel will scare off most agents and editors. There is such thing as overkill.

Bring out the emotion:
At the end of each performance, the dance partners listened—sweat dripping down their faces, hearts pounding from the gruelling routine and nerves—as the judges critique the dance. Often the dancers were told to dig deep and bring out the raw emotion, which will take them to the next level. Those who managed to do that went far in the competition. There were a few routines that left the judges in tears, because of the emotional connection they felt with the dancer and the performance.
Same deal with writers. In order for the reader to connect with our characters, we need to dig deep and bring our characters’ emotions to life on the page. It’s not easy at times, but it’s essential if we want to get to the next level: gaining an agent or landing a book contract.

You owned that dance:
Each dancer had his or her own style (e.g. wild, kooky, etc).  The successful dancers applied it to their routines and the judges took notice. This style made those dancers memorable. Very important during the competition. 
Okay, writers. I have only one word for you: Voice!

Don’t give up because you were rejected:
Tara-Jean Popowich auditioned for the first season of the show but never made it into the top twenty. She went home and did everything she could to become a better dancer.  Her hard work and determination paid off. Not only did she make it into the show for season two, she won the position of Canada’s favorite dancer.
Like dancers, writers have to deal with rejections. It’s part of the package. But instead of bemoaning the unfairness of it all, take the rejection and use it to make your writing and/or story better. Maybe you need a critique group (or a different one). Maybe you need to enrol in a writing class to hone your skill. Do whatever it takes to push your writing to the next level.

Embrace the critique:
Winner Denys Drozdyuk (season three) couldn’t have said it better on the final show when he told the judges that praise is great, but the critiques were what had made him a better dancer. What more can I say?
It was amazing watching the show and seeing how much dance has in common with writing fiction. Both require determination, passion, skill, and the ability to tell a story. Do you have all of these requirements? Is there something you need to work on to turn your rejections into a reason to celebrate?

Stina Lindenblatt writes young adult novels. In her spare time, she’s a photographer and blogging addict, and can be found hanging out on her blog, Seeing Creative 


Suzanne Lilly said...

Great post, Stina. One thing I did in my early writing years was to try many different genres in an attempt to find my voice. When I found the ones that flowed for me, I knew I had hit on something. Once a writer knows what works for them, things will start to fall into place. The ability, skill, and passion you mentioned will all mesh to make a beautiful dance of a story.

Ghenet Myrthil said...

I'm a huge fan of the US version of this show. I'm always so inspired by how the dancers reach for their dreams and work hard to make it happen.

Anonymous said...

Stina, brilliant parallels. Too often artists imitate the unique work of others in hopes of meeting similar success, when they should focus on developing their own creative genius.