blogger: Cynthia Ruchti
Acting is a unique artform, but it’s also a vital skill for writers.
Accomplished actors become the characters they’re tasked to portray. They “crawl into the skin” of the hero, heroine, villain. Actors often talk about enjoying the challenge of portraying a character wildly different from their own personality or life experiences.
Writers can benefit from crawling into the skin of others at all stages of the writing and publishing process.
Act the part of the reader.
Novelists and nonfiction writers who become their readers step out of their own frames of reference. They consider the perspectives, knowledge-base, interest-level, and felt-needs of those who will eventually read their work.
The facts, stats, or thematic language may fascinate you, the writer. Will they fascinate your reader? Is the story you’re telling a personal catharsis only, or is it an invitation for the reader to adopt hope-giving principles to their circumstances?
In self-editing workshops, I suggest writers read their work aloud as if seeing it for the first time. Read it as if an expert on the subject. And read it again as if never having heard or cared about the subject before. Become the reader.
Act the part of the agent.
How does it change the artistic delivery of your query or proposal if you play the part of the agent receiving it? How would you react? Ooh. Needed proofreading. Missed one of the main elements the agent asked for. Sounds condescending/entitled/unprofessional, now that I read it from the agent’s point of view.
Play the role of an agent. What would make the agent lean forward?
Act the part of a freelance editor.
Yes. It’s true. Some writers rely on editors to do the work they should have done. They ignore the squiggly lines in a Word document, leaving grammar errors, spelling mistakes, obvious typos. They turn in their manuscripts with obvious plot holes or nonfiction organizational questions, content to leave it to the editor to fix.
Imagine how much an editor appreciates receiving a “clean” manuscript to work with.
Act the part of an acquisitions editor.
Step into the role of a acquisitions editor for a moment. As much as you–the writer–may dislike creating a synopsis, gathering comparables/competition information, reporting the truth about your platform numbers, thinking through a compelling marketing plan, imagine it from the point of view of the person tasked with making a decision about whether or not to pursue beyond opening the email.
What would you want to see in a proposal? Would you appreciate having to dig for information not provided? Would you take time to do that if a thousand other tasks were also pulling for your attention? What tone would you appreciate from the writer? How important would it be to you to have a project cross your desk that ticked all the boxes? Well-written. Compelling concept. Fresh approach. Solid platform. Easy to convince the marketing and sales departments that it’s worth taking the risk.
Self-absorbed writers always have something to say. But it’s said from a singular point of view–the writer’s–and with singular benefit in mind–for the writer.
Imagine the scene transpiring on stage when a writer learns to combine acting and writing–acting the part of all the players in the theater of publishing.
Which of the non-writer roles is the most challenging for you to imagine? One of an agent’s many roles is acting coach–helping writers envision the scene from other characters’ perspectives.