advice for newly published/about to be published writers
October 23, 2013
This topic came up in casual conversation at MileHi Con. I said “Maybe I should blog about this.” And Dmitri said, “Yes, do it.” So here we go:
Take an improv or an acting class. If you don’t have a background in theater, take some kind of class that gets you on stage, gets you speaking in public and thinking on your feet.
It’s one of the terrible ironies of the world that writers — some of the most introverted, wrapped up in their own brains people — are so often asked to speak in public. They’re asked to be entertainers — not on the page, but in person, on the fly. And it doesn’t seem fair, but being entertaining in public really does sell books. I know this. (And this is why I’ll always choose being on panels over sitting at a table in the dealers room. I’m no good at hand selling my own books. But I can be entertaining on stage.)
If you’re a newly published/about to be published writer, and the thought of appearing on panels or giving a talk or even doing a reading terrifies you, or leaves you at a loss: take a class. The skills you learn, you’ll use forever. Some of the most engaging writers you’ll meet have some kind of background in theater. (Take it from me, once you’ve done a tap routine in a leotard in front of an audience, nothing will faze you.)
Here’s a secret: The stage is a safe place. If you get bad stage fright or have never appeared on stage, you probably don’t believe me, but it’s true. There’s a social contract — you have to clap for the person on stage. You have to respect those on the stage, because they have the courage to be up there, to step outside reality, to be bigger than life. You can do things on stage you can’t do anywhere else, like break out in song or speak with authority, and all those people out there have to applaud you for it.
So yes. Take an improv class so you learn to act on your feet. Take an acting class to get over stage fright. Both will teach you to project a persona: the persona of the entertaining author in public.