Have you watched Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee?
I love it. Jerry Seinfeld spends the day with one of his friends and fellow comedians, and they talk about comedy. Pretty simple, but it’s one of the best things on the internet. Seven seasons have aired so far, with approximately fifty guests/friends. My favorites are Alec Baldwin, Kevin Hart, Steve Martin, Jay Leno, Tina Fey, and David Letterman.
Most of his guests began their careers in stand-up. At a young age, they worked up the courage to visit the nearest comedy club, take the mic, and launch themselves into the vicious world of entertainment. The stories are heartbreaking and hilarious; crowds are brutal. His guests take particular delight in remembering their disasters. David Letterman bombed. Kevin Hart went broke. Tina Fey was awkward. Amy Schumer lost a stand-up contest. Louis C.K. had a long list of misfires.
I think writers can learn a lot from these successful stand-up comedians.
According to Jerry’s comedic powerhouses companions, standing on stage with a mic is terrifying. It’s just you. That’s it. You. And almost all of them get booed initially. I mean absolutely crushed. But somehow these folks are still standing, often atop piles of money. How?
A common thread within these interviews is the power of self-examination and tinkering.
Steve Harvey once gave advice to a young, brash comic about starting with his strong banana joke. Start with the banana. The immature comedian ignored the advice and was booed off stage after a few minutes. So now that comedian has a choice: do I change it? Do I start with the banana now? Do I stick to my guns or do I tinker? And in that choice lies the difference between success and failure. If he’s smart, if he’s honest with himself, if he wants any chance at reaching his dreams then he’ll fix it.
It’s the same with writing. I’ve written two books (my first two) which no one will ever see. Why? They aren’t good. I know because they got ‘booed off stage.’ I showed these books to family and friends, and although these readers truly love me they didn’t even finish. Didn’t finish! Somewhere along the story, I lost them.
If your readers aren’t finishing your books, or if its taking them too long, you’re getting booed off stage. And now you, Writer, you have a choice. A choice between your pride and your future.
Jay Leno in particular talks about how much effort an act requires. He tries out stuff at smaller clubs, on his writing staff, on his friends, and then he fixes it. Jerry talks about working jokes over and over, searching for the best punch-line phrasing. A good comic realizes she lost the crowd at minute four, and then tinkers. The next time out, she gets booed at minute five. And then tinkers. Then she survives to minute six. Then seven. Then ten. Soon, she’s getting a round of applause at the end of her set.
I was mad at my wife and friends for not finishing my books. How stupid is that?? I wrote a bad book and I’m mad at them?
Let me decode for you:
Your reader – “No, no! It’s good! I’ll finish your book soon. I’ve been busy.”
Have you ever heard this line? After waiting and waiting for them to finish?
This means, ‘It’s boring, but I love you and don’t want to hurt your feelings.’
You just got booed off stage. Like Jerry Seinfeld and Chris Rock when they started.
If a comedian is truly funny, the audience laughs.
If a book is truly good, readers finish it. Quickly.
If your book is not good, and you want to be successful, then you must…
- a) Be honest with yourself. Why did you lose them?
- b) Tinker.
Here’s my favorite anecdote about someone unwilling to tinker. A friend asked me to read her short story. Several pages in, I realized she had four main characters. And their names were ‘Jace’ and ‘Jade’ and ‘Anna’ and ‘Ana.’ Jace, Jade, Anna, Ana. You can understand why I was confused. I pointed out the unnecessary similarity in first names and she became offended. She would not change the names because those were her favorite names. And she will never find success until she loses her pride.
I released a book titled The Outlaw on June 2, 2015. In the first 12 months, it’s sold over 10,000 copies. The series has won awards, been praised by Kirkus, and book four (released on May 31st, 2016) reached #1 in Sci/Fi Superheroes on Amazon.
This successful book was initially booed off stage. My beta readers weren’t finishing it. So I tinkered. Still they weren’t finishing. I re-wrote the beginning and added a prologue. Suddenly, boom! Readers finished it rapidly. After a lot of hard work, after a lot of introspection, my book no longer sucked. I made it to the end of the show, I reached the applause. But it wasn’t easy.
Where are you losing your readers?
Don’t get offended.
Being booed is a rite of passage.
Get busy. Get tinkering. Swallow your fear. And your pride.
And then get back up on that stage and try again. (It’s a metaphor)
About The Outlaw
The Outlaw: Origins
by Alan Janney
Publisher: Sparkle Press
Publication Date: February 26th 2016
Genre: YA Sci-fi/Superheroes
A masked vigilante stalks the streets of downtown Los Angeles, disrupting crime and rescuing movie starlets. After being spotted on security cameras and thrust into the national spotlight, he is pursued by both the media and powerful new enemies. Little does the world know the Outlaw is just High School junior Chase Jackson wearing a mask and wondering why his body is suddenly…extraordinary.
The story continues in Book Two of the Outlaw Series. ‘Infected’.
About the Author
Winner of the 2016 National Indie Excellence Award!
You work hard.
I write adventures.
Let me entertain you.
When you’re done, text me.
(Two Six Zero) 673-5450
I respond to as many as I can.
My favorite adventurers: Ender, Frodo and Sam, Rand, Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin, Katniss, Spenser, Peter and Alicia and Amy (from The Passage), Jack Ryan, Dirk Pitt, and many others, including my two sons and my super hot wife.