It's been happening kind of a lot lately.
Not all over the place, but enough for me to sit up and take notice.
Whether it's me or one of my writer buddies, a lot of agents have been asking,
"What else are you working on?"
Sometimes it's after an agent has read requested material.
Sometimes, it's before she'll request material at all.
I don't know how you would feel, but the first time I heard this question I had a tiny moment of freak-out.
"I'm a pantser. That's how I approach my art. I can barely write a pitch for a book I've finished, and you expect me to throw one out for a book that's being drafted, or outlined, or is just an idea flitting around in my head? Are you crazy?"
But after a few seconds, it started to make sense. Agents want writers for a career, not just for that one book they're signing on. They want to know that writers have potential to be more than a one-hit wonder, and rightfully so. More than that, agents want to know that an author can be enthusiastic and articulate about something besides that one shined-up book baby that happens to be sitting in their inbox.
After a minute or so, though, I started to feel appreciative of the question. Grateful, even. For a couple of reasons.
1. For a professional author, it's always about the next book. By the time your book is being shined up by editors at a publishing house (please God,) your next draft probably should be finished, at the very least. By the time your book appears on a shelf (please please please God,) your next one is in the final stages of production.
2. "What I'm Working On" is what keeps me sane. My life has been so crazy lately, between having a new baby six weeks ago and riding a little wave of querying/revision/contesting excitement, that I totally forgot about how important it is to have The Next Book in the works.
Yesterday, I was reminded how, the week after I started querying my first manuscript, I started writing ONE, and didn't stop for eight weeks. That's probably the only way I survived the emotional trauma of putting my first manuscript in a drawer. I should probably be ready for another round of that. I need a new draft, one into which I can pour all my optimism and hope, now that I'm at the end of my second tour through the query trenches (sigh.)
So! Thank you, literary agents, for asking questions that kick me in the butt and remind me of all the above. And please, ask me what else I'm working on. Because now, I can confidently, articulately, and excitedly tell you all about it. (And, if you don't actually want to talk to me, click here to read my blurbs.)
What about you, sweet querying-writerly types? What else are you working on?