Friday, June 1, 2012

"What Else Are You Working On?"


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?"
Um...excuse me?

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?



11 comments:

  1. I'm not read to query yet, but as Novel 1 went to some CPs, I started on a second novel to keep me sane while I wait. I've been itching to start a third that's in my brain, but figured I should complete the other two before I start on a third, so that I can say I actually accomplished something first, lol.

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  2. Huh. I have actually *never* been asked that, now that I think about it. I wonder why that is. And it's a shame, because I'm working on so many things! Most of them are still at the idea stage at this point, but I'm hoping I can use CampNaNoWriMo to kick my butt into high gear and finally gain some traction on that Megillat Esther retelling I mentioned to you a couple of weeks ago.

    What I'm actively working on is a new contemporary YA (about 7k in), and I've been working on a chick lit (or whatever you'd like to call it) for some time, and that's up to 66k and frequently gets abandoned because I wrote it out of order and don't feel like writing the few missing scenes. (I know, I know, worst idea ever.)

    Very excited to see that you're working on a contemp in addition to Chrome!

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  3. I haven't been asked that by agents yet either, but I've definitely heard about that happening fairly frequently. Now that I'm *almost* ready to query Monstrous, I'm planning to jump into Camp NaNoWriMo with a SNI that's been niggling at me for a while. It's a YA thriller that 24 meets the Goonies (yeah, I know, figure that one out) and will happen in the span of 24 hours with 4 POVs. Should be interesting!

    Also, LOVE CHROME! SOunds so cool. As do the other SNIs you've mentioned on twitter. Good luck! :D

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  4. I've never been asked that either. If I did, I've got a lot I could throw at them. I've written lots, just haven't had time to edit.

    I'm about 40,000 words into my current WIP, another contemporary YA.

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  5. I haven't gotten that question, although an agent at a conference asked me what else I had completed. For the first time I was glad I was querying my second novel so I had something to say.

    I'm getting ready to start another MG, this one with some sci-fi elements. I'm still in the research stage, so I couldn't even articulate it yet for someone if they asked, but I'm getting there. Good luck with CampNaNoWriMo!

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  6. Thanks for this :) I've seen this question a lot lately, and now I'm finally working on something that's not related to my other manuscript, I feel less like a one-hit writer (that's not even a hit because, hey, I'm unpublished!) and more like a writer with more than one idea in my head. Hooray!

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  7. This is so great and very true! I always have more than one idea bubbling around, although, I must say, I haven't been working on anything lately! Not since The Writer's Voice! I've been taking a teeny break, but I'm ready to dust off some old projects and see where they take me! :D Btw, I left an award for you on my blog! :D

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  8. Good point! Although I always have my next idea (or two, or three) lined up in my mind, but I'm not usually ready to talk about it. So this was a good reminder that I need to be ready to talk about it!
    That is, if I ever get around to querying. -_-*

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  9. I haven't had that happen to me, but that's probably because they don't have to ask. It says right in my query that I'm working on a sequel. ;)

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  10. Every time I see the picture for Chrome it reminds me of Calgary (where I'm from) because that is actually a picture in downtown Calgary, isn't it?

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