Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Sojourner-Artist: Have More Than One Iron In The Fire

I recently read the following blog post from a literary agent: Among other things, she said: "I’ve always taught that if you have made significant changes to your book for one reason or another you should definitely consider re-pitching agents. " However, she added that she often worries about how pleased many aspiring authors are to hear this particular suggestion. She went on to say:

"I will tell you right now, if you don’t learn to move on, to write the next book and query the next book and write and query the next book after that you will never be published.

No agent and no publisher wants an author for only one book, and if you spend years reworking and re-pitching that same book you’re not making yourself a very marketable or publishable author." (emphasis added)

Even though I groaned when I read this last part (after all, it's HARD work to write just ONE book), it does make sense. People in general are accustomed to perceiving their goals in a "gonna fly now-Rocky" context of the one prize fight, the one hit song, or the one blockbuster novel that will propel them to the top of their field. Very few people contemplate the sustained effort it takes to create a body of work.

So, what does this mean to me? It means that after I finish the first draft of my novel, I'll set it aside for a while and write some short stories that I can enter into writing competitions. And then I'll start my second novel after I finish revising the first one. Onward and forward.

In most contexts, it's not good to depend upon one thing. This has been noted throughout the ages. As Baltasar Gracian said in his 1637 book, The Art of Worldly Wisdom:

"Double Your Resources. You thereby double your life. One must not depend on one thing or trust to only one resource, however preeminent. Everything should be kept double, especially the causes of success, of favor, or of esteem. . . Thus as nature gives us in duplicate the most important of our limbs and those most exposed to risk, so art should deal with the qualities on which we depend for success." The Art of Worldly Wisdom, pg. 54.

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