Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Saturday, August 11, 2007

One Hit Wonder

by Sariah S. Wilson

I had an RWA chapter meeting today, and whenever I actually go to one of those (haven't been able to much lately thanks to the baby) it gets me thinking about the general state of writing careers.

If I asked you to name musical one hit wonders, I bet you would instantly be able to name at least a few. Those artists can see a tremendous amount of success from that one song - they can do tours that bring in thousands of fans who listen to the other not-so-good songs just so that they can hear the one song they came to see the singer perform live.

There are many reasons for the one hit wonders - sometimes it's just pure luck and the right song comes out at the right time. No one can predict it. It might also mean that a few years later a similar song by the same artist won't have an audience because all the conditions that had to align perfectly for the success are now gone.

Other times it's because the lead singer commits suicide or the band simply breaks up (which seems to me to be the most common reason for one hit wonders). The magic is gone.

I was wondering today if such a thing is possible in the writing industry. You certainly have examples like J.D. Salinger and Harper Lee who wrote one brilliant book and then never published another novel. But is that at all typical?

Is it possible that some people only have one book in them? I read an article once by a man named Robert G. Allen, and one of the ways he suggested to make a million dollars was to write a book because everyone has at least one book in them. Is that true? And if so, does that mean some people only should write one book?

My experience so far has been that most authors are capable of many books and that they actually seem to improve as time goes on (and I really hope this is the case with my own writing).

But sometimes it seems that writers have this one amazing book and aren't ever able to capture that magic again.

Or I've run across other authors who while being multi-published have one book that stands out head and shoulders above their others. Donald Maass would call this the breakout novel. Some authors follow up their breakout novels with equally impressive novels. Others don't.

So how do you stop yourself from becoming a one hit wonder?


At 8/11/2007 8:58 PM, Blogger Candace Salima (LDS Nora Roberts) said...


My guess is the best way is to keep producing. Write every day and do not rest on your "laurels" as the case may be.

Some people get so caught up in their one success, they never take the time to produce again. As a writer, all you can hope is that you continue to progress and write books people want to read.

At 8/11/2007 11:23 PM, Blogger Josi said...

I agree, you have to keep producing, if you want to keep publishing--but not everyone does. Sometimes, like with Harper Lee, you do your best work, it goes great, and you're done and ready to move on.

And some writer's just have their finger on the pulse of what readers want, while other writers are writing mostly for themselves anyway.

There's a broad range I think--but if you don't want to be a one hit wonder, you have to keep improving and writing, and preparing for the next book.

At 8/11/2007 11:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One hit is better than none...

At 8/13/2007 12:31 PM, Blogger ERiCA said...

Sadly, I don't think we have much control over it. A friend of mine had a book published several years ago, but has not been lucky in getting another published, although she writes regularly, is active in the chapter, finals in contests, etc. Sometimes I think it hearkens back to what you said about how the stars align...

At 8/15/2007 8:34 PM, Blogger Heather B. Moore said...

Great blog, Sariah. From hearing other authors talk about this, I've come away with several things. Keep working at your craft and accept criticism and editing advice. And more importantly, be nice and flexible. Once your ego becomes bigger than your publisher, the fights will start and you'll end up on the losing end.


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