The Known Unknowns

Between my own experiences in the industry and the years I've spent participating in various industry blogs (pubrants, the Bransford, etc.), I am not too worried about what will come after I get an agent and sell a book. Or at least, I feel like I have a pretty solid understanding of most aspects.

Except one. The next book. Sure agents talk about the challenges of a sophomore offering and the effort people put into it and the mistakes people make because of the pressure and blah blah blah. All fine and good. I can't speak to pressure until I'm feeling it and I can't feel the pressure of a sophomore book until I've published the freshman one.

What I don't know about the next book is the next book to the agent. I've heard so many conflict things and agents seem to rarely speak on that part of the process. I've heard proposal used as the nonfiction alternative to a query, but then I've also heard it as what a represented author sends his/her agent for new story ideas. And pardon me, but a proposal sounds like a query and by god, I never want to query again once I get an agent.

I've also seen some authors that send the agent an outline. An outline? I don't outline. I never outline. I took half a page of notes yesterday and that's HUGE. I'm a pantser. I write by the seat of my pants. I write by the seat of my pants so much that there are holes in the seat of my pants from all the writing I do there. I can tell you the beginning (though it might change) and the ending (though it might change) and maybe a few ideas of the middle (though they might change). How the hell do you expect me to write an outline? That will destroy my process?!?!?!

So yeah, this is a known unknown. I get representation for, let's say, THE TRIAD SOCIETY. I already have two other novels that did not attract an agent. Given some blog posts, I think he or she might read them just as a matter of form and tell me if they can be revised to publishable quality or just need to be permanently shelved. But I'm also finishing a new wip right now and will have another one in a few months. What do I do with those?

And I even read once that an author would pitch a book to the agent before it's written and if the agent said no, the author might not even write the thing. I don't think I've ever written a book that was so much like my original proposal as it was when it was finished. Not writing it at all seems like a horrible presumption. And even if that's a good method, I write two novels a year. Can't I just write one of whatever I want and one that gets a thumbs up? I mean, some people take five years to write a book, so I can see why it might be important to figure out its saleability beforehand. I wrote THE TRIAD SOCIETY in three months (to the day1). I'll write ten novels in the time that other guy writes one, so can't I write the quirky thing that I love even if no one else will?

Some of this is probably exaggeration, but this really is the one topic I've never seen covered on any of the blogs I follow.

1 Actual writing time was less, as I started on May 25th and I took off most of June because I was working my ass off at my really real job. I finished the first draft on August 25th, though, and I think that's pretty awesome.