Writers hear the same question: What else you got?

Tootsie in her Orchid Lounge in Nashville. It's where country songwriters found if if they had something else to write about.
Tootsie in her Orchid Lounge in Nashville. It’s where country songwriters found if if they had something else to write about. Photograph J Gerald Crawford


There are no laurels to rest on.

Sunday is not a day of rest.

It’s a day to write.


Someday you can lay back in a casket and rest for a long time.

Now you must write.

If you’re awake, you must write.

Back in the early 1970s, I wrote a magazine article about the resurgence of country music and the creation of the Nashville Sound. I began the story this way:

Nashville is a city of lost souls, lost songs, and a hundred million dollar sound. It’s a city where dreams wake up as nightmares, dark streets are seduced by the smile of a neon sign, and a few inky words on the back of a crumpled, stained napkin may wind up on the back of a gold record.

Nashville is also the city of What else you got?

Tom T. Hall sits in a darkened corner of Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge listening to an old jukebox belt out his Salute to a Switchblade Knife. He is wearing black. He usually does when he performs.

On the other side of the alley, just out the back door, is the red brick Grand Ole Opry building. In thirty minutes, Tom T. Hall will be on stage.

“Nashville is a strange town,” he says. “It has a short memory. Today, a songwriter may have six songs on the charts. Tomorrow, the publisher says, what else you got?

“Let a kid audition. Let him a sing a dozen of his best. Then they’ll wait a while and think a while and finally ask, what else you got?

“One day, you may be on top. The next, nobody cares what you’ve done unless, of course, you’ve got something else.”

That, in a nutshell, is the same plight facing writers adrift in the world of digital publishing.

That’s why, as my partner Stephen Woodfin keeps preaching, it so vital to keep writing books, keep building a backlist, to have as many titles as possible on Amazon, Kobo, iTunes, and any other eRetailer you can find. You need to have a lot of ideas in the pipeline.

Write The End on one book.

Take a deep breath, square your shoulders, take a drink of anything cold or hot and write The Beginning on the next.

A final period at the end of the final sentence and the first paragraph at the start of a new novel should be as seamless and necessary as your next breath.

There’s no lag time, and no time to waste.

Write a book.

What else you got?

Sell a book.

What else you got?

Become a best seller.

What else you got?

Receive a nice review.

What else you got?

In today’s market, you better have something, and it had better be good. If someone reads and likes a couple of your books, and they start looking for a third, and you don’t have a third, you’re dead in the water.

And remember: it’s better to turn out three 60,000-word novels than keep laboring over one 150,000-word epic, which may or may never see the light of day.

Whenever paying customers ask, “What else you got,” you should have a new book sitting there waiting for them.

A customer will keep coming back until the well runs dry.

Your job is to keep digging a deeper well.

Caleb Pirtle is author of Deadline News.


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