How to Avoid One-hit Wonders


writing advice

In the music industry you often hear the phrase “one-hit wonder”. Chesney Hawkes springs to mind with his hit song, “The One And Only”, and Vanilla Ice’s 90s No.1, “Ice Ice Baby”. It’s an unfortunate tag because who wants to be remembered for a one-hit single?

This made me think of stories, and writers who successfully pen a winner with us, only for them to disappear into the fiction ether. As with music, I think there is an element of pressure with a follow-up story success.

Will the second story be received in the same manner as the first? And what about genre and tense – does the writer try a different approach second time around?

These permutations can, of course, have a bearing on the outcome of the story. But these alone won’t decide if a follow-up success is in the offing. The deciding factor will be the writer’s storytelling ability to successfully imagine another tale to life.

A New Direction

The follow-up story might no longer be set in 19th century London, and instead feature a New York setting in the present day. Or the story might feature the same characters, but these characters will have new story goals to achieve and different obstacles to overcome.

Will there still be pressure on the writer to succeed? Of course. But that pressure will give way to quiet confidence if the writer has accomplished the primary story goal of writing fiction – to entertain the readers. We don’t all say the same thing every day, just as we don’t dream the same dreams. It’s the same with writing.

How is this accomplished?

By continuing to write. You might not be happy with your second attempt, and you throw it in the bin halfway through. Do you give up? No – you write it again. It’s maybe the same story idea, but with a new direction.

Success isn’t measured with that all-important second acceptance; success is measured by not giving up. Don’t dwell on what you have previously written, whether it was a success or not. Trust in your present creative ability, and your words will begin to form new and exciting stories.

You can find more writing tips in our Fiction Archives.

Alan Spink

Alan is a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. He enjoys working closely with writers and being part of the creative process which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, he also writes fiction and enjoys watching football and movies in his spare time. His one aspiring tip to new writers is to “write from your imagination”.