I am attending a conference in March during which I will have the opportunity to have one-on-one critique sessions with a few literary agents. I have to submit the first 40 pages of my manuscript by sometime in February in order to participate in the one-on-ones. Right now, I'm about 30 K words into the first draft of my 3rd novel, and I would really like some professional input on this particular WIP. The problem is, even though I'm sure I can get the first 40 pages in pretty good shape on time, I don't think I'll be ready to pitch the entire novel by March. I do have another completed novel that I can pitch.
My question is, is it a mistake to submit the first 40 pages of my incomplete WIP for critique? I really do want the critique, but I know that sometimes agents ask to read the complete manuscript after these critique sessions. Would it be wiser to submit the first 40 of my completed novel so that I can pitch it if they like it? Thanks for your help!
This answer is NOT across-the-board, industry standard. It's MY answer. When I am Queen of the Known Universe it will be the universal answer. Until then it's just what everyone should do, not what everyone actually does.
I think you should discuss your very best work. I hope you learned a lot by writing and finishing that first completed novel. I further hope that you are applying what you learned to the next novel, the WIP.
Therefore, if you were meeting with me, I'd want to know about the WIP.
Of course, I hate hearing about books that aren't finished because if I fall in love with them, they're not ready and I have to wait. I may have grumbled about not querying until the novel is done in N+1 places on this blog previously in fact.
But this isn't querying. This is an opportunity to have pages critiqued and actual feedback from the person who will be looking at your query and then hopefully, your novel. That trumps having the novel ready because if you've got problems in those first pages, it won't help if the novel is done, cause I won't be reading that far.
When you go to this meeting make SURE you take the first couple pages of your other, finished novel. Don't offer them to the agent. Just Be Ready in case s/he asks.