Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Rules For Writers: Be Ready III

Some years back I attended Malice Domestic and during the Saturday banquet heard one of the winners of the William F. Deeck Malice Domestic Unpublished Manuscript contest give a short thank you speech.

It was a lovely, gracious speech that touched on how much the writers at Malice meant to her, and how thrilled she was to learn she might now be on her way to joining them.

I knew I was looking at a star. I leaped over the table and rushed to accost her. Fortunately she did not summon les gendarmes to escort me out of the ballroom by mon oreille.

Instead, when I asked if her novel was ready, she said "yes it is." I read it, signed it and sold it. She came that year as a contest winner, the next with a deal, and this year with a published book.

The contest only required three chapters. But if all you have is three chapters, it's hard to snag an agent. And if you win a contest, there's a golden opportunity to be in front of some people who might want to help you reach the next level.

If the contest is three chapters, finish the novel and then enter. If you win, you're ahead of the curve.

If you're querying on your first novel, have a second one ready. If you hear "I like your book, but it's not right for me, what else do you have?" you've got something else ready to go. You're ahead of the curve.

Here's the rule: Be ready for the next step.






A slightly different version of this blog post with a different title was published on  May 1, 2012

24 comments:

CynthiaMc said...

Working on it. Thank you, Janet.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Always have extra change in your pocket as backup. It could be the fortune you need to cover the check made out to success.

Anxious to hear from Donna. She's an expert on this one.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Intrigued by the Be Ready III, I glanced through the archives. Madonna. Our Donna. Would it help if I had --donna as the last part of my name!

But I imagine nowadays when at a workshop, instead of carrying around an actual physical copy, we ought to have a digital copy accessible to email. Quickly. Or if a physical copy is wanted, to carry a memory stick that the hotel could print off a copy for you.

Theresa said...

I really need to embrace this advice. I get so wrapped up in the project I'm working on that I can't see forward to the next. More Margaret Mitchell than Stephen King.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I am embracing this advice although it seems to expand the already languorous pace of publishing. But once a writer hits that goal of publishing, it would be super cool to stay published. Right? Ok, off I go.

Claire AB. said...

Great advice that's so hard to follow! I have no idea how some writers are so prolific. It takes me years to make a novel query-ready. Picking up the pace will have to be a goal for 2017!

Colin Smith said...

"What else do you have?" I've yet to hear those words from an agent, but I do need to be prepared. I guess this is all about getting that nose against the old grindstone and actually finishing the novel projects that are currently hanging around in various stages of development.

A timely word looking forward to 2017. Thanks, Janet! :)

Craig F said...

Long ago I once was a Boy Scout. That ended when they discovered that I was over-prepared for a camping trip. The Girl Scout Troop across the lake missed me the next time they went camping.

I have three thrillers I am going to hold out for the "what else you got" scene. They show the build up that allowed the protags to move to a new planet and be successful.

Damn straight I know how to be prepared.

Joseph Snoe said...

I can't see myself not querying Escape from Brazil before I finish a second novel. At best, I'd probably be researching or in the early stages of writing it.

BJ Muntain said...

Lisa: You don't have to carry a memory stick these days. Many hotels have printers and computers available for their guests. At the conference I was at last October, I decided I wanted a different chapter to show at my blue pencil appointment with Cat Rambo. I went down to the computer area, signed in with my hotel room, went to Dropbox, pulled up what I wanted, and printed it from there. While I was there, I noticed a couple memory sticks that people had left behind, once they'd finished printing.

As for being prepared... I would never enter a contest with the first three chapters of an unfinished novel. That thought leaves me cold, not just because an agent might want to read the full, but because my first three chapters won't be the best they can be until the rest of the novel is. It's an all-or-nothing thing with me.

Does anyone know of a contest similar to the one Janet mentions for the first three chapters of a science fiction novel? That could be interesting...

The Sleepy One said...

Mixing today's "be ready" with yesterday's "be positive" is even better advice. Know the feedback/request is honest and upfront and be prepared to respond in a way that isn't deer-in-headlights.

--says the one-handed typer. A broken arms are an annoying way to ruin your word count goals.

Cyn Hayes said...

Enjoyed the post. And it got me thinking (I know, that's dangerous).

My first novel, after self-editing and tweaking about 10 times (and 3 years!)is ready. I have been working on my query letter, which has been changed at least that many times.

Novel #2 is barely started. At least, the concept and some notes on it.

However, my beta readers for MS #1 have caught some things I need to change. Mostly, continuity and clarity issues. So the story is there, but I am once again tightening it up, perfecting it.

I would love to get into MS #2, and type like crazy, getting the first draft down. But MS #1 is calling me again.

Question to Janet and commenters: can I consider MS #1 ready now, even as I am editing again, or is it "really" only ready after that?

Colin Smith said...

Cyn: Hey there! Here's my take on your question. The question you need to ask is this: Is #1 in the best shape it could be in? Don't submit something that isn't ready to be published--at least in your eyes. An agent isn't going to want to hear "It's complete... well, except for a few changes my betas suggested, so if you like it that's wonderful, but could you hold off on submissions while I finish these changes?" It's ready when it's ready. And "ready" means, aside from some changes your agent might suggest, you're prepared for it to go on submission to editors.

Yeah, I know, that slows the process down and you want to get on with it. I understand. Been there a few times myself. But if you're going to do this thing, do it well from the outset.

What does everyone else think?

Cyn Hayes said...


Colin: Thank you so much for your reply.

"But if you're going to do this thing, do it well from the outset."

This has been my mantra, and the reason it has taken some time to whip this thing into shape. I'll just have to be (more)patient and get the MS to the place it needs to be.

MS #2 will still be there when I'm ready!And just think how much experience I'll have at that point.

Ardenwolfe said...

Excellent advice as always.

Joseph Snoe said...

I agree with Colin

Except

I'm always changing things. Until it's in print I bet I'll tinker with it.

Lennon Faris said...

This is advice that I have to tell myself over and over!

Cyn --what Colin said, for sure. It's so tempting to throw it out there, but don't! Generally you just get one chance only with an agent.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

BJ: of course, why didn't I think of that. Save it to one of the cloud apps and it's accessible wherever there's a computer.

BJ Muntain said...

Lisa: You said it so much clearer than I could pre-coffee. :) I was going to mention a 'cloud' service, but somehow that got left out...

Joseph: Wait until you get a two-book deal. Then you'll be finished with book one as soon as the edits are done, and scrambling to get book two done by the deadline. (Note: I know this from others' experience, not my own. I hope to have this experience someday soon.)

MA Hudson said...

Ah, yes. It is such a long process, learning how to write and then completing a novel that I totally understand why someone would jump the gun. On the other hand, if you love writing then the journey is enjoyable with or without a publication goal. May as well take time to get it right.

Gypmar said...

Oh man. My sister won an in-person pitch contest event where the prize was that an agent would read her (first) novel. Unfortunately, she hadn't written any of it yet. They told her she could take her time getting it to them, but I think it's been about two years now. If the book delivers, it should get representation anyway, but what a missed opportunity!

BJ Muntain said...

Gypmar: I wouldn't consider it missed yet. If they said to take her time getting it to them, and they knew it hadn't been written yet, they're probably not expecting it in less than two years. Now, if she still hasn't started it, then that may be a problem. It may also mean that she's not serious enough yet.

Julie Weathers said...

Gypmar

Late to the party, but my first reaction is why was she pitching something she hadn't even started? Ideas are a dime a dozen. It's been two years. How close is she to a polished manuscript?

I had a friend who had a agent request from a conference. In the meantime she had a baby who was born very ill, she was extremely ill and almost died. She didn't even know she was pregnant when she was at the conference. She got back to the agent 2 years later and asked if she could submit the manuscript and explained she'd been very ill. He politely declined.

I guess it depends on the agent. She should certainly submit, but I would suggest waiting to pitch something until it's written in the future.

Gypmar said...

BJ, yes, it sounded like this particular agent was fine with reading it whenever it made its way to him or her.

Julie, as a regular reader (if not commenter) here, I completely agree with you! It did succeed in lighting a fire that got her first draft written, but I know I would never have done it that way myself.