The most common mistake writers make in the query process is querying too soon. But how soon is too soon?
It's too soon if:
1. You just finished writing the novel. Writing a good novel isn't about writing; it's about revision. Revision takes time. If it took you a year to write the novel, it will take six months to revise it.
2. It's your first novel. No matter how hard it is to hear and follow this advice, it's probably the best advice I'll ever offer: write a second novel before you query on the first one. You'll learn so much while writing that second novel that you'll go back and either revise or discard Novel #1. AND you won't have all the baggage from those damn form rejections to weigh you down
3. You don't have a polished one page synopsis. Writing a synopsis is torture. I know it; you know it. It also is an incredible writing tool. If you can't get your book to make sense in synopsis form, you have a problem with the BOOK not the synopsis.
Your desire to get past the query stage to publication stage is the biggest block to actually achieving your goal.
I'm doing just this right now, and finding the second is much harder than the first was. Of course, part of that could be due to the fact that the first ruminated a lot longer in my head before being putting to paper. I figure at the very least, I'll learn more as I go through the process and will hopefully have gotten the dreaded sophomore slump out of the way.
This is great advice - thank you!
Thanks for the great post, Janet. I put a link to this article on my blog. I've been following agent blogs for awhile and yet, this is the first time I've heard this advice about the first novel. Good stuff. And it makes a lot of sense.
Bravo. "If it took you a year to write the novel, it will take six months to revise it." -- No better advice than that.
(I speak from experience, on month six of revising second novel.)
If you can't get your book to make sense in synopsis form, you have a problem with the BOOK not the synopsis.
I'm glad I'm not the only one saying this. Ditto queries.
As always, Janet, thank you for the advice. I started novel #2 last night.
Great Advice! I can understand how it can be so hard to hear for first time writers... you work so long on what is essentially your first "baby", just to be told to head back to the drawing board.
How many novels (on average) do you think it takes before a writer really comes into their own and is "ready" to be published? Just 2?
Or "it depends on the writer"....
It's true. Damn patience. Can...can I just send my first novel out to ONE agent? You know, just to SEE? *sigh* Yeah, yeah, I know.... *back to the typewriter*
I had a disagreement with someone I love dearly about getting published. They were worried I didn't have what it takes to be a business woman and would get taken advantage of with scams of all sorts. Especially since I wanted to be published so badly I would probably jump at the first agent who offered.
So we came to an agreement. I won't start seeking publication until I've written two books. I was a little discouraged about this but decided it doesn't hurt to have two books under my belt before starting.
Now after reading your post I sure am glad he gave me that advice. I'm going to share this post with him. Thank you.
I just came across this after following a backlink from Fiction groupie. For any other readers that may come after me on this, I cannot tell you how true this is. I wrote a book, and shoved in the drawer. I wrote a second, and queried it to no avail. I'm on my third now, and thinking (reading) back on the first two I can see the enormous difference the experience of writing and revising has made. Writing is a craft, and if one ever wishes to make money, or a living, off of it, then it must practiced, studied, practiced, researched, practiced, and did I mentioned practiced? Query with the best you got. Not the best you think you can have.. but the absolute best. Do not let your mom, or your friends read it... Find the biggest asshole, and let him\her read it. Take what they say to heart, because your readers will not mince words or opinions. And if you find that your very best still isn't getting published, then guess what. Start anew... study the craft, and you guessed it, practice.
Three excellent tips.
And your last sentence is one that all writers should memorize.
The revision process is definitely where the time needs to be spent.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts and advice on the subject.
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