Saturday, December 14, 2013

Question: I failed to heed your advice, now what

What if I did The Bad Thing and queried before my novel was really, really, really ready and am now receiving requests from long-ago queries for the manuscript I’m now revising?

I’ve already flagellated myself with old typewriter ribbons and printouts from Query Shark. But what now? (1) Do I submit the original manuscript, which I fear is less than great? (That seems unwise.) (2) Do I tell interested agents that I’m working on a revision? (That seems annoying.) (3) Do I send the revised manuscript once it’s complete and really, really, really ready—for-reals? (That seems rude to respond so late.)

Barring the invention of a time machine, I can’t go back and undo what I so foolishly did. Which variety of bitter medicine should I take now?

Bitter medicine?
No no, time for CAKE!


Even when I spell it out, you still get it wrong?

First, quit worrying. This happens more than you think, and no one is going to come to your house and confiscate your laptop and pens and forbid you from writing novels or queries ever again.  [We save that for people who query fiction novels. ]

Second, the correct answer is 2.

You write back PROMPTLY and thank them for their interest.  You say you've continued working on the manuscript and plan to have a revised ms ready to send by X date.  X date should be sometime soonish (ie not 2015.)

Then, when it is ready, you send!  Do NOT write again asking if the agent wants to see it. They've said they do. SEND.  Reply to the email they sent you asking for the full. (That helps them see the email trail)

And when you sell your novel, you will always tell authors coming up behind you that querying too soon is a BAD BAD THING. 


Kitty said...

Define "sometime soonish."

Craig F said...

The big question is if a novel is ever really done to the author.When working with something like watercolor it is easy to say you are done because the colors begin to turn into mud. Books aren't that easy.I admit that I am one of the world's densest query writers and I have made some big mistakes. I have gotten rejections within 30 seconds and some took close to a year.

With that time spread things happen. You reread your novel and find a neat tangent to go down and write it in. A week later you go through it again and wonder what made you take that tangent.

I have read other peoples books and seen ways they could improve them. It made me wonder how they felt when they sent their manuscript off. I think that they are like me and have questions on if it was done.

Tell your prospective agents that you found something you could make better and you will send it after Christmas (or in a week). If they balk they might not be right for you.

Anonymous said...

The colors in a book also turn to mud if you dab at them for too long, Craig.

John "Ol' Chumbucket" Baur said...

Who was it – Wilde maybe? Shaw? – who said novels are never finished, they're eventually packed up and sent off to publishers, but they're never finished.

Densie Webb said...

So I'm not the only one. I assumed it would take at least 4–6 weeks before I would even get a rejection, giving me enough time to finish some final revisions suggested by a development editor, but instead received 2/2 requests for a full within a couple of weeks. Yikes! Glad to know I did the right thing by responding immediately and promising the full sooner, rather than later. Thanks!

Craig F said...

Congratulations, Denise

The point I was trying to make in my subtle and circuitous way, is that with so many people getting e-mail on their phone devices the quick reply might be a knee jerk reaction because it came at the wrong time. To someone else it might not be THE book of the season but it is worth considering. Perhaps an assistant has to think about, then an agent thinks about and takes it to a meeting and everyone thinks about, so it takes a few months. It does not mean you need to rewrite after a quick rejection. If you query start another project instead of changing the one you queried.

I have painted a scene I like six times to realize that the second one is the best. The same can happen with a novel. If you mess with it things cascade. Dialogue gets stilted and you lose the emotional impact of the intentional dialogue blunders you put in. You might not be wrong that your book worked. Don't breakdown because of your first rejection. Not all agents have the insight of a Janet Reid and I believe even she might have had to consider queries long and hard.

Anonymous said...

Or, you can revise the whole damn 140,000 words in a marathon five-day grinder before you send it.

It can be done. Caution: ideally requires a really fast printer and a very dedicated beta reader.

Terri Lynn Coop said...

The old saying from college, "There are two types of thesis, perfect and finished." At some point, you have to call it finished.

Congrats on getting the requests. Shows your premise and query were sound and I hope the revised fulls get snapped up faster than shrimp at the company party.


Jennifer R. Donohue said...

Maybe I'm catching on. I chose the correct answer!

Elissa M said...

Knowledgeable beta readers help tremendously in deciding when a novel is "done". The key word is "knowledgeable". A beta reader should be a fan of your genre and have a firm grasp on what is and isn't professional quality writing. They should be able to tell you what's working in your story, what isn't, and why.

No work should ever be queried without a thumbs up from your beta(s).

Unknown said...

Anyone else read this and cringe because you did the right thing - you read the advice and waited until the manuscript was DONE - and you are left getting form rejections or the ever-popular "no response means no"???

Or is that just me?