I've found a writing workshop coming to my area, and I'm thinking about going. There will be several agents in attendance, and they offer both pitch sessions and query critiques.
But the novel I'm hoping will hook me an agent isn't done. Barring catastrophe, I will have the first draft finished, or very nearly finished, by the date of the workshop. (My deadline for swapping drafts with my crit partner is the following week.) My previous novel, which did well on the query-go-round but didn't land an agent, went from "the end" to query-ready in about five months; I feel pretty confident that I could trim that down to four with this one.
So, would it be worth it go through pitches or critiques? Is there a point where "almost ready" is close enough, or should everything of this nature be avoided until I'm ready to respond to agent interest by immediately providing a complete, polished manuscript?
The reason you're asking is of course you know the rule to not pitch an unfinished manuscript. Nothing sends me into a tizzy faster than saying "oh I want to read that" only to hear "ok, I'll be done in
|Maximus is ready to read those pages NOW|
But, you're also right to think this conference could be a good source of advice for you.
If you can, I'd ask the agents taking pitches if instead, they'll look at the first three to five pages of your novel to see if there are any red flags.
Most agents are willing to read pages instead of getting pitched. We all understand we're going to need good pages no matter how good your query is. (And given your query did well last time, it sounds like the bugaboo is in the pages)
I can't tell you how many times I excised the first ten or twenty pages of a novel in order to get to where the story begins.
Make sure you bring properly formatted PRINTED pages. Properly formatted means 1" margins, double spaced, TNR font, 12 point. And you bring the first 30 or so pages. You only bring out the first 3 to 5 but you are READY if asked for more. [Rule for Writers: Be Ready!]
Bring more than one copy. Let the agent write on the pages. (Bring pens just in case!)
Given the recent discussions here about how far I read on requested fulls, you might get some very helpful advice, and interest in your soon to be completed novel.