Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Don't Rush It

A popular post from December 2009

by Annette Lyon

'Tis the season for many a writer to query and submit.

Many reasons about for this sudden rash of submissions, and some of them are great. I'm referring specifically to fiction here, not to non-fiction proposals, which are a different animal.

If you have done all of the following, submit away. If you have not, back away from the "send" key. You must have:
  • written an entire novel. Not 50 pages. Not 100 or 150. An entire book, start to finish. You've reached the end.
  • revised that novel.
  • revised it again.
  • let other people (who are not you mother or your best friend but people with writing and critiquing experience) read the manuscript and tear it apart, showing you its strengths and weaknesses.
  • not ignored those people's advice.
  • weighed that advice, decided what to apply, and have done more revisions.
  • possibly done several more revisions.
  • possibly given the manuscript out to even more readers.
  • done another round of revisions based on those suggestions.
  • researched agents.
  • taken your time writing an amazing query letter.
  • revised that query letter.
  • revised it again.
  • taken that query letter to similar readers as above to get feedback on it.
  • revised it again.
At this point and only at this point are you ready to query.

From what I've read on agent blogs, they experience a huge influx of queries this time of year, and most of them are, to put it gently, um, not ready to be accepted.

Some of that is a result of what happened last month. Remember that big event so many writers were part of? I'm talking about NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writer's Month), something thousands of writers participate in annually.

It's a tremendous accomplishment to have pounded out 50,000 words in 30 days (especially when Thanksgiving lands during those days).

But the point of NaNo isn't to produce a polished, publishable novel. It's not even to necessarily reach the end of your story. It's to produce a lot of words in a short period, to show that you can break through writer's block and get the words down.

Submitting what you wrote last month is a really, really BAAAAD idea. (Apparently, not everyone thinks so, based on how many agents get queries based on NaNo projects.)

Submitting anything that hasn't had time to sit, gather mental dust, and go through the peer review and revision process is a bad idea.

There's also the fact that New York pretty much shuts down the second half of December, so really, what's the point of querying then? You might as well spend that time working on those revisions, getting those peer reviews, and getting that query ready.

All of the same agents and editors will still be ready for you come January. (Or February. Or March. Or later, whenever it is your manuscript is ready.)

Just don't rush the process. The cleaner the manuscript you hand over, the better your chances of getting that golden contract.

Remember: you want the agent or editor to see the brilliance of your writing and your story. Anything that pulls them from that experience is to your detriment, and creating such a clean manuscript can't be rushed.

It takes time. But it's worth the wait.


L.T. Elliot said...

Excellent advice, Annette! I know I'm not ready for submitting. I need some more harsh critiquing before I get there!

Melissa J. Cunningham said...

Annette, I really liked this post. It made me think of the interview I had at LDS storymakers last April. I thought I had this fabulous story, but I hadn't had anyone read it. Lisa M. rejected it, gave me tons of advice on how to make it better then said I could re-submit in 2010 if I wanted.

Talk about heart break, but what did I expect? I did what she said. I went home and revised, revised, revised. Now, WiDo has picked up that very same story and it is coming along fabulously in editing. I'm so grateful to Lisa for her honest advice and yours too. It is so important to have that story in perfect condition. At least, as perfect as you can possibly make it.

MommyJ said...

I hope it's worth the wait. :) I think my manuscript is ready, and when I first thought of waiting until after the first of year to submit, it was hard! I felt like I needed to be doing something, making progress... but after a few days, I realized I'll actually enjoy my holidays a lot more if I just relax and know that come January, I can really dive in to the process once more. As always, great advice. ;)

Nisa said...

Great piece of advice. I'm in that revising stage now and I know it's still not going to be ready for awhile.Impatience is a curse I suffer from and I know I'm not alone! It's easy to want to rush things.

Heather B. Moore said...

Agreed! And once you have the book ready, don't rush the query process either! Research agents, network, read their blogs, find out what they are looking for, check if they are going to be at a writers conference that you can attend . . . it will make a difference!

Lu Ann Brobst Staheli said...

Excellent advice for novelists! One of my greatest frustrations as an editor is receiving manuscripts from newbie authors that I know have not had a minute's worth of revision yet on their part. Take the time to submit a manuscript that will WOW your editor. Long gone are the days when an editor has time to correct the simple mistakes you could have done yourself by applying those rules you learned in school. If you give an acquisitions editor the opportunity to say "Pass" he or she will.

Anonymous said...

Tell me, is it necessary to pay an editor to clean up your novel? Is that the only way to get past the slush pile? I've had friends that have looked it over and I still get "it needs edited."

Annette Lyon said...

Anon, I don't think paying an editor is the only way to get past the slush pile. The more experience you have writing, the better you get, the less you need that kind of editor. On the other hand, you do need feedback, and feedback is only as good as the people you're getting it from. Maybe you need to find better readers.

Terresa said...

This is a great post. I used to think I could whip out a book & query letter in a few months. Now? In the past few weeks, doing more "homework" on publishing & writing, I think for me it will be more like a few years.

And that's OK.

Bethany Wiggins said...

That waiting is sooooooo hard, yet so important. Manuscripts are like wine... they get better with time.

Nishant said...

I need some more harsh critiquing before I get there!

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sarilemon said...

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