February 14, 2012

What's the hurry?

**QUICK NOTE: I made it to the second round in the Agent Blind Speed-Dating contest over at Cupid's Literary Connection!! Woohoo! Next week the literary agents start looking at the entries. Super excited. I'm not going to tell you guys which post was mine, because I think the contest is supposed to be anonymous (since it says "Blind" speed dating and all) but it wouldn't be hard to figure out which one's mine since the title of my book and my MC's name are all over this blog. Feel free to check it out. Just don't "out" me over there. Thanks!**

I remember when I first started writing a book with the intent of getting published. I distinctly recall having this serious sense of urgency- like that I needed to hurry, hurry, hurry to get that book finished.

Because, in my mind, the only reason I wasn't published was because I hadn't written the book. Obviously, as soon as I finished the book, agents would be falling all over themselves to work with me.

I'll give you a second now to laugh at that. Go ahead. I will too.

You finished? No? Ok, I'll wait.

Seriously. That's enough.

So as I was saying- I was just SURE that I would be published. In between chapters and editing, I would research agents. I would read all about querying. I ordered books about writing the perfect query letter. I read article after article about agents. I would read about how hard it is to get published, how very few people get their first novel published, how stinkin hard it is to land an agent....and I would think, "Well, I'm sure it's hard for all those OTHER people."

REALLY. I AM NOT GENERALLY THAT MUCH OF A SNOB. I look back on it now and I think, "Wow, Megan. You were such an idiot."

And I also wonder WHY I was in such a hurry. What's the rush? Because the more you rush it, the less perfect that book will be. If you don't take the time to make that manuscript as absolutely flawless as you can, then there's absolutely no point in trying to get it published! First impressions are everything. If you start querying agents with a less than perfect novel, you're shooting yourself in the foot. You won't get another chance to query that agent with that novel. And then you'll find yourself back where you started, wanting to rush through another novel just to try to get published again.

So based on all these thoughts I've had about people, including me, who may have started off in some kind of weird rush....I came up with a few suggestions to follow.

After you've finished your novel...
  1. Let it sit for AT LEAST a month. In that time, you'll think of things that you never thought of before- new twists, different storylines, various solutions to problems. Your novel will be better for it.
  2. Get somebody else to read it, and your mom/best friend/true love don't count. If possible, find someone who at least reads a lot in the genre you write.
  3. Read the latest greatest books in your genre.
After you've done all that, then go back and read through your novel again.
  • If you can read it and not have the urge to change a SINGLE THING, go ahead and send a query out to 5-10 agents. Don't send the query to all your top choice agents-- test the waters and see how well your query is working first. Query slowly.
  • If you read it and DO find ANY SINGLE THING to change (I mean, even if it's just adding/removing a comma), start over on that list above. Let it sit again. Find a new person to read it. These things matter. Your book probably isn't perfect fresh out of the womb, people. Rushing the process could completely blow your chances. Why on earth would you take that risk?
Nothing in publishing seems to happen fast.....writing your book doesn't have to be a race. (Um, unless you're Kiersten White, who writes entire novels in A WEEK. But she's superhuman, and it would be silly to compare yourself to her.)

Did anybody else start this journey with obnoxiously high expectations of themselves? (Please say yes. Please say yes. Please say yes.)

4 comments:

  1. OH, yes. I mean, I knew early on that I'd have to find an agent, and that that's not easy, but I REFUSED to believe that I'd be one of those sad people whose first novel didn't make it.

    *Excuse me while I open my desk drawer and shed a tear on First Novel.*

    Ah, well. These crushed expectations are all part of the Novelist Club hazing, as far as I'm concerned. We're stronger for the realizations, no matter how much they (maybe still) hurt. And hopefully, we can tell stories about them that'll be comforting to newbs going through it for the first time.

    Pleased to have met you - just one big reason I <3 contests. :)

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    1. So glad I met you too! And glad to hear I'm not the only one who was a teensy bit naive about the whole process of getting published.

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  2. Oh YES. I had the same silly thought as you- it won't be hard for me to find an agent because I know how awesome my book is, so they will ALL love it *sings You're So Vain to myself in the mirror*. I'd heard all these tips before, but when I finished my novel, I was SO excited to see what everyone else thought about it that I edited it for a week and then immediately sent queries to my top five agents. Ugh. My first query letter was AWFUL. I've since gotten critique partners, but I wish I'd let my manuscript sit for a month before I tried to edit it! I recently rewrote it and I think if I'd let it simmer for a while in the first place, I wouldn't have blown my chances with quite a few agents. This is my last time querying for it! I definitely will follow these rules for the next one, especially since I probably won't get an agent with this one.

    Good luck in the contest! :-D

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    1. Oh my gosh, my first query....I hope no one EVER EVER reads it. I mean, aside from the poor first agents I sent it to. I'm surprised one of them didn't respond with, "Megan. Stop." I still have issues with my query, but it's come a LONG way.

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