Friday, October 3, 2008

Friday Fricassee

So here it comes: the Tough Love post from someone who genuinely cares about you.

I've read your pleas in the comment box. You want to enter the contest with your unfinished novels.

My heart is writhing. But I must say no.

And here is why.

If your novel isn't finished, you are not ready to send it to an agent. If you're not ready to send it to an agent, you're not ready to enter a contest in which an agent will be choosing a winner to receive a prize.

Agents do not want to read unfinished novels. They also don't want to read completed first drafts. Or completed second drafts. They want a polished piece of work; the best you can offer.

I didn't say "perfect." But I did say "polished."

So while it may be exciting to think that you could get a "professional opinion" on your work-in-progress, you've got to trust me when I say that this is not the time to put your work out there. That's what our non-agent sessions are all about.

Try to see it this way, too. Our Secret Agents are giving their time to us. I don't pay them. And while I honestly believe that those who have said "yes" to my invitation are genuinely kind and enjoy giving feedback to writers, there's also that tiny chance that they'll FIND SOMETHING. Because that's how agents butter their croissants. And this venue is, perhaps, a bit more qualified than the everyday slush pile.

Imagine how annoying it would be to a Secret Agent to read an excerpt that had promise....only to discover that it wasn't completed.

I am not comfortable with that, regardless of how small the chance may be that You -- yes, You! -- are chosen as a winner.

I want you to succeed. I want you to learn the hard knocks and oddities and rules and rule-breakers and ups and downs and in-betweens of this business. I want you to grow a very thick skin without losing your heart. I want you to FINISH YOUR NOVEL and then enter it in a Secret Agent contest. Don't worry, there are more on the horizon. I'm already working on 2009.

There are other places online where you can submit your page and get some feedback. Evil Editor will rip you to shreds, but that's what you want (isn't it?). Query Shark (agent Janet Reid) is an excellent place to get your query letter critiqued. These are only two examples of what's out there as far as getting professional feedback on unfinished works.

But the Secret Agent contests are for authors with manuscripts that are ready to go. Maybe you're still editing, still tweaking -- but that's a never-ending process, it seems. If you KNOW that you are ready to start querying, or if you're already querying, then you're ready for this contest.

I want agents to think of Miss Snark's First Victim as the Premium Slush Pile. And one of my dreams is to start a list of authors-who-found-their-agents-via-this-blog in the sidebar. That would certainly make this blog worth my time and effort! I'm pulling for you; I'm on your team.

I want the first pages of your finished novels to shine brilliantly. And I know that, ultimately, you want the same thing.

Okay? Are you with me? I'm raising the bar. Not because I want to frustrate you, but because I want you to REACH IT AND CLIMB OVER IT.

So get to work. You're awesome and I'm honored to share the common thread of writing with you.


  1. I totally understand. It is motivation for me to keep working at it. Thanks for everything you've done already. Good luck to everyone who enters.

  2. This is so very true! I recently had an experience in a critique workshop with a major publishing house editor and the work didn't have to be finished for you to participate, but the editor still asked for my full manuscript. I wished I'd had the book complete, but I'd joined in the workshop for feedback only, not expecting a request. It was an unusual situation, but it's best to be as prepared as you can be. The window of opportunity doesn't stay open for long.

  3. My story's now too far off from the original plan (partly thanks to this blog!) to enter this time, but I'm looking forward to 2009 and to critiquing this round.

  4. So, you don't think the agent will believe me when I say I had a completed manuscript but the dog ate it and all I have to do is remember everything and type it out?


  5. I'm very torn. I have something finished that I wanted to query in January... but now I'm thinking I need to massively rework things again. I thought it was done, but I've gotten some very negative feedback and now, I don't know.

    And it's a sci-fi agent this time! Maybe I can get rewrites done in two weeks?

  6. I perfectly understand the reasoning--it would be annoying to see something you (the agent) wanted to read the full MS on and... it's not ready.

    I guess that means I'll be entering with my dark fantasy novel instead and save the UF (which is done! yes!) for later. ;)


  7. You're all awesome. :)

    I wanted my "tough love" post to be heavy on the "love" and light on the "tough" and it surely sounds like y'all received it that way.


    Anon: Really, if you wanted to pull the dog-ate-my-manuscript trick, you shouldn't have posted it here. ;)

    Just_Me: Two weeks for rewrites? Well, go for it. You can probably survive on 2 hours of sleep a night. After all, you're a writer. :D

  8. After posting a few times, I realized mine was in serious need of work! Prologue had to go, and it was just NOT polished enough.

    I thank you for that, and have continued to spit shine that puppy till it will glare right off the page and into an agent's pea-pickin brain!

    Sorry I've been away for a bit, had lots of family stuff that wouldn't wait (darn those kids).

    Can't wait to see the next contest. Will be critting, but NOT entering.

    :) Terri