Fear of failure, at this juncture, will only serve to paralyze you. So it's important that you have a balanced combination of I know I can always make my work better and I have worked hard and I'm ready to throw this out there.
While I can't comment on each individual author's process-toward-success, I can certainly comment on submissions to the Secret Agent contests. I'm not going to comment on individual submissions, and I am not referring to any one submission in particular when I say: I think some of you may have jumped the gun. Honestly? I don't think you did it on purpose. But here are a few pointers to bear in mind prior to our next Secret Agent round. And remember--when you submit here, you should be ready to submit to agents. All the prizes are related to the Secret Agent's reading your work. And if it's not ready, you're wasting the agent's time (and your own).
So. The Secret Agent contest is not yet on your horizon if:
- The manuscript isn't finished. 'Nuff said.
- This is your first draft. I know you're elated to have a finished story in your hands, but there's a long, long road of edits before you.
- You haven't gotten any outside feedback. Family members don't count.
- You haven't let the manuscript rest for a while and gone back to it for another round of edits.
- You're not sure of the genre or reading level of your story.
- You're not sure what a literary agent does or why you might need one.
- You're not ready to hear anything negative about your writing.
What if you've gotten some outside critique and you're still not sure? Well, in my opinion, if you're hearing the following, you still have plenty of work to do:
- "Overwriting" or "too many adjectives" or "too many adverbs"
- "Problems with tense/sentence structure/grammar"
- Your writing is "confusing" or "hard to follow" or "convoluted"
- "No voice" or "inconsistent voice"
- Writing sounds "amateur" or "young" or "inexperienced" or "awkward"
Signs that there are problems with the actual story are comments leading toward "plot holes" or "can't suspend disbelief" or "no character development" or "doesn't make sense." You catch my drift.
Do I have time to read each entry carefully and determine whether it's "ready" for the barrage of public critique that will follow? No. That's why I'm placing this squarely on your lap, where it belongs.
Because "your lap" is where it sits each time you query an agent. Best foot forward and all that.
Okay? I want you all to SUCCEED. Let's get tough with ourselves and really dig into our work. Then, when we post it for critique, we'll get so much more out of it. The "bad fluff" will be long gone, and our best writing will have an opportunity to become even better.
Whew. End of topic.
And now I'm going to tie up some loose-ish ends and get ready to celebrate my birthday tomorrow. Oh, yes. And it's going to have chocolate in it. Chocolate frosting, actually--on vanilla cupcakes. And someone else is making them for me.
Does it get any better?
I am seriously obsessive about cupcakes. Even over cashews.
What do I want for my birthday? An agent. Followed rapidly by a huge book deal. If you can arrange that for me, please send me an email before midnight.
You're all awesome! See you tomorrow.