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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

There's a Place for Trash

And it isn't with an agent or publisher. So many of you probably already know this, and I wish I had figured it out before I made the mistake, but I didn't. I queried trash. Yes, trash. My mom recently returned to me the first draft of my last project. I sat down on the floor of my study and giggled as I read. It was truly awful. This is the same awful I queried eighteen months ago. Seriously, what was I thinking?????? This is my first installment of Tuesday's Tips, and I figured why not start with the hardest and biggest lesson I've learned during my journey. I'm sure you've heard it said before, but it warrants repeating. DO NOT QUERY TOO SOON! It's really no surprise that I never found an agent after querying what I did. It stank! And by stank, I mean that it had no business ever being published. It was partly because of my writing, which was underdeveloped and mediocre at best, and partly because I didn't have a clue what I was doing. My Tuesday's Tip this week is to make sure you are 100% ready to query before you contact any agent or publisher. It would be better to wait years for a chance at publication than to blow your chances by submitting to soon. So, as cliche as it might seem, it's still the most important thing I've learned during my walk in the publishing industry. Throw the trash away to make room for the brilliance. So, have any of you ever queried your work before it was ready? If so, wouldn't you say that it's one of the biggest mistakes you made on the road to publication?

27 comments:

Faith said...

I often feel like *everyone* is out there querying without me, and I'm the lone sheep left behind... but I honestly don't feel ready yet, and I'm still editing projects to get them where I want to be. I often get quite anxious, and my husband has to keep reminding me "Wait until you're ready, there's no harm in taking your time."

Hrm. But I don't like waiting! So I try to content myself with short stories in the meantime -- that way I can still get work out there before the Big Query Adventure begins.

Stephanie said...

The problem is, how do we ever really know if it's ready???

I think we will always think we can do better. I've read that famous published authors will often look back at their work years later and wish they could change it.

We're always growing, learning, perfecting our craft....we will always do better than we've done in the past.

Angela Ackerman said...

"Do not query too soon"

This is something that can't be repeated enough.

Don't query when you are sick of revising.
Don't query when you think your book is 'good enough now'.
Don't query just because you want to feel like you're doing something toward your end goal.

Query when you love your manuscript, when you believe in it, when you have worked it as much as you can to the best of your ability and are proud to say, "This is mine, and I want you to read it."


Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

Amy Tate said...

I laughed out loud when I read this. I RELATE! Susan, when I first started ten years ago, I used to write a story and then mail it off on the SAME DAY! We live and learn, girl!

Stephanie said...

I agree, but who's to say what is "too soon"?

You could work on something for years and love it and think it's great and wonderful and perfect...and then query it and go nowhere. Then it can sit for a year or two....and when you go back and look at it again, wonder what the heck you were thinking. Because we are always growing and strengthening our writing.

You can love something and believe in it with everything in you, but that doesn't mean it's gong to attract the attention of an agent.

Tere Kirkland said...

This is also the most important thing I've learned, and a crit group that strikes a great balance between supportive and critical is really the only way to know when you're ready.

My sister loved the first finished draft of Evangeline, but now I look back at it and cringe. Sisters don't always make the best critters.

Great post, and pic!

Diane said...

How can we see it one way and months later with the same eyeballs see it another way?!?!?!? Crazy I know! :O)

Bethany Mattingly said...

I queried too early as well, but thank heavens I only did it to a handful of agents. I really hope I don't make the same mistake again!!!

Nancy said...

Back when I was sending out children's stories and books, you could send the entire manuscript. I may have sent a few of them too soon. I did get a few lovely relpies from magazine editors for my work which they enjoyed, but couldn't fit in at the time.

Stephanie Faris said...

I used to send my trash to PUBLISHERS. This was when I wrote romance and it didn't require an agent. I think they all understand we begin somewhere...and that some of us query before we're completely ready. But hopefully they catch us later, when we've learned our lessons!

Angie Muresan said...

Very, very wise, Susan. My only question is, being so attached to our creations, how do we know whether they are treasures or trash?

Cinette said...

Thanks for the advice. I know mine isn't ready yet, but how do you know for sure when it is?

Patti said...

I queried too soon a couple of years ago and then ago eight months ago. I'm taking your advice and waiting.

Suzanne Casamento said...

We've all queried too soon. That's part of the journey. And at that point in the journey we don't know it's too soon. We think we're ready, but we're not. I queried three different not-ready manuscripts with many agents before I wrote a worthy one.

Angie Ledbetter said...

Query in haste, regret in leisure. :)

Carolyn V. said...

I've queried trash before too, with the first book I wrote. Isn't it nice we can learn from those mistakes (I just hope the publisher will still look at my stuff). =)

Dominique said...

I totally understand what you're talking about. Just when I thought my last project was "ready" to query, I realized I'd misrepresented one of my characters majorly. Sometimes you don't even realize that things are off until much later.

Leah Rubin said...

Great advice, and btw, I'm so glad you're back! Your blog is always on target-- I've been away for the past week, but am happy to find you back online!

Erica M. Chapman said...

Fantastic advice. I've been waiting myself. Not sure if this one will be ready, may need another novel or two under my belt. It's hard to know when... sounds like you learned a great lesson though ;o)

Stephanie Thornton said...

It's so hard to know when your work is done. Wait until you've revised 7 times, until your beta readers can't find anything wrong...

It makes my head hurt!

Terri Tiffany said...

I love Angela's advice--to query when we really love our work and are proud of it. I KNOW I've queryed too soon. Ugh. So I am trying hard to be very patient with my work.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Yes and yes! Been there, done that, big mistake. I didn't have any critique partners then, and they make a world of difference. I would never query without them again.

Laura Pauling said...

I have queried too early, but quickly realized it after one or two rejections. I'm at the stage now, where I'm not sure anymore what too early is. I know it's not right after I'm done revising. But yes, that is def. one of the biggest mistakes writers make!

Kathryn Magendie said...

I did this a few years back and fortunately I stopped querying after only a handful of agents, because they kept saying the same thing: lycial, beautiful writing, strong voice, unique - and then there'd be that BUT -- that BUT told me something was wrong, so I tore back into the manuscript. Now that ms is TG and she's Done. I have no regrets now with TG.

But at first, when I wrote THE END, I believe I didn't want to listen to the voice that told me "something is wrong' or "something not quite right" or "I'm bored here" or "eehhhh, not sure . . ." I thought I needed to keep in all those words that I worked so hard one - and do I? Do you/we? Nah! Sure don't!

Robyn Campbell said...

Amen sista. I almost did that myself. I am blowing a HUGE sigh of relief. Now it's soooo much better. And I really didn't know as much as I thought I did. hehe

Excellent post. :)

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Yes--only I didn't know it wasn't ready until the rejects came piling in (despite it going the rounds with my CPs).

I've been rewriting the novel, so hopefully it does better when I get around to querying it again. Fortunately, the stories changed so much, I can requery the same agents. They won't recognize it from the beginning of the year. :D

Name: Holly Bowne said...

Yes, I've definitely queried some projects before they were ready. The trouble is (was?), I didn't realize it at the time! Live and learn, right?