Thursday, December 20, 2007

Finish the #%$ Book!!

This week, I posted at the Manuscript Mavens about what I've learned from the books I've written and set aside. One of the lessons I learned is to finish the #%$& book.

Recently, there's been chatter on one of my loops about finishing books. Because of edits, I freely admit that I haven't had time to read all of the postings, so I could be totally misjudging the discussion. But the gist of what I read has essentially been: why finish the book when you don't have to?

Generally, the reasoning behind this thought is that it takes forever for agents and editors to respond to queries and partials, so why not send the partial when it's ready and then finish the manuscript while waiting for the response or not at all. As the argument goes, this can cut down on the amount of time wasted working on an idea that just might get form rejected at the partial stage.

Trust me, I understand how this is a compelling argument. Remember, I was there. I accidentally pitched my project when it was just a partial and I was stuck wondering whether to finish the book or just send the partial.

I'm here to tell you: finish the book! There are tons of reasons why: because you won't know if you can finish a novel until you write the words The End; because you don't know what may come up in your personal life keeping you from writing (for me it was a new dog with a broken leg); because you don't know if your plot outline will work or if you'll be able to tie everything together until you do; because you don't know how long it will take to edit, or how long it will take your CP to read and get back to you.

These are all good reasons to finish the book before querying, but for me, the ultimate reason is that you want to be able to send the book -- in the best possible shape you can make it -- the day you get a request for it.

Take my experience with The Forest of Hands and Teeth: I started querying that book in mid-August and had a two book deal in mid-October. The day any agent requested the full, I sent it, hoping to capitalize on their momentum. My first request for a full came within 1-2 weeks of querying, I had requests for pages even before that.

What I'm saying is that requests can come quickly and you want to be able to capitalize on them. You don't want to put the agent on hold and let them forget you while you scramble to finish your book and skimp on the editing and polishing. Furthermore, you want to take the time to really polish your book not only because it makes a better impression, but also because it can speed the process. Because I spent so much time editing before querying, my agent was able to submit the book rather quickly and my editor has bumped it up in the publication schedule.

I know how hard it is to spend a big chunk of time working on a book when you're not sure if it will sell or grab the attention of an agent. I've been through that tons of times with various abandoned projects. But as I said in my Manuscript Maven post, with each book that you write and finish, you're learning skills that will make the next book that much better.

8 comments:

Michelle Rowen said...

Not only should you finish the book that you're querying (especially if it's your first one) but the most important thing is that YOU SHOULD WANT TO FINISH IT. This is obviously the line between those who want to be a writer and those who simply wnat to be published. If you're not willing to put the time and effort into writing a book and polishing it up to a gleam before the agent you've targetted sees it, what does that say about your work ethic? So yes, I am a strong advocate of finishing the book before you start querying. Even after you're published, full manuscripts are so much easier to sell than proposals.

Michelle Rowen said...

Oh, and Happy Holidays, Carrie! :-)

Carrie said...

Excellent point, Michelle! I think for some it's easy to get caught up in "I want to be published" you forget that "I want to write" is in there too.

Reminds me of last year when I would whine that I *had* to write on any given day. Finally, I had to sit down and say "I like writing, I want to write" and totally change my attitude.

Happy Holidays to you too!

Maprilynne said...

Amen! I did this once(queried and unfinished book) and the results were not pretty. Excellent advice!

Karen Mahoney said...

Great post! I've finally just finished my first novel (I've started others) and it feels so good to have a book that is nearly ready to submit. I know I was tempted to start querying when I was within 10,000 words of the end, but that would've been a disaster! Now I'm editing and polishing over Christmas (and writing the synopsis - *ugh*) ready to query in January.

When I'll also start writing the NEXT boook. :)

Thanks for the great advice and Happy Christmas!

Carrie said...

Yay Karen!!!! That's amazing news, major congrats! That feeling of finishing your first book is the best! And by querying when you're ready, you take a lot of the stress out of querying (I think)!

Happy Holidays!!

Erica Ridley said...

I finished a book yesterday! w00t! Yay!

Happy Holidays, Carrie!!!!!

Vicki said...

Great post! I couldn't agree with you more.

At conference (in Dallas)I had one agent and one editor that asked me to pitch my book. I didn't have an appointment but worked in that area on Friday afternoon.

I told both of them that the book was not finished and they both (different times) still wanted to hear the pitch. So, of course I pitched.

Now the great thing is they both requested to see it. The agent wants the partial and the editor actually asked for a full.

Again, I told them but the book is not finished, but I'd love to send it to them once it was completed.

Both of them said the same thing. They still wanted to see it but appreciated the fact that I didn't want to send anything until it was complete.

I finished the book and am now working on what will be my final edits before sending it out.

Hopefully they will still be excited to see the finished product.

The thing is, I could never send out something that was not completed out. My biggest fear if it was not completed is not being rejected but being asked for a full and then having to say, oh sorry, not yet done.

And your right, I love this book. But until I wrote the end, I wouldn't know if it would be something to polish and send out or something that would end up living with the other four manuscripts under the bed in dust bunny land.

Okay, long comment here, sorry about that. :)