Don’t query too soon

With the end of NaNo right around the corner, it’s time to talk about fighting urges.  In this case, the urge to rush right out and query your newly minted, shiny, pretty, tied-with-a-bow novel.

You’ve worked and slaved on it for a month.  A month!  You skipped out on the pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving so you could finish that climactic battle scene.  You didn’t even watch your favorite football team beat their arch-rival because you had a goal to reach.  And you reached it, gosh darn it.  You wrote a novel.

And now you want people to see it.  You want them to laugh at the funny scenes and cry at the sad scenes and come away from your novel profoundly changed.  You want them to think, “I’d never looked at the world that way before.  Wow.”  Or you want them to say, “I needed a good laugh and that was perfect.”  Or, “I cried at the end when they finally got together.”  Or, “I stayed up until 5 AM just to find out who did it.”

Well, here’s the problem.  Unless you are some sort of miracle-working genius, chances are the first draft of your novel should not see the light of day.  Which is not to say you didn’t write a great novel.  It just means that you now need to sit back and let that novel stew.  Let your subconscious work for a bit.

Chances are that as you were writing there were bits that didn’t quite fit together.  Or there were scenes that could have been better.  And you need time and distance from your novel to see that.  You need to let your novel ferment in that dark and mysterious place in the back of your head.

I have yet to get published, so you can take my advice with a grain of salt.  (Yes, I do love my clichés.)  But I know for a fact that the current version of my novel is about ten times better than my first draft was.

So, when NaNo is over, stop.  Take a month and enjoy the holidays with your family.  Light the Menorah, decorate the Christmas tree, buy a bunch of expensive gifts for people.  Whatever it is you and your family do in December, do it.  And in January, when the first blush is gone and you can be a little bit objective about it, take that novel out of your drawer and tear it to little bits and pieces.

(And no, do not burn it or trash it.  You may want to.  I kind of wanted to with my first draft.  Don’t do that.  Fix it.  At least half of writing a book is being able to edit it into something others will want to see.  Think of the first draft as making the dough.  You put it in the fridge to firm up and now you’re going to mold it and shape it into something more appealing than a yellow blob of sugar and butter.)

And, because I really don’t know what I’m talking about half the time, here’s someone who does.  The Knight Agency on The Last Pass: Preparing Your Manuscript for Submission.

A quote from the article:

“The saddest rejection for me to write, however, is for the manuscript where I read from start to finish and discover it’s just not quite ready yet.”

Don’t be the person who makes an agent sad.  Be the person who makes them glad that they have to slog through the slush pile day after day, month after month, year after year.  (Just thinking about having to do that makes me cringe.  But they do it to find you.  The person who let their NaNo novel sit long enough so they could see its flaws and make it better.  The person who made sure their novel was great before they queried.)

About M. H. Lee

M.H. Lee is a speculative fiction writer currently residing in Colorado whose stories are sometimes dark, sometimes funny, sometimes darkly funny, but hopefully always thought-provoking and entertaining.
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5 Responses to Don’t query too soon

  1. Lizzy says:

    I’m dreading the post-nano review requests. Just because the book is 50k words doesn’t mean that it is even close to ready for publication. Awesome post as always!

  2. I’m dreading the post-nano review requests. Just because the book is 50k words doesn’t mean that it is even close to ready for publication. Awesome post as always!

    • mhleewriter says:

      I have two friend’s books I’m supposed to be reading right now and I can’t seem to find the time to read them. At least I now understand how people could offer to read my book, take forever to read it, but read ten published books in the meantime. It really is a different mindset even if the books are just as good as something that’s been published.

      And, thanks!

  3. Dave Higgins says:

    I am fortunate – for a given value of fortunate – that my first draft is not complete at 50K, so I have no drive to query at the end of the month, and can tell people who want to read it that it will not be finished until next year. As Nano recedes this next year might well shift naturally into it being in the middle of an edit, &c.

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