Monday, October 17, 2011

Ready, Set, Query—Wait! Don’t. Okay, Now…

Does this sound familiar?

Your manuscript is finished, you’ve read and reread it, combed for grammar and punctuation, you think it’s pretty amazing, your mom and best friend swear it’s the best story they’ve ever read and are already talking about how you’re going to be rich and famous. So you write your query and send your story to a few agents. They reject it. But you’re not too worried because those agents must not be looking for an idea as unique and wonderful as yours so you send it to a few more and a few more and after a few weeks or months you’re staring at a pile of rejection letters.

Don’t worry, you’re not alone.

The truth is, many beginning writers—and some experienced ones—are in such a hurry to be published they’ll forge ahead even when they know in their guts that their manuscripts aren’t ready.

But why are we in such a hurry? Do we really think someone else out there has the same exact idea, and they're going to snag our spot?

Yes. Yes, we do.

Let's face it. We writers are impatient, impulsive, neurotic creatures. If not, we'd reasonably know that there are no designated number of slots, and that each story is unique.

Everyone loses when we hurry our manuscripts to the querying process: we cheat ourselves out of opportunities, and most agents won’t accept a resubmission unless they explicitly ask for a rewrite. And who do we query first? Our top picks, who then suffer by having their time wasted! Nobody wins.

So how do you know when your manuscript is ready?

Have at least two trusted beta readers or critique partners (NOT family members) read your entire manuscript. After they’ve commented and you’ve revised and reread, take a step back. Force yourself to wait a week or TWO. It will seem like forever, but I find distracting myself with another writing project makes the time fly faster. Read the story again with fresh eyes and at that point, if you can justly say that your manuscript is as good as it can be, not just good enough, then don your thickest skin and jump into the game.

(I know most of you know this already, but it's good to be reminded at times.)


  1. Giving your ms space can make a huge difference. And growing as a writer works too. Learn as much as you can about all aspects of the craft. That way when I look at your novel a year later, you'll realize just how unready it really was. ;)

  2. This is so absolutely true! In my writers group, we have everyone from absolute beginners to the multi published. It takes a little while for the newbies to realise they need to slow down.

    I was there myself once. But I'd forgotten why I was in such a hurry - until your post reminded me. It's that feeling that you've got the best idea for a story but someone else will beat you to it!

    Unfortunately, I don't think I would have taken any of this advice at the time - I would have thought everyone else wanted me to slow down so they could get ahead of me. LOL!

  3. I agree with both, but now...maybe a blog on where to find decent betas?

  4. Great post! Love "...neurotic creatures..." and can definitely relate. :)