Author Topic: When to say when...  (Read 8877 times)

Offline audal

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When to say when...
« on: July 31, 2007, 07:09:02 PM »
Spooky quiet here this week... Maybe I can stir up some feedback on a topic that approaches the when-to-let-it-go topic, but is a bit different.

My question has to do with the general stoppage of querying on a specific project.  A common standard is to raise the white flag if you've heard from 100 agents (though I know this stat varies).  I have heard from about 40, still have another 8-10 out there, and even have a full being reviewed.  On my list, a good 80 or so more possibilities, HOWEVER...

Recently I had a terrific email exchange with... let's say if I could pick any agent out there via throwing a dart, I'd aim at her.  I was stunned that after 15 striaght rejections to begin, she was the first to request a partial.  Then, still to my amazement, she emailed back to say she was actually torn - she liked the style, wanted to know what happened next, but wasn't sure the novel was focused enough.

Ultimately, she passed, but our dialogue stayed open for a few emails.  I told her I actually agreed with her assessment, thanked her in 20 different ways, and possibly made a good impression based on how I conducted myself even after being rejected.  The dialogue ended with her saying she'd be happy to read my next effort, which I told her a bit about.  And just like that, my focus shifted from querying on novel #1 to writing novel #2.  Just crazy how potentially tough news turned into something positive.

Want me to get around to my question now?

OK.  I'd love to get some feedback on this:  should I continue querying on novel #1 when I'm convinced I learned from the process and believe #2 will be better?  My thinking is that perhaps I should not approach others with my first novel so that novel #2 will be their first impression of me.  Granted, they get piles of submissions, but still, is it reasonable to think a failed first query effort might hinder me getting through on a future query?  Even though my fave agent will be receptive, I know that it'll still be long odds to get picked up, so I'll want Plans B-Z ready.

What say any of you (other than "please shortne your posts")?  Thanks for any assistance, musings or tsk-tsk-tsks...

Quillkeepers' Tavern Management: Slingin' Cocktails & Wisecracks Since Mid-August.

Offline Patrick

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Re: When to say when...
« Reply #1 on: July 31, 2007, 07:48:57 PM »
You're right, the forum has been dead all weak.  Why is that?  Not even the other regulars are coming around.

Anyway, about your question.  I know plenty of people who say never give up.  Just keep sending that query out.  On the other hand, if you yourself feel the book needs work then you should either edit it or shelf it.  If you learned from it (and got the attention of a quality agent) then it certainly was not a waste whatever you decide.

It sounds to me that you are anxious to get to the next book, which means your heart won't be with you if you decide to edit book one, so my suggestion would be to shelf it.  You can always return to it later.

Best of luck whichever you decide.

Offline BillyShakeaspear

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Re: When to say when...
« Reply #2 on: July 31, 2007, 08:22:08 PM »
An interesting question ... here's how I deal with it: first my method of writing ...

I finished a cheap western and sent it to the publisher (as described in another section of this site) and started a murder mystery. While the first draft of that was 'settling', I wrote another western. Rewrote the murder a few times and finally sent it to a handful of possible agencies. Started a second murder and repeated the process, first draft/western/rewrite/western/submitted/another western/my stab at the future/another western/ and so it goes. (I have four westerns published and have started another)

So now I have two murder stories and one futuristic story being submitted. Many of the agents I submitted to have not responded and after six weeks or so I have given up on them for that story and send another. Keeping a good record of submissions is vital so as not to step on a earlier story. My question is what will I do when all three stories have gone to everyone on the list of agencies with no takers? The answer, I suppose is to keep writing murder/westerns (the futuristic was a one-off, I think) and search out new agencies to submit to ... which begs the question: which is my job ... writing or submitting?

Is there something in this that helps you?

Offline audal

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Re: When to say when...
« Reply #3 on: July 31, 2007, 09:13:32 PM »
Yeah, that helps - thanks to you both.  To answer Billy's question - writing takes precedence over submitting any day of the week, no?  To place 100% emphasis on the query process stagnates evolution.  And frankly, I think if you're going to surrender on a project, it's best to do so when you're fired up about something, not completely beat down.  So why waste the other agents still in the holster and risk feeling hopeless about my work?  Why not approach them with something that's ideally better work rather than inundating 'em with one query after another?

I think Patrick hit it on the head with "I know plenty of people who say never give up."  The question, though, is give up on what - the novel in question or the attempted career?  Obviously, the career, right?  After the email exchange, I spent an entire weekend in disbelief at the basic want-versus-need concept.  I wanted the agent to take me on (duh!)... but realistically, how could I not be thrilled at how the events transpired?  Optimism is indeed a necessary weapon for any writer, but left unchecked, it can easily turn into delusion. 

Patrick, you're completely on target -- my heart is not at all with book #1.  And honestly, I'm glad to be slightly separated from it.  As agent emails were exchanged, the new project suddenly became more urgent and real.  If this is the agent I hope will sign me, I clearly need to bring my A-game to the table, and don't we all relish being thusly challenged?   

Quillkeepers' Tavern Management: Slingin' Cocktails & Wisecracks Since Mid-August.

Offline Diowe

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Re: When to say when...
« Reply #4 on: July 31, 2007, 11:21:50 PM »
and to take what's been said just one step further...

Working on the next project will no doubt improve your craft (I think every project does) and there may come a time when you dig out that shelfed manuscript and discover you've learned exactly what needs to be done to kick it up a notch.

Diowe


Offline Patrick

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Re: When to say when...
« Reply #5 on: August 01, 2007, 07:37:54 AM »
Sounds like you're ready to go.  Good luck, and let us know how things turn out.

Offline audal

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Re: When to say when...
« Reply #6 on: August 01, 2007, 10:35:50 AM »
Yeah, I think I've gotten the answers I was looking for.  Funny how sometimes "Don't give up!" is actually counterproductive advice... Comes a time when you just want to be done with one project and move on to the next.  Diowe's absolutely right - craft can only be improved through the trials & errors of past efforts... so long as we're open to criticism & can open our eyes to their flaws.

Thanks for the green light... Or was it the red light?  Hmmm...
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Offline Cole Gibsen

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Re: When to say when...
« Reply #7 on: August 01, 2007, 07:51:23 PM »
Audal - I'm right there with you. I've had about fifty rejections with only ten agents left to query, and one agent who say they'll look at it again if I make her revisions.
Overall my query was better than the book as I got a lot of partial requests, even a couple full, only to be answered with form rejections. (Except for one agent who was kind enough to tell me that my writing was amateur). :'( That hurt.
So I'm torn between just letting the whole thing go or making the revisions and throwing the dice at the one agent left.
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Offline justwrite

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Re: When to say when...
« Reply #8 on: August 01, 2007, 08:05:01 PM »
Yeah..I've been quiet. The kid is back from camp so I've been acting like a mom again. Audal, I had a similar experience with my first book. A few partials, then rejections. I shelved it, rewrote it then sent it back out to no partials. At that point I also concluded my heart was more in my second.
So here I am a year later in the same place, with the one I felt so good about, also getting rejections on partials and a third book in the cooker. The difference is i still believe in my second book. I'm reworking it a bit (the wonderful Diowe is helping me!  ;D) and I will send it back out hopefully in October. I think as long as you are sure your work is professional, it doesn't hurt to contact every potential agent out there before you give up. I was worried the writing on my first book was substandard, so I still feel pulling it was the right decision. And like Diowe said. some day it can be dusted off and redone. So if YOU believe in book one and it meets your standard, keep shopping it. i don't think agents mind when you keep subbing different projects. I doubt they even remember or care. i think they just look at each query for its merit, knowing that a person who writes a clinker the first time could be the author of the next Harry Potter the next time.

Offline audal

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Re: When to say when...
« Reply #9 on: August 01, 2007, 10:33:50 PM »
One of my crit-pals actually said to me that my first novel would be better off as a fourth novel -- the kind of thing that might be well-received if I was an already established writer trying something a bit different.  It doesn't have a non-linear structure - which I now believe was its chief flaw. 

So to bring on JW's thoughts... Yes, I do believe in it, and maybe there's hope for it, but right now... It's drifting far from my consciousness.  Mostly because I'm shoving it!  And the truth is, I can see myself entering the query phase with the new project in January.  So I'm thinkin' why hit someone in August, only to have 'em reply in October, and then hear from me again so soon?  My gut says this works against me.

So Senshi... you have to ask yourself some very similar questions.  Will you rewrite with the same energy & drive employed to write the first version?  Granted, yours is a very all-eggs-in-one-basket situation, and I don't know your genre, but have you dug deep enough to know there are only ten agents left for your work?  And I'll repeat what I mentioned in your earlier post -- try to be bulletproof with this agent's "amateur" comment... which, by the way, I think is a bit inappropriate.  I've yet to have such an experience, but just to give you an example of how subjective the biz is, I had one agent who requested a partial tell me that she found the pacing too slow.

Month later another agent said it was too fast-paced for her.
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Offline justwrite

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Re: When to say when...
« Reply #10 on: August 02, 2007, 10:17:33 AM »
And I'll add this to the mix. Another friend of mine had an agent. The agent was shopping around her book for a full year with no takers. She rewrote a few times at the agent's request. Finally an editor expressed interest and held onto the ms for a month or so. When all was said and done she responded by telling the agent my friend's writing "was not up to par." This was a person with an MFA in creative writing who had been published in anthologies and such. My friend took it really hard. End of story? Her book sold a month later. As is...no further changes from the version that "was not up to par". The books comes out with a major publisher October 2008. So who knows? You have to search your own heart for the answer.

Offline Chelc

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Re: When to say when...
« Reply #11 on: August 05, 2007, 11:10:04 AM »
You're right, the forum has been dead all weak.  Why is that? 
Well, today is probably one of the few days I'll be having the chance to go on QT until, ummm, like February? Blame it on school, band, tennis, school play, voice lessons, and mock trial. And of course, writing ;)

Offline cacondley

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Re: When to say when...
« Reply #12 on: September 04, 2007, 07:42:09 PM »
Hi Audal,

My 2 cents:  If you'd rather be writing, stop querying and write.  However, an agent who gets 100 queries a day, EVERY day, is not going to remember that you queried them with Project 1 when you query them with Project 2 twelve to twenty four months later.  So if you want to query every agent on your list, do it!  Don't worry so much about keeping agents "in the bag" for Projects 2 or 29.
CA

Offline justwrite

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Re: When to say when...
« Reply #13 on: September 04, 2007, 07:48:10 PM »
True, true. They don't keep track of who queries them. They just decide if the project interests them or not.

Offline audal

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Re: When to say when...
« Reply #14 on: September 04, 2007, 08:17:09 PM »
Wow - it seems like so much longer than one month ago that I posted this thread.

Thanks for your 3 cents, CA (you undervalued your advice, so I threw in an extra penny).  One month later, I'm now 100% into the new project - even though I still have a couple partials and a full on review.  One of my concerns if I kept querying would have been that I actually would not have gone 12-24 months.  The target for the new project is January 1st.  When properly motivated, I can pull this off.  Basically, I could've found myself waiting to hear from an agent even as I'm ready to query with the new project.  I agree - no one is likely to remember my name.  Except for the agent mentioned in the original post... and though the eggs-in-one-basket lesson is obvious, I am clearly working hard to impress her, devouring several works by current clients, taking to heart the advice she gave when she passed on the first project.

Ultimately, the choice to move on and leave agents in the holster from Novel #1 was energy.  I wanted Novel #1 in the rearview ASAP.  I didn't want to think about tailoring a query letter.  I didn't want to think about my walk to the mailbox.  I wanted a career, and I decided that if I got the dream agent's attention with #1, would I rather shoot against long odds to land a different agent, or do I want to take the lessons learned from a first novel and apply them to #2?

#2 won without much of a debate.

Anyway... rambling now, so I'll sign off.  Nice to reread this thread, though.  It really does seem like ages ago - not just a month.

It also makes me wonder how Senshi's doing with her little one - any news?
Quillkeepers' Tavern Management: Slingin' Cocktails & Wisecracks Since Mid-August.