I just got an email that really disturbed me. No, it was not from one of those creepy guys on Facebook who friends you and then sends you scary PMs… This was from someone I actually know. Well, cyber-know at least.
This person is a critique partner. Someone working on their first book.
What did the email say that disturbed me so much?
“I’m going to send this out to agents. Can you look at my query and synopsis?”
Was I worried about helping with a query and synopsis? Nope. Not at all. I do it all the time.
So what was it that drove a jagged, rusty bar through my heart?
“I am going out to query.”
I feel incredibly thankful for that little angel on my shoulder who whacked me upside the head two years ago and said “Don’t do it. Your novel sucks.”
Some people, unfortunately, do not have a little angel. Or if they do, they’re not listening.
A quote from Dan Blank keeps coming to mind. It’s something like: “Writing a book for the sake of writing a book is a worthwhile experience. Not all books should (or need) to be published.” (I totally paraphrased that)
Anyway. I’d like to remind everyone that a sizable number of first novels should be placed in a drawer and never thought of again. Call them a learning experience. A small portion of these can be resurrected, but should be used as an outline and completely rewritten. I would guess that less than one percent are worthy of publication.
But does it hurt to try?
Jury is out on that. If you have countless hours to waste researching agents/editors and then have even more hours to send a manuscript out that has no chance at all at publication – more power to you. The chances of them remembering you and instantly deleting your second or third manuscript are slim, right?
(Did that last paragraph seem slightly jaded? If so, GOOD. It was meant to.)
My other big worry is that after a few rejections, instead of shelving manuscripts that are not ready, authors will turn to self-publishing. [Cringe] The thought makes me shiver. You think critique partners can be harsh? Try a review from someone on Amazon who is angry at you for wasting their time or money. Have you read those kind of reviews? I feel so sorry for those authors!
(Aside: For the record, I think self-publishing is great… If you are ready and have received professional line editing and copy editing)
It took me 17 drafts of my first novel before I decided to shelf it.
Two years of work, sitting on a shelf collecting dust.
Was it worth it?
I learned tons from the experience. I took what I learned to my NEXT novel. And when that was done, I took what I learned from writing my second novel into my third novel (all the while pumping out novellas and shorts and getting professional feedback) And I took all of that experience and dove into my fourth novel.
Each. Got. Better.
And even after I thought “maybe my novel is good enough” I was STILL shy of certain agents, and ESPECIALLY my target publisher. It was not until agents or editors started saying things like:
“Your writing is strong, but I do not have a place for science fiction right now”
or things like:
“This is not for me, but if you have another book in “xxxx” genre please send it directly to me at [insert email address]”
… that I started sending out to the agents and houses at the “top” of my wish list. And by the way – They ARE NOT reviewing my first novel. That is still safely sitting on my shelf, waving and smiling at me every day.
My point is, don’t feel pressured to publish your first novel. If you are serious about writing, and you are unsure, just move on to the next one. I guarantee novel #2 will be better.
But if you do decide to go for it, good luck! I wish you all the best, and totally hope you are in that one percent of shining stars.