1. JCKey618
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    JCKey618 Member

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    What to do with novel that has potential, but I don't have the time to revise?

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by JCKey618, Sep 6, 2014.

    First, I just want to say that I pretty much know all the general advice about querying agents. You should wait until the manuscript is done done, best quality you can possibly get it, etc, etc. I know the following question goes against that, but hear my situation out and I just want to hear what people think/what they might do in my situation.

    I sat down to write my first novel in 2007. I finished the first draft a year later, revised it for a year and then had a lot of friends read it. Got really positive feedback, people seemed to really like it. I met Alan Rinzler (a pro editor) the summer of 2009, he read the novel and pretty much killed my dreams, haha. Well, for that novel anyway. He basically said what it was: good practice. I put it away.

    Since I've written about 4 more novels. I queried #2 to agents in 2011 and got a few requests for full manuscripts, but ultimately it was a learning experience. I am currently trying to find an agent for book #5 (3 and 4 are in rough rough drafts still and need major revisions). I have sold short stories here and there, especially recently with a pro sale in there. My writing has improved tremendously and I can see it by looking back at the first novel. The writing of the first novel wasn't necessarily bad. Technically, it's very polished. But I used to use a LOT of metaphors and I've gotten a lot better at setting strong scenes with less words.

    Anywho, one of my faithful readers who has pretty much read all of my stuff said he wanted to list book #1 as part of this "10 best books you've read" list on Facebook. Also, my wife has always said that she thought book #1 was the best.

    I KNOW that I can go back to Book #1, re-write it and have a kickass story. But it's a YA fantasy at 150,000 words and would take a lot of time and, frankly, I think that overall my writing career will be better off with me focusing my free time on 1) getting professional short story sells and 2) revising/focusing on one of my later novels to fish an agent with.

    Here's a little background on my life right now:

    I'm a second year medical student.
    I'm married
    I have a 6 month old son.

    So, I'm looking at this first novel and wondering if it has any potential to push along my career. I'm considering querying agents with it and seeing where it falls. Even if I rewrite it one day (which I plan to do), realistically it probably wouldn't be for another 10 years or so. Even if every YA agent reads it and rejects it, in 10 years it won't matter in terms of submitting again. Also, Book #1 is the only YA fantasy book I've written. The others are horror and sci-fi, so I'd be querying a different agent pool.

    My hope is that if the story finds an agent who thinks it has potential, then I would have a good reason to put all my eggs in that basket, so to speak, and use my free time revising it. Do people have any suggestions on how I might go about querying? Ideally I would show the agent recent writing as proof of, hey, here's proof that I can get this to where it needs to be. I'm guessing that mentioning that in the original query will just be a turn-off. I'm thinking of taking some time to revise the first chapter and then if anyone requests a full to include a note just being upfront and honest: I know this isn't in the best shape, but I can focus my energies on it if I have someone to back it.

    I know this is a longshot. Basically, I'm just wondering if I'm letting a good piece of writing go to waste, especially since I know it's just going to sit there forever. What would you do? Would it hurt to try and find an agent for it at all?

    Thanks for taking the time to read! I appreciate any comments!
     
  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    This probably isn't what you want to hear, but agents aren't interested in something that you haven't completely polished. Even if they believe that your work has potential, there's no guarantee that 1) you'll actually finish what you promised and/or 2) your final work will be as good as you say it is. Something like this is just too risky for an agent/publisher, which is why you should only start querying after you've revised and polished your manuscript.

    So you have two options here. One, go back and spend the time required to revise it. According to what you said, this might mean waiting for a decade. Two, accept that writing it was good practice, and move on to something else. If you think your free time is better spent working on other pieces, then go with option two.
     
  3. JCKey618
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    JCKey618 Member

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    Do you think it's worth trying to query and letting the agent-verse decide if it's as bad as I think it is, because my readers seem to like it more than me. I guess it's just a what-if right now.
     
  4. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    If you don't think it's finished, why would you think anyone else would?

    I'd shelve it until you were motivated to actually finish it. One of the things I see with a number of self published novels is the writer published too soon. The book wasn't ready. It might have been a decent novel if only the writer didn't think it was ready before it was.
     
  5. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I'll split my answer into two parts. First, let me address the second half of your sentence. Have you gotten any constructive criticism from any of your readers? If you haven't, find a few readers who can offer good feedback. Also, why do you think your readers like your work more than you do? You don't have to answer these questions here; they're just something to think about.

    Second, don't query agents without having a finished, polished manuscript. It's unprofessional, and agents notice these kinds of things.

    One thing I forgot to mention in my last post is that you seem to have given up on your first novel after hearing the opinion of just one editor. Editors have their preferences and opinions just like the rest of us, so don't be discouraged simply because one pro didn't like your work. Your work might be better than you think, which is why I recommend finding readers who can offer good and honest feedback. In my opinion, that's the next step you should take.
     
  6. LeighAnn
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    LeighAnn Member

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    I can tell you that my agent wouldn't touch an unpolished manuscript for any reason. I doubt very many would. Either polish the thing or don't, but don't waste anyone's time by submitting something that's clearly not ready for publication.
     
  7. JCKey618
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    JCKey618 Member

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    To be clear, I wouldn't necessarily call it unpolished. It had been through multiple drafts and I do think it's better than some mainstream books out today (just in my opinion). If I sent it out to an agent, at worst they would think that an amateur writer did the best they could do, but I don't think they would come off thinking it was unprofessional of me to submit it....just naive.

    But I do think I can make it better--a lot better. Your follow-up question might be, why not make it better, then? The answer is because I think my time would be better spent on some of my other works. At the same time, if I can have something else that's working towards advancing my writing career (i.e., a novel to offer) concurrently....I guess I'm just thinking about how, 5 years ago, I had polished it to a degree that I thought was good enough to submit to agents BACK THEN and stopped because of the feedback from the editor. I even had another editor who read the first chapter and thought it was publishable and even put me in touch with an agent (who was unresponsive to my intro e-mail). I just trusted the critical agent more. Looking back on it, I'm like, 'wow, my writing has come a long way' and I see how I can improve it but I also see how someone could take interest in it.

    Stephen King didn't get published until his 7th novel (Carrie) but later his 'trunk' novels were published under a pseudonym. I'm not saying I'm the next King, just saying that his writing no doubt improved over the 7 novels, but the ones before that proved to be publishable.

    And to answer someone's question, I did revise based on a lot of feedback back in 2009. I honestly forget how good/bad the feedback was.

    Sounds like it might be a bad idea. Just trying to figure out how to maximize my potential using my portfolio and the limited time I have over the next 10 months (after which begins 3rd year of medical school which will be the end of my life, haha).
     
  8. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    If this is what you think is best, go for it. :agreed:
     
  9. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    150K is really long for YA, even fantasy. It's really long for any first book. I wouldn't be surprised if the word count alone kept a lot of agents from even asking for pages. Something to consider.

    What is it about your more recent books that makes you think they're more likely to sell? How much work will it take for #5 to be ready to submit?

    Once you have an agent, you can discuss writing goals and story ideas, and see what s/he thinks is the potential for book #1. But an MS that long is going to be a really hard sell, so if you think #5 is going to be more likely to sell, I'd focus on it, and then talk to your agent about other works once you've got one.
     
  10. PensiveQuill
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    PensiveQuill Contributing Member

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    If you're ambivalent about it then I doubt anyone else will be excited. Just move on.
     
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  11. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    On re-reading, I'd also question the strategy of using short stories as a way to advance your career. Do you mean you want a career as a short story writer, or one as a novelist?

    There aren't many people making much of a living writing short stories, so I think probably you think getting short story credits will help you get an agent? I don't think this is a great strategy. Short stories and novels are very different beasts, and there are people who are great at one and not much good at the other. So it's not like agents or editors are going to see your short story credits and assume you're a good novelist. The way to make them think you're a good novelist is to show them a good novel you wrote.

    It sounds like you're kind of taking a convoluted path on what should be a fairly simple journey. Polish a novel, submit it to agents. See what happens.
     
  12. JCKey618
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    JCKey618 Member

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    From the SF/F/H writing community I'm becoming more and more a part of, it seems that success in short stories can be a segway to finding an agent. For example, Ken Liu. He basically dominated the short story market and now has a book deal for a fantasy series. I did a reading at this past year's ReaderCon as part of my writing group's group reading and while I was too shy to capitalize on it like I should have, I imagine being a participant at a Con can make it easier to network. Also, I know people who have been approached by agents while reading from published short stories at one of the SciFi readings in NY. I could totally be wrong on this, but while I don't believe having credits at Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, and F&SF would get you an agent with a crappy manuscript, I think it would help get past the query stage because the credits alone pretty much prove that your writing skills are of a high caliber. Whether that translates to making a good novel or not isn't guaranteed.

    Again, I could be wrong, and mostly I have taken detours to writing short stories to hone my writing skills over the years, as it's a lot easier to get feedback on a short piece and then revise and produce a new work. I think I'm actually better at novels (but still think I do well as both) and I do admit that sometimes I feel like I'm going the wrong way by focusing on short stories when I really want to be a novelist. Short stories also offer more immediate proof of improving as a writer. And I do think there are basic (and complex) elements of storytelling that apply to both.

    #5 is basically ready to submit. I'm just waiting for feedback for my synopsis from a couple readers to complete my submission package. #5 is better simply from the writing skills I've developed over the last 5 years, mostly being more succinct while also being more effective.

    This all said, I think I'm actually going to spend my energies revising book #3 or #4 over the next year to get ready for agents while I query the already ready #5. Thanks for the feedback guys!

    This has been a brain-scattered moment brought to you by....
     
  13. JamesBrown
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    JamesBrown Active Member

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    Put all your effort into doing well in your medical degree. This will be a passport to a good and rewarding life for you and your family and will provide them with the best possible future.

    Any artistic endeavour has a statistically low chance of success. Treat writing as a serious hobby in the meantime, but never at the expense of your studies. Short stories are a good avenue to pursue in that regard. Then you can come back to writing seriously when you are 40 and have a great wealth of life experience to draw on as subject matter for your writing, then write a really great novel.
     
  14. JCKey618
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    JCKey618 Member

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    Good advice. I wish I could follow it. I'm studying for a test now, for example, and wrote down an idea for a short story while watching a lecture, haha.

    But honestly, I've grappled with the idea of giving up writing for a few (several) years and I can't bring myself to do it.
     
  15. JamesBrown
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    JamesBrown Active Member

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    You don't have to give up writing but my honest advice to anyone in your position is, unless you have an absolute killer idea, then don't do writing at the expense of your studies.

    For every Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg there's a hundred other entrepreneurs who gave up their studies only to end up flipping burgers in Mcdonalds.

    The opportunity to be a writer will not diminish with age but the opportunities away from writing will.
     

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