Hello. I recently joined this forum with the hopes of bouncing ideas off of individuals who share my interests, and my aspirations. I figured that asking a forum directly would be far more fruitful than betting on a Google query, so here I am. My question is this: To those of you who have been published (especially in the science fiction genre), in what order did you approch the writing/publishing of your first novel? I ask because I've noticed many dissenting voices in regards to this topic, especially in regards to whether or not an unpublished author should hire an agent first or simply deal directly with small publishers. One camp states that publishers will refuse to consider your proposal without the backing of a reputable agent. The other camp states that agents will not even give you a chance unless you're already published. This all seems like a vicious cycle to me, and I'm sure the truth lies somewhere in-between these two camps. In truth, I've also heard that it is ill-advised to even begin a novel without having first secured an agent or publisher's interest. Is the process of securing this backing something an aspiring writer should undertake before the writing has begun, or should one simply finish their project and then proceed to figure out the finer points of publishing? ... My apologies - it would seem my question wasn't exactly "brief". Let me boil it all down and ask this: A) Should I write the novel before finding an agent, and B) Should I find an agent for my first novel, or shop amongst small publishers directly? Many thanks for your consideration. I plan on learning a lot here.