Jumping The Gun by Candi Wall

Hopefully everyone’s had a wonderful and productive summer.

Mine wasn’t overly productive, as far as writing goes, but with work and kids out of school for the summer, I planned ahead. Or rather, I told myself to prepare for limited computer time. I’ve been working on the Agent Shop schedule though, and hope you all remember to check back and see who we’ll be having as our guest agents for the rest of the year.

Today I wanted to mention a topic that comes up often in discussion with agents and editors alike.

Premature submitting!

Jumping the gun!

Hitting that send button too soon.

I’m sure we’ve all been there.

It’s exciting – and scary – and that dream agent you’ve been keeping your eye on just opened back up for queries – and her tweets say she looking for just what you’ve written – and – and – and…

Yep, you got it. All that time spent writing, and the opportunity is there. You’ve poured yourself, your time, your heart, blood and tears into the manuscript. How can you let this opp go by??? You talk yourself right into it.

I’m here to tell you – STOP YOURSELF!

A rejection is hard enough to take, but one that tells you you’ve got a great idea but the writing just isn’t there…brutal. I’ve heard agents and editors both say they see this A LOT and many times, it’s because the author didn’t give themselves the time or the edits needed. Unless your work has been through the following AT LEAST, and probably much more, you’re shooting yourself in the foot.

  • First round edit
  • Crit partners
  • A month where you don’t even LOOK at it
  • Read it out loud
  • Second round edit
  • Contests are great at this stage too!
  • Beta readers 2 or more
  • VICIOUS edit (be brutal on yourself. If the sent makes you go ‘hmmm’ get rid of it or fix it.)
  • A good dose of ‘this is crap, it’s great, it’s crap, it’s great’ limbo. (Okay, maybe that part was just me. But I find chocolate helps.)
  • Final edit (and I highly suggest a final beta read)
  • Make it shine
Quick and simple today. I have insanity clogging my to do list this week.
Happy writing, editing, revising, submitting or any stage in between!
UPDATE: I’m still waiting on confirmation from our guest agent this month…. Concerned that e-mails were lost in cyber space or spam…

13 Responses to Jumping The Gun by Candi Wall

  1. jbrayweber says:

    Great list! Authors need to take this to heart. You wan tot put your best foot forward, the absolute best work you can before you sen your baby out to agents, editors, and/or the world.

    Thanks, for the reminder, Candi!


  2. Candi, you are so right. I have read so many page one’s that were just plain BAD. Badly formatted, badly written. Formatting is a major job. An honest novel-length manuscript can take at least a week of formatting, during which you can do all sorts of line-editing, minor tweaks, and even major revisions. You keep it in WORD until you reach the end, then you go over it all again in another line-edit, before you save it to PDF. But you always keep your WORD copy and line edit again, and save it again to PDF, and so it goes and so it goes…

    My primary problem as a writer is finding a reader. I have one extraordinary reader who is a history professor, but he is not very critical. He does keep my historical facts closely scrutinised, but his literary criticism is – what can we say? Too friendly.

    How do I find critical, knowledgeable, literary readers? It is such a big job. I haven’t been able to persuade anyone to exchange that service with me.

    Anybody out there?

    (This comment was line-edited twice before posting)


  3. Morning Jenn!

    Thought of you the moment I heard my normal radio host for the morning talking like a pirate!

    It’s Talk Like A Pirate Day! How freakin’ cool is that?!?

    Er, I mean, Argh, that be cooler than the depths of Davey Jones locker!


  4. Hey Lyn,

    Finding good beta readers and/or crit partners can be tough.

    I found my wonderful crit partners through various groups. I met Jenn, John and Marie-Claude at Charlotte Dillon’s Romance Writers Community. http://groups.yahoo.com/group/RWClist/ There is a crit loop, a discussion loop, a prompt loop, and I know she has a list of peeps looking for crit partners.

    I met others through Textnovel, and Twitter. Absolutewrite and Querytracker are two other places to meet authors, and I believe they have lists for people looking for beta/crit partners.

    I’d start there!


  5. jeff7salter says:

    Candi, this is a very timely column for me.
    In July when I was ‘nearly’ finished with my first draft, I actually toyed around with subbing my 7th novel ms. with a small group of agents. My thinking was that by the time they — the ones who didn’t automatically reject it (with hard-screen interns) — got through the query (w synopsis or partial) … I’d prob. be finished with the ms.
    It took til mid- Aug. — some 4 wks later — for me to complete the 1st draft. And I had not realized how many ‘holes’ I’d left in that draft until I spend 9 HARD writing days revising and patching.
    Then I sent it to 3 beta readers. Got goof feedback from one but still waiting on the other two.
    My point, however, is to endorse your premise: don’t rush to ‘query’ until the ms. is READY. Mine is still not ready, though the restless side of me keeps chanting, “Send, send, send.”
    With your assistance, the other side of me is responding: “Wait, wait, wait.”


  6. Jeff,

    I SO feel your pain. I have a similar chant in my head, I call it my Devil Maggot. He’s always there, nagging me to screw the patience crap and ‘Go For It!’. He’s even got a big, foam finger with my name on it and waves it like a fan at a game.

    But I learned to block him. Or rather, my foolish jumps into thinking I was ready to sub, blocked him. I sent a query for a finished manuscript, but not nearly clean enough manuscript, to a BIG agent. My dream. Her usual response times – 50-6 days. I convinced myself I had all kinds of time to get in another edit.

    TWO HOURS later, I got a request for the full. Cut to me O_O, OMG!

    The rejection stung worse when it came, so kind and encouraging, stating that while my ms was on the cusp, and she’d met with her colleagues to discuss it, it wasn’t quite there. She advised me to let my work simmer and get it out to betas next time before subbing but was happy to see more projects from me.

    Sure, that could have been a great rejection under normal circumstances, but KNOWING I’d subbed it too soon – and that had I been patient, the results may have been different – that was a killer!


  7. jeff7salter says:

    Yeah, I can imagine you kicked yourself over that, Candi.
    But since the agent responded personally, with encouragement … and left the door open, I’d say you’ve got one foot in the door.
    I’m still LOOKING for the door (or the gate, whatever).


  8. Sherrie says:

    I know the feeling well. I finished my thesis and had told myself that finishing my MFA in Creative Writing would signal that my ms was ready for publication. I just didn’t want to see otherwise.
    I sent out about 35 queries (only received about 10 replies, BTW), one went to a very promising agent. Her reply? “Send me via airmail the first 10 pages when your ms is finished and polished”. Right then and there, I knew that I still had work to do.
    Hopefully, she will still be interested when I finally finish the final draft, but I did find it encouraging. Maybe if I hadn’t sent those out, I would have left the ms to attract dust in a drawer somewhere.
    I am sure I have a compelling story. I just need to figure out how much to tell and in what sequence.
    Thanks for the reminder that I AM NOT ALONE. 😉 ❤


  9. Kristen says:

    Geeze! Talk about bait and switch. I see the ‘send’ button which looks remarkably like the ‘easy’ button and instead it’s all edit, edit slave, slave… bleah. ;-P

    I know it’s not Wednesday, but you could have at least put on a picture of a half-naked guy in chains…


  10. Half naked guy in chains does ease some of the pain….

    This is a great cautionary tale! You must be brutal with yourself or else those gate keepers will do it for you and that is no fun. Muse Tracks has some great articles on how to polish your manuscripts. Definitely follow the awesome advice Candi has given us today!!


  11. debutauthors says:

    Ain’t that the bare truth!


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