Wednesday, July 13, 2011

RTW: My Biggest Mistake

I need to interrupt this regularly scheduled post for a special announcement.


*clears throat* Okay, now it's time for Road Trip Wednesday.

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This Week's Topic:
What's the biggest writing / querying / publishing mistake you've made?

My biggest mistake was querying too soon. It's hard when you have a completed novel in your hands and a list of agents in front of you to hold off but do it until something tells you that you're ready. It wasn't until after the third novel that I looked back and realized that the problem wasn't my book, it was me.

The first time it was because I was a young and naiive writer. I knew just enough about the business to know how to write a query and send it to agents. I had a vague idea that I was supposed to do more in-depth revisions than the grammar and spelling ones, but had no idea how to go about them. So I started querying.

Eventually I realized that Novel #1 wasn't working out. So I completely rewrote it. I did actual revisions this time and sent it to actual betas. One beta told me that I had major plot issues involving a meandering plot based on what she knew from my synopsis. I decided to query anyway.

Some time later, Novel #2 came along. This one had plot issues similar to #1 among other things, but I thought it would be fine. Instead of having double climaxes like #1 up there, this one had a plot that meandered so much there wasn't much of an arc at all.

While a part of me does regret the energy wasted on querying those three novels, they did teach me a few valuable lessons.

1. If you feel like there is a problem with a novel, there is. With those last two novels, I had a gut feeling that they weren't ready. I knew there were problems. My betas had told me there were problems. But I chose to ignore that feeling.

2. Don't query until you know the biz. Study agent blogs, visit writer forums (Absolute Write is a good place to start), talk to other writers, follow agents on Twitter, do whatever you can to learn about the business. Don't even look at your inbox until you have a query, synopsis, and a finished novel that you know are ready to go out there.

3. Don't skip a step just because you're anxious to get your novel out there. It's better to take things slow and make your novel, query, and synopsis the best they can be. If you go out too soon, you risk querying every agent on your list before admitting your book has a problem.


Alison Miller said...

Excellent advice!

Sarah said...

Very nice summary and advice. I made these mistakes (especially 2 and 3). It's hard to hold back when you're excited, but nearly always for the best.

Rachel Bateman said...

It's nice when we can learn from our mistakes. And the great thing is that agents really are looking for amazing books so even if you queried way too soon with these ones, when the time comes to query for reals, this won't be a black mark on your record.

Gracie said...

This is definitely great advice!

Kate Hart said...

#3 is so important, and so hard to follow.

Anonymous said...

Came to visit via YA Highway.

LOL about querying too soon. It's always too soon! I get impatient. I sent my new WIP out to test-readers without chapter-breaks. I didn't want to wait another day! Then they take weeks and weeks to get back to me ... groan!