Querying Agents - When is Your Manuscript Ready?
I drove the long commute to work this morning, pondering this same question. I began to tick off all the additional questions I had learned (and been advised) to ask before tackling the agent querying process.
A few weeks back, I received the final revisions of Violet Storm from my developmental editor, Susan Malone. There was one scene--one element--missing, she'd said. I thought it over, and emphatically agreed. But as I started to read page after page of the manuscript I realized with great dismay, that in the two months I had been away from the book, I had learned many more writing essentials that the piece was seriously lacking. I was a different writer than the writer two months ago, and of course, the writer who began that story almost two years ago.
So I rolled up sleeves and got to work. One week passed, and then another. I had barely made a dent in the revisions. "This is crap!" I'd often hear myself yelling with frustration. Sure, I was being hard on myself, after all Susan loved the book, and my writing. But this was going to be my first published book (or so I'm praying with every fiber of my being), and I didn't want it to suck...logical, right? (Above is a photo of a real edit I did on VS--I use pencil when I edit because I like playing around with the revisions.)
I quickly sent emails to all my beta readers telling them, "Don't bother reading the MS. I will spare you from wasting your valuable time reading such utter crap."
I was embarrassed.
The second week, I hit my lowest. You know the feeling...when you begin to ask the really terrible questions like,"Why do I put myself through this? I HAVE a real job...one that pays," or "Why am I even trying so hard?" it starts to hurt when thoughts about "never getting there" take you in a downward spiral of self-doubt--that writers black abyss where it's possible you may never return from.
Thankfully, I'm stubborn, and mostly rational. I'd gotten this far. I wasn't going to throw it all away because I was intimated by the amount of work...and the overwhelming pressure. Weeks passed and I started to feel much better. I refused to give up. Not after all the time, tears, and nightmares I'd endured. So now here I am, feeling marginally better about the "utter crap" I wrote.
I want to start querying agents. Mind you Violet Storm has been queried before to about nine agents. Two asked for the first ten pages, one of which asked for the next fifty. Another agent asked for the full. They handed my butt to me staked on a red pen--meaning the MS needed some serious editing. Too much exposition, one said. I took that to mean it was boring.
After doing some serious editing on my own, I decided to work with a developmental editor, enter Susan Malone.
So here we are, on the precipice of querying VS again. And this is what I am asking myself:
1. Have I given enough time away since the last round of major edits? (Minimum of two weeks)
2. Have I created a generous list of well researched agents who are interested in this genre?
3. Is the manuscript at its absolute best? (Ask yourself this question honestly. And I think if the answer is more out of fear, have someone else, trusted folks from your writers group, your dev editor, or beta readers give you an honest answer.)
I'm going to stop there because I don't have a good answer for any of those questions on VS.
So...I am not ready to query.
What other questions do you ask yourself when thinking about querying an agent?