Justine: Throwing My Hat in the Ring?

justine covington, eight ladies writing, romance writingI don’t do well with obscure, arbitrary deadlines. I’ve always been a “do it at the last minute” sort of girl. I thrive on the pressure, I’m incredibly good at sharp focus when there’s lots at stake, and my desire to do something well means I’ll nearly kill myself to get it done.

Yet I’m not done with my book. I’ve had no hard deadline. No one has said, “I want to see it on Jan 30th.” So I’ve been taking my frickin’ time with it. Or not working on it at all, spending time at my kids’ school (important, yes, but it doesn’t get the book finished). For whatever reason, I am dragging my feet on getting this thing done.

Then today got an email. A post, actually, from Manuscript Wishlist, and I swear this agent’s wish list read like my current library. Two of her fave books: “Bet Me” by Jenny Crusie (a fave of mine) and The Bridgertons by Julia Quinn (love, love, LOVE the Bridgertons). After I read her post, I got all nervous, the adrenaline pumping, as if my body were telling me, “YEEESSSSSS….SUBMIT!”

Their submission requirements ask for 3 chapters and a synopsis. I have that. And I have at least a decent framework of the book, if not the whole thing. It can take up to 3 months for them to review your query.

So why am I waiting to query? Because somebody said I should have the whole book finished first. And I probably should. But I also think that if I submit, it’ll be the fire I need under my a$$ to get the damn thing done.

This post is deliberately short, because I want you all to chime in. What do you think? Follow conventional wisdom or go out on a limb? Should I finish the book and then query, or query now and put a sticker on my calendar 3 months from now saying “It has to be DONE!”? I’ve been wracking my brain about this, but I think some advice might be in order.

5 thoughts on “Justine: Throwing My Hat in the Ring?

  1. I think you know yourself better than anyone else can. If you thrive on deadlines and the pressure brings you focus, this may be what you need.

    That doesn’t work for me. Deadlines, at least around creative stuff, make me freeze. I promised Demons Wager to a very interested agent in 2011, but didn’t actually finish the book until 2014. And the tripe I wrote trying to fast-track it was, yeah, awful.

    But if they work for you, go for it!

  2. I think if I don’t have the darn thing finished – it would be unbearable pressure to get something done, that may or may not work upon further reflection and attempted writing.

  3. You know, when I am faced with a decision that has an equal number of plusses and minusses, I flip a coin. It sounds crazy, but either choice has benefits. If you flip the coin and are immediately beset with regrets, you know that the other choice is the choice for you. If you flip the coin and think “yes!” then you have “fate” on your side, LOL. (For the record, I don’t think fate knows diddly about what’s good for us. So, either way works.)

    Do consider what you’ve got on your plate for the next three months. But I think you’ve laid the groundwork. From what I’ve seen, you should spend the three months finishing, and then just send that sucker out in the world and get started on your next book. You’ll have accomplished something (which will be a boost), and even if this one doesn’t work out, the next one has a new chance because you are more experienced.

    IIRC, it’s in the same “story world” but it’s a stand-alone, right? People could read your next story without necessarily reading this one?

    Just having another story in the works can be reassuring to publishers . . . . My literary heroine, Lois McMaster Bujold, was able to sell all three of her first novels on the strength of the third.

  4. I’d keep this agent who shares your tastes in mind and write with hope that they’ll like your book, but wait to query until you have a finished draft you’re proud to send. The advice from agents is to finish the story, edit and polish, write and polish the query, then query once you are ready with the best version you can make of your story. They don’t want to wait to see if you can finish the book or help you neaten it up, they want to see the most perfect version you can create. Since they make their living selling books to publishers, I’m inclined to go with the advice of the experienced which is to finish before querying.

    “Up to 3 months” is no guarantee you’ll have that time. If the agent asks in a week or a month and you’re in a rush, how good a draft do you think you’ll have? If you want this agent, then get your best book together before you query her. Worst case scenario: you get a rejection back in 2 weeks from this dream agent. Would a rejection kill any momentum on the book for you, or spur you forward? If you’re looking for outside motivation, and this doesn’t pan out, what’s your next step?

    If you thrive on deadlines, I’d suggest a novel contest like the Bath Novel Award (entrees close in early April) to give you a hard deadline and a push to finish. If April’s too early, there’s a lot of different contests out there (some with hefty prizes) for a completed, unpublished novel. Many are wrapping up for the year, but there’s a number with deadlines early to mid 2016. I think Bath is the first, on April 10th. (http://www.christopherfielden.com/short-story-tips-and-writing-advice/book-and-novel-competitions.php) Then, even if you don’t win the novel contest, you’ve met an external deadline, got the thing complete, and you’ll be ready to query this dream agent. (And, should she say no, the novel is still complete, and ready to be queried elsewhere.)

    • Thanks for the advice, everyone. I’m going to finish the book. I think Flo’s idea of setting a deadline to enter a contest is a great idea. I’ll need to check out what’s coming up in the next several months.

      All the advice I’ve heard says to finish the book. There’s probably a reason for that. 🙂

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