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March 25th, 2006, 10:07 AM
I need some serious opinions, preferably from those having some experience with submissions. With the toil on my WIP drawing to a conclusion--I should expect to be finally tame the beast by the beginnning of summer--should I go ahead and submit the first three chapters to a few literary agents? Or, should I finish off the manuscript before shopping it around?

I've checked a few resources to see if there is any hard and fast rule, but found nothing engraved in stone. The WIP looks to top out at between 180 to 200 thousand words, so I could give an agent a good twenty-five chapters if they want to see more, with the promise of the last few chapters to follow quickly. So, what do you think?

March 25th, 2006, 10:49 AM
I don't have a lot of experience to back this up, but I think it would look terribly unprofessional if you received a request for the entire manuscript and it wasn't complete yet.

If you're absolutely sure that you'll have it finished in the coming months, I think it would be okay to send out the first three chapters + synopsis, simply because waiting times are so long. You may even have time to write a sequel before you hear back from some places.

If it were me, I would wait until I had something completely finished - at least to a state where I'd be happy to have an agent read it. My reasoning would be that life happens. You never know what's going to come up and you may not have a chance to finish it on schedule.

simon woodhouse
March 25th, 2006, 08:21 PM
When you say your MS will be finished by the summer, do you mean absolutely done - no editing or revisions needed, or do you mean a first draught completed?

If it'll be 100% complete in a few months time, I'd still advise waiting until then before starting to shop it around. In the meantime you could start looking for agents who you think will be interested, and also getting your query letter sorted out.

If it's only going to be a first draft completed by the summer, then I definitely wouldn't start submitting yet.

March 26th, 2006, 07:20 AM
I agree with Simon, here. If you mean you intend to just have written the novel, i.e. typed "The End" for the first time, I would suggest NOT sending it out to agents.

I would suggest, however, placing it aside for a few months and come back to it then with fresh eyes to start editing. You will find you will see the whole work differently. You need to present an agent with the best possible copy of your novel. You will be just one of a few hundred want to bes sending their novel in that week, you need to make sure yours has the best possible chance of actually being looked at.

So finish it.

Edit it to within an inch of its life.

Polish your synposis and cover letter.

Approach it as if you were preparing a tender for your company to do a job/provide a service for another company. You have to produce your best shot.

Then be prepared for it to be rejected outright.

Rocket Sheep
March 26th, 2006, 07:47 PM
I say start marketing the synopsis and first three chapters, ms unfinished. BUT, you have to know how it finishes to write the synopsis anyway (a synopsis is NOT a blurb - a synopsis actually states the resolution, there is an art to writing them).

If you're not sure how it finishes, ie. you're not working to a plan or a timescale, then you have nothing to market.

If, however, you are the king of planning and professionalism and have everything sorted (plot, character development, target markets, target length, writing time, peer or professional review, revision), bar the actual writing, start marketing now. It could take you a year and a dozen rejections to sell it if it is saleable, anyway.

Of course, very few people are THAT organised or know THAT far ahead that their work is saleable. I do know authors that use this method effectively... but they're not beginners.

March 27th, 2006, 11:21 AM
Simon, yes, it will be absolutely done by summer. My first drafts are actually quite polished. I work from an outline, and all issues of phrasing, grammar, spelling, etc., are edited as I write. Because of its length, the WIP will require a second draft to fix certain continuity problems and to add elements in the early portions that were not fully worked out until later in the story-making process. I never need a third draft.

Rocket Sheep, the ending is entirely outlined. I have even written large portions of the final chapters, so that I know exactly how it ends and even who says what to whom.

Edited to add: I suppose that my question is this: is it uunheard of/unacceptable for an unpublished writer to begin to look for an agent for a novel before the manuscript is 101% ready to print?

March 27th, 2006, 04:23 PM
This could be due to the times but Salvatore had his first rights sold before he even started - so it couldn't be that weird (although i wouldn't try this approach).

Also, Eddings sent his basic stuff, his very large outline, written like a story and it worked so well that his new agent kept saying: this won't work, but kept reading on and when he finished it he asked eddings when he was going to be finished the actual MS.

These wouldn't really be accepted nowadays, however i think it answers your question about whether it is weird/unheard of or not.

How long have you been working on the MS for? Because that can be the deciding factor on whether you should send it on or not. Personally i agree with what has been said about giving another month while you shop, and then looking at it again because of doing this, you will be sure that you have churned out a really good piece of work before you send it, you don't want to send it away and 3 months later realise (after looking at your work again) that you could have sent out a better representation of your long efforts. OR THAT YOU MISSED SOMETHING/CAME UP WITH SOMETHING YOU FEEL WOULD BE MONUMENTALLY BRILLIANT.

(this type of thing happens to me when i submit video work and it really sucks to high heavens, so do think it over, everyone here would prefer that you are really happy with what you do, rather than somewhat happy or unhappy).

Good Luck

Rocket Sheep
March 27th, 2006, 06:20 PM
Yes, for beginning writers there is always the element of bridge-burning to consider when you haven't perfected your craft.

You submit your work in order from your favourite publisher of your ms's genre to your least favourite so if your work is actually only at the level of a WIP when you submit it to your favourite publisher and they reject it then they're not going to want to see it again for a long long time... or as long as it takes for editors to change positions (that's why you keep tabs on them).

A year down the track you could have a much more professional ms to present and could interest your favourite publisher.

March 28th, 2006, 01:10 AM
A year down the track you could have a much more professional ms to present and could interest your favourite publisher.

I would second that. In fact, done it! And even then you need to develop a thick skin to survive the rejections.