Monday, November 30, 2009

The Nerve to Submit

A while back, Tina Lynn asked for a post on getting up the nerve to submit your query to agents or editors. I think the request was a bit tongue in cheek, but it’s a good topic. I’ll deal with two thoughts on the matter: 1] how do you know when it’s time to submit, and 2] having the confidence to do so.

Knowing when it’s time
There are many different answers to this. Some say you’re finished when the edits you make no longer make any difference in the readability. Some say you’re finished when you are sick of the thing. I say you need to be carefully attuned to your instincts on this one. Can you honestly say that there isn’t a single area of the manuscript that couldn’t need more work? Does everything click for you? If it doesn’t, but you can’t put your finger on it, then you probably need to either step away from the manuscript for a time and work on something else, or have new people read it for fresh feedback.

Some people say writers are never really finished—Nathan Bransford did a post with a lot of feedback in the comments on this.

I think that if you have any doubts whatsoever about your manuscript, it is not time to submit. And of course, you must have a solid query and synopsis at the ready before you start submitting. And a list of well-researched agents. It’s hard work, isn’t it?

Having the confidence to submit
This is a toughie and again there’s no real right answer to this. You’re going to face a LOT of rejection in the submittal process and a large portion is going to hurt. It’s like willingly walking into an angry hornet’s nest and twirling around so they get even more pissed off and sting you en masse. Some won’t sting you, but most will. One or two might land on your shoulder and sit a time with you, but in the end you’re going to come out it with hideous red welts that leave scars and sometimes, in the case of the particularly angry wasps, a lasting ache. The key is developing a plan ahead of time and making sure you’re prepared. Like, did you bring Novocaine or shots of morphine to numb the pain? The correlation of that for writers is to have alcohol or chocolate or a good support system or whatever on hand, and work on other things while submitting. All of those take the intensity out of the stings.

But the single most important thing to know about having the confidence to submit is that if you don’t submit, you’ll never get anywhere.

Thoughts? Comments? Suggestions of items to take away the pain?


Travener said...

It was easy enough for me to work up the initial confidence to submit. Continuing to do so in the face of a blizzard of rejections is what's hard. I'm sick of researching agents. Blah. Sick of sending stuff off into cyberspace and getting no response. Blah. Sick and tired of being sick and tired. Blah blah blah.

Not that I mean to discourage our dear friend Tina Lynn.

Sierra Godfrey said...

But, Travener, you'll never get an agent if you don't keep on keeping on. It does take an enormous amount of time to keep up in, as you say, the blizzard of rejections.

Have you stopped to assess your query letter to make sure it's the right kind?

Tina Lynn said...

Awesome post. And I always like your links to Nathan. I think you might have a thing for him, Sierra. That's okay. I do, too. Anyway, I am feeling really discouraged. I think I might fling myself off the Golden Gate Bridge.

Sierra Godfrey said...

No I do NOT, Tina! In fact I rarely link to his blog, it's just that he seems to be blessed with uncommon savvy and wisdom, and has always blogged about relevant topics.

And no bridge flinging, either.

coffeelvnmom said...

I found this blog post inspiring, Sierra, and thought I'd share -

Travener said...

I've tweaked and poked and prodded and jostled my query letter a million times. It's as good as it's gonna get. I'm just in a down moment. It's not all about writing.

Roni @ FictionGroupie said...

After jumping into querying too early, I really do think it's wise to wait until you finish your second book before you query the first. I know it's a controversial stance, but I can tell you I thought my first one was totally ready to go. Then I learned SO much more with my second novel that I look back on the first and groan. I wasted my chance (because I got a number of full and partial request on my query) with many agents because they read something that wasn't really ready.

If someone can't wait that long, then my back up suggestion is to not query until your book has been through honest to goodness beta readers or crit group members who are WRITERS not just readers or friends/family members--people that will not pull any punches.

Dawn Simon said...

I like your blog AND I think this is an awesome post!

I think it's important to trickle queries because even if you don't have doubts about your manuscript now, you may later; better to only have so many queries out at once in case you decide your manuscript needs surgery. I fully believed my ms was ready and I queried a few agents. I realized about six weeks later that I could make it better. I'm sooo glad I only had a few queries out. I've rewritten it, and I plan to start querying again in January(ish). Cross fingers!

Tabitha Bird said...

Great post. I just started up a comp to celebrate getting work out there- as you know :) Thanks for the visit to my blog.

Sierra Godfrey said...

Thanks guys!! I appreciate the support so much!

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