How long is too long before sending out a partial or full?

Submission protocol, query etiquette, and strategies that work
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Dixon Ticonderoga
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Re: How long is too long before sending out a partial or full?

Post by Dixon Ticonderoga » May 12th, 2010, 5:34 pm

brando wrote:All great information. What about this, though: you send your query via email and within the hour you get a request for a full. Your ms. is ready, more or less, but could use, as always, some tweaking. IE, you are not ready to just send it out within seconds of receiving request. You'd like, in fact, to take a day or two. Question is: do you write back to agent to say thanks, that you'll have it to them in that time frame etc?
This is the same basic question that caused me to start this thread. Mr. Bransford was kind enough to weigh in on it.
The answer is: don't worry about taking a few days to make another pass, and don't email them about it. Just send it off when it's ready.

On my first request for a full, I spent ten days making a final pass over the entire work. During that time, a request for a 75-page partial came in. They both got the benefit of the edit.

Last Friday, I got a second request for a full the same day the agent got my query (snail-mail). I sent that one off Monday morning (via e-mail), after I had gotten a chance (on Sunday), to make a pass over just the first chapter. I'm really glad I did.

Requests for material are exciting, but don't panic. Keep a level head. Remember, agents are very busy people. They have more things to read than there is time to read them. When that agent finally gets a moment to pick up your MS, you want them reading your very best work. So, if you think you can improve the work, take the time and do it.
"From the moment I picked up your book until I laid it down, I was convulsed with laughter. Someday I intend reading it." —Groucho Marx

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Re: How long is too long before sending out a partial or full?

Post by BlancheKing » May 13th, 2010, 12:43 am

Dixon Ticonderoga wrote:
Question: The parts that you're rewriting—do they feel wrong when you finish editing them? Or do they start to look wrong only after subsequent readings. If the later is the case, you might need to set your MS aside for five or six months and then go back and edit the entire piece. I felt no frustration with my novel after I finished the edit. Narratively, it's a gem, and the prose is plenty serviceable to the narrative. I gave myself six months between draft and edit. It was very beneficial, and is one of the few perks that come from writing without a contract!
When I first re-wrote my first chapter (this was after having finished editing), it was as a result of feedback from an agent and editor at the SCBWI winter conference in NYC. The agent (from my first session) wanted me to lop off the first two pages. The editor (in my second session) didn't get to see the first two pages, because I ran up to my room and edited them out, then printed new copies in the business office of the hotel. I did this because I didn't want the same feedback from the editor. I wanted new feedback. Verdict: still not happening fast enough. There were some minor problems caused by lopping off the first two pages, but it was worth it for the new feedback from the editor. After I got home I took the time needed to rewrite it properly. But I didn't think it was better. After a couple months into the querying, I had an idea of how to fix it. Now I love it again, and it's much faster. I feel no reason to revisit the work until an agent or editor gives me feedback. And like I've already said in this thread: there is nothing I can't rewrite better—even my very best work.
I think the word I'm looking for is "strong". Reading through it, I find myself constantly asking if my peers would also appreciate "such-and-such" sections, at least enough to buy their own copy instead of borrowing from the library. The rewrites were mostly to replace humor with action, or logic with better logic, or anything that would lead to more questions about the plot. (it's a mystery... sort of). Aim to make the weak parts some of the stronger parts. I believe that constant feedback and revision is necessary, as waiting for an agent to point out a mistake is a long and inefficient process.
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Re: How long is too long before sending out a partial or full?

Post by Dixon Ticonderoga » May 13th, 2010, 7:52 am

Ah! In that case, stop writing for others. Just write for yourself. Never try to please a group—it's a futile game (like herding cats). You'll know when you've written something you like, and that will afford you the stopping point you've been looking for. Have confidence in your work. The correct question is: are there ENOUGH people who like your work? Not: why doesn't EVERYBODY like my work?

I hate licorice, but that doesn't mean I think licorice should be banded to the world (meh). To say it in another way: I don't get any pleasure from reading historical romance novels, but I'm glad they are out in the world—they have their place.
"From the moment I picked up your book until I laid it down, I was convulsed with laughter. Someday I intend reading it." —Groucho Marx

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Re: How long is too long before sending out a partial or full?

Post by BlancheKing » May 13th, 2010, 8:46 am

That's not the point...

Maybe I should have phrased it differently: there is no such thing as good enough; improvement is a constant process. The fact that we, as the writer, likes it is already a given, but we're not the only ones buying the book, are we? If we can't even hold our friends' attentions, what gives us the right to think we can interest complete strangers? While it's not "why doesn't everyone like the novel?", it certainly isn't "I love it and that's enough" either.

What I meant before was, living in a dorm with the oldest person being 24 (oh, the oldness D=), everyone shares books, opinions and junk food.(It's not funny how much time our floor spend reading and not studying.) There's nothing more annoying than a book X that a) wasn't very interesting, b) feels like another lecture, c) must have been written by someone very old/very sheltered because good lord, it's no longer the 1970's and cheerleaders do NOT randomly spill coke on nerds anymore. Trust that others have something important to contribute.
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Re: How long is too long before sending out a partial or full?

Post by Dixon Ticonderoga » May 13th, 2010, 9:43 am

BlancheKing wrote:Maybe I should have phrased it differently: there is no such thing as good enough; improvement is a constant process.
Oh! I see now, you're a perfectionist. Perfectionists can't be writers (so it is written), you are doomed.
BlancheKing wrote:there is no such thing as good enough
Bah! I say, Bah! Just because something can be improved doesn't mean it HAS to be improved. Your prose simply needs to be good enough to communicate your narrative. Now, if your narrative isn't up to snuff, then you have work to do. Can't help you there. You either have the narrative, or you don't. It's just that simple.

Every writer writes differently. T.C. Boyle never knows what's going to be on the next page. That works for him. Speaking for myself only, I never begin drafting until I'm excited about the narrative. And I mean I'm-about-to-spot-myself excited. I start with a few sentences for each chapter. I don't move forward until I'm jumping up and down about how good it is (it helps at this stage that I am—truly—quite simple). I like this process because it's easy, painless, and fast to experiment on when getting things right. Then I move to two paragraphs per chapter. Repeat. Finally, I write a two-page treatment for each chapter. By this point, I'm I'll be so excited about what I've written that I can no longer speak coherently about any part of it. When I begin the draft, I start by placing the two page treatment (I bold the treatment text) into my word processor. Above the treatment (not in bold), I then start the process of turning the treatment into the chapter, deleting sentences from the treatment as the chapter grows. By the time I delete the last sentence of the treatment, my chapter is finished. I then repeat process for all the chapters (which can take the better part of a year). During this time, I'm so excited and driven to get this task complete that NOTHING can stop me from working on it every day. After all the chapters are done, I put it aside for as long as I can afford, only then is it ready for the first edit.

Good luck. Lose the perfectionism.

Dixon Ticonderoga

P.S. I speak as an ex-perfectionist.
"From the moment I picked up your book until I laid it down, I was convulsed with laughter. Someday I intend reading it." —Groucho Marx

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Re: How long is too long before sending out a partial or full?

Post by BlancheKing » May 13th, 2010, 3:47 pm

Dixon Ticonderoga wrote: Oh! I see now, you're a perfectionist. Perfectionists can't be writers (so it is written), you are doomed.
Neither can the mediocre....
Dixon Ticonderoga wrote: Just because something can be improved doesn't mean it HAS to be improved.
You ARE kidding, right? Did you even read this out loud? Even the best of the best are constantly improving their craft, regardless of recognition. Tony Morrison, when interviewed, said that if she could she would change certain parts of BELOVED, and that thing won the nobel peace prize for lit. Whatever happened to achievement before entitlement?
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Re: How long is too long before sending out a partial or full?

Post by Dixon Ticonderoga » May 13th, 2010, 5:38 pm

BlancheKing wrote:You ARE kidding, right?
Absolutely not.
BlancheKing wrote:Did you even read this out loud?
No.
BlancheKing wrote:Tony Morrison, when interviewed, said that if she could she would change certain parts of BELOVED, and that thing won the nobel peace prize for lit.
That's exactly my point. She let it go. She stopped improving it. She sent it out. That's the difference between a writer and a perfectionist. If Toni Morrison was a perfectionist, she would still be working on BELOVED. And we would be all the poorer for it.

Peace,

Dixon Ticonderoga
"From the moment I picked up your book until I laid it down, I was convulsed with laughter. Someday I intend reading it." —Groucho Marx

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Re: How long is too long before sending out a partial or full?

Post by BlancheKing » May 14th, 2010, 8:14 am

Again monsieur, the point is not "to let it go". It is that if the author of something of NPP quality feels that change is still necessary, it certainly isn't beneath an unpublished author to do a bit more editing, no? Certainly, I hear publishers usually demand it. But to address your point: she is published; we are NOT. What little we have achieve in the query process and partial requests is too commonplace to have any sort of entitlement. But you will have to forgive my bluntness. Most people tend to be a bit cross after being called "doomed" by someone who isn't doing any better.

Regards,

B.
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Writing Process: http://blancheking.blogspot.com/

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Re: How long is too long before sending out a partial or full?

Post by Dixon Ticonderoga » May 14th, 2010, 9:31 am

BlancheKing wrote:Again monsieur, the point is not "to let it go". It is that if the author of something of NPP quality feels that change is still necessary, it certainly isn't beneath an unpublished author to do a bit more editing, no? Certainly, I hear publishers usually demand it. But to address your point: she is published; we are NOT. What little we have achieve in the query process and partial requests is too commonplace to have any sort of entitlement. But you will have to forgive my bluntness. Most people tend to be a bit cross after being called "doomed" by someone who isn't doing any better.

Regards,

B.
Sorry, I wasn't trying to doom you individually, just perfectionism in general. I think you have well articulated points. I've offended you. I apologize, that wasn't my intention.

As to entitlement and who should be allowed to offer suggestions or whatnot, I'll pass on something wise my father taught me: good advice comes from the most unexpected places, but only if you're listening for it.
BlancheKing wrote:But you will have to forgive my bluntness.
This is the very first thing you've said that I've any serious problem with. Commanding someone to forgive you is brow beating and mean spirited. No one appreciates being told who I have to forgive.

Best of luck to you,

Dixon Ticonderoga
"From the moment I picked up your book until I laid it down, I was convulsed with laughter. Someday I intend reading it." —Groucho Marx

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Re: How long is too long before sending out a partial or full?

Post by BlancheKing » May 15th, 2010, 12:07 am

Command was not my intention; colloquialism was. But if it offends you, I apologize.
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Re: How long is too long before sending out a partial or full?

Post by brando » May 18th, 2010, 4:32 pm

Ticonderoga, a word for you:

I think in all this haze, what's getting lost is this: if an agent requests a full via email, and you are not ready, as in in that moment, to send along the ms., what's getting lost is mere professionalism, ie, sending a note to say that you their request, are pumped, and WILL be sending. The impression you leave here is that you get a request and go radio silence for 10 days? That's nuts, bro. Sorry, but it is. Unless the note of ms. forthcoming is implied in your posts here? Doesn't seem to be. Snark indicates that yeah, she'd like a note back even to say it's coming. I think most would. It's a vicious vicious fiction market, has been and will be, so while a writer shouldn't have to grovel, she or he might have be as diplomatic as possible and jump.

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Re: How long is too long before sending out a partial or full?

Post by Dixon Ticonderoga » May 18th, 2010, 5:25 pm

brando wrote:Ticonderoga, a word for you:

I think in all this haze, what's getting lost is this: if an agent requests a full via email, and you are not ready, as in in that moment, to send along the ms., what's getting lost is mere professionalism, ie, sending a note to say that you their request, are pumped, and WILL be sending. The impression you leave here is that you get a request and go radio silence for 10 days? That's nuts, bro. Sorry, but it is. Unless the note of ms. forthcoming is implied in your posts here? Doesn't seem to be. Snark indicates that yeah, she'd like a note back even to say it's coming. I think most would. It's a vicious vicious fiction market, has been and will be, so while a writer shouldn't have to grovel, she or he might have be as diplomatic as possible and jump.
Radio silence? I respectfully disagree. The agent doesn't want to hear about my troubles—they want to read my MS. And a week or two is nothing to an agent who is waiting on something they've never seen. Now, if they had asked for a partial first? Maybe. If they had asked for revisions? I'd be sending out signal flares. But an agent who asks for a full after reading a one page query? Well, I really don't want to waste their time.

I say these things in the spirit of discussion,—not argument—and I hope you embrace them as such.

Sincerely,

Dixon Ticonderoga
"From the moment I picked up your book until I laid it down, I was convulsed with laughter. Someday I intend reading it." —Groucho Marx

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Re: How long is too long before sending out a partial or full?

Post by brando » May 18th, 2010, 5:40 pm

Okay. I hear you. Makes sense, I suppose. I think I felt you were missing the idea of crawling into agent's head, if even for a minute: climate is bad, I, agent, major league, ask for your book that you queried me about...you, writer, aren't going to send asap, so no note? I guess you're right. I'm not saying a note going on and on, but just to say hey, thank you, I'm grateful (for bro, we all should be) and that ms. will be along inside of a week. I know the agent's not sitting there thinking about you or me or that writer, very busy, sure. My thoughts were only to professionalism.

As for your feud with Blanche, my feeling is that these faceless things breed little in the way of true connection and I recommend you simply go back to the work and spend less time here.

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Re: How long is too long before sending out a partial or full?

Post by Dixon Ticonderoga » May 18th, 2010, 6:10 pm

Good words, Brando.

And you are so right about the difficulties in communication when dealing in a faceless medium. I had no intent, whatsoever, to antagonize Blanche. And had I been having a face to face conversation on the same subject with her, I would have had the clues to see how she felt. In response, I would have taken my conversation in a completely different direction. But Blanche strikes me as a smart, spirited person who completely understands all of this.
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Re: How long is too long before sending out a partial or full?

Post by brando » May 19th, 2010, 3:29 pm

And yo, Ticonderoga, here's something else for you:

Things to remember before querying:

For fiction and narrative non-fiction/memoir, your manuscript must be complete and polished before you begin querying.


That's from Colleen Lindsay's submissions page. It's one agent, sure, but it's direct. Complete, polished, BEFORE querying. I know what the author author thing says, but I think waiting too long is dangerous as we can't know all the particulars of every agent.

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