8.12.2005

Partials will break your heart


Okay, since you're answering, how horrid is it to send a query on a partially written novel? (ducking and running) Honest, I know two authors who landed agents on partials, and it makes it darn hard to think you always have to play by the rules. Truth: if you found a new author with a few chapters of stellar writing and a well-defined synop of the rest, would you really care that it's not finished? Really? Honest?


Short answer: yes I would care

Middle answer: I'd like to have a definition of "landed an agent" and actually see the contract before I totally believe this. Express interest sure. "Send more, we love this" absolutely. But a contract? Braver agents than I!

Longer answer: It's hard to finish a novel well. This is not news to you I bet. It's not news to Miss Snark either. It's heartbreaking to get through 300 pages of a wonderful well written novel and then have it fall apart at then end.

That happens more often than I care to think about.

Just this past week I read a wonderful novel with a great heroine and an interesting setting and a good story. Complex characters. Nice sub plot, good twists. At page 300 it was like the author was abducted by aliens. Splat.

If I'd sold that novel on a partial, the editor would be reading the splat first, not me. And trying to fix it. And not being happy. And remembering this the NEXT time I come to her with a "wonderful novel with a great heroine and an interesting setting and a good story. Complex characters. Nice sub plot, good twists."

No thanks.

In addition-I don't want to clog my roster with partials, half dones and hope to bes. I want to sell work. This is cause I like to buy gin rather than wait for it to be donated to the local Food Pantry. There are many many fewer editors who will buy on partials and an outline than will buy a completed draft. Miss Snark likes to have the best odds possible when taking a manuscript out for a stroll.

So, no. Send your partials to your DDS. Send your completed works to the SSD (Snarkily Selective Diva).

14 comments:

frankie said...

Okay, now that you brought the dentist thing up, I'm grossed out and will have to refer to it as something else. A Half-Complete, maybe.

Actually, I didn't mean trying to sell on a you know what, I meant just expressing interest on one. My poor writer-ego is so fragile, see...

Here's the deal: if I sent an HC and an agent said "Hey, I love it, send more when it's done!" I would nearly die with happiness and would write to the wee wee hours (wee wee, ugh). That's really what I meant: would agents hate me forever more if I sent something HC just to get that teeny bit of encouragement to keep going?

Okaaay, at this point MS is likely wondering why I don't give it up already and let the subject drop. Here's why: there is so little ability, out here in non-212-land, to tell if you have what it takes. Well, hey, of course *I* think my writing is good, like duh, who doesn't. But is it good enough for MS (or almost-equivalent)? Help! Someone tell me! Because why oh why do I want to write to the um, single wee hours, risking alienating poor lonely hub, who lies in bed staring at ceiling and going, "She's on the freaking computer afreakinggain," if I'm not? See? One divorce is enough, don't need a second one. And that is why writers like me beg for chances to send HCs. It's really to save our marriages. Honest. But seriously, my rant notwithstanding, sounds like you (and almost-equivs) would be annoyed by submission of an HC, even a well-written one. Damn damn damn. Almost enough to make a girl turn to non-fiction. Or the day job. Ah well. Such is life in writerville, I guess.

frankie said...

Aack, clarify: Who doesn't think THEIR OWN writing is good, not who deosn't think MINE is good. (now ruby-faced, jeez)

Miss Snark said...

You need a writers group.

When I ask for "the rest" after reading a query, I keep track of who has sent stuff and who hasn't. If a writer hasn't gotten back to me in some sort of timely fashion after I write to them, I delete them from the database and throw away the query letter. I figure they: 1. died; 2. signed elsewhere; or, 3. ran off to Argentina with George Clooney. All of those of course mean I am not going to sign you.

So, if you query with a "HC" and you take a year to finish, it's just like you don't exist when you send it again. In fact, if you send a finished ms and you AREN’T on the list of people we're expecting, it's not even read.

For love, understanding, support and encouragement you need something OTHER than Miss Snark's pointy little claw.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm. Now, see, I see it differently. Let's say you send the partial in, an agent actually accepts it! Miraculous. Now you're there, a first author, with three chapters and a synopsis of a book that could change entirely in the course of writing the rest of it. Probably will change entirely in the course of writing the rest of it. Assuming you CAN write the rest of it. While knowing someone wants it might feel like it'd be a motivation, there's also the fact that -- well, "hey, no pressure, you've just got a deadline and your entire career future staring you in the face!" as a motivation for a novel would scare the crap out of me, personally. (Which leads to the topic of the second book slump, but that's a bridge to burn when one comes to it.)

And then, too, you may be starving the novel of the best parts of itself by not getting far enough to go into the rewriting process. Every writer is different, but there are a lot of people out there for whom the rewriting is the important part, the part where the non-elephant shaped bits of the novel are cut away and the true shape of the novel comes out. Or where the bones of the elephant are polished, and the writer adds in the muscle and viscera and skin. (Okay, so novels aren't shaped like elephants, but the idea's, er, similar. Only more ew.)

(Of course, this is all why I as a writing sort of a beastie would be made nervous by sending or selling a partial, and is entirely independent of the excellent advice of MS in the post. This is me saying "Even if you could, why would you want to?")

That being said... the conventional "Wouldn't you rather submit a final draft and put your best foot forward?" argument is true but unhelpful. So: is there anyone nearby who you could join for a crit group to start getting advice and encouragement? There also are a number of strong online groups out there you could join. (Some of my best crit buddies are people I met online.) Critique isn't always positive, of course, but it might get you to the point where you believe in yourself enough to keep going. If you need encouragement, there are other, better places where you can look.

frankie said...

Ah, yes. Claws and elephants make good points.

Anonymous said...

frankie,
On writer's groups, as Miss Snark suggested, avoid those that want to make you their chew toy, and also those who talk about being "a writ-TAH" as some acute blogger on some blog I read said once.

kitty said...

there is so little ability, out here in non-212-land, to tell if you have what it takes

I can relate to that. I live in upstate NY but send my scripts to a writer in Wyoming because he will readily (and almost gleefully) tell me if it's "horseshit" or not. I have one supportive writer friend nearby (who does make her living writing), but I think she shies away from being blunt as she wants to encourage me.

Miss Snark said...

Well someone in Wyoming is much more equipped to recognize horseshit since much of Wyoming is covered in it.

(and for those of you who don't recognize a joke when you see it...go read someone else's blog).

There's some sort of wild ass artist enclave in Jackson Hole. I forget the details but its run by an ex-NYer and I hear about it periodically...usually with sighs of envy.

kitty said...

"MeanJeans" loathes the Hole. He lives far, far away in a one-horse hitchin' post.

W. S. Cross said...

Publishing thrives on the Broadway version of Lana Turner being discovered in the drugstore on Hollywood Blvd. We want to think that "cream rises to the top," and that having a mentor in your MFA program is no more important than having a famous father or mother in the film business, or that you don't need to toil in obscurity while working towards that "big break."

I don't blame agents for not wanting partials or passing on books that can't be quickly slotted and sold. You don't get paid until the sale's made, so why wait a year peddling a mss. when you could just as easily sell three from known writers or with subject matters that editors you already know will buy?

For that matter, who but an idiot would represent fiction at all, unless it was some name writer or with a pedigree that's sure to sell?

Miss Snark said...

Glossing over the fact that you just called me an idiot, Mr Cross ... some of us kinda like the stuff. If we wanted a business with fungible product and no risk, we'd work at the DMV.

Anonymous said...

Three hundred pages of great, wonderful writing, but you didn't like the ending?
Wouldn't that sub deserve a little more than a "Not right for us?" Perhaps a suggestion to work on the ending?

Miss Snark said...

If I read the entire ms, I usually offer more than "not right for me" in the rejection letter. Unless I'm well and truly pissed off I'll tell them where the problem points are. However there are some manuscripts in the "what the F were you thinking when you asked for this" category that still get the more general "no thanks".

The trouble with comments is people write back and tell you you're full of shit or you're a moron (which begs the question of why they were querying in the first place). Some of those FOAD responses are intense and angry enough to scare me, so I've stopped offering them on any but full manuscripts.

Amie Stuart said...

A good crit partner is almost as tough to find as a good agent (or a good man LOL). Kitty mine are in Canada (x2) and Ohio. I'm in Texas.....