I am currently at work on my second novel, a chick lit romp I can only pray will read as witty and fun as the work of Jennifer Weiner and Marian Keyes. I have no publishing credit in this genre, only a few random pieces of freelance travel writing.
Should I currently be more focused on getting short stories published so as to perk up my query letter for this novel? Should the travel pieces be mentioned at all, especially since they were written for obscure publications?
I'm just a bit disheartened at the moment as I just read an interview with a big-time agent who stated that most agents don't truly consider first time authors with no publishing credit. Woe is me! May I borrow your gin pail?
No. I need it, particularly first thing in the morning.
Finish your novel.
Then, as you let it sit and percolate (cause you DO NOT SEND IT OUT before you've let it sit and percolate) you can work on short stories. Then when you've done all ten drafts of the novel that you need to do (no, I'm not kidding), you query. Mention the travel pieces, even if they are obscure. If, by that time, you have sold stories, you can mention that too.
Voice is almost everything in chick lit. You can fix plot, heck Miss Snark can fix plot, but voice is critical piece and the only one who can do that is you. If an agent loves it, s/he's going to take it on. Previous publishing credits don't matter as much here as they do for say literary fiction.
And I'm not kidding about drafts. The biggest mistake writers make is sending their work out too soon. It's how you miss the stupid typos, it's how you miss the forest cause you have your nose up a tree...yadda yadda yadda.
And don't worry about big time agent blather. First, two of the very best agents for this genre are probably off your radar screen completely (Kristin Nelson and Paige Wheeler). There are 750 agents in this industry and most of us are looking HARD for good chick lit.
Write well. That's all. (and don't think I didn't see you try to steal that gin pail).