To Finish or Not To Finish?

Here's my question: Once I get that proposal package on my agent's desk, do I finish the novel? Or do I move on while she tries to sell that project, and write another proposal for the next novel I want to write? I mean, I've got ideas, no problem. I just don't want to waste my time writing books she can't place. Nor do I want to become a "proposal writer," either.

Finish the novel.
Frst, if she gets an editor on the hook, you darn well better have a novel to send or you're toast.

Second, you'll only learn how to write by writing and/or you only improve by actually writing. Finishing a novel has its own particular set of problems, and the only way to master them is to actually finish. You need to finish the novel for your own professional development if nothing else.

Third, you can't ever look on doing your writing as "wasting time". Even if a book doesn't sell, it's not wasted time if you learned how to be a better writer. It's not the most productive time maybe, but it's NOT wasted. Writing is not an efficiency art. You're not Henry Ford and your book isn't coming off an assembly line. Some of the best work you do will be after "wasting time" staring into space thinking of how that body got in the armoir when the door was nailed shut.


Anonymous said...

Finishing a novel has it's own particular set of problems

No. Finishing a novel has its own particular set of problems

Anonymous said...

That rang the bell with me. Always be working on a book while trolling for a sale! Always have the book ready to send out if and when an editor asks for it!

My first signing was in 1990 at an SF convention where I shared the table with a Big Name Writer, who had made his bones on a popular 3-book series in the 70's. He had tons of fans waiting in line, but during a pause asked how I'd gotten my lonely first paperback sold.

"I wrote it, sent out sample chapters, etc. and after 2 years it sold. During that time I finished 2 more books and started the 4th in the series." I was proud of my industriousness.

He stared at me like I was the most clueless person born and asked WHY I had wasted my time working on a 2nd book when the 1st hadn't yet sold. (Hardly a waste!)

Big Name or not I stared back with equal disdain and disbelief. "Because I couldn't just sit on my hands. I HAVE to write. I couldn't NOT write it. The writing process made me a BETTER writer." I thought he'd understand that, but was wrong. He turned away and pretended I wasn't there for the remaining hour. (My thought balloon for the moment would have read "Big Name Jerk.")

Well, he floated on those three novels and a day job until THIS year. I noticed today that he's got a new novel out (his 5th in a 29 year career, while I'm finishing my 23rd book in 16. His generation of fans is a lot older now and might not be lining up to buy the way they used to, while my sales are steady enough to support me.

That 23rd novel I'm finishing is on spec. I will have a complete MS and an outline for my agent to send around. And even as my printer kicks out the hard copy I WILL be working on book 24, whether it sells or not.

Yasmine Galenorn said...

I have seven novels hiding in the closet that I wrote before I got my first book contract. Waste of time? Thirteen books on the shelf later (none of which are one of those seven), I will tell you that I did not waste my time. They were practice, much like the rehearsal time a violinist puts into learning his art before he actually gets a position with a symphony. You don't just 'become a writer' by getting a contract. You write...write...and write some more, and eventually, if you're talented, persistent, and a little tiny bit lucky, you publish.

Janet said...

"Writing is not an efficiency art," Miss Snark said.

Classic. May I quote you? I can see it coming in very handy someday :)

boopsievixon said...

Maybe this person was cut for introducing Hollywood screenplays rather than actually writing anything book worthy, since after all, h/she said that, "I just don't want to waste my time writing books,". Geez, go back to school, will ya?

Miss Snark said...

Miss Snark adores being quoted.

Anonymous said...

Cynthia writes:

Amen, Miss Snark! I can never understand how proposal/contest addicts think they're going to get published. Those I know seem to always get caught flatfooted when they get a request for the full.

Same goes for those who edit constantly and never get anything submitted because they never finish the book.

I've never yet seen a book on the shelf with a perfectly written first three chapters ... and blank pages for the rest.

Anonymous said...

Wow, shows how out of touch I am. I thought that 'proposals' were strictly for non-fiction these days.