10.15.2006

What's the point of a partial?

Dear Miss Snark,

I am beginning the wonderful querying process and was just curious: what is the point of asking for a partial after the query letter? Other than saving all the trees that is. If an agent liked a query letter and wanted to read more, wouldn't it save time on both ends to just ask for the whole manuscript at once? She could stop reading a lousy whole manuscript just as quickly as a partial.


It's easier to ask for a partial than a full. When I ask for a full I intend to read all of it. I'm MUCH more willing to ask for partials than fulls cause I know I've only committed to reading 50 pages.

This holds true even for electronic stuff. In fact, I've found I'm much more willing to ask for partials now that they all come electronically and I don't have to deal with paper stacked up all over the place.

Then there's just the physical dimension: space is at a premium here and even if I stop reading on page 25, all 400 pages would be here, taking up space and breeding dust. I know I'll read 50 partials for every full I ask for and dealing with 49 full manscripts is just an ugly ugly thought.

11 comments:

Waylander said...

On another writers board that I frequent, a writer was having a tantrum about an agent who did precisely this - requested the full in response to a query. He then returned it having read only a few pages. The writer was greatly annoyed at the expense of printing and posting the full, and wondered why the agent didn't request the partial.

Dave Kuzminski said...

There are other advantages that come with electronic partials. The size of the text can always be changed along with the font. If something is of interest, it's easy to use the insert key and place a note for yourself in a different color so you can find it later. That might be useful later if representation is granted in finding good and bad parts to extend, fix, or remove.

Alternately, it could be used to guide the author if the partial is rejected though I would personally shy away from that since it could convey the wrong idea that if that one problem is fixed that representation would be forthcoming.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

... not to mention that fulls often weigh over a pound, thus necessitating a trip to the post office. Get ten fulls to mail on any given day and you've got over ten pounds to lug around.

Great for the biceps, lousy for the temperament.

Manic Mom said...

And the cost. If you send a partial, you're only out a few bucks. Send the whole thing and it'll cost you to print it all out (which can be $20+) and then to mail it around $10. (Just using the average on when I send mine out. Thank goodness I have a friend who works for Sharp and gets me free copies!)

Linda Adams said...

Not to mention that a partial will expose common writing problems that might not be evident in the query letter. In the last three manuscripts I've critiqued, the first fifty pages were info dump. The story got started after page 50.

Dave said...

I'd rather mail a partial than a full print. It saves paper. Save a tree or two, too.

As for info dumps, remember Umberto Eco did 100 pages of info dump in "The Name of the Rose."

However, let me make a statement to authors that second and subsequent chapters should begin like a first chapter. Each chapter should engage the reader just like the first chapter.

Michele said...

"In the last three manuscripts I've critiqued, the first fifty pages were info dump. The story got started after page 50."

But was it a good story? In rare cases, where the story is a winner, it might be wise to see the full. Then you could tell them "Find a way to whack off the first 50 pages and we'll talk."

Spose it all depends on the story really, dunnit?

Simon Haynes said...

"On another writers board that I frequent, a writer was having a tantrum about an agent who did precisely this - requested the full in response to a query."

To paraphrase the old saying: You can please some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time, but you can never please writers.

Diana Peterfreund said...

But was it a good story? In rare cases, where the story is a winner, it might be wise to see the full. Then you could tell them "Find a way to whack off the first 50 pages and we'll talk."

This problem is far more common than you think. I've judged 60 page writing contests where a large percentage of the time, the story after page 50 bore little relation to what had gone before. If the person doesn't get past the partial stage, perhaps it's because their story isn't ready for representation. If an agent sees something there, they might request more, but it isn't their job to whip the story into shape...

Maya said...

Many of the writers I know identify themselves as either "plotters" or "pantsers," meaning they either plot their novel out ahead of actually writing, or they write "by the seat of their pants." In my experience, front-loading a manuscript with backstory is more of a problem for the pantsers. It's their way of settling in to actually writing the story.

As a confirmed pantser myself, I don't fight it. I start out writing the backstory. Then, when I'm actually into the action, I lop off the backstory, create a new computer file, and move that backstory into it so that it's available for reference.

That way, I've satisfied my backstory urge, but insure that my manuscript starts on a moment of action.

*Shrug* It works for me.

--E said...

I do what Maya does.

If a writer is sending out a book wherein the story doesn't get rolling until after page 50, the writer needs new beta readers.