Thursday, 30 September 2010

Should you complete a manuscript before submitting?

Faye asked a question yesterday that I thought was definitely worthy of its own thread...


  1. Hi Faye,
    In answer to your previous question about whether you should continue writing Midnight, my own personal feeling is that you should definitely do it if you really feel the urge to tell the story. At the risk of sounding like Mystic Meg, that inner voice could be trying to tell you that this is a great idea - even if it's published further down the line. On the other hand, if you have a detailed enough plan and synopsis that illustrates you're on track with it, then maybe it's worth just sending in the first three chapters. I'm obviously not published, but it's my opinion that your confidence in your plot/characters/ability to write the story will shine through to an editor.

    I can well understand you wanting to get a positive response before spending the time putting the story together though... Any thoughts on this anyone?
    Best regs, Nadia

  2. Hi Nadia, thanks for offering some advice. I'm really torn it two; I'd like to carry on because I love the characters (and wouldn't mind spending some more time with Damien!) but equally I have written other novels and have been so disappointed when I couldn't find a publisher. I don't think any writing time is wasted, I learn with every sentence, but I don't want to waste time on a story that's not going to sell. But hey, that's what being a writer's all about, isn't it? taking the risk, telling the story because it burns inside you even though there's no promise of publication? I probably will carry on, but might send off the three chapters in the meantime. By the time I hear back I'll have probably finished the book!

  3. Hi Faye,
    I agree with everything you've said - it's a real dilemma... heart and head stuff...

  4. Hi,

    If I start a novel I am compelled to complete it because I've fallen in love with hero ( and if I haven't why am I writing his role) and, I adore the heroine (for better for worse - both charactrs). Neither character will be perfect that's for sure, and of course, I love torturing them with emotional mountains to climb and rivers of lust to control!

    Writing for profit is one thing, but if writing fiction fails to thrill and drive the pen why do it?

    I read a lot in all different genre, and on occasion have picked up a book, read it, and afterwards thought the author must have really struggled to get it finished because I couldn't feel vibrancy in the writing, the voice dull and uninteresting: the book was dead.

    I think if you love what you're doing, master the basics and learn from every experience in the field of writing/publishing, it will show in your work.


  5. I agree that every manuscript is going to be a learning curve – and will therefore improve your writing, but depending on what sacrifices you're having to make in other areas of your life I can see why it would be tempting to dip a toe in first and make sure that a publisher is definitely interested.

  6. I understand the feeling of not wanting to go ahead with a story if you think that it is untimately unpublishable by the house you intend to send it to.

    But, now I am on the flipside of that: they're interested, they want to see the whole thing, and when I heard this I only had the first 10 pages done because I didn't want to keep writing if it was totally off the mark.

    Let me tell you, now I'm afraid that I won't get it done they will have forgotten me, that although I fully plotted the story before sending it in I won't be able to deliver and in the quality required. So! For me, that is both exhilirating and terrifying, but also a great deal more pressure.

    Would I change it? No, I didn't have a finished ms that was sub-worthy during that particular call for subs. I needed to know my voice was acceptable to Harlequin (I'm told I can be rather irreverent). I needed to know that my writing was not sub par. I needed validation that I was not completely off the mark to bolster my confidence enough to continue.

    But if I had completed this prior to submitting, I think I would be entirely less stressed about it now. And as I have recently come to understand: A great many authors start out in smaller publishing houses before they make the transition to Harlequin.

    So if you love the story you are writing, write it. If it won't work for Mills & Boon or Harlequin, who is to say it won't work for Carina? Or Samhain? Or Kensington... or the myriad other houses out there? And if it is not taken by any of them, you're still going to have learned from the endeavor and you'll be that much closer on your next story.

  7. Wow! Great advice - thanks so much for taking the time to share your own experience, Amalie. I wish you the very best of luck getting your MS finished and submitted!

  8. No problem! Of course, I don't know if anything will come of it, but that's part of the stress. I don't know what was worse: not knowing if I was publishable writing-wise, or now feeling like I have my foot in the door and I could royally screw up if I send them rubbish. *orangutan-arms*

    And thank you for the well wishing! I'm keeping all the luck borrowed from others though. Mine mine mine *grabby hands* :)

  9. I know the general opinion seems to be finish before subbing but I tend to sub the partial and then finish. I've had horrendous wait times and that's why I've gone ahead and started doing that.

    I do finish what I've started or try to because it's a good way of learning what needs to be there and what doesn't.

    I'm curious as to how people tackle a new project. Do you edit and polish as you go or do you just power through a rough draft and then go back and layer in emotion etc?

    I tend to keep polishing each chapter to death and then moving forward. With the chapter that I entered in NV I wrote it very quickly in a few days so no time to polish and the ending was rushed. I'm going to rework it and this time I'm also going to try and write the whole 50k without polishing and then go back and layer. Hopefully that way I won't be sick to death of it by the time I get to the end..

  10. Hi Christine,
    That certainly sounds like a good idea - if you've got a really strong grasp on where the plot is going. Have you ever found yourself wanting to deviate from the synopsis after you've already sent it in though? I'm wondering how this would go down with an interested party?

    Regarding the polishing: it varies for me. Sometimes I gloss through the description I want in a chapter so that I can keep the story going and not get sidetracked - but at other times I don't feel as though I can move forward until I've really polished a section. This normally happens with characterisation. Unless I'm happy with the transfer of a scene from my imagination to paper, I find myself having to go back over it until my characters echo those in my head as strongly.

  11. No not really. Mine usually suck anyway but the general storyline stays the same. I always have a strong sense of where my story is going so it's not a problem.
    I'm still trying to work out what is going to work best for me as far as writing goes. I was working with an editor in London but things didn't work out with her. I got R'd on a partial that had been with her almost 14 months which was very frustrating. I did get some constructive comments but it's back to the slush for me, which I'm actually quite happy about. I think that maybe if I hadn't been subbing directly to an editor I might have had a response a lot sooner.

  12. Fourteen months?!!!!!! Was this editor making suggestions for revisions and was then not happy with the way the story developed?

  13. No! I had received an R on a full and then invited to sub a partial. I did that and then received the R after 14 months. It was very frustrating to say the least. I felt like my manuscript had been held hostage.. Anyway I understand that the ed's are very busy but would much rather take my chances in the slush from now on.

  14. So sorry to hear you were let down like that. That must be a rare occurrence, surely... I really hope it's the exception rather than the rule. I don't think I could stand waiting that long - like you say, you would literally put everything else on hold while you waited for a response. Did you contact this ed in the meantime and ask what was happening? I'm not trying to interrogate you, I'm just really interested to know... :o)

  15. No I don't mind you asking at all. And I do want to to say that I'm not knocking the editor's at all. They have a tremendous workload so I'm grateful for all the feedback I've received.

    I've been thinking back over the time line and what happened was my full was rejected after a year with great feedback and I was invited to sub to a particular ed, which I did. Then about 11 months later I got another R with comments. Subbed to the same ed and then 14 months got the R again with comments. I had inquired a few times and was told that it hadn't been looked at. When I received the R and then told to sub to general submissions in future I was disappointed to say the least. But then I thought about it and realized that I obviously hadn't learned from my R's and maybe that particular editor just didn't like my writing.

    I've had a couple of years of being under a huge amount of stress which has affected my writing tremendously and this contest was my first work in ages. I'm back on the horse now and rearing to go..

    How about you what's your history so far if you don't mind my asking?

  16. Hi Christine,
    I'm new to this whole process, so was pretty shocked when I read your post about timelines. Patience isn’t one of my virtues, but I know it’s needed when it comes to submissions to agents or publishers. I’m sure having this ed’s comments will prove really useful - and I'm glad you're feeling ready to jump back in. :o)

    My own situation is that I’ve completed my first manuscript – it's 95,000 words - and commercial fiction (historical/mystery). I did send it off to four agents. Two of them never got back to me (although one stated that no response within three weeks was a no); one immediately rejected it on the basis of it being a paranormal story – which it isn’t, so I suspect they didn’t get past my cover letter; and the other sent me a note saying they were not interested in seeing anything at present – something that was not posted on their website. I have decided not to rush things, so have sent it out to a good writer friend to read for me before submitting it again. I’ve been spending my time polishing the MS and working on my cover letter and synopsis. It’s been really good practise, so I don’t feel as though I’ve been stalling – rather, taking a more considered approach to the whole thing.

    I have been slightly sidetracked by this competition, family visits and the little matter of my day job (I'm a features writer), so will get back to the submissions grindstone in a week's time. The NV comp was my first attempt at a romance – and I really enjoyed it. The chance to deal with some new characters and situations afforded me a welcome break from the ones I am used to. Daniel Karavelov is the product of a few years living in Bulgaria, so he’s a character that I feel I know very well. :o) I found the feedback immensely helpful – and was delighted by the positive response to my chapter. It’s given me a lot more confidence in my writing – which I don’t think I would have had otherwise. I really hope that people continue to visit this blog and share their experiences because I’m learning a lot from them.

    Nadia x

  17. You know Nadia, When I first subbed I didn't know I just wrote and subbed as was then went to Hawaii for two weeks. When I got back there was a letter from a senior ed waiting for me. It was an R of course but a very complimentary R with suggestions. So that wait as short. I think it just depends on editor workload on a particular day.

    I don't read historical/mystery but I really wish you well with it. I'd say you definitely have a talent for romance!! I do hope you continue with it. Did you have a particular line in mind that you're aiming for? I love Modern/Presents and would love to write for that line.

  18. Hi Christine, I just went by the NV guidelines - so this was for the Cherish line (warm and cosy in the comp) but I suppose it could easily be Contemporary romance too. I'm definitely going to finish this story - I'm finding it very enjoyable.

  19. A particular editor has stated in her submission guidelines to either submit a full manuscript or table of contents and three sample chapters. I've decided to send the full manuscript. Do I include a Table of Contents, anyway? The information is so vague. I prefer to send the whole story, hoping it will save time if she's interested. Thanks!

  20. Hi Amy,
    Sounds like this editor is trying to ensure the story is going somewhere. Not sure though – never come across a request for a 'table of contents' before! If there's an option to submit the full MS, then that's certainly what I would do – because that will give he/she a chance to read your story without interruption. In which case I'd just include a synopsis – I assume they want one of those?
    Good luck!