I have just signed with a well known commercial agency. The trouble is, the manuscript isn't finished yet. I met the agent at a writing convention, and pitched them the book. They asked me to send them the first three chapters as soon as possible. They offered me representation straight away and I signed the contract after sending them about 15,000 words (all I have so far). They were completely aware from the start that it is unfinished, but are really excited to see the rest.
My question is, do I spend as long as it takes to get the manuscript word-perfect or should I just finish it as quickly as possible and worry about any imperfections later?
I've read your blogs on 'timing' and am worried that if I take too long, the marketplace will have changed. I am generally a slow writer, and like to edit as I go along. The book is a supernatural fantasy/horror for 9-12 year olds by the way.
Congratulations are definitely in order. You must have a fantastic and unique idea and must have written 15,000 words that blew your agent away. As always when I receive a question from an agented author, I urge you to open discussions with your agent and talk with her not only about your concerns, but about her expectations. Every agent is different, and of course without knowing what your idea is it’s difficult for me to know how timely it really is. I also wonder if your agent expects you to finish the entire book or is hoping to sell on proposal. My guess is that most editors will want or need to see the finished product, but this is something only your agent will know.
All that being said, I will of course answer your question. First of all, slow writers drive me nuts, not because I have anything against them but because I’m impatient, and when I get excited about something I want it yesterday. You should see how much batter I eat when I’m craving chocolate cheesecake. That being said, waiting the hour for the cheesecake to cook and the eight hours for it to chill properly is like a little slice of heaven. The batter might have been good, but the finished product is so, so worth the wait. So is a great book. While I might get impatient with a slow writer, it’s so much better to give her the time she needs to create the perfect book than it is to rush her through and be disappointed in the end. Half-baked cheesecake misses the mark; so does a hastily written book, and I’ve definitely learned the art of patience.
Moving away from my craving for chocolate cheesecake, let me give it to you straight. Take the time to write the best book possible. Yes, there’s always the possibility that the market will change, but a poorly written book isn’t going to sell well (to publishers or readers) just because the market is looking for that. A really great book can actually create its own market.