The biggest (and perhaps best) querying mistake I ever made

Today the lovelies at YA Highway are asking: What was the biggest writing/querying/publishing mistake you’ve made? And yes, I can totally answer this question.

You’ve heard that you shouldn’t query or enter contests or do any of that jazz until you have a completed, polished manuscript, right? Well … yeah. Last summer I was working on a complete rewrite of Four Stones at a glacial pace when I got word of an agent-judged pitch contest with an agent who was totally on my radar screen and someone whose tastes ran similar to my book. I figured, “What the hell? It’s not like I’ll win!” and tossed my hat into the ring, even though I only had about half of a first draft at the time. So naturally I got a partial request out of the contest.

I sent out the partial, and then over the course of the next ten days, worked psychotically hard to finish the draft. I went from having 45,000 words at the start to having 95,000 ten days later. I basically didn’t sleep (since I was still waking up in the middle of the night with an infant in those days) and operated on zombie-mode the entire time, but it was done.

The agent ultimately rejected me on my partial, which … duh. It was a first draft. But that didn’t matter. I now had a full draft that was ready for revisions. Had I not entered that contest and been forced to complete the draft, I honestly don’t know whether I would have finished the draft and started revisions in time for the January SCBWI conference, the one where I snagged my agent with my completed, polished second third fourth fifth I can’t even remember at this point draft.

So there you have it. I absolutely broke the rules of querying, but you won’t catch me beating myself up over it. Sometimes a little bending can be a good thing…

What about you? What writing/querying/publishing mistake have you made? Any bent rules?

Posted in RTW, Writing

12 Responses

  1. I did something similar to that. I queried while I was revising working on the assumption they’ll ask for a partial (which was ready) and I could continue to work on the back end. Not the smartest idea.

  2. Nothing like a deadline to light a fire under your butt!

  3. Kim says:

    Deadlines are the best muse!

  4. All part of growing up! Glad your mistake propelled you towards a happy ending!

  5. Taryn says:

    Sooo I may or may not have done the exact same thing. Multiple times. Once there was a contest at the end of March, the same day I started drafting a WIP, so I entered with the pitch line I had. Ten days later, I had 75K of a first draft, and a partial request. Siiiighhh. I’m definitely a premature query-er.

  6. Sarah says:

    That’s a great story! It does seem like a lot of mistakes have a twisted way of turning out for the better, and this is a great example. And WOW writing that much in 10 days, that’s incredible!!

  7. Wonderful result! It just goes to show, there’s an exception to every “rule”.

  8. Glad it worked out for you! A few meetings ago, one of our crit partners showed up in a panic because she’d done something similar. When you know it will take a certain amount of time to respond, it’s so tempting to think, “I could be using that time to revise! Aren’t I the clever multitasker!”

  9. Rachael says:

    I’ve been tempted to do this multiple times. Unfortunately, I also have a problem where I query when I THINK I’m ready, but I’m really not. So I’m trying to avoid the temptation of querying as a form of motivation.

  10. Wow, talk about lucking out. Well, luck and plenty of sleepless nights. You must have been really dedicated to write that much in ten days!!

  11. Kate Hart says:

    Sometimes you do need that kick in the pants. Maybe enter another one to finish revisions? 😀

  12. Trisha says:

    Great story, and I agree that your mistake turned out to be a good idea in the end!

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