Face Off Friday: First Novel Querying

Abby Annis over at Evolution of My Neuroses had a post yesterday on whether or not she should put her "baby" (first novel) in a drawer for a while or send it out to the agent world. Some say that you should not query your first book until you've written a second.

(It's too soon if) It's your first novel. No matter how hard it is to hear and follow this advice, it's probably the best advice I'll ever offer: write a second novel before you query on the first one. You'll learn so much while writing that second novel that you'll go back and either revise or discard Novel #1. AND you won't have all the baggage from those damn form rejections to weigh you down --agent Janet Reid
Others argues that it's silly to do that, some first novels get published. You've done all that work, so go for it. So, I thought this would make a great debate for a Face Off Friday.
I have to say that in my case, I queried my first novel too soon. It was before I was blogging, before I had quality beta readers, before I knew what the heck I was doing. (Although, I thought I did.) I had two biggie agents request fulls, which were eventually met with rejections (albeit one was personalized and encouraging.) After I received these a few months after querying, I already knew that my book needed work. Since querying, I had learned so much. I now want to smack myself in the head that I jumped too soon on sending out those letters.
I've since dramatically revised and rewritten that YA book and the new version is still out with a two agencies, so I haven't given up hope. But I think it would have served me well to wait on anything until I finished my second, which I've now done.
But patience is my least favorite virtue and is often my downfall. So I understand when others want to do the same as I did. And perhaps they will have better luck than me. But here are some points to consider:
Querying Now vs. Later

In defense of immediate gratification...

  • You've worked really hard on your novel and the thought of not seeing what it could do out there is driving you crazy
  • Some first novels sell
  • You've revised the book ten ways til Sunday so it's not "technically" your first effort
  • Publishing follows trends and your vampire/fairy/angel/werewolf book may not be "in" if you wait too long
  • You can't focus on a second book unless you know if this one is going anywhere
  • Your family has been hearing about your writing this book, now they keep asking you about the results

For love of patience...

  • If you write a second, you will have learned so much more that you will look back and see the flaws in your first effort that you missed the first time
  • It's already too hard to keep up with trends since publishing is a slow process, so you have to take comfort in that if it's a great book, it will still be great in six months
  • You'll have time to detach yourself from the first book and have a more unbiased opinion later
  • You won't burn bridges with agents

Alright, so I'm picturing myself reading this a year ago. I would have read the points for patience and been like, yeah BUT BUT BUT... and figured out all the ways that this did not apply to me.

So, I know that some of you are probably doing the same thing. Therefore, I'll include a little checklist to look over if you want to query your first novel and know that you're not going to be able to wait until you finish a second.

If you can't wait, make sure...

  • You have read writing books, blogs, etc. on a regular basis.
  • Each important character has a clear internal Goal, Motivation, and Conflict and external GMC. And by clear, I mean you do not have to explain it to others who have read your book.
  • Your novel is high concept (if that's what you're going for) so you can boil the plot down to a sentence.
  • Your opening chapter hooks the reader and is not loaded down with backstory.
  • You are able to write a 1-2 page synopsis. If you can't, there may be a problem in the book (according to Janet Reid).
  • Your novel has been read by at least three beta readers/crit buddies who are NOT your personal friends or family members. You need people who are writers themselves, have knowledge of the craft, and aren't afraid to be honest.
  • Even if you're not writing a second novel yet, let the manuscript stew for at least a month to gain some distance from it.

Alright, so that's my take on it. The links I included are former posts on all these issues. Feel free to disagree as always.

So what's your opinion? Should you follow the path of patience or jump into the shark tank? For those of you who have more than one novel under your belt, how do you see your first novel now? And has anyone out there had success with first novel querying?

**Today's Theme Song**
"Patience" - Guns 'N Roses
(player in sidebar--go ahead, take a listen)