It's easy to say no thank you to a below-par query, partial or manuscript. The tough part is the "almost theres." I'm talking about the pieces that have great plot lines, or fabulous dialogue or believable, rich characters. Problem is, these "almost theres" don't have all those things. And, sadly, editors won't pay attention until the project is near perfect. Therefore, we can't pay attention either.
Last year, when I was much wetter behind the ears : }, I accepted far too many of these. And, after trying to interest multiple editors in these not-quite-perfect projects, I'm sadder but wiser. It's kind of like love. You fall in love with a man because he's handsome, courteous, funny and nice to your mother. You try not to see that he seldom tips waiters, hates dogs, never helps you do the dishes, and criticizes your friends and your wardrobe. If the warning bells don't go off at some point, you are going to be sorry. Cute goes only so far. Courtesy can be phony. Funny is easy and your mom likes everyone. Bail out now!
I keep reminding myself of this analogy every time I begin to fall in love with a flawed project.
If it's lacking one of the vital components necessary to a fabulous read, I have to say no. It hurts, but I have to say no. What really kills me is that I often run these by Jon, just to be sure. He's much tougher than I am, and I've learned to listen to him.
I fell in love with a query last week, read the partial on Saturday and, sadly, realized it was an "almost there." Sigh.
So, what's an author to do? My suggestions are to read fabulous books in your spare time. Go back and read your book. You'll find many ways you can improve. So improve, already. Rewrite. Hire an editor. Start over. But don't send anything to an agent until you are sure you are THERE, not "almost there."
Better instincts - "Go with your gut," is occasionally good advice. More often, though, it's an invitation to indulge in your fear or to avoid the hard work of understanding ...
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