Can I Query Before I Finish My Novel?

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Q: I'm currently writing my first novel and am about halfway finished, but I have completed an outline and synopsis. Can I start querying agents now?

A: Being a first-time novelist, it's important to finish your book before sending out any query letters. Without a track record, you have no proof that you can finish a novel. And the number of folks who finish writing novels is dramatically smaller than the number of folks who start them (I'm certainly guilty of having three unfinished novels taking up valuable space in my underwear drawer.)

Agents are inundated with submissions and they don't want to deal with unfinished work. From their perspective, it makes no sense to waste time getting excited about a story that may never get completed (or may not fulfill the promise made in a query letter).

So spend the next few weeks/months completing your book, including edits, rewrites, more edits and more rewrites. Do the same with your query letter. Make sure everything is in tip-top shape. Once you feel confident in your work—or as close to confident as any writer can be—it's finally time to slap a stamp on the envelope and drop the query in the mail (or send it via e-mail, depending on the agent's guidelines).

Brian A. Klems is the online managing editor of Writer’s Digest magazine.

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