Q: I have the first five chapters of a novel written, and I think they’re reasonably good. It would be nice, however, to know if I even have a chance at getting the book published once it’s completed. Is there anyplace I can submit what I’ve written to have it looked over, or should I go ahead and find an agent?—Anonymous
A: Hold off on looking for an agent just yet. Many people begin writing a manuscript and, after they’re a few chapters into it, get excited about what they’ve written so far and feel overjoyed about the healthy direction of the plot. But the challenge of writing a manuscript doesn’t fall in the first 10,000 words, where ideas are easier to find than a Starbucks. The challenge resides in the middle and end of the book. That’s the tough part. That’s where you prove you haven’t lost focus or the excitement you developed in the first five chapters. Dedication is what can separate you from the rest, so finish the manuscript and prove you have something of quality. Then an agent is more likely to listen.
If you want expert advice on the prose you’ve already compiled, you can find critique services on the Internet and listed in the classified ads of your favorite writing resources (I'm sure that plug will garner some "thank yous" from our ad folks). But carefully research the services and people you’re considering—check credentials and references to make sure they’re legitimate. And make sure you know what you're getting for your money. You don't want to have unrealistic expectations, but you also don't you want to set the bar too low. The more information you have going in, the more likely you are to be satisfied with the results.
Also, if you're looking for some immediate feedback, you can hop over to the Writer's Digest Forum and post under the Critique Central section (you can view the Critique Guidelines here). You must be a registered member to post (registration is free).
Brian A. Klems is the online managing editor of Writer’s Digest magazine.
Have a question for me? Feel free to post it in the comments section below or e-mail me at WritersDig@fwpubs.com with “Q&Q” in the subject line. Come back each Friday as I try to give you more insight into the writing life.