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Submitting My Novel: How I Finished the Last 10 Per Cent


I finished the last 10 per cent! My middle grade novel is now in the hands of agents.

Fun fact: The novel I talk about in this post was originally a NaNoWriMo manuscript! My very first, written in 2003.

How did I get it done? It wasn’t the tidy step-by-step process that I imagined when I wrote that post at the beginning of September. I spent a few morning writing sessions on editing but I felt like I had LOTS of time to meet the end-of-month deadline, so I set the novel aside to do posts for Location Independent Parents and coaching work.

Around mid-September I realized that, with my birthday events and other commitments, I needed to get it in gear, and I wanted a big chunk of time to immerse myself in the process. So I booked that overnight retreat (I go to a hotel using credit card points) and made a lot of progress: polished my query letter, copy edited the first 30 pages of the manuscript, and made a list of agents on QueryTracker (which, by the way, so useful!)

Then it was down to the wire on September 30. I prepared and sent two queries in the afternoon, and was up late finishing the others. I had to write an author bio and a synopsis that I wasn’t expecting, but I just stayed with it and they flowed pretty easily.

At the last moment I was agonizing over whether to send a query by email or snail mail to this one agent high on my list. The instructions said snail mail was preferred, but it would be a pain to get the US postage I needed for a self-addressed stamped envelope (which is apparently a necessity). So I decided to send it by email, and the message is time-stamped 12:00 am on October 1!

I was taking huge deep breaths and talking myself through pushing the Send button! Because some of the advice online says to triple-check every submission and have fourteen people review your query, and I didn’t do that. I decided that I trusted my ability to read and follow each agent’s instructions for submitting, and to copy edit the manuscript (I do it for a living, after all). Shawn checked over my materials and that was that.

(Shout out here to Anne Mini at Author! Author! She has metric tonnes of advice at her site on the submissions process, and I got some valuable tips from her: how to format a manuscript, how to estimate word counts, and the necessity of the SASE.)

So, September 30 was Thursday, and I met my deadline of sending queries to five agents. I still had to finish copy editing the full manuscript and send it to the agent I met in June.

Then Monday I got a request for a full! From the agent who prefers snail mail submissions (so it was nice to know I’d made the right decision there). And riding high on the thrill of a positive response, I decided to drop everything and finish the manuscript. I did rewrites in the afternoon, and copy edited half the remaining pages that night. The next morning I finished the copy editing, formatted the manuscript, and sent it off to those two agents.

Oh frabjous day!

I got my first query rejection on Tuesday, so that milestone is passed too.

How do I feel? Satisfied that I got the work done. Proud of myself that I pulled the trigger on sending it out. Prepared to handle the news, both good and bad. Glad it’s off my plate and ready to move on to the next thing.

So what is the next thing? I have several ideas for my next book, but I’m not going to start a new novel just yet. I’m working that full-time contract starting next week, and doing some fun coaching and product development for my business.

Oh, and celebration! Haven’t forgotten about that. The birthday write-in was like a pre-celebration. But you know what? Just having my book submitted feels like a wonderful reward. It’s been ten years since my last book was published. I’ve never queried agents before. And being past that hurdle is a wonderful thing.

This entry is dedicated to my amazing partner Shawn, who went above and beyond so I could have time to finish my book.

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  • Brie October 8, 2010, 12:00 pm


  • Heather October 8, 2010, 4:13 pm

    Such great news, and inspiring story of your sprint to the finish. 🙂 Congratulations!

  • Abby Kerr October 10, 2010, 10:18 am

    Hi, Alison —
    Thanks for sharing the last 10% with us. As an aspiring novelist, I’m very curious about other writers’ processes and am grateful for you sharing your querying process.
    My fingers are crossed to the high heavens for you!
    — Abby