When Do You Say When?

Photo courtesy of the one and only Mr. Tudor
I sent my first queries for Flicker almost seven months ago. In that time I’ve had a couple full requests, a few more partial requests, and several handfuls of rejections. I’ve avoided talking about the process here because I choose to keep that out of the public eye, but I’m reaching the point where I need some advice.

“They” say that at some point you need to put the novel away and start something new. I’m already planning my next novel (NaNo starts in less than three weeks!) and I’m ready to switch gears. What I’m not ready for is putting Flicker away. I’ve had so much positive feedback from agents and beta readers—including teenager—that I’m having a difficult time accepting that this is the end of the road for this story.

Yes, there are other options. I have quite a few friends who’ve submitted directly to publishers, and many more who’ve self-published. I’m not sure yet if either of those are right for me, but I’d like to hear your thoughts.

(And please no bashing one side or the other.)

About Melanie Hooyenga

Writer. Designer. Jock. Reader. Wife. Puppy-Mama. SCBWI member since 2015.


  1. Keep submitting your book. Do it again and again and again. And again. And then, keep submitting it again. Along the way, tweak, hone, shave and smooth. Then submit again. And again. And again. Just keep moving.

    Do not give up.

  2. I’d step away and concentrate on a new project. But your original MS doesn’t need to be trunked. If you feel it’s strong, you love the story, and betas have given positive feedback, don’t bury it in the backyard. Write another book and query away. Your “shelved” MS makes for a nice answer when an agent or pub asks “Do you have another?” My original novel, a MS I slaved over and put through a dozen drafts, recently signed as the second half of a two book deal with a small pub. I know I have a ton of edits ahead, but there’s a huge sensation of freedom because of two release dates through 2012. Sort of like I’m writing with house money right now.

    Good luck, Melanie — write hard.

  3. I’m with Steve. It’s not a sprint. Take some time away from the MS, to do other things. Let it sit in a drawer. Revise. Enlist a few more beta-readers. (I’m entering mine in a Canadian writing contest).

    Many agents are open to new queries when a manuscript has been substantially rewritten.

    You still have options. 🙂

  4. Did any of the rejections come with feedback?

    If you’ve exhausted your list of agents, then maybe it’s time to look at publishers that take non-agented submissions.

    If you got any feedback from the agents take another pass through Flicker, looking for ways to improve it before you embark on another round of querying.

    This is a sloooooow business.

    • I did get feedback, and one fellow writer who read them said it was very good feedback. One said I could resubmit if rewritten, but I’m at a loss as to how I’d even go about rewriting. I don’t see the holes.

      And you’re right. It’s sllllooooooooow.

  5. If you believe there are edits to be made and don’t see the holes, let it sit and stew for a bit before approaching it again. If you really believe in your heart that it is in great shape for the public, then try all your options. Direct to publishers, e-book publishers or even self-publishing. Also, keep in mind, ‘The Help’ was rejected 21 times. (hugs)

    • Thanks Jen. I feel like I need a couple more people to read it with the comments from the agents tucked in their ear. Some of it I feel is just taste, but I don’t know. I’m still too close to it.

  6. ab

    I queried every agent I could find. After a dz or so rejections, I changed it up a bit. When that ran out, I queried publishers. I got it on the 2nd try (1st one said “publishable – just not for us [too much romance – not heavy enough on the sci-fi])
    I could never self – pub. Besides knowing I wanted editing, I wanted to hear it was good enough by someone other than my betas.
    Sometimes I feel like I settled but it was that or leave it sit on my laptop. I was hoping it was my ‘foot in the door’ but here I am, 11 novels later and back with another small publisher. My books won’t see B&N shelves but they will be in print & at Amazon so I guess I couldn’t ask for more. Royalties are 5X that of another place so I can’t really complain.
    I LOVED your book. Fight ’till the end w/ agents if that’s your dream then IMHO – go the small pub route. It’s a great start & could lead the way to an agent finally opening their eyes & finding YOU!

  7. Allen

    First, I must credit James D. MacDonald for this advise. I borrowed it for myself and it has worked well. I trunked some, I sold a few.

    1. Never send out anything you don’t think is perfect. Every word. Second, When ready, send it out. Never let it sit for more than 24 hours. without sending it back out. Send it till you are sure Hell won’t have it.

    2. Start the next book the second the postage stamp is dry. (email confirmation is received etc.) Always have three manuscripts going at once. One you are writing. One you are editing. And the last one you are submitting.

    3. Never, Never rewrite a story unless the offer is “rewrite and I will buy.” Taste varies. Betas will vary.

    4. The decision to rewrite must come when several positive feedback memos are pointing to a hole or two in the story. You learn more from people who didn’t like your story than those who do.

    5. be willing to take criticism with the eye on learning. Even vicious churning will result in learning something. (This one is mine.)

    Allen’s suggestions:

    Choose your betas well. Choose people from your mentor pile. One good critical review that points to your flaws will improve your writing 1000%.

    Take every suggestion was a wary ear and a suspicious ear.

    Lastly, the Writing with Uncle Jim at AW is a Master’s program in actual commercial writing.


  8. Allen, that was the first thing I read when I joined AW. The chess analogy still rings true, as does about a dozen other things he said.

    Irons. Fire. Have many of them going. Keep involved. Keep sharp. Keep moving. Smile. BREATHE.

  9. I like the “put away, work on something else in NaNo, and come back later” idea. I enjoyed self publishing, but that was non fiction, and I think it’s easier to find an audience that way (people trolling for more information on a topic).

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