I’m building up my publishing credits, maintaining a blog, coordinating a monthly writers group, and working on finishing up my novel. I have confidence that I can finish the book within six months. At what point should I start looking for the agent to represent me? Should the book be finished first, or should I remain open to editorial suggestions? I’ve read articles about how to approach agents, but very few on when.
You should wait until you’re really finished (and have set the book aside and finished it twice more!) before querying agents. This may sound like a Zen koan, but you should be finished and open to editorial suggestions. If you dream of locking in an agent before finishing your novel, the best way is to publish pieces of your work in literary journals, to build your credits and get your name out there. Agents are actively looking for talented writers, and I do represent a number of writers whose short fiction is exceptional and whose first novels I’m patiently anticipating. But by and large the first order of business is putting in the work of writing and rewriting that compelling first novel. If the novel is terrific, finding an agent is actually the easy part.