It’s the agent of change you seek first, if you’re working on getting your first book into print. That means finishing what you start before you start the process of publishing.
Although an agent is likely to ask for only your first few chapters, they are just as likely to ask for the rest of the book right away if they like what they see at first. They will often ask on a meeting, if you get one, “is the book finished?” As a writer who’s got no books yet, you have to sell them on your ability to finish, as much as they try to sell you on their ability to place the material.
I addressed this in some more depth in “The first step that is vital to publishing“
Some common wisdom says it’s harder to get an agent than to get a book accepted without one. Big publishers sometimes love material which doesn’t have an agent. But it usually comes from a connected source of some kind, like a writer who’s already being published at the house forwarding a friend’s book.
You will have a more clear vision of your story, as well as your characters, as you write it through. The only thing that teaches a writer more than reading is the writing. You teach yourself through your challenges, falling short, and then meeting them.
Joyce Carol Oates has a new book out on writing. The accomplished novelists and short story writers have written these guides and confessionals to good effect; Stephen King and Ray Bradbury have fine entries in this category, too. Oates offers this inspiration to “young writers” (that’s all of us without a finished novel, regardless of age).
Write your heart out.
Never be ashamed of your subject, and your passion for your subject.
Your “forbidden” passions are likely to be the fuel for your writing.
Acknowledgements to agents in books you admire can also give you a good line on finding an agent.
Have fun, and keep pumping out your story. The marketing and business usually follows the craft, in the majority of cases.
Nothing wrong with having a tilt at immortality, though. This June in Austin, there’s a fun weekend conference called Agents & Editors, put on by the Writer’s League of Texas. Both publishing types attend, and conference attendees can sign up to pitch a book in 10 minutes to an agent. Before you take your 10 minutes, though, you will want to put much more time into the pages you pitch.