Writing my Novel: John Scalzi Just Gave Me a Swift Kick in the Butt

Scalzi did so with his latest blog pointing out that the Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agency is now accepting unsolicited manuscripts from SF/F writers.  Even new, unpublished writers like me.

Ethan Ellenberg Their typical submission policy says they want 50 pages of the manuscript to read, and their new call mentions 3 chapters.  Either way, I’m good to go in that department.

As set as I’m working on my novel right now, I have no doubt I can finish the manuscript and get it into workable shape as soon as I need it to.  After all, Syp jokingly pointed out on Twitter this weekend that he finished a whole novel in a month.

I’m a quick study, so if it comes to getting that roughness out there, I can, too and then hit the ground running in editing/revision mode.  Not to mention that I’m already significantly into the planning stages.

But what does this mean for me as a writer?

It means that my procrastination must come to an end, first off.  This is where the work begins.

And secondly, it means that I can now prepare myself for my first professional rejection. My story “Foggy Memories” was rejected a while back for a short fiction audio podcast called Pseudopod for  not being quite their kind of horror, but that’s not the same as a novel rejection from an agent.  It stung, but “Foggy Memories” was not my baby.

Now, don’t misunderstand me: I don’t think I’m doomed to or out-and-out deserve rejection.

Many Books I do, however, understand the logistics and odds against me landing a high-profile agent on my first attempt.  If I do get accepted, or at least a request, I’ll be ecstatic.  If not, well, that’s why I have a “Rejections” file to keep me motivated.

I have enlisted my wife’s help for this submission project.  I need these first 50 pages to be the highest quality, and she’s just the one to do it.  Jennifer has a ruthless eye for copyediting, and I trust her judgment entirely on matters of grammar, narrative, and structure.

We’ll work collaboratively, I’m sure, but I really look forward to her brutal honesty and feedback.

Once my finals are graded and submitted, I’m finished with work until the second week of January.  That means I’ll have a lot of time to actually put my shoulder to the wheel and get this book/submission done.

And so here I stand.  On the precipice above a huge leap that, in the back of my mind, I was never sure if I would actually take.  But I’m going to take it.  Like I said when I started this series, I’m confident in my writing.  If not this time, the next.  If not the next, eventually.

So thank you, John Scalzi, for kicking me in the butt and making me see an opportunity when it presented itself.

By B.J. Keeton

B.J. KEETON is a writer, teacher, and runner. When he isn't trying to think of a way to trick Fox into putting Firefly back on the air, he is either writing science fiction, watching an obscene amount of genre television, or looking for new ways to integrate fitness into his geektastic lifestyle. He is also the author of BIRTHRIGHT and co-author of NIMBUS. Both books are available for Amazon Kindle.


  1. Thanks for sharing this. I’ve been writing lately, and I think I could manage to develop 3 chapters/50 pages. Ever since that Mashable guide I’ve been making some progress, but I ultimately need to get out of the phase of learning novel writing craft just as an excuse to not begin writing. I’m definitely still in that procrastination phase – I’m commenting here instead of writing! Good luck with your book and your submission. If it’s half as good as your blogging work it should be outstanding.
    .-= Phaethon´s last blog ..Previously On Gaming – The Reason Your Backlog Is Enormous =-.

    1. Indeed, good luck with yours, too. I appreciate the kind words, Phaethon. I don’t know if my blog is outstanding, but I certainly appreciate you saying so.

      I like that Mashable guide, too. I am keeping the Agent Query link it sent forever and ever and never letting it go.

  2. I am looking forward to your novel and keep my fingers crossed! I also like Mr. Scalzi’s writing a lot, by the way. “Old Man’s War” was inspired by Heinlein’s “Starship Troopers”, but is exactly the opposite when it comes to his imperialist and somewhat facist attitudes.

    1. I have now added “Old Man’s War” to my Kindle Wish List at Amazon, so when I get that, it’s one of the first I’ll read. The only Scalzi I have personally read was his contribution to METAtropolis last year, and it was fantastic.

      Also, I need to read Starship Troopers. I started it a few months back, but never got more than a few pages before I realized I wasn’t in a SF mood.

  3. Oh my…even I’m feeling the jitters for you. Exciting, isn’t it? I wish you good luck and enjoy. This is where the possibilities seem much closer than a dream and much too close for comfort. As a writer, I think it’s a fine place to be 😉

    1. Don’t be jittery on my account. It is exciting, but I’m fully expecting a rejection (it’s my first novel submission, so how can’t I?). You hit it right on the head: this situation is in a very rarely felt place, but I’m loving it. I don’t know where things will go, but I do see a lot of work ahead for me over this break.

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