Well, I just talked to Francois, and he loved
my first draft thesis manuscript, so I'm feeling rather ecstatic and floaty at the moment. He also strongly recommended that I start sending it out to the major book contests for new writers; he thinks the $25 reading fees are well worth it, since he says winning one can make a writer's career, and he think I have a decent shot. Oof. He also says I shouldn't worry about the manuscript being unfinished -- just to send it in as is, it's enough finished, and if it wins, they'll let me finish it before publication. I'm a little concerned that I may not qualify as a 'new writer' by some of their standards, but I guess I'll go peer at the guidelines and see what they say. It's true I've never published a novel, at any rate. Of course, this book is only sort of a novel. Guess I won't know for certain until I look (and I suspect I won't really know then either -- I suppose I can write to the contest administrators and ask, if necessary).
I'm finding this all a bit disconcerting. I wasn't really planning on finishing the book until mid-March at the earliest -- possibly six months or a year later. Suddenly I'm being asked to actually do stuff with it now. But he knows what he's talking about, and this is what advisors are for, right? To advise the ignorant? So I guess I go research writing contests. The four he told me to definitely hit were: Iowa, Flannery O'Connor, Drew Hines (sp?), and AWP. He thought the Poets & Writers website would have a more comprehensive list with more details.
Oh, one more note from the discussion, for those of you sending out literary fiction -- he says that C. Michael Curtis at The Atlantic strongly favors stories with plot. This was in the context of Francois explaining that Curtis has published several stories from Francois's students, but tends to pick the ones that Francois likes the least. :-)