Cory Doctorow tells it like it is. See below (excerpted from an interview here):
WHAT DO YOU MOST OFTEN TELL WRITERS WHO ASK FOR ADVICE ABOUT GETTING PUBLISHED?
I often get e-mails from writers who say, “I’m working on a novel and I’m really worried that the publisher won’t let me have a Creative Commons license and I’m going to have to have this difficult negotiation.” And I write back and say, “Well, how’s the novel going?” And they write back, “Well, I’m a few chapters in.” And I write back and say, “Well, you need to finish the novel first. You can’t sell that novel until it’s written.”
So, there is a lot of potchking—which is a Yiddish word that means fiddling around—that writers do. I think one of the ways you keep on writing is by pausing every once in a while and daydreaming about how nice it will be when the book is finished and published. That’s totally legitimate. It’s just like daydreaming about what the marathon will be like when you’re finished running it. It’s one of the things that keeps you running, right?
But it’s easy to tip over from daydreaming to making the daydream the main activity. Once you are taking the time you should be spending writing and using it researching technical questions about negotiating the fine details of your contract with your publisher—who as of yet doesn’t exist because the book isn’t written—you are no longer writing. You are potchking.
This is no different than Robert Heinlein’s advice to writers: Write, finish what you write, send what you write to an editor. Almost every writer who approaches me for advice is not doing at least one of those three things. And if you are not doing those three things, you are not on a trajectory to publishing work. If you are doing those three things, you may not ever publish your work, but you need to do those things, otherwise what you are doing is writing-related activity. You are no longer writing.
So write, finish what you write and send what you write to an editor. Everything else is gravy.
He’s so much more charitable than I am at the moment. If I had a nickel for every wannabe I read online who “has a chapter almost finished” and is already sniffing around for an agent…
I have a drawer full of crap “practice novels”; now, after working my butt off I’ve finished something I think is worthwhile and I can’t get arrested. (Hence I’m taking it to Smashwords. These characters deserve to see the light of day, even if it’s the light of a Kindle.)
So finish your damn book before you have the gall to bother a published author with silly questions. By finished, I mean get through more than two drafts. Really put some time in, then send it out there. Take your lumps. The best advice my late grandfather (who had more than 30 books to his credit) ever gave me was “work your ass off, and don’t expect anybody to cut you a break.”
Rant complete. Somebody help me off my damn soapbox.