Encouragement from an Agent!

I got a pretty exciting letter today, from one of the agents I’ve queried about my novel—and the only one so far who’s requested the full manuscript. He wants to see a rewrite. He has three main concerns: firstly, that I use too many big words (“Occasionally, you introduce a word that might be beyond the average reader’s vocabulary. This can cause the sentence to drop in momentum as the reader stumbles over the word or hunts for a dictionary. For example, your first sentence contains the word ‘ululating’. While this is a dynamic opening, this word might actually work against you by alienating or confusing your reader”). Secondly, that a couple of the choices my heroine makes seem out of character or insufficiently motivated. And thirdly, that the ending is anti-climactic.

You can tell I’m a hardcore optimist, because instead of feeling daunted by any of this I’m actually delighted. For one thing, none of these criticisms concern the pacing, which suggests that I’ve actually, finally, after long struggle, managed to fix that problem. By contrast, most of these revisions are going to be easy. Swapping out any of the more outrĂ© vocabularly choices (note to self: probably don’t use the word “outrĂ©” in the novel) will be downright trivial, and clarifying motivation for the key plot elements won’t take more than a couple of extra lines inserted in the right places. The only part I’m not quite sure how to approach right now is the ending, but here’s the thing: I’ve been so focused on the opening chapters, I’ve made hardly any edits to the final part of the manuscript. I spent all my time combing through the first fifty pages, making painful cuts and tightening the action as much as I could. I’m downright relieved to hear that the beginning now works fine and I should turn my attention to the end.

And the agent had a lot of nice things to say. Listen to this: “I found your writing style to be engaging and your characters to be believable and compelling, and your manuscript is infused with levity as well as drama, and I found the work to be a solid combination of fantasy and contemporary life…You have shown yourself to be a talented writer…If these issues are addressed and revised, I would encourage you to resubmit what was otherwise an entertaining and engaging novel.”

I mean! How about that! Yes, on balance I think I’m pretty thrilled.

6 Responses to “Encouragement from an Agent!”

  • Nina Says:

    woooooo!! not only did you get read, you got read carefully, and got appreciated. entertaining and engaging!

  • Dom Says:

    You can tell I’m a hardcore optimist, because instead of feeling daunted by any of this I’m actually delighted.

    Delighted seems appropriate to me. Agents don’t make a habit of sending revision notes to writers they don’t like!

  • Madeline Says:

    That is fabulous! Congratulations!

  • Wendy Says:

    Yay! Congratulations!

  • shannon Says:

    Thank you, everybody! I’m still mulling over how to fix the ending, but the other edits are going very well so far.

    I changed the first line from “Viv woke to a demonic yowl, a protracted and ululating shriek of outrage never formed by human voice” to “Viv woke to a demonic yowl, a protracted wailing shriek of outrage that rose and fell across inhuman registers of sound.” I’m really happy with the revision–I think taking out “ululating” simply forced me to say what I meant using more descriptive language.

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