Home   |   LCS Prints Store   |   About Me   |   FAQ   

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

IWSG February - It ain't Over 'til it's Over


IWSG: Writers helping writers. The brainchild of our fearless ninja leader, Alex Cavanaugh, this month's co-hosts are: Stephen Tremp, Pat Garcia, Angela Wooldridge, Victoria Marie Lees, and Madeline Mora-Summonte.

The holidays had passed and it was time to get back to business. I sent out my first query since early December and the ensuing rejection arrived in my inbox less than two hours later. Yikes. Record-breaking in terms of turn around, wouldn’t you say? It would have been a demoralizing, too, if there wasn’t a proverbial silver lining attached. In her response, the agent included two sentences of thoughtful, specific criticism that stopped me dead, because it related to something that had been worrying me. “Ditch your prologue,” she said.  It eliminates the conflict right up front.”

Gulp. Yes, but…
That.
Means.
More.
Revulsion
Sorry. I mean revision.

Now, I’m not going leap into the “to prologue or not to prologue discussion.” In my mind, there are places for them, if executed correctly. Note the key words…”if executed correctly.” I had begun to wonder if my prologue was hurting me, and the agent’s feedback validated my concerns. Now, I had actionable feedback I suspected was spot on. This was the first response that said anything more than, “I like your voice, feel free to query me with your next project,” and “Thanks, but the story is not for me,” or “Nice idea but I don’t think I’m the one to sell it.” But, was I supposed to tear up my manuscript based on one agent's feedback? 

After wringing my hands for a while, I sent the manuscript to a trusted author/reader who hadn’t seen this version of the story. Surprise, surprise, she agreed with the agent, but, God love her, she talked me off the ledge by convincing me the changes would be easy to make. Before long, I tamped down on the urge to stab out my eyeballs and got back to work.

That means, rather than participating in the IWSG Twitter Pitch on January 18th as I had vowed to do in my last post, I cut and pasted and layered in detail…AGAIN. I’ve edited this manuscript so many times now, I‘ve lost track. 

A month later, I’m grateful. That agent did me such a good turn. Instead of replying with a standard rejection or worse, deleting my book into a black hole, she took thirty seconds to offer her opinion on corrective action, and I've learned a hard lesson. It's not over until it's one hundred percent the best book I can write. Had I listened to my gut, I would have known it was only ninety-five percent there. Several months lost and queries wasted, simply because I wanted to believe my story was done.

I understand I’ve lost my chance with this particular agent, but I tell you, if I wasn’t respectful of how much junk must hit her inbox, I’d write her a thank you note.

19 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Sometimes we need to know exactly what is wrong. She did help you by telling you just that. Glad it's a fix that's doable.

Pat Garcia said...

That is absolutely wonderful that you got back something other than the standard response. You know, I have a prologue too, but I am not going to ditch mine at the moment. I'll wait to see what happens.
Keep at it. You're making progress.
All the best.
Shalom aleichem,
Pat G @ EverythingMustChange

Jan Morrison said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you! I've had a ms out for over a year now. I had one good bite where they asked for the whole, but it went nowhere. I've been denying the truth. There is something wrong with my first chapter, but like you I didn't want to admit it to myself. Now, when my current ms is chilling before revision time, I will go back at it.
By the way, there is no law saying you can't resubmit to that person. I know there are conventions, but really - why not? Tell her the truth - that you took her suggestion and how you'd like to work with someone who was clear and helpful and swift!

Natalie Aguirre said...

That is awesome that the agent took time to give you advice rather than just an outright rejection. Glad you could hear it and the revision worked. Good luck with the querying.

Bish Denham said...

What a great (and awful) experience! I had a short story I really, really loved and had the most incredible chance to have it critiqued, in person, by Jane Yolen. She told it was a fine story, but the ending was wrong and gave me a tip on how to change it. I did. It was the first short story I sold, and to SPIDER, no less. What a great lesson! Positive criticism can be our very best friend.

Charity Bradford said...

That's great that you received such a helpful response! I would count that as a double win because that agent saw something in your writing that made it worth their while to give a more personalized response.

Joanne said...

First off, I understand the horror of an "instant" rejection. Even if you've steeled yourself, it's hard. But it was a "good" rejection. She cared enough about your work to offer a comment. Sounds like you've worked your way through it for an even better manuscript. Congrats to you and keep plugging. It's a journey and you'll get to the promised land.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

This is an excellent reminder to trust our guts and to trust the story. You already had suspicions the prologue wasn't working and they were confirmed.

Another Twitter Pitch or something similar will come along and this time you will be more than ready. :)

Starting Over, Accepting Changes - Maybe said...

Said and received in the right way, constructive criticism can often be just what we need. Good luck with the book.

M. L. Keller said...

As much as it hurts, sometimes being cruel is really being kind. It was so awesome that the agent took the time to give you personalized feedback. That beats a boilerplate any day. Best of luck with your revisions

mshatch said...

That was a nice silver lining! Prologues are tough.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

That was good of her to do that. Your writing must have impressed her in some way or she wouldn't have bothered.

Cathy said...

I once had an agent reply (with a standard rejection) within a couple of hours of sending it out. Yours was an interesting twist. So go for it, ditch the prologue.

Connie said...

Constructive criticism is much better than a form rejection slip at least. That was kind of her to offer that encouragement. Glad it is going to be a relatively easy fix for you.

Em-Musing said...

Two agents that rejected my query gave me great advice. It sure helped turn me in the right direction. Regarding prologues, I don't mind them if they're not too long and make sense.

Stephen Tremp said...

That's great you received a personal response rather than an automated email. Such encouragement there. I could wallpaper my house in generic agent rejection letters.

February 2018 ISWG Co-host
www.stephentremp.com

Michelle Wallace said...

At least you received constructive advice from the agent instead of an automated response. A positive sign to keep going.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Liza - well that ended up being good news ... and we never know where insightful information is going to take us - I'm so pleased for you = cheers Hilary

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

I'd say that particular silver lining more than made up for the dark cloud. Helpful feedback like that is exactly what we all need. If I were you, I WOULD send her a brief thank you note. No matter how full her inbox may be, I think an expression of appreciation would mean a lot to her. I doubt if many (any?) writers bother to acknowledge her help.