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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…
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.