Okay, this is a positive thing, though at times it may appear like I am being critical. Just putting that out there in case you get the wrong idea…
A few weeks ago I was contacted by one of the agents I submitted a sample of Almost Gone to. The feedback was positive, but it was clear I would have a lot of work to do before they were happy taking me on. There were some very useful points such as as ensuring the story was much clearer; that prologues were generally not a good idea; that back story should be treated carefully and with caution. There were also a few other things I didn’t quite agree with, and one thing that led me to make a very major change to the book, but more of that later.
What was especially good was that an agent was actually interested in my writing – they liked it, which makes me not a crap writer. Taking everything on board and being assured they did want to see the whole manuscript and not just a sample reworked, I spent the next two weeks breaking everything down and reassembling it, checking for errors, tightening up the beginning and generally making the book more readable. I also removed four chapters.
Up to this point there had been four “mini” chapters which had required a greater amount of creativity and off-my-head thinking than almost anything else in the book. The Ancients had their own voice, told from the point of view of Merogilal, in a clipped, earthy and rather odd language. It felt wrong to remove it, but on the other hand, jumping into a world the reader would be unfamiliar with, from a world they were already unfamiliar with was probably a step too far for most publishers, so I found a way round the language, while ensuring the Ancients existed in the Conorol world.
Happier with the book than I had ever been, albeit with a few literary sacrifices along the way, I sent it back. After two weeks I called the agent up – they said they would try and read it soon. This morning they emailed and said they wouldn’t be taking the book further as, while I had made significant changes, there wasn’t nearly enough plot in the book and the story wasn’t fast-moving enough. This is what publishers seem to want, but it’s not what happens in the Conorol world; there is no hurry, we have to learn and we have to connect, and all in the amount of time it takes to do so properly.
So, I am not bitter; if an agent doesn’t want the kind of novel I write then that is entirely their prerogative. If a publisher only wants something that immediately jumps to the top of the best-seller lists because it fits a type then that is entirely their prerogative. It is a business, after all. I am always wanting to be a better writer, and willing to take on criticism, but I am also prepared to wait until someone wants what I am willing to offer rather than change everything in order to sell something that is not me at all.
Waiting is easy enough, so long as that’s not all you are doing…