This morning, I wiped away a tear when I re-read my post last March about the first time I submitted my three chapters and synopsis to agents. I think I was partly touched by my cheerful optimism and partly sad that I had fallen into the classic mistake of submitting too early.
Looking through my file of reply letters, I saw all the agents had replied, even if only by formulaic letter. Some had made complimentary remarks, one was handwritten, one had asked to read the full manuscript (which got me more than a little excited!) but the result was a universal ‘No, thanks’.
I needed answers.
So, I took action.
With some trepidation and after a thorough exchange of emails, I sent my baby, plus synopsis, a note of writerly ambitions and a selection of agents’ comments off to the redoubtable Nicola Morgan‘s Pen2Publication writing consultancy.
Brave or what?
She was characteristically bracing, but specific:
“At the end, you will see a list of things I think you need to do to it to make it good enough for quality publication, or for success in self-published form. Sometimes I recommend that a writer simply leaves this first novel as a practice-run and starts again. I’m not saying that with you, because I think you have an enjoyable idea with potential; but don’t underestimate what needs to be done to it.”
The following conclusion spurred me on and has remained hovering in the forefront of my brain for the past year:
“But I don’t want you to forget that there were also good things about this, and promising aspects, especially in your rich imagination of […]. If I didn’t think it was worth working on, I’d have suggested you begin a new book but I think there is enough in here that shouldn’t be lost. No idea is ever wasted. I believe that if you take these things on board you have every chance of being able to create a genuinely interesting, exciting and unusual story – unusual in a way that could be publishable.”
So I did. I got the machete out and chopped 30,000 words of fluff and dough and added in tighter, tougher and kick-ass ones.
I did an inspiring, but practical Arvon Foundation course on commercial fiction, I read books, blogs and articles until my eye-balls fried, I attended the Festival of Writing at York this year. Most of all, I interacted with other writers and read, read read.
All the time, I was editing, polishing, agonising. On one run-through, I got rid of 28 ‘felt’s (Smug or what?).
Now I’m submitting again because I want to be published. This time, I think it’s a much better product. And out there, I know there’s somebody who just might agree.