Further update: How not to get a literary agent

For those who haven’t been following the story of my attempt to get a ‘literary agent’ you can read it in full here, with an update here.

A quick summary: I sent the opening 3 chapters of my novel to an agent and then fell out of love with it (for a variety of reasons). I realised the ‘other’ story (going around and around in my head) was the one I should’ve written in the first place (a different version of the same idea).  20,000 words into (in my eyes) the far superior story, the agent requested a full of the first novel. I took a gamble and sent a pitch of the second version of the story instead, explaining my reasons for this change of direction. Thankfully, she didn’t tell me to go away (I wouldn’t have blamed her) and agreed the second novel sounded stronger. I promised to send her the opening 3 chapters and a proper synopsis by the end of September and if she liked them as much (or more than) the first novel, she would request the full manuscript.

That was the plan…

I finished the first draft and worked on the opening three chapters. I wrote synopsis after synopsis, with the help of two wonderful writer friends, and enlisted the help of online critique groups to read the chapters. I rewrote, edited and tweaked, panicked quite a lot and put off sending it for a number of days, even though it was ready.

Other unpublished writers will get why I acted like this. Hope is in short supply, whereas hopeful writers are plentiful. Most of the  feedback you receive from industry professionals is of the; ‘I didn’t love it enough’, or ‘we are publishing something similar to this’, or ‘this is just not for us’ variety. In other words: REJECTION. Having an agent interested in your work is such a boost to confidence I didn’t want to burst the one-day-I-will-see-my-book-in-Waterstones bubble.

I finally pressed SEND.

I waited… forgetting every agent worth her salt would be at the Frankfurt book fair.

Every time my phone beeped, I felt sick and clammy. What if the second novel wasn’t as good as I thought it was? Would I still be in love with it (vital if I am to finish) if she said she didn’t want to see it?

And then last night, about ten days after sending it, the email arrived…

What did it say?

“I hate it. Go away.”

No only kidding. She said she enjoyed the chapters and she wants to see the rest as soon as it is ready.

Whoop! Whoop! Happy Dance.

I am no further on than I was in the summer. In fact, I am a few steps behind. In August, I had a completed novel and full request. Today, I have an uncompleted novel and full request, but I couldn’t be happier. She likes it. She wants to read it all.

Of course, liking the opening chapters does not mean she will like the rest, or want to represent me, but I am back on that ladder to publication and I am going to hold on as tightly as I can.

If you want to see the opening chapters; click here. You don’t have to join the site to read.

One more whoop!

13 thoughts on “Further update: How not to get a literary agent”

  1. Hey Ali, I was going to email you later to say thanks for the help with the synopsis. Hope the writing is going well. I have stalled, but need to get back to it. A big rewrite ahead. What’s your word count (roughly)? Steaming ahead? or pootling along?

    Anyway, I mustn’t get my hopes up. I have been here before. But it has spurred me on to get it finished.


    1. It’s fantaStic 🙂 and should spur you on – don’t worry about the stalling, you were waiting so it doesn’t count. Interested why you think there’s another rewrite??
      I’m back next wednesday – can’t believe my 6 weeks are up already – in some ways it’s gone way to quickly but I’ve also struggled quite a lot to keep going! Never thought I’d complain about having too much time ….
      I’ve got about a quarter printed off (30k) having written about 3 times that but most importantly (for me) is that I’ve finally got a plan spread over about five sheets of A4 selotaped together which is my guide so I’m really hoping it won’t be too hard to come back and carry on now I’ve got to fit writing back into life!
      You around half term to meet up and compare notes?!?! x

  2. Not so much rewrite as writing it better – I know I have a lot of chapters that lack sensation/detail. You know [insert stuff about blah here]. Really glad you have got so far (you achieved tons) and love to meet up in half term. See you soon x

    I am supposed to be writing while the footie is on, but John tells me its not going ahead – flooded pitch or something. Now the great British Bake off beckons x

  3. Great news, Juliet. Following your heart was obviously a wise choice. Mind you, I’d question the validity of any agent that wouldn’t like either of your stories. What’s the new deadline, or isn’t there one?

  4. I just read a bit of the opening chapter and I see why the agent got back to you! You’re very intelligent I can tell – keep up the good work 😉

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