Sunday, 15 June 2014


From what I can tell, literary agents avoid wannabe writers. It's a bit like shouting into the void. Most of my experience is waiting eight to twelve weeks for them to tell me to bugger off (politely). Considering the appalling quality of most of what I've written, I can't say I blame them. In fact, I'd like to take this opportunity to apologise to all those agents I've harassed through the years by sending them my unplotted novels full of unconvincing characters and cardboard dialogue - and for those to come.

So imagine my surprise when I sent my first three chapters to a zillion agents one day, and received a reply within seconds asking me to re-send the document. (I had mailed the digital equivalent of cooked spaghetti.)

Five hours later, the agent replied to say she liked it, but it made no sense, and if I managed to make it make sense, then could she please see it again.

Here's what she wrote:
This is an interesting world you've created. It's a bit difficult to stay in the narrative however,  as I'm not entirely clear on the story.  I like the voice. Of the books you mention - you're right, none of them are a close fit.  Have you read HOLES by Louis Sacher?   He's doing something similar in that the world is not clearly depicted but we follow it.  Oh - also anything by George Saunders - if you haven't read him, definitely do.    If the world and the story were clearer in Superfreak: Bad Monkey, I'd like to see this again if you revisit it.

I nearly fell off my chair. My novel didn't make sense?!? Actually, that's not what happened at all. I immediately forwarded the message to my friend because I was SO EXCITED and totally forgot to reply to lovely agent. Oops.

So this was back at the end of January. It's now early June. I've ripped out the start, middle and end of the novel and edited the so-called-final version five times since. I sent it back to lovely agent, expecting to hear nothing for a few weeks. I figured she'd expressed interest in a fit of madness and would have come to her senses. But no. She replied within minutes.

Talking to an agent isn't the same as getting published, I know. Even getting an agent is no guarantee. But it's a first step, so it's exciting. After years shouting into the void it feels amazing when someone shouts back. So what I'd like to say right now is I love you lovely agent I love you so much. Even if you don't ultimately want to represent me, you've given me a thrilling few months where at least it was possible.

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