I know some of the other shortlisted writers in the Mslexia competition have had experiences with agents before, and I would love to hear more about them. It seems such a strange role: neither creative nor actually publishing anything, yet somehow able to bring these two together.
I was contacted by an agent after the competition, and dutifully submitted three chapters, synopsis, letter etc. as I wasn’t sure she had read Borrowed Time (though her boss had). A meeting was arranged, and she offered to represent me (it turned out she had read the book already, and seemed to know it, and like it more than I did!). I sat there in a confused daze, gathering snippets to be processed when I got home. There were nice things she liked about the book (filed away under compliments), ideas she had about selling it (filed away under ‘don’t be daft’) and then a whole load of (very gently offered) suggestions about changing it. Ouch. Now I have long said the book is flawed, and I had to send it in with a very sketchy back half, but these were quite big ideas. Like: change the focus from a main character to the bad guy; change the name of the novel; don’t kill the bad guy off at the end; change the main character’s POV to the stroppy teenager’s in some scenes; write a load more historical stuff and add some violins to all the big emotional scenes. I must say, I found it difficult, in fact, for a couple of days, I couldn’t see how to do it.
After a day or two of reflection, I booted my ego out of the way, and got on with them. Of course, she was right, and the book is better paced and balanced because of the edits. One thing I did keep though—I decided to kill off the evil bad guy at the end, I just made more of it. Now I have sent it off, and am fretting over the bits I didn’t change. Did I make the book worse? I shall find out in the next few weeks. Meanwhile, I’m working on bits and pieces, including a poetry pamphlet submission for Mslexia, while I keep an eye on my inbox. So I would love to hear from anyone who has worked with an agent before, just to compare notes.