I guess it’s time for an update on where I stand in my process of luring … no that’s not it. Tricking … well, yes a little bit … but how about ‘procuring’ an agent? This part of the process is called ‘The Requested Rewrite’ also known as ‘Be Careful What You Wish For.’
I had an excellent agent read my manuscript. It took a while, as these things seem to do, but she read it and had very pleasant things to say about my writing abilities in general. That was nice, but she also had a lot to say specifically about the story I’d written. There are issues. Any particular person’s opinion about something they read is highly subjective, but I’ve sent my work out to respected professionals within their field and their opinions are harder to dismiss as ‘personal preference’ than most readers. I had written what I wanted to write, and this person with a keen eye for what is marketable and what publishers are probably looking for had a different take on it.
So, here’s how I see the Five Stages of a Rewrite unfolding:
Stage One – Disappointment – This stage seems to be included in all the phases of writing a book. In this stage, it hits hard and it hits fast. Your query letter didn’t generate an enthusiastic “Where have you been all my life” response from a particular agent. Of course, that would be very life affirming, but I think lots of agents hated J.K. Rowling in the beginning, so that’s not a very realistic expectation. But since when are expectations expected to be realistic? I think THAT’S an unrealistic expectation.
Stage Two – Confused Hopefulness – This stage is characterized by the realization that you kind of got what you’d been hoping for, if not completely. An amazing agent read your work, provided an insightful critique, and offered to look at a rewrite. That’s pretty much the relationship you were shooting for from the beginning, even though this agent isn’t ready to put a ring on it.
Stage Three – Determination – I write, that’s what I do. This person just wants me do more of that. How can that be a bad thing? I understand the critique. With some deliberating, I can find the weaknesses that she sees and I can write something that doesn’t have those weaknesses. Carpe Diem! It’s time to rewrite!
Stage Four – Indignant Rage – This is going to ruin my book! Kill the darlings? I’m killing everything! Moderately loved ones, acquaintances, red-headed stepchildren. It’s a blood bath! How did she not see the brilliance? How did she not see the artistic genius that was my perfectly plotted story, my cleverly revealed twists, my subtle and nuanced themes running throughout! I want my old story back. I want my mommy!
Stage Five – Enlightenment – I’m currently in this stage. By the way, the four previous stages only take a matter of days to travel through. During the enlightenment stage, you let go of what you were trying so hard to hold onto. You embrace the fact that you’ve gained something you dreamed of having since you began the process of writing a book: professional guidance. And you start to see the potential an agent saw in your story when she offered to read it again after some serious work.