So, I got a request this week for a partial. YAY!!!! (Cue the applause!) I won’t say who it was from, but I will say that it was based on a synopsis I submitted to an agent a little while ago that was requested off a pitch contest I entered (THANK YOU, Darcy Drake!!) Today I am on cloud nine, but maybe not for the reason you think.
It’s an awesome feeling isn’t it? Getting a request? It’s even better when you’ve made it through a round or two of reviews and are still holding on. But this particular request was even better than that for me. It put a smile on my face wider than the Rio Grande, because this particular request came with something I value more than a shot at getting signed – priceless feedback from an agent.
You ever get a form rejection back, sigh, and say, “If they would just give me a clue as to what’s wrong with it, I could fix it.”? Imagine that instead of that form you got a request, and inside that request the agent clearly pointed out the challenges of the characters and plot you created (priceless feedback #1), and also laid it on the line that if the execution of the story didn’t do this, the book would be a very hard sell (priceless feedback #2).
This is where I was this morning when I opened my email. For some writers, receiving a request like this would send the butterflies of self-doubt rampant through their stomach and their veins until they become sick worrying that their story isn’t strong enough. Others might not even care because…hey, I got a request! But for me, this is a test – one I’ve been waiting for a long time for. This is my moment of truth.
Ask anyone of my critique partners and they will tell you two things about me. 1) I’m a straight shooter and 2) I don’t pick the easy path. I like a challenge. I like taking characters whom you might initially write off due to their past actions and redeeming them. I like finding the gray area between black and white, because there usually is one and too often it’s not seen. I’ll admit it’s not an easy thing to do; I’ve found myself banging my head onto a table on more than a few occasions. But it’s the kind of book I write. It’s my everlasting theme. It’s what drives me to keep putting words down onto pages.
So when I opened this email today, I was not only extremely grateful this agent had been so open and honest with me, I was proud that through my synopsis, this agent had recognized the exact points and struggles that lead me to write this story in the first place. This agent “got” what I was trying to do, and now the only question left to answer is — did I effectively pull it off?
I won’t lie – it makes me very nervous. Since I’ve started writing I’ve known that the types of stories I gravitate toward aren’t easy to write and have worried that they would be a harder sell. I’ve struggled in writing my queries, knowing that every single word I put down has to say exactly what I mean because I only have so many lines to point out that the most interesting part of a character is also the worst thing they’ve ever done and convince an agent that they are still likeable.
It is difficult. Sometimes when I’ve had a dry run on queries or submissions I wonder if maybe I could find an easier path and write stories that aren’t so challenging. And then I get an email like the one I received today and it gives me hope again. Maybe this partial won’t lead anywhere. Maybe that book won’t ever get published, or even the book I’m writing now which I know will face the same challenges. But at least I know that I’m not crazy. I’m onto something, here. And maybe, just maybe, I can pull it off. Imagine the payoff at the end when I do.
So thank you again, Unnamed Agent, for taking a chance and making a request. Thank you for your knowledgeable eyes into the world of publishing, and for your honesty and time — two things I know are hard for a busy agent to give. And thank you most of all for teaching an unpublished author like me that there is something sweeter than receiving a request – it’s validation that with the proper execution, I just might be on the right track!