I recently submitted what I considered to be a finished novel to my literary agent. She made suggestions and gave it back. I made some major changes and resubmitted. She made a few more suggestions, and sent it back. I fixed it some more, and resubmitted. As I type these words, she is once again reading the same book for the third time, this time doing line by line edits for things like typos and unnecessary words and stuff that makes her go ‘huh?’.
Have I mentioned that I’ve never paid this woman a dime? And never will, if she doesn’t persuade a publisher to buy this book?
Those of us out here in the West hear all the time about how people in New York City are rude and pushy and don’t care if they hurt your feelings. I can’t say for sure because I’ve never been there. But my agent hangs her hat in downtown Manhattan, and she has developed an entire vocabulary intended to keep the sensitive writerly types on her roster from doing physical harm to ourselves when she tells us what she thinks of our latest effort. I, however, have learned to decipher her secret language. Here’s what she says—and what she really means.
Perfect! – Of course, we both know it’s not perfect. Nothing ever printed or conceived by a human being has ever been perfect. But it’s finally close enough to be seen by a real live editor. Who, should she purchase the manuscript in question, will promptly write up thirty-two pages of edits to be completed prior to publishing. See? Perfect.
Almost perfect – Other than the two hundred and fifty-three extraneous uses of the word ‘just’ and eighty-five sentences that start with ‘And’, plus maybe you could give the climactic scene a touch more oomph?
Getting there – The plot mostly makes sense, none of the minor characters’ names change from Frank to Joe midway through the book, and I don’t have a burning desire to shoot either of the major characters. We are definitely on the right track.
You’ve got a great start here – Holy crap, do we have a lot of work to do.
Hmmm – Hello, recycle bin.