Working with an agent completely changes the emotional dynamics of writing a novel

imagesEver since signing with an agent way back in April, my novel has been chugging through revisions. They haven’t been particularly major ones, but the novel has been much improved by alterations to portions of the backstory that had previously felt a bit thin or implausible. I have to say, working with an agent is really weird: it completely changes the emotional arc of writing a novel.

When you’re unrepresented, finishing a novel or story is an act of faith. It’s an assertion that this is done. And it’s a pretty major deal. No one is ever going to tell you that something is done. You’re never going to send it out to readers but that they’ll send it back with a bunch of suggestions. One of the main dangers that faces a writer is that they’ll never reach a place where they’re ready to let go of a novel. And one of the main fears of a writer is that they’ve sent out the work too soon.

When I first submitted this novel (which is, to date, the only one that I’ve completely finished), in my mind it was done. I’d swept through it five times. I’d sent it out to readers and revised according to their comments. I’d gone through it sentence by sentence, tightening every line. And it was time to send it out. Jesus, I think that was back in December of 2011. So long ago.

My agent has a stake in it too. He won’t send it out to editors until he feels comfortable with it. And since I can’t submit it without his help, the responsibility for saying it’s done has, in a way, been transferred to him.

There’s something very comfortable about that, actually. I never thought it was possible to shift the emotional burden of composition in this way. I’m sure that in some ways it’s a bad thing. One can easily imagine some awful wrangling over edits. One can easily imagine novels held up and careers stunted because of artistic disagreements between writer and agent.

However, for this particular novel, I haven’t had any complaints with the (pages upon pages) of edits that I’ve received. (Actually, they’ve been really insightful). So the situation is actually pretty nice. I still have to do the writing, but I don’t have to do as much of the worrying.


(On a sidenote, this is the kind of post that you don’t normally see on author blogs, which makes me wonder if I’ve somehow strayed into a topic that we’re not supposed to talk about. However, I can’t see any reason why that would be. But if I’m committing a horrible faux paux, I expect one of you to tell me!)