Sent a complete draft of my literary novel to my agent

Hello friends, I’m feeling very accomplished (though a little at ends). I just finished a draft of my literary novel (now tentatively titled The Default World), and sent it to my agent, Christopher! This is close to my fourth year of working on the book and it marks my fourth successive fall of sending a new draft of this book to an agent. Yes, three years ago, I sent a very different version of this book to my last agent, who loved it and wanted to send it out as-is. I was like, great, just let me revise it, and a year later sent him a draft in which I had, amongst other things, turned the cis woman protagonist to a trans woman protagonist. He didn’t like it, and we parted ways. Then last fall, I sent this book out to other agents, after even more revisions, and it got turned down extensively (so my last agent wasn’t wrong about it being unsalable, although it was kind of a blow), including by my current agent!

After getting word that a YA novel proposal was going to acquisitions at Harper I went back out to agents w/ the proposal and w/ the first 100 pages of a rewrite of this book. I had thought a lot about the issues with various iterations of this book, both from the perspective of other people (generally their problem was that it was boring) and from my own perspective (I had arcane issues due to narrative distance and the omniscient voice). So I had embarked on a revision that brought the voice much closer and made it much more personal, which in turn necessitated all kinds of other changes. Anyway, the point is, I knew I could get an agent for my YA stuff, but I’ve always had agents who believed in me for YA but didn’t believe in my work for adults, either because they weren’t familiar with the adult market or because they simply didn’t respect my writing. So in this case I was looking for somebody who would really be on the same page with me.

AND WHO KNOWS!

If I’ve learned four things over the eight and a half years I’ve been an agented writer, it’s that: 1) You can’t force your agent to like your book; 2) You can force them to send it out to editors, but if they do, they likely won’t do a good job pitching it and it probably won’t sell; 3) Just because an agent thinks your book is unsellable, doesn’t mean it actually is (especially after you revise it); and 4) if you really believe in the book, it’s okay to just agree to disagree and part ways.

You know, looking for a new agent is funny. Authors are always told to ask agents, “What would happen if you didn’t like the next book I gave you?” And if you ask them that, agents always say some version of, “We would discuss it and work it out.” But the truth is that it’s more common than not to simply be unable to come to consensus on these matters. I mean think of your favorite author: You don’t like all of their published books; so why would you agent like all of the books you write? The real question is: if your agent doesn’t like your book, what will you do?

So this post is just a long way of saying, I’m anxious! This book is my baby. I have literally a million words in the scrivener folder on this book (current draft is 75,000). I was trying to think of how many complete drafts the book has gone through, and I literally couldn’t count them (it’s at least five). I’ve been trying to write a literary novel for adults for, well, at least ten years!

I have to say, it was weird having the experience of publishing that LARB essay and getting such instant feedback from the internet, in terms of retweets, comments, etc. And then to go from that to writing a novel, where you can’t put it into the world for many years–it’s a bit of a shock!

Now I’m honestly not sure what to do. I have an a story due for an anthology. And some other stuff essays and junk cooking. But mostly feel like, welp, what am I doing now!

It’s amazing what people don’t tell you about writing. Like, maybe I should also be thinking of an idea for another YA novel? I figure that since my next one is coming out in 2023, I probably should sell the fourth one before the third one comes out. But I have no idea if that’s realistic.

WHO KNOWS. IT IS A CONFUSION.