Friday, October 12, 2012

Analyzing An Agent's Advice

Wednesday I received another rejection from an agent.  This one hurt a bit more, because this agent had asked to see a fuller synopsis, showing some level of interest in my novel.  The closer we are to someone, the more it hurts when we are rejected.  I was in great anticipation of her response, and hoping she would ask to see my full manuscript.  But instead, she wrote that she "didn't connect" with my story as she had hoped.  And she felt that the dual storyline lacked momentum.

What were my reactions?  She's right and my manuscript stinks?!  She's wrong and she doesn't appreciate brilliance?!  There must be a middle ground here. I varied from one extreme to the other before deciding that maybe there are ways to alter the storyline, to improve the tension and momentum leading up to the denouement.   I can give Sadie a more prominent role earlier on, and show her storyline apart from Joanna (if you don't know what I'm writing about you'll have to read the book!).  Joanna is Equiano's daughter, and Sadie is her first cousin, Equiano's sister's (Oluchukwu) daughter.

Without knowing if this is de rigueur (two French words in one post - my sister is in France and I'm feeling French today!), I sent a reply to her declination, and asked for more advice.  I mentioned in my reply that I am 'constrained by historicity' and she picked up on that.  Here is part of what she wrote: 
                      To be quite honest, I think my difficulty here is fairly endemic. As you say, you are
                      constrained by historicity. I find the fictionalized
                      history area quite troublesome generally, because for
                      me at least, fiction needs to have its own organic
                      shape and momentum, i.e. qualities that come from
                      construction rather than depiction and for me,
                      with its predestined structure, the historical account
                      often loses out. Truth or truth likeness is not a virtue
                      in itself - unless you're writing non-fiction.

Help me out here - is this agent predisposed against historical fiction?  Do you like historical fiction?

P.S.  The answer to the previous post:  Jonah!


  1. Hi Katie- I'd say, yes, she seems predisposed not to like historical fiction. Are you targeting agents who specifically say they represent the genre? I'd also recommend reading the Hilary Mantel profile in the latest issue of the New Yorker- she discusses the historical fiction debate (controversy?) and its many aspects in depth. Fascinating stuff.

  2. Thanks Sarah. Yes, I only send my MS and query to agents who designate historical fiction as one of the genres they represent. I do think I'll look at giving more space, earlier on, to one of the characters who plays a big role in the ending. Thanks for the advice on the article. I will check it out.

  3. Christina Victor-BandyopadhyayOctober 17, 2012 at 4:22 PM

    O Jerusalem, Gone with the Wind, Freedom at Midnight, A Suitable Boy - These are a few of my favorite ( things) historical novels! But I do know well-read friends who aren't attracted to this genre.

    I am not sure how one picks their publishers, but could you narrow down the list to people who have a past in historical fiction?

  4. Yes, I have. But even those who say they represent historical fiction seem to not all be enthralled with the genre. I'm going to try British publishers/agents too!

  5. Very useful blog. Keep up the good work.