The economy of feedback

writing

Is it somehow fitting that “writing” is only worth 11 points in Scrabble?

I’m kicking the tires–or maybe the table legs of my desk is a more apt metaphor–on another book. It’s a baseball project, and I am sending out queries to agents. Soon thereafter, I receive rejections akin to “Dear John” break-up letters, and some offer astonishing clarity: “it has been determined that Mr. X will not be pursuing representation of your manuscript.”

And that’s fine. I’m happy to know where I stand. In one case, though, an agent noted, “I’m sorry to say … that I just wasn’t as completely drawn in by the material as much as I had hoped,” which I took to mean two things: nice job on the pitch, but the first 10 pages of your manuscript need sharpening.

Shortly thereafter, I saw those pages with fresh eyes, edited accordingly, and I’m excited about the next round of queries. This agent is, I figure, just as busy as most agents, but found enough time for an extra 28 syllables. We’re all busy, and it’s easy to forget how two extra minutes for a co-worker (or potential client) can make a huge difference–especially if you’re willing to offer feedback that’s constructive and critical.

I hope that a few more signposts of narrative direction, along with an edit focused on vigor, will generate additional interest from potential agents. If so, then think about the second agent’s two minutes may help me find representation more quickly and, in turn, spare her fellow agents (and me) hours in subsequent pitches and rejections.

I’m going to keep this thought in mind the next time I’m between tasks and tempted to alt-TAB over to Facebook or the NY Times. Your thoughts?

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