Friday, 27 April 2012

Agent Feedback

I was at a lunch with some other writers and the subject of agents came up. As it does.  One of the writers present was finding that their agent was difficult to talk to - they kept discussing books the writer might write, rather than the one they were actually writing.  The writer felt confused - did their agent like what they had actually written?  Should they change direction and do something different?  Or was the agent just passing the time by talking about what was hot at the moment?

Whatever stage you're at, published or unpublished, it's easy to get de-railed by throwaway comments.  The writer has to stay sensitive, but also develop a thick skin.  You have to really believe in your work, because otherwise you're vulnerable to being undermined, even by those who should be supporting you.

I've known writers be utterly demoralised by casual remarks made by parents, partners, friends.  They make them because they don't understand the writing process.  Agents (and editors) don't - or shouldn't - have that excuse.

For anyone feeling a bit bruised or battered by 'helpful feedback', whoever it may be from, I suggest having a look at this wonderful Mitchell and Webb sketch.  It sort of sums it up...


Jean Bull said...

Thanks Sarah, or maybe not Sarah(!), I really enjoyed that.

Louise said...

Hehehe, very funny, thank you!

Jim Murdoch said...

It’s at times like this I think of Aesop’s fable about the two men and the donkey. If you don’t know it, you can read it here and one of my personal guiding principles I express as: I’ll not carry a donkey for anyone. Everyone has an opinion but you simply cannot please everyone all of the time (or even most of the people most of the time); most of us struggle to please any of the people any of the time but if we end up pleasing ourselves none of the time then why are we bothering? Assuming I was capable of changing how I write and began churning out the next Twilight/Harry Potter/Hunger Games wannabe and I was lucky enough for it to take off and make me rich and famous would I be happy or, like Dr Seuss, would I die still wishing I’d written the great British/American novel? Opinions are just that. Only a fool would never listen to anyone’s opinion but they’d be a bigger fool if they tried to please everyone with an opinion.

Clare Wartnaby said...

Thanks, Sarah - it's not often I laugh out loud at eight o'clock in the morning!

My roughest writing patch came when I had two completely opposing opinions thrown at me, both by publishing professionals I'd submitted work to. I went totally blank and didn't manage to write anything for about nine months.

I do find it quite hard to take a step back sometimes, and regain my instinct for what will work and what won't.

Sarah Duncan said...

Thanks Jean and Louise, I think they're hilarious.

Jim, I must remember 'I'll not carry a donkey for anyone'; it's brilliant.

Clare, that's a familiar story. The trouble is, it's ALL opinion, which can be horrendously confusing when it conflicts.