Skila Brown (author of CAMISAR a novel in verse) and agent Tina Wexler of ICM team up on Casey McCormick’s and Natalie Aguirre’s excellent Literary Rambles Blog and share Five Tips on Revising after getting Feedback from an Agent. Here is an excerpt:
1. Drop your defenses. Think the agent doesn’t get what you were trying to do? Maybe that’s because it wasn’t clear enough. Think the feedback was overly-critical? Maybe that’s because you’re thinking this is about you and not about your story. Either way, you’re on the right track if an agent connected with so much of your story that s/he wants to help make it stronger. Celebrate that.
Tina Wexler: This is a great first step. I know it can be disappointing to receive an offer to revise instead of an offer of representation, but if a writer can shake off that disappointment and welcome the creative feedback, oftentimes an offer of representation will follow. My relationship with several clients started this way, and I’m grateful they were able to drop their defenses and let me share my thoughts on their work.
2. Listen. Before you begin revising, listen to what the agent is suggesting. If you’re lucky enough to have more than one person weighing in, search for commonalities in their feedback. At first glance, it might seem contradictory. One agent says, “I think the romance needs to be stronger,” while another says, “I think you should lose the romance.” The commonality? Both think that your book is teetering on romance without deciding if it is or it isn’t. Which means you need to make a decision – cut it or enhance it. Maybe the agent’s comments are prescriptive in a way that you don’t really like, but listen hard to what problem s/he is identifying and see if you’ve got another idea on how to fix it.
Tina Wexler: I often try to suggest solutions when pointing out problems in a manuscript, mainly because they
help illustrate what my concerns are. But I’m not a novelist, and it’s not my story. As such, I really appreciate it when an author is able to come up with their own way of fixing a problem. It’s almost always a better solution than the one I’ve proposed.
3. Don’t lose (the) heart. Think long and hard about what is sacred for you in this story. This can sometimes be the spark that initially drew you to the piece. Maybe it’s the relationship between two characters or the setting or the fact that you’re telling it in a specific way – like verse or multiple points of view. These sacred seeds might not be something you’re willing to alter. And that’s okay. If this story, in your heart, is really about a girl on the brink of suicide and an agent tells you, “I think you should lose the suicide bit,” this might not be the right agent for this novel. But be careful labeling something as sacred. Most things shouldn’t be.
4. Give it a try. You might not be on board with the agent’s suggestions right away, and that’s okay. But what’s the harm in trying? If you spent time researching an agent, if you felt s/he might be a good match for you and your work, then you must already respect this person, right? So keep that in mind as you read over the feedback and have some faith in the professionals. Give these suggestions a try and just see where it leads. You might be surprised that things work out better than you hoped.Tina Wexler: Yes! I love this advice, especially for writers who are asked to change the story’s point of view. (It’s more common than you may think.) A rather daunting task, with or without an offer of representation in hand. So, you take baby steps. Rewrite the first page. Is it working? Yes? Rewrite the first chapter. Still like it? Keep going. As you say, there’s no harm in trying.