When I got back from vacation I was thrilled to see an e-mail in my inbox regarding Grendar's Tale, the latest manuscript I'd sent off to my agent for consideration.
The first line of the comments read:
"Heather has created a detailed and inventive fantasy world that looks good to intrigue a wide fantasy audience. The writing style is easily readable and involving."
Much squeeing commenced. Thank goodness I was home and not still in the hotel lobby on vacation. Folks would have thought me crazy. And they would have been right, crazy excited! Especially since that was followed by dancing around and chanting, "he likes it, he likes it!"
For those of you who are unagented I'll share a bit of mystery and let you in on what an agent critique is like. The thing to remember is that every agent is different so they way they critique your work is going to differ slightly from one agent to another. However, I'm on my second agent now and I've got to tell you, the critique isn't a thing like what I imagined. I always thought I'd get my printed manuscript back with red ink all over it. Boy was I wrong! That is very atypical now days so don't expect it.
First of all, our agents are NOT our editors and if you're expecting that level of critiquing, don't. My agent expects my work to be up to a level to where I need very minimal editing, more of a tweaking really. Most agents feel this way and won't accept your work until it's structurally sound with little to no grammar issues. They expect it because editors expect it. It's not that editors don't edit, they do, they just want authors who are at a level craft wise where all they have to focus on is the story. It's a tougher business than it ever has been, which is why it's so important to attend workshops, retreats, or classes to get your work up to par. Don't worry though, if grammar isn't your thing you can always use a reputable freelance editor before you submit. If you can avoid it though and use the money to learn to edit on your own, I highly recommend that route instead.
So what can you expect from your agent? A rare few will send the manuscript back red line edited others will send it via email with comments in the margins on what they'd like you to tweak or change. For the most part they'll be focusing on plot, pacing, and character arcs. Most agents send out a critique letter that is usually between 2~4 pages long and addresses the strong and weak points of the book as well as the changes they want to see. The critique letter has been my experience with both agents I've had.
Once I got past the excitement of Grendar's Tale being accepted I read thoroughly through the letter to see what my edits would involve. All things considered it wasn't bad. I have to do a bit of work on the supporting characters, tone down certain elements, spotlight others, and add a few chapters.
By the way, I have much love for my agent's critique format. The story elements (Mechanics, Characters, Structure, Market Value, and Film Production Value) are broken down on a scale and marked either Solid, Fair, Needs Work, or Rethink. I'm very happy to say I only got a few marks under Needs Work and no marks under Rethink! Most things fell between Solid and Fair. I'm completely happy with that but plan to work harder so that everything falls under Solid. I'm off to edit, happy writing everyone!