Okay, so today I opened my Inbox and saw the reply from Michelle Andelman (the aforementioned literary agent who seemed stoked about my manuscript for Lilies and requested for the full thing). Strangely, I wasn’t clicking on it with trepidation. Somehow, I knew it wouldn’t be good news. Maybe it’s because I didn’t wake up smelling a lot of hope and change in the air.
But yeah, she turned it down eventually. But she was really nice about it. She gave me lots of honest, genuine and focused feedback, for which I thank her profusely. Here’s her full email response:
Sincere thanks for sharing your full manuscript for WHEN THE LILIES TURN ORANGE with me. I do love the concept, and the set up for Raven & Connell’s relationship – I do feel there’s something very emotionally & psychologically compelling, and very special for the market, in the troubled therapy boy profile you’ve given Connell, the questions your story asks at the intersection of trust and love, but I found the actual plot movements here – the story’s step-by-step execution on it’s fabulous premise, that is to say – a bit too over-the-top and melodramatic [Oops! Really?? Okay, maybe I DID try to make it really dramatic and dark], for me at least, right down the Rox/shovel moment, and I had trouble connecting to – really feeling rooted inside – both Connell & Raven as characters, and thus able to root for them. So, for this reason, I will step aside at this juncture.
Certainly this is just one agent’s take, and I must stress that I think you have obvious writing talent (though I will say in the same way that perhaps I thought the plot was a bit overwrought, do keep honing your craft and reigning in your tendency, I think, to overwrite/over-state the emotions/thoughts of your characters — trust yourself to accomplish your story’s and character’s reveals with more subtlety, & your readers to grasp more emotionally without needing to be *told* quite so much by your narrators). [Ah, yes. The old ‘show, don’t tell’ adage. I should have revised it one more time before sending her my full manuscript. I had, after all, written it when I was 17. As I’d mentioned before, when I read back on it now, the writing seems cumbersome and juvenile.]
In any case, thank you for letting me share this feedback with you, in turn. [Hell, thank YOU for sharing that feedback with me.] I hope you’ll take this as a candid note of encouragement as you continue to work towards publication. I would be happy to hear from you again in the future on this or on other projects, but for now I wish you all the best for success.
In a way, I kind of expected this. (No, actually, I’d expected her to send the typical generic ‘I don’t think I’m the right agent to represent this project’ spiel that literary agents give to reject aspiring writers, but she didn’t, which was nice.) I thought it was too good to be true. I mean, so far, Lilies hasn’t received the kind of response I’d hope for. Practically everyone who has read both Lilies and Moonlight (not many, but still) tells me the latter is better. And so far, I haven’t had a really enthusiastic response from anyone who’s read my stories (apart from maybe Yishi – thanks, babe!). So it makes sense that one more person doesn’t believe in it, right? Why would she, after all, when no-one else does? I’m not being insinuating or cynical, if that’s what you’re thinking now. I’m just trying to pull my dreams back down. A girl can dream, yes, but not if it makes you completely lose sight of reality.
This just renewed my vigour and determination to complete Moonlight and revise, revise, revise (as Nathan Bransford said) after I’m done with it, so I can try to interest Michelle in it. This time, I’ll make it good or die trying. Nobody publishes their first novel (well, okay, Lilies isn’t my first, but like I said, those I wrote before it are considered trial runs only, anyway), anyway. Joanne Harris (author of The Lollipop Shoes, Gentleman and Players, (her best yet, in my humble opinion), Five Quarters of the Orange, Chocolat, The Evil Seed, Coastliners and many others) only published her first novel, The Evil Seed, recently after the success she’s had with other others novels.
Yes. That’s the spirit, I suppose. In the meantime, I’ll just get back to my Word Processor now, shall I?