An author and his manuscript

On Friday I had a long chat with a literary agent who was kind enough to ring me after reading the novel. He had been recommended to look at the book after an author he represents had read it. In may ways it’s one of those lucky breaks that a new chap like me needs.

It wasn’t a surprise call as the fellow author had asked me if I minded the approach and I was aware the agent was reading the ms. I checked him out, looked at the other people he represents and made some discrete enquiries. He came with a good reputation, works hard for his authors and knows his stuff.

So, it was with some trepidation that I received his call. We spoke for nearly an hour. He had clearly gone through the book thoroughly, looking at the story, the style, the plot, the grammar and all the other important factors that contribute to making a book into a book that will be a popular read.

His analysis was flattering. I felt a little humbled. Here was an expert saying rather nice things about me and about my potential to carve out a career in writing. Then came the crux. His opinion on the perspective in which the book was written.

I mixed 1st and 3rd perspective when writing the book. I used 3rd person for those parts that the main character was not involved in, and 1st person when he is. My reason – the story is from me, pulls in my life experience and started from notes used to help me treat my PTSD. It started as my story,only ending up as fiction as I developed it.

For me, writing it was a cathartic experience. I liken it to the benefit you gain when you have lots to do and your brain struggles to prioritise. If you make a list then what seems confusing and stressful comes into focus, you see the words and the problems or challenges seem more easily achieved. Writing about the causes of my nightmares, anxieties and stresses seemed to exorcise them from my mind. The turmoil lessened and I was able to regain focus to my thought processes. 

What the agent wants me to do is re-write the book in the 3rd person, something I initially felt might take away the personal attributes that 1st person perspective enabled me to impart in the main character. As I wasn’t sure I had to ask myself if I trusted his judgement. Answer – yes. It was clear from the time and effort he had put into reading it and the way in which he explained his reasoning that this was good advice. I also asked a few people who had read the book. They all agreed with the agent.

I don’t know if today is a watershed for me, but today I am about to start changing the novel to the style that has been recommended. It wont be a quick job, but I think it will be worth it.

Only time will tell. 

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2 thoughts on “An author and his manuscript

  1. Hello Matt. I completely understand your initial hesitance to agree to change your entire book to 3rd-person. The more you work on a manuscript, especially to the point in which you feel it is finished, it has practically become your baby, and nobody should mess with your baby. However, like you said, this agent has a good reputation, obviously knows the industry, and knows what generally works, and what doesn’t. Also, the fact that he spent so much time talking to you means he didn’t simply skim through it, and genuinely wants to help you make the book the best it can me, both from a writing stand-point, as well as a marketability stand-point. I think you’re making a wise decision to heed this advice, and I think after the work is done, you’ll probably see that your book will be even better than before. I look forward to hearing more about your progress! Good Luck!

    Jeremy Lyn Robins

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  2. I have now completed the 3rd person re-write and I have to admit that it appears to make the story unfold more smoothly. Now that the jumps from 1st to 3rd person have been removed, some of the ‘clunkiness’ has gone.

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