I have written a novel and I must say when an agent told me that she did not like my heroine, I was miffed. When she said she did not do enough and I should read children's literature, I got angry!
In fact it has taken two years but I have looked at what she said more objectively and unfortunately she was right.
I started to think about what an editor or agent goes through with us wanna-be authors and I remembered working in a craft store as a framer.
People get obsessive about their art. There was a guy who would insist on inspecting his work. He had this ongoing project he was working on that took a year. What he wanted was impossible to do. Finally he went to our computer, sat down at it, and then agreed. I gave him a solution, however, and he walked out happy.
Then there was the customer who said, "I know that this looks straight with the naked eye but it is 1/16th off." She had produced her own tape measure and insisted I completely redo it. I told her it was all custom and that it would take two weeks to reorder. That was fine by her. Needless to say, with orders piled up in the back and our policy to frame while customers waited, this was going to take up a lot of time.
When the two weeks were up I called her. She came back glanced at the work and pronounced it was perfect and walked out happy. I was happy too. I hadn't reordered anything. I had taken the backing off and had simply shaken it. It slipped a tiny fraction. I secured it, cleaned the glass, and smiled.
Then there was the lady who would special order cut glass. She screamed at me when it wasn't ready for her to pick up because she had a client waiting in her office. She was a psychiatrist! Her poor patient was paying by the hour while she ran out to secure art supplies.
I say this to explain that a novel is our baby. We have gotten up nights with it when it screamed for attention. It is tough when someone removes the cover and says, "That's one ugly child!"
After two years I am finally ready to edit and rewrite and I'm thankful for the help. Just as an ebony frame looked so much better than the orange one my customer picked out in the frame shop, so my book will be better for that agent’s suggestions.
Fred Waiss is a former high school teacher and coach who writes poetry, articles, short stories, novellas, and novels as the muse attacks; as an author he considers himself a work in progress.