I recently finished my 2nd novel, Backpackers. It’s a road journey / coming of age story, about a 20 year old Australian girl who struggles to come to terms with her father’s death. She leaves her home to backpack around south east Asia, and her experiences there highlight her inner struggle to cope with life as a single-parent child.
Now that the book is finished, critiqued by my writing circle at every step of the way, and with feedback from some amazing readers(*), I’m about ready to send it to literary agents.
This is the second time I’ve sent a manuscript to literary agents. Last year I sent an early draft of my scifi novel, planetfall, to two agents. That was a test run, really. I didn’t know if the novel was ready – I hadn’t really developed my internal editor that well – and I was lucky to receive lengthy feedback from one agent giving positive feedback, but asking for it to be developed a little more.
This time I feel more confident about my manuscript. Backpackers is a stronger book. It’s really benefited from being critiqued at each stage of the writing, and I’ve really benefited from opening up my writing process. planetfall was written in its entirety before I showed it to anyone. Backpackers had just 3 chapters written before I showed it to others. And I received some very awkward questions which made me question deeply my main character’s relationship with her father, which lies at the core of the book.
Contacting agents is now a more confident affair. I have no idea if they’ll like it, but I at least am proud of the book. It made me cry while writing it, and cry each time I edited it. I was pleased when readers wrote back with the same comment – that they cried at certain points, that the book had emotionally affected them. There is no greater compliment I can think of, that something I wrote affected people busy with their own lives, enough to prick their eyes to tears.
And so to agents. I’m reading through their websites, despairing at the ones who insist on printed submissions, and delighted with the ones open to email submissions.
I’m currently developing my synopsis and cover letter. And when I have a few more readers’ comments in, and a final polishing edit, I’ll be ready to submit Backpackers to those who can make or break. But whatever those agents decide, I am proud of my little book about young adults travelling in exotic climes and experiencing the growing pains that make us rounded, mature adults. It’s fun, traumatic, exciting, tense, emotional and ultimately affirming.
I hope one day you get to read it, too.
(* many of the readers were sourced on Twitter. They are people I don’t know other than through their tweets, which has meant more objective reader feedback than friends may give. I would like to pay credit to those who volunteered to read a stranger’s book and give honest feedback, and by dint of this, point out how amazing Twitter is when used properly.)