Okay, so the other day I received the dreaded prayer card (I'll explain in a moment). An agent had responded to my query for Redemption with a request for the first 50 pages. In mid June, I received a letter from her, which I thought was a rejection letter. Instead, I found "It's not a good idea to begin a book with a dream-they're too easy to write and the reader is disappointed. May resubmit."
Hmmm. I didn't start my book with a dream. I started it with a Prologue--a crime in the past--upon which the entire book is based. In Chapter One, I do have a reference to my protagonist awakening from an old nightmare, and you could say the prologue is her old nightmare, but that doesn't mean the prologue is only a nightmare.
What to do, what to do. For those of you who don't know me, I am an assertive, mostly self-confident person. However, I've got to say that all the books on publishing I've read make me feel a bit like the Cowardly Lion on his approach to the Almighty Wizard of Oz. Up till that moment, I had minded all my P's and Q's, not to mention 1" margins, Courier 12 pt. font, double spacing, proper placement of personal information, good quality paper, no staples, paper clips, ribbons, bows. For Pete's sake, after printing my manuscript, I'd hold it up and cover one eye and make sure everything lined up, like some print surveyor. Should I email the agent and request clarification? Would that be annoying? Would I forever be cast out into the zone of WWDICWAAWNSITDS (WRITERS WHO DARED INITIATE COMMUNICATION WITH AN AGENT WHEN NOT SPECIFICALLY INVITED TO DO SO). Hell, I thought, I'm going to need intensive therapy soon. Dr. Tony, are you ready for me?
I sent an email requesting clarification and she told me to redo it. Alas, on July 11th, the dreaded prayer card arrived. Just to clarify, the prayer card was dreaded because it signaled rejection. This particular agent has a listing that indicates she is "a spiritual person and often attempts to soften a rejection with a prayer card; if this would bother you, you may not want to query her." I need all the prayers I can get, so it didn't bother me any.
On the enclosed letter, she wrote "Good storytelling but the college setting didn't appeal. Will pass with my best wishes."
My initial thought was I wish she had mentioned the college setting along with the dream--I could have changed that too. Then I realized that there are some key events in those first few scenes before I jump forward to present time. But it gets me wondering--have I started my story too early. Is there a way to rewrite it so that those events in the past are just mentioned in the present, thereby catapulting the reader into the middle of the present-day action. I'll have to think about this.
In the meantime, I still have some queries out there. So, we'll wait and see. For now, I'll just be happy that an agent wrote "Good storytelling" about something I submitted. We take our crumbs where we get 'em, no?