Or agent-in-my-dreams, more to the point. This, anyway, is what I should have sent.
Dear small but exclusive London literary agent (with some quite famous clients).
Thanks for your letter of 6th September regarding my manuscript The Pony. Of course it was kind of disappointing but, you know, after the usual post-rejection day spent thinking it’s time to call it quits on this whole fiction writing lark and start training as a very-mature classroom/care assistant/nursing auxiliary/whatever, I regained some sense of purpose. (As a matter of fact my partner and I have started a small business having renovated extensively and now holiday-letting an acquired ruin in the gorgeous Yorkshire Dales (see above pic); it’s doing well at present thank you so providing some steady income at least . .)
It’s clear you have a far better sense of what’s saleable, fictionwise, than I do; well, that’s your job. You mention a “purely horsy” manuscript would be far easier to sell; and here’s me, having spent five years or more trying to de-horse this manuscript so that, I kept repeating to myself, month after month, it would be interesting to readers with no interest in equitation, while keeping an added incentive for the pony-mad. (I was inspired in this respect by Jane Smiley’s Barn Blind, one of her best in my opinion, have you read it? It is certainly steeped in horse-lore, but unlike her later, less successful, horsy works, it is primarily about a devastatingly dysfunctional family. Like her biggest success, One Thousand Acres, devastatingly dysfunctional families being what she does best, in my opinion. Anyway.)
I thought I’d succeeded in this point, making my book interesting to the non-horsy, more or less, and my main worry on submission of the manuscript was that perhaps it was too old-fashioned, too structured around a successful relationship & marriage as conclusion in the manner of Bridget Jones, Jane Austen et al. – which was perhaps the spirit/under influence of/in which original draft was conceived (years ago) but is definitely passé now. (In terms of my preoccupations too.)
What’s happened is that I appear to have fallen between a hundred stools and, I think you are right, I need to take another long pause before deciding which stool I really want it to sit on. I am looking forward to engaging with The War Zone (the Mexican one) again but at another level think it’s also time I started on something new. I have several even older drafts (very rough), which I could perhaps dig out as inspiration.
Have to say this is the second time, incidentally, that I’ve had the sense I’d just spent years pushing myself in one direction when all the time you, and the book-buying market, I suppose, who you really represent, would prefer I did exactly the opposite. The last time was several years ago with the now-renamed War Zone, which I had meticulously conceived as a multi-point-of-view narrative (ineptly managed, as it happened, but nonetheless) while you, perhaps reflecting on my lack of sophistication, seemed intent on focussing me on just one, the most autobiographical, point of view. Or so I understood. And you wished I’d cut all the rest.
I know you have always meant well and want nothing more than for my literary career to take off – with your help. I of course want the same – and will take any help I can get. But so far, our joint efforts aren’t working. I’ll keep trying, of course, and you I suppose will carry on remembering who I am, amidst the authors of the piles of other unsolicited manuscripts you receive every week. I know I have to be grateful for even this small privilege, which spares me the soul-destroying rounds of “three chapters, synopsis and covering letter” through agent lists compiled from on-line guidebooks, of which I am a certified veteran; indeed, it’s how we found each other in the first place. I do not want to go there again, despite the fact that I’m sure many would advise it, given that my total dependence on you is obviously going nowhere.
But I am content to focus my energies on attempting to impress you, because I know – you repeat it in every letter – that you do think I am a good-enough writer (“if only . .“), and I feel if I can’t even manage to impress beyond that with the history we now have, there’s not much hope, really, of ever impressing a wider indifferent public.
So, on, on. I’ll be in touch again in another few years. If we’re both still around.