Any kind of Feedback is Good. And for a writer, feedback from an agent is precious. Whereas straightforward ‘Not for us, thanks’ tells us absolutely NOTHING, a reply containing words of kind but critical encouragement is a thing to be cherished.
A day later, at any rate.
Because after your eyes have scanned the response and sent the message to your brain from seeing words like ‘sorry’, ‘although’ and ‘but’ and re-written the reply to read simply "REJECT", it’s all you can do to scour the house for a tub of Ben and Jerry’s you already know you don’t have and putting an imminent sleepless night down to the hog-wart that shares your bed. (Of course it could also have been the aftermath of the lone sausage you found lurking at the back of the fridge. Who knew it was extra spicy and would repeat for the next 48 hours? Who knew it was extra spicy and … well, you get the idea.)
And a writer who wakes up after a crappy night’s sleep is not a pretty thing.
But ‘but’s can be good. They’re a conjunctive, so it follows that, well, more words will follow. More information is going to be forthcoming. Don’t stop reading. After all, you can’t put a full-stop after a 'but' - you’ve learnt that much, right? Turn away from the e-mail/letter and take a deep breath. In fact, just take SOME breath and refuse to cry. It won’t help. You won’t even be able to SEE any more words let alone know what it is you’ve already decided they mean.
Start by ignoring the ‘sorry’ word. It’s overused after all. I had a friend who used the word ‘sorry’ before everything else she ever said. EVERYTHING. She’d stand at out doorstep after calling for me and say to whichever parent got there first “Sorry Mr/s Cooper but is Deborah there?” of course I blimmin’ well was, we were catching the school bus together. But she said it every morning without fail until it came to mean nothing. She even said “sorry” if she needed to use the loo. And her first words when she telephoned me…? Well, it doesn’t take a great imagination.
Actually I have been known to say sorry if someone steps on my foot in Sainsbury’s and I’m still not sure if I’m being facetious or whether I really AM sorry I placed my foot underneath theirs because I’m such a notorious doofus.
‘Although’ is not such a bad guy either. Although is another way of saying ‘even so’, ‘even if’, ‘whilst’…. you remember that book: Synonyms Can Be Fun? So you also remember the Good Guy coming through at the end - the full stop didn’t finish him off either, right?
Let’s try a nice analogy. Let’s say Aunty May made a Lemon Drizzle cake. Aunty May loves to cook and particularly likes to see other people enjoying her baking efforts. So today she waits with an expectant flush whilst her cake is nibbled and swallowed and then she hears: ‘Hmmmm…. that’s nice, but….’ No, No! NO! Not a But!
‘…a bit less sugar would’ve made it sharper’ perhaps?
‘…maybe some grated lemon rind to give it that slight edge?’
‘… it’s not as moist as your last one.’
Okay, we’ll forget about Aunty May’s moistness conundrum for now, I’m sure she’ll sort that particular problem out herself. The point is that even though it got a but, she’s actually amassing a wealth of constructive advice (not criticism, that word can turn and bite your ‘but’ before you realise it) on how to improve her lovely Lemon Drizzle.
She’s either going to never make this cake again for as long as she lives and live in mortal fear of every future lemon she passes or else she’s going to have to bite this particular bullet and run with it (perhaps one metaphor too many).
After she's slept on it for 24 hours, of course.
On the ‘feedback’ I mean, not on the lemon cake. That would just be silly.