In one of my recurring nightmares, I'm ascending the golden staircase that leads up to the pearly gates, and there stands St Peter in his robes and spectacles, frowning.
I clutch my bundle of documents, all 12 point Times New Roman double-spaced (or should that be single-spaced, where the synopsis is concerned? Or 1.5? I've consulted a bunch of archbishops on the matter - no one seems to know. Not that it matters to them, they're already in the system...)
I've counted my words, headed my headers and footed my footers. My printer's been well fed with the choicest cartridges and the smoothest, whitest paper money can buy. I've defined my genre and 'placed' myself with respect to other authors, though I haven't mentioned Charles Dickens, George Eliot or JKR. My pages are pristine, my sentences grammatical, my metaphors well-chosen, poignant and surprising (though no longer so surprising, after nine revisions, to me).
I hand over my submission with trepidation.
St Peter casts an eye over Chapters 1-3 of my life. Shakes his head, tuttting solemnly. 'Typo on page 2,' he intones. 'I'm afraid this is completely unacceptable. We can't consider anyone who has a typo on page 2 of their life story. And this is even worse - an exclamation mark on page 4!'
Chapters 1-3 are dropped (passive alert!) carelessly to the ground, which I notice is soggy and slush-like, consisting as it does of a thick layer of decaying manuscripts. St Peter glances at my letter and gives another frown.
'I didn't mention that my children love my work,' I venture (no, sorry, I say. One must never use a different word for 'say'). 'Nor did I tell you anything about my garden, my goldfish or my penchant for golden syrup sandwiches.'
'Adverbs...' intones St P. 'Three of them. To say nothing of four adjectives in the first two paragraphs of your synopsis.'
I bristle. 'There may be the occasional adverb, but only where strictly needed to make my meaning clear.'
'Strictly?' bellows St Peter. 'That's an adverb if I ever heard one. Save it for those dancing programmes on TV. I've sent devoted believers to hell for less.'
'But surely...' I adopt a pleading tone. No, make that a wheedling tone. 'St Peter, please. I've spent a lifetime honing and polishing my life story. Is there nothing I can do to get you to read it - so you can actually judge my life on its merits rather than on my comma use?'
Another bellow. 'Actually?'
I see my case is lost.
But no. All is not lost, even though I just repeated the word 'lost', after only a couple of sentences. I hurry (is it OK to say 'hurry'?) to the library, which fortunately (gulp!) for me is one of the old-fashioned kind that (a) still exists and (b) has books, including a large stock of how-to manuals for budding writers.
And I see where I've been going wrong. Long before I started to type my synopsis or concoct my letter. Long before I even began to compose my draft. The potions! The ointments! The fragrances. The offerings. The slaughter, the sacrifice. The call to prayer, the prostration (just checked and yes, it does have an 'r'...)
I've been doing it all wrong. My day needs to start with 5 hours of prayer to the God of all agents, to the Lord of blog posts, to the ancient guardians of the publishers' domain. I have not been sufficiently 'umble. No postcards of cute kittens or bottles of wine, apparently - but a lifetime of praise, prayer and devotion and then, maybe, at the end of it, good St Peter will let me into Agent Heaven.
Or maybe I'll choose to stay in agent-less hell, where I actually seem to be doing OK.
PS No agents were harmed (I hope) in the writing of this post. I don't have anything against agents anyway - it's the screeds of advice on how to appease them that sometimes get my goat...
Blogging at Rosalie Reviews
Author of Coping with Chloe for age 11+
New series for 7-9s coming soon!