Rejecting Agent Carter

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If Hollywood Executives sat down and had a serious discussion about what show would most likely attract the loyal viewership of me, Jake J. MacMillan, they would undoubtedly come up with Marvel’s Agent Carter.

I like action. I like period pieces. I’m seriously into strong female leads. The character of Howard Stark feeds right into my childish belief that one man working in his garage can revolutionize the world and Jarvis is simply a delight.

Hayley Atwell is a wonderful actor who is both beautiful to look at and listen to. They’ve even gotten rid of the most egregious sexist pigs from the first season – we get the point, men are pigs, but these guys are no fun to watch. In short, there is absolutely no reason for me to not get hooked on this show.

And yet.

So that brings us around to today’s real lesson: It’s Not Personal. Every time you send a screenplay or a novel to a literary agent and you don’t hear anything back except maybe a form letter rejection slip that they don’t even bother to template your name into, you are consumed with an urge to FIX THE PROBLEM. All caps because those are your feels and they’re strong.

Rip open that screenplay and start digging through the third act for trouble spots. Drag out the novel and run a rake through it to pull out every last poorly formed simile. Make all the changes you want, but try to remember you’re not in a valid feedback loop. No one has told you there’s a problem. All they have said is it’s not for them.

That’s why you have to send every manuscript to every breathing agent in the world and get passed on by all of them twice before you can write that manuscript off as a lost cause.

Now if you get the note, “All characters speak with the same voice” back from thirty of a hundred agents, then you might just have a problem with tone. On the other hand, you might also find that the 101st agent says, “I love how all the characters speak with the same voice. It’s all obviously in his head!”

That’s a judgment call.

On the other hand, my agent was really excited to go out with my time traveling detective novel only to have every publisher come back with the same response, “Lovely, but we have no idea how to market it.”

Boom. There is no misreading that dead cat bounce.


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