comments 7

L’esprit de l’escalier

It is a truth universally acknowledged (by me anyway) that the instant you send something to an agent, you see flaws in it that you didn’t know existed. These can range from typos to repetitions to, you know, basic plot and character problems.

Has anyone else encountered this phenomenon? I think it’s a bit like the typo on the job application you only see once you’ve licked the envelope or pressed send. The French have an expression that sort of applies to it: l’esprit de l’escalier – staircase wit: the funny retort or snappy comeback you only think of when it’s too late (literally, when you’re going upstairs to bed).

Last Friday I sent my revised (and re-revised) MS to an agent who said she liked the sound of it and would get back to me asap. I know, I know, I am really lucky to have had a response at all. I work in book publishing and that gives me an invaluable insight into the whole submitting process. But on the other hand it means I know that when someone is really keen on a direct submission, they’ll get back within days – and if you haven’t heard in nearly a week, it’s almost certainly a no. Still, the good news is that will give me time to revise further. And further …


  1. It's an online writers' site. Since I live in D-land and can't join any writing groups, I hang out there. If you do join, I'm the webspinner – come and say hi.

  2. Aha. Yes, it looks very good and it's a good reminder that I need to join a writers' group. Thanks. Just out of curiosity and to see if my hunch is right: can you remember how long it took before your agent got back to you with thumbs-up? (Congrats again!)

  3. Actually Charlotte – DON'T answer that last question, as it's exactly the sort of small stuff I shouldn't be sweating. But sincerely, congrats again!

  4. I read an interview with Zadie Smith once and she said that at literary festivals backstage before the authors go out to read excerpts from their books all you can hear is soft curses and the sounds of scribbling as they alter things that they should have spotted earlier.

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