Ask The Scribe

Ask the Scribe


Q: My agent just read a revised version of my manuscript and called it my “best writing yet.” Is that a compliment or an insult?


Tricia Lawrence, associate agent at Erin Murphy Literary Agency, gives us her answer:

Congratulations! If you got that from your agent, you should dance!

It is a compliment all the way! As agents, we see a lot of writing and we LOVE when an author uplevels their own work and sends us something that is their “best writing yet,” and we often feel compelled to respond and tell them so. Not because we’re pandering, but because we’re genuinely excited. Plus, I want to encourage my authors. I’m a big believer in “be direct with kindness” and this looks to be a very genuine and kind comment.

As an agent, the goal I have for my authors is to keep them growing, moving forward, taking on greater tasks, proving themselves to tasks that perhaps they may have struggled with in the past. I always mean it when I say this is your “best writing yet.” Always.

But, if you wonder if it means something else, or perhaps you felt a twinge of worry when you read it, you should ask your agent about it. Perhaps you worry that your dialogue isn’t up to snuff. So ask the agent, “Do you mean that I’m improving when I write dialogue?” Or “Do you think this means that I’m finally getting the hang of using more imagery in my descriptions?” In other words, be specific. If you wonder too much about what the agent wasn’t saying, you’ll psyche yourself out.

Above all, be honest with your agent. If that comment worried you, ask about it. If they again say that it is your “best writing yet,” believe them. If they say, “Well, there’s still some work to do on dialogue,” be glad you’re getting the truth. (Of course, agents should be remembering that a dose of sugar helps the medicine go down more easily, at least I think.)

But once you get the truth from your agent, you should go write something! You’re in the zone now, baby! You’ve got an agent who loves your work! That’s worth dancing for.


Tricia is the “Pacific Northwest branch” of EMLA—born and raised in Oregon, and now lives in Seattle. After 17 years of working as a developmental and production-based copyeditor (from kids book to college textbooks, but mostly college textbooks), she joined the EMLA team in March 2011 as a social media strategist hoping to learn from Erin and Joan about agenting.

As associate agent, Tricia represents picture books/chapter books that look at the world in a unique and unusual way, with characters that are alive both on and off the page, and middle grade and young adult fiction and nonfiction that offers strong worldbuilding, wounded narrators, and stories that grab a reader and won’t let go.  Tricia loves hiking, camping out in the woods, and collecting rocks. She loves BBC America and anything British. She has way too many books and not enough bookshelves.



Welcome to our new advice column for writers.  ”Ask the Scribe” will come out every other Tuesday beginning September 4, 2012.  If you are a current Writers’ League of Texas member and have a burning question about craft or the business of writing, please submit it to scribe@writersleague.org.  Note: Your submission cannot be anonymous, however we can keep your identity anonymous when it is posted on the blog.

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