Over the weekend I had a nightmare. A really odd nightmare. You see, I'm not one of those guys who believes that agents are elitist gatekeepers who want to shut out the young "upstarts" who aren't close, personal friends of the industry. In fact, the three agents I've met (because I haven't had a chance to meet very many of them face to face) are VERY nice, friendly, and genuinely excited to meet new, interesting voices who AREN'T currently insiders.
But over the weekend I had a nightmare about agents. What it boiled down to was a stream of chastisements from every agent I've ever queried telling me that I should have taken the time to edit a manuscript that I sent out to them. This manuscript they were speaking of wasn't actually a project I ever worked on. In fact, I think it was an idea that I stored in my subconscious because I never wanted to put it down on paper. But in my dream I finished the first draft and immediately queried over fifty agents. All of whom wrote back on the same day to tell me that I should have done a better job editing.
What's the moral of the story? Edit! Edit, edit, EDIT!! If any agent ever chastises you in an e-mail (rather than sending a simple rejection or genuine critiques), then chances are you don't want to work with them. These letters that I received in my dream were downright rude. And while I wouldn't be surprised to find that there are agents like that, I've never actually heard of any of them by name. But the point still stands: NEVER send out your manuscript until you've edited it!
In fact, make sure someone else READS it before you send it out. Why? Because it needs to be the best you can possibly make it before you send it to the very kind yet very busy agents who DO want to work with you, but not do all of the work for you.
Now I'm off to edit (as far as you know. I might just finish my lunch and get back to the Day Job, but depending on when you read this, I COULD be editing).