I have an agent
I have been keeping a secret. At UNO's post-graduate conference in Edinburgh, I showed the manuscript of my nearly finished novel to one of the visiting agents. He represented Inkwell Management, a respected New York literary agency, and kindly agreed to read my book even though it was still unfinished (this is very rare, I'm told). He read a few pages, and we talked about it, then a few days later, he had read the first third, and we spoke again. He liked it a lot.
Once I got back to America, he and I spoke on the phone and agreed a rough plan to complete the book. Yesterday, I signed a contract with Inkwell to represent my novel to publishers (this didn't feel appropriate to announce until a contract was signed).
I now have a lot of thinking work to do. I have the advice from my agent, line by line commentary from one writing partner, and strategic advice from another two. I am pouring over the manuscript, drawing diagrams of chapters and scenes, working out how to produce the final draft. The story is nearly there, but the final changes require a lot of thought and planning: by this stage, everything is interconnected, so any one change requires other changes, before and after.
It's great news. I feel very lucky, and am appreciative to everyone who helped me get this far. Early each morning in Knoxville, I walk to the downtown organic supermarket Just Ripe, buy a coffee, and sit at one of the outside tables, reading and making notes. I hope to have finished the draft in a couple of months.
Best wishes to you all,