I began querying agents, convinced my novel would be rejected at once. Imagine my surprise and delight when several asked to see chapters. Since then I've received some feedback. Yippee, I thought, I'm actually getting advice from publishing professionals!
I fell upon the first comments with enthusiasm hoping to use them to improve my story, but as more came in I noticed something odd. They contradict each other. Somebody loved the protagonist and setting but wasn't too thrilled with the plot, another thought the concept was great but didn't fall in love with the heroine. One told me they loved the way the setting was described, another mentioned too much description bogs the story down.
Miss. Snark, please put me out of my gin soaked misery - does this mean the whole thing is rubbish and they just can't bring themselves to tell me, or is there still hope?
First, if one is gin soaked, one is not miserable. It's a contradiction in terms. One might be flammable; one might be unconscious in the gutter, but miserable? Never.
Second, not only is there hope, you've probably got something pretty good. I know this cause you're getting feedback. If you're getting "sorry not right for us; do query my unlucky colleagues with this drivel" then I'd think it was you.
In this case it's us. The short clever answer is we think we know it all but sadly, only Miss Snark knows it all. No more than you and your friends are going to agree on what makes Guido Pompadour the leading practitioner of Elvis on velvet paintings (available at your nearest roadside attraction) will agents agree on what they like or don't about a novel in progress.
Here's my advice: save the letters. Let them sit for a bit, like a month. Get over the giddiness of discovering correspondence that doesn't say "your work sux". Then reread the letters. Some will make sense. Some will sound stupid. Pay really close attention to the ones that sound stupid.
In my experience authors get so close to their work that they sometimes miss some major faults. Then, when those faults are listed, they disregard the list as idiotic. It's the stuff out of left field that can give you breakthrough ideas.
On the other hand it could be crap too. But, you can't even begin to look at this with a degree of objectivity till some time has passed. Have a great Holiday season and look at this after the New Year. And lay off the gin, Miss Snark needs to replenish her pail soon.