The other thing that gets mentioned is that publishers are risk-averse because they're looking for guaranteed profits. So here's my worry. I am a pedant. This book is supposed to be written by a 13-year-old girl with no formal education, at a time when grammar was being solidified in the English language. This means that I can't begin like this.
Excerpt one - common sentence, grammar and language structure.
Dear husband. Three days ago I became the last girl in the world. In 40 pages I will be a woman. My father says that I am bound by tradition to tell you how I 'became' a woman, but Jon Mair - the doctor - says I should use these pieces of paper to write down the herbs, spices and recipes that will make farmers better so they can continue to work.
But I want to tell you about Jenna. You probably know her, but if I don't write down my memories of her, I will forget the way she looks, and the things we did when we played like sisters and friends. Pa says I can remember her just like I remember Ma. But I don't really remember Ma. I forgot her face soon after she died. Now I can't recall her face or hair, or the sound of her voice. Sometimes, when we make tea with lots of honey, the smell makes me feel I can almost see her, but not enough to really see her in my mind.
Excerpt two - my sentence, grammar and language structure.
dear husband. 3 days past i became the last girl in the world. in 40 pages i will be a woman. pa says i sposed to tell you how i turn into a woman but jon mair says i must write down the herb and spice plans to make farmers better. i want to tell you all about jenna. you know jenna but if i dont write her into my pages i will forget how she looks and the things we did like sisters and frens. pa says i can keep her in my mind like ma but i dont have ma in my mind anymore. i cant tell him that when she went to the old island she left my mind fast. now i dont no her face or hair or the sound of her voice. sometimes i will smell the house after a long time away or smell hunnytea and i can see some of her. but not enuff.
(this is draft one, and I've just realised my spelling of 'write' doesn't work. It should be rite (same structure as bite) and also 'anymore' might be a little bit complex). So excerpt two is a little more difficult to read than one, because there was uncommon spellings that work phonetically in the main, no capitals, no commas and no apostrophes. It is the way I would imagine someone writing if they had grown up in a largely oral culture.
Now I could go over and edit the text to make it modern (which is the first thing I imagine an agent would suggest), but then the book would lose its spine. The language develops through the text as the girl becomes more confident, and so to blunt these early chapters would ruin it. It would, in fact, make me hate it.
That's a bit of a dilemma, because if you take chapters 1 - 5 out of context (they're short chapters, I promise), or even just ripped out a single sentence, then you would assume that this was written by one of a million chimps who had just struck the typewriter keys with uncommon luck. When you read beyond chapter 5, things start falling into place (the grammatical progression has been the hardest thing to manage so far, and it still feels a little abrupt at times) and it starts to feel more like a more traditionally written piece.
So. What to do? How do I get people beyond the first five chapters?