Sep 14, 2009

QUERY: FREEDOM´S JUST ANOTHER WORD...

Dear Agent,


Scotland, 2010. When Aggie MacLayne discovers that her best friend Sandra´s new husband and his mates are playing a grossly violent and misogynistic illegal online game, she agonizes over what to do. All she knows is that she wants to cause her friend the least possible pain. To sort out her jumbled thoughts Aggie writes them down and on the spur of the moment sends them to a magazine agony aunt. The magazine turns out to be legally obliged to inform the authorities. Aggie is questioned and pressurized into divulging names. The police raid the newlyweds´council house, finding not only evidence of the notorious game but also a stash of illegal guns. Sandra won´t be holding her man for a long, long time.

Just as it looks as though Aggie might be getting somewhere in trying to pick her trebly shocked friend up from the floor, the guns´owners become convinced that Sandra grassed up her hubbie. She barely escapes a vicious attack. Aggie, terrified that her role in events might emerge, comes clean to Sandra. Together the friends decide that they must flee their never more claustrophobic Glasgow estate and go on the run.

A gritty literary novel about two young women´s rise above poverty, violence and rampant chauvinism in a country where it seems not only the weather is getting colder, FREEDOM´S JUST ANOTHER WORD… is complete at 90,000 words.

Please find enclosed a synopsis and three sample chapters as per your submissions guidelines (or similar, and personalized tidbit plus biog bit).

Thank you for your time.
Sincerely,

Author

7 comments:

Natalie and Rick Nuttall said...

Hi! I like the sound of the book, but I think your query needs a little tweeking. First, read up on the Query Shark's advice regarding white space. You need more paragraph breaks.

The second sentence is a mouthful. You're introducing 3 characters right away and that might get confusing.

How is the game grossly violent and misogynistic? Are they inviting women to their houses and beating them? Is it only a game or are actual people getting hurt?

Is the magazine's name Agony Aunt? If it is, it needs to be capitalized, if it isn't then I don't understand why you're saying it.

Don't say "turns out to be" just say "The magazine is legally obliged..."

It's pressured, not pressurized. They mean two very different things.

I'm assuming "council house" is a Scottish term - if you're seeking representation in USA you should probably just say house.

The line "Sandra won't be holding her man for a long, long time." doesn't fit. You need something to segway into that, like "the police throw Jim in the clink and Sandra ...."

Second paragraph, first sentence is awkward. Obviously Sandra is going to be terribly (which I assume is what you mean, not trebly) shocked. Her man was just arrested. You don't have to tell us that.

Is "grassed up" a Scottish phrase? Why doesn't the husband own the guns? Was he just hiding them for their real owners?

I'm confused why they feel they need to flee. Why don't they just go to the cops again?

You said they live in a Glasgow estate, that doesn't say poverty to me.

I would take out the part about "in a country where it seems not only the weather is getting colder." It has no bearing on your story and it won't make an agent happy.

John said...

For Natalie and Rick,

agony aunt = advice columnist

grassed up = informed upon, ratted out

council house = public housing (implying low income)

estate = housing development, subdivision

For Author,

These anglicisms will be lost on most American readers, so you might want to have a US version and a UK version of your query letter. Beyond that, I agree with the points in Natalie and Rick's post. The game would presumably have to involve harm to actual people in order to justify police busting down the door.

Suzan Harden said...

It wasn't the Anglicisms that threw me here. But there are other aspects besides the ones mentioned so far that are confusing.

You might want to explain more about why the game is illegal. Just because someone hacks up women in his writing or symbolically through other types of art doesn't mean it's illegal. Be specific in your query about where Sandra's husband and his friends cross the line.

Also, who's story is this? The query starts with Aggie, but the query progresses in sounds as if Sandra has the most to lose.

Sounds like an intriguing premise. It just needs a little fleshing out.

Gina said...

Hi and thank you all,

I probalby should´ve added a note that this one´s for UK submission only (sometime in the hopefully not too distant future when agents will have ceased to run for the hills at the words ´gritty literary novel´). I thought I´d try it out here anyway since I like the community. I didn´t think it would be that incomprehensible to American sensibilities. Whoever came up with the old chestnut about two countries separated by a common language was certainly right.
In addition to John´s points, we do also use ´pressurized´ in the way you guys use ´pressured´.
These realizations have made me fine-comb my current query for a US-friendly comic sci-fi/ fantasy, so that´s good.

Re the (wholly virtual) game: it is not the mysoginistic side of it that is illegal but a strong racist element which falls under incitement-to-hatred legislation. Also, the cops are looking to nail the husband anyway. I realize I have to weave both these facts into the query. The premise incidentally is that the Conservatives are in power by 2010 (hence the reference to colder conditions all round; when I started on this it looked like there were going to be elections in 09). If Labour stays it´s rewrite city.

Thanks for all the good advice re sentence length, paragraphs, Aggie vs Sandra etc!

Donna Hole said...

Gina,

This sounds like an interesting novel with lots of complicated subplots. It would be interesting to see how you pull them all together in the novel.

I'm not sure you need to go into detail of all the subplots however in the US query. A couple character names, the central conflict, and what action is needed to resolve that conflict is all you need.

And your last paragraph (rise above poverty, violence and rampant chauvinism) seemed way off base for the details above. The violence was there, but not the rest.

Good luck with querying in the US. IMO, there needs to be more "gritty" literary fiction.

.........dhole

Laura Martone said...

Hi, Gina!

Your premise intrigues me - I, like Donna, am a fan of gritty literary fiction.

Nonetheless, I agree with everyone else here... re: the confusing UK euphemisms, the need to break up thoughts and yet focus on one MC (which I assume is Aggie), and the need to clarify the violent, illegal nature of the online game. Also, punctuation would help - for instance, you need a comma after "To sort out her jumbled thoughts" and around "on the spur of the moment" and after "Together" - and the phrase "never more" seems unnecessarily confusing.

Good luck with the query process! In many respects, it seems like a very topical story!

Gina said...

Thanks again everyone!

On to the second draft of both query and novel (my new approach, seeing as the former was such agony to put together afterwards the last time round)...