May 4, 2010

QUERY/ A PLACE TO BE

Dear ,
I am seeking representation. My novel, A Place to Be, is a piece of literary fiction (95 271 words) that can be compared to the lyrical yet plot-driven novels by Preeta Samarasan and Arundhati Roy. However, the introspective and psychological bent of my novel makes it more emotionally and psychically gripping.
Kamala Karthigesu has been spending the last two years in a mental asylum in Tanjung Agas, Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia. She is just about to hang herself when there is a knock on the door. She’s not even allowed to kill herself, it seems.
Her days at the Asylum have mainly been quiet apart from occasional episodes which have come to be regarded by all as “1000 watt” moments. But the past will not let her go. She’s haunted by Pei Lu and Rashid, her childhood friends who betrayed her by falling in love, Tarikh, Rashid’s dead artist uncle whose paintings first inspired her to become an artist, her ex-lover the English painter Vincent Garland and Vairaumati, a character from Paul Gauguin’s paintings whose persona she blames Vincent for imposing on her when they were in love.
It is finally Nurse Fatimah who saves her from suicide. She has been taking care of Kamala at the asylum but their relationship has always been an uneasy one. It is Nurse Fatimah’s confession about her own past that finally gets Kamala to face the ghosts that have been haunting her. But it’s not an easy confrontation. She learns a fact about her past which confirms her mental instability and she is left to wonder about what she will do with her guilt.
Set mainly in contemporary Malaysia and partly in England, the novel looks at the effects of flawed communication between people, the weight of an unexplored past (both private and public- a parallel concern that runs through the novel is the May 13 1969 racial riots in Kuala Lumpur), the power of betrayal and how people create their own victimhood.
My poems have been published in several US and UK publications including “Agenda” Broadsheet and The Wolf magazine. I am a Malaysian by birth, a painter by choice and a writer by necessity.
Please let me know if you would be interested in reading part or all of A Place to Be.
Thanks for your time and I hope to hear from you soon.

4 comments:

John said...

There may well be an interesting story in here, but: too many characters, too little plot. What happens? What do all these people do/what have they done that makes them matter to each other, let alone to the reader?

Anonymous said...

First, spend some time on http://queryshark.blogspot.com/and Miss Snark's archives: http://misssnark.blogspot.com/search/label/crapometer-cover%20letters

I think your query makes a lot of the same fundamental mistakes that most writers make, and looking thoroughly and carefully at those sites would be more helpful than chop shopping your query at this stage. But since you're here, ax this:

"I am seeking representation. My novel, A Place to Be, is a piece of literary fiction (95 271 words) that can be compared to the lyrical yet plot-driven novels by Preeta Samarasan and Arundhati Roy. However, the introspective and psychological bent of my novel makes it more emotionally and psychically gripping."

(never, ever say your novel is more X or more Y than another novel. Some agents say don't even play the comparison game. It is tricky).

Also, this is telling, not showing:

"Set mainly in contemporary Malaysia and partly in England, the novel looks at the effects of flawed communication between people, the weight of an unexplored past (both private and public- a parallel concern that runs through the novel is the May 13 1969 racial riots in Kuala Lumpur), the power of betrayal and how people create their own victimhood."

And, ax the second part of this:

"I am a Malaysian by birth, a painter by choice and a writer by necessity."

(agents don't care about anything but the pub credits, unless your occupation directly relates to the novel in some way. So the Malaysian aspect works, but not the rest).

As you're working on this, try to focus on the main questions:

1) Who is your main character?
2) What happens to her?
3) What choice does she face?
4) What terrible thing will happen because of that choice?

I hope this helps. Good luck!

Shivani said...

John & Anon,
Thanks for your feedback. I'm rewriting the whole thing (again!). This is a tricky one- there are several subplots which I've omitted so as to not crowd the query which has made it crowded instead with characters. So, I'm sitting down and getting the core of the story out.
Anon- I was wondering whether I should've taken out the comparison bit but I think you're right. It's a bit much.
Thanks again for your comments. I'm going to be posting my new query up soon. Wish me luck!

Dominique said...

I beg of you, break this into paragraphs. Let there be space between said paragraphs as well so that your query will not convert into one mind-numbing block of text.

Word counts should be rounded off to the nearest 1000.

You might want to shift the part where you compare your novel to other novels to the bottom and lead with your own work. That's what the query is supposed to be about after all. Your work.

The name of the town in Malaysia where her asylum is, delete that. It's long, complicated, and unnecessary. All the reader needs to know is Malaysia. The other parts just distract them.

I'd suggest cutting references to the minor characters. You don't need them to explain what's going on. She's haunted by the past. The names don't matter so much for that.

All in all, cut unneeded details. Brevity is the soul of wit.

Hope this helps.