Jan 17, 2012

QUERY- ONCE MORE AROUND THE BLOCK

Sorry for the delay in posting, I was traveling and the hotel WiFi kept dropping my connection.  I have another query scheduled to post tomorrow afternoon (revision to COMING OF THE DUKEBARR).
- Rick

Dear Agent:

Gail's life has not been perfect. She might have avoided making a few important decisions, like who to marry and where to live. After her arranged marriage fails, she is paralyzed with fear and spends the first three months hiding behind the pages of her Harlequin romance novels.

Encouraged by her best friend, Gail makes the decision to strike out on her own. She gets a little unexpected help from a strange cast of characters, her over-the-top grandmother, and Tony Cimino, the man who waits patiently for her to finally see him.

Both over-shadowed by siblings, Gail and Tony have learned to settle for what they were told was all they could expect from life. He hides landscape magazines behind the ovens of his father's pizza and sub joint on Broadway. She hides behind thick lenses and dreams of studying graphic art.

Gail did not expect to love her new life, and never expected the love of another to find her. She cannot believe he is her chance at happiness and tries to push him away. But Tony, a man who knows what he wants and sees it in Gail, is not going to give up so easily.

ONCE MORE AROUND THE BLOCK, complete at 80K words, is a love story about two people who find the courage to start over. I would be happy to send part of all of the complete manuscript. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Respectfully,
FIRST PAGE:

II was certain something lethal was about to hurl through space and split me in two. As it turned out, Ben didn't need a ballistic missile or a grenade launcher, he only needed a piece of notepaper.

Dear Gail, I wish there was something more I could say. Have a great life. Benjamin Silverstein.

The phone in the apartment was dead, so I used the cell to call my friend, Marcy. "He did what?"

"That lousy bastard. He left me a Dear Gail note and signed it Benjamin Silverstein, like I didn't know his last name."

"Where are you?"

I paced around in a circle by the wall phone near our pass-through. "I'm in our apartment … our empty apartment. He cleaned me out. You've got to come and get me."

"Aw shit Gail, there's a blizzard out there."

"I don't care. You said your friend has a heavy all terrain vehicle. Please Marcy, you've got to get here."

"Hold up." She covered the phone, but I could still hear. "Bruno, we can play French Maid all night."

"Yeah, but I gotta get the truck back."

"No, you don't. You'll tell him it's under three feet of snow, which is where I'll put you if you don't get your pants on and get me over there."

She got back on with me, "No problem, Gail."

"French Maid, Marcy?"

"Yeah, he's tired of the Cowgirl. Good thing, those chaps were killing my thighs."

After she clicked off, I roamed through the rooms. The only things left were four boxes, shreds of excelsior, packing tape, a week-old Daily News, and three empty beer cans, not his brand.

Ten days basking in the sun and lounging on the pristine beaches of St. Croix, ten days to work on my life plan and decide what I wanted to be when I grew up, shattered by a three by a three piece of paper. I looked through our bedroom window to the black late afternoon sky, willing myself to picture Ben's face as he wrote his final farewell to our bogus marriage. "Yeah, well fuck you too."

6 comments:

Anonymous Author said...

The first sentence of your manuscript has a usage error (splice) and the second sentence has two spelling errors. No reputable agent or editor is going to read further than that.

And that's a problem. A well-polished query letter may garner you requests, but those requests will lead to rejection if your manuscript isn't equally polished.

Dominique said...

As I understand it, arranged marriages are very uncommon in the US, so you'll have to explain how your MC ended up in one.
Otherwise, while your plot is clear, your query lacks the pizazz to set it apart from others in its genre. It needs a little flair.

gj said...

In a query, even more than with a story's first page, each sentence has to sell the reader, convincing the reader to keep going and read the next sentence. Think of it this way: As soon as the reader gets to a boring sentence, she stops. (She might give you some leeway in the manuscript itself, but not in the query and probably not on the first page of the manuscript either.)

Start with something interesting or the reader won't get past that first sentence. It doesn't have to be cars exploding or vampires biting or anything huge. But it has to be something interesting. Something that if a friend said, "hey, did you hear about the woman down the street who ..." you'd honestly want to hear it.

And what have you got for a first line? A woman whose life is imperfect. Okay, so if a friend asked you, "Hey, do youw ant to hear about a woman whose life is imperfect?" are you really going to say "Yes"? Or are you going to say, "So what? No one's life is perfect.

Start over from scratch. Start where Gail has a problem and is doing something about it. Her failed marriage is backstory. Can't change any of that. She's been dumped. Now what? And be specific. I don't have a clue what "strike out on her own" means (well, I know what the words mean, but one woman might join a science quest to the north pole, while someone with agoraphobia might venture out to her mailbox, and they'd both consider it striking out on her own). Same for pretty much everything else in the rest of it. It's just meaningless phrases to anyone who hasn't read the book.

And one big warning: if you're marketing this as a romance, you REALLY, REALLY, REALLY don't want to use this phrase or this characterization anywhere within a million miles of the query or the story: "three months hiding behind the pages of her Harlequin romance novels."

Why? Strike number 1: not all romance books are Harlequin, and this phrasing reinforces the equation of the two.

Strike number 2: This is the exact stereotype that most romance authors (and many readers) are prepared to set their hair on fire to protest. Not all romance readers -- of Harlequin books or other publishers -- are depressed introverts avoiding real life.

It's one thing to say "she can't deal with real life, so she escapes into fiction." It's another to add fuel to the bonfire of disdain that some people have for romance. Especially if you're writing a romance!

Anonymous Author said...

Btw, I realize "fuck you" is now considered as socially acceptable as "good morning", but "fuck you too" mayk not be where you want to close your selection that you're sending.

A good last impression is important.

Anonymous said...

I found the word "bogus" even more offensive.

Anonymous Author said...

Well, if you wanna talk offended, I was only actually offended by "hides behind thick lenses".