FacebookTwitterPinterestInstagramTumblrGoogleYouTube
 
 
RSS Feed Print
Almost given up
Zia Ahmad
Posted: Wednesday, May 11, 2011 2:31 AM
Joined: 4/29/2011
Posts: 17


Either the genre of my book is not preferred by the agents I have contacted, or this is really a bad query letter. You be the judge:

I am seeking literary representation for my 65,000-word, murder mystery and love story novel, One Hundred, which is based on true events in Lahore, Pakistan.

Survival in the tough and dangerous streets of Lahore is no different than Rio de Janeiro or Mumbai, where drug gangs, death squads, and police chase street urchins.

 

It is a constant fight for survival on the unforgiving streets for Yosef, an orphan born in prison, Jogi, an Afghani boy trafficked into Pakistan, and Saif, a victim of domestic abuse. The three runaways are brought together by the calamities in their lives. In the midst of a shattered love affair with Neelam, a girl from an influential family, haunting memories of his mother’s rape in the prison, and struggle with the drug gangs, Yosef must do the unthinkable.

 

Convinced that law is not on their side, he must break into a prison and avenge the murderer who took the lives of one hundred street children in a six-month murder spree, including the life of ten-year-old Daud, who was the closest thing to a family that Yosef had ever had.

 

Compelled by social injustice and driven by his rebellious instinct, he forms an unlikely alliance with the most feared law enforcement officer on the street, the same man who once nearly put him in his grave.

 

But will things go as planned?

 

These are the children of the streets. They know the corners, the turns, the secret openings. They live, and they learn. The beaten-down paths and cobblestone streets welcome them with open arms, like mothers hugging their offspring, only to send them off the next morning to survive another day.

 

One Hundred is a story of courage, love, hope, and a sense of belonging. It is a journey into the ancient city of Lahore and brings out the harsh reality of runaway children living in the slums. The story exposes the vulnerability of street children to danger, their resolve to survive on their own, and the communal bond they create to fight a common enemy.

 

For nearly twenty years before coming to America, I lived in the historic city where this story takes place. I now reside in Chicago, have earned a bachelor’s degree in finance, and have a career in banking. The story resonates with Kite Runner and Slumdog millionaire. Yet its plot is unique and characters larger than life.



If you are interested, I will be happy to send you a partial or complete manuscript. Thanks for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

 


momgotshocked
Posted: Wednesday, May 11, 2011 1:40 PM
Joined: 4/28/2011
Posts: 34


I am no expert, but right off the bat I'd guess that you ought to stick with the experience of your main character (Yosef?). The other characters are relevant only as "children of the streets" (I mean, for the purpose of the query.)

It's kinda rambly, and a large part of it just tells us that they (a bunch of them) ramble around the miserable streets. It's almost hard to find the nugget of the story, which I assume is breaking into the prison and avenging a murder. Make that stick out.

Another killer problem I think i see is the length -- pretty sure that unless this is YA (and it doesn't sound like it!) 65,000 is a bit short. I could be wrong. Someone else will probably weigh in.
Zia Ahmad
Posted: Wednesday, May 11, 2011 7:41 PM
Joined: 4/29/2011
Posts: 17


Thanks, MGS. Your comments are extremely helpful.
Selina Fenech
Posted: Friday, May 13, 2011 5:37 AM
Joined: 4/30/2011
Posts: 12


Do you mind if I have a go at editing and cutting this? Didn't want to go straight ahead in case you didn't want that sort of feedback.
Otherwise I agree with momgotshocked on most points.
I'll add another- the length of the query itself. I've read in a lot of places that the entire query letter should be about 250 words (short I know!!), and the story synopsis section only 2-3 paragraphs. So you want to try and make this a lot more concise. The prison break (into) and vengence seem to be the real hook of the story and sound interesting, so focus on that.
Zia Ahmad
Posted: Friday, May 13, 2011 6:56 PM
Joined: 4/29/2011
Posts: 17


Absolutely, Selina. By all means, feel free to cut, edit, re-arrange any way you like. Having to read from a different point of view will be fantastic! Can't wait to read your version of this letter. Thanks

Selina Fenech
Posted: Friday, May 20, 2011 3:54 AM
Joined: 4/30/2011
Posts: 12


Ok, keep in mind that I'm no expert, just a newbie, but I've had a go. Sometimes it can help to get a fresh perspective- even if it means examining the bits I cut and deciding what it is about them that you really do need or not, and realising through that what might be missing to perfect this.

Ugh, and I just realised they seem to have removed the rich-text functionality, so I can't paste in the text with strikethroughs and bolded additions... so I'll just paste in the final edit version and hopefully you will see what i've cut and moved.

----------------------------------------
I am seeking literary representation for my 65,000-word, murder mystery romance, One Hundred, which is based on true events in Lahore, Pakistan.

It is a constant fight for survival on the unforgiving streets of Lahore for Yosef, an orphan born in prison, In the midst of a shattered love affair with a girl from an influential family, Yosef must break into a prison to exact revenge on a brutal child killer. The murderer took the lives of one hundred street children in a six-month murder spree, including the life of ten-year-old Daud, who was the closest thing to a family that Yosef had ever had. Compelled by social injustice and driven by his rebellious instinct, he forms an unlikely alliance with the most feared law enforcement officer on the street, the same man who once nearly put him in his grave. But will things go as planned?

One Hundred is a story of courage, love, hope, and a sense of belonging. It is a journey into the ancient city of Lahore. The story exposes the vulnerability of street children to danger, their resolve to survive on their own, and the communal bond they create to fight a common enemy. For nearly twenty years before coming to America, I lived in the historic city where this story takes place
----------------------------------------------
Basically I've cut anything that wasn't about Yosef. with only a paragraph or two to use, you can only afford to focus on one character. If you can, also cut out Daud's name (still refer to him, perhaps, but only one name for a short synopsis seems to be the rule unless it's a romance novel in which case it's the name of both in the romance).

There were also a couple of cases where you say things twice, eg at the end "brings out the harsh reality of runaway children living in the slums." and right after "The story exposes the vulnerability of street children to danger," are very similar.

I hope this helps!

Zia Ahmad
Posted: Saturday, May 21, 2011 5:22 PM
Joined: 4/29/2011
Posts: 17


Selina,
Thank you for taking the time to read and give your perspective on the query letter. As I read this, I hear my mind scream the names of other characters, which enriched and brought life to the story just as much and should be mentioned in the letter. Yet, reading your comments makes me realize how a one page letter can become overcrowded and overwhelm the reader, if all important characters are described in bullet point style. Sometimes when you write a story for a while, the characters, the main ones at least, take residence inside your head, and it seems next to impossible to separate and categorize them based on the importance. Thanks again for your fresh approach to the letter. I greatly appreciate it.

Kevin Haggerty
Posted: Saturday, May 21, 2011 7:04 PM
Joined: 3/17/2011
Posts: 90


Hey Zia,

Your book sounds powerful. I think Selina really got to something with her edit. A query is not where the many voices are going to be heard. It's just not. You need to save them for the synopsis or the partial when the agent asks for them. A query is like your foot in the door, and this query is more like your whole leg.

A query is, in part, where an agent sees that you know how the query game is played. Your query is simply too long. And there are too many characters mentioned. Agents don't want to have to teach you everything there is to know about the business and with a query like this, you risk coming across as a noob. Agents are presumably very busy people and I can imagine a lot of 'em taking one look at your query and passing on it because it "lacks focus" or some such. And that's a real shame, but a query is written for the benefit of the agent, not the benefit of the characters in your book.

One thing that crossed my mind and is sticking there: If it were me, I'd change the title "One Hundred" to "The One Hundred." Some reasons: "One Hundred" has an immediate pop-culture association with "300." Both stories deal with Persian culture/Middle East (I know, 300 is a travesty of Persian culture, but the association is there) which might further confuse the reader/agent. Your book and Miller's book have *ZERO* to do with each other as far as I can see. And "One Hundred" does not refer to the year 100. Also, "One Hundred" is just a number. It could be the title of a math book for all we know. Whereas, "The One Hundred" immediately suggests 100 people, 100 important people, 100 historically relevant people. It's not a *number* that inspires Yosef to revenge, it's the *children* themselves; not just any "one hundred," but this specific "one hundred." *The* one hundred. Does that make sense?

I know the title will ultimately be determined by your publisher, but I think "The One Hundred" has more curb-appeal, if you will, than simply "One Hundred."

I wish you the best of luck with your book!

-Kevin
Selina Fenech
Posted: Sunday, May 22, 2011 12:01 AM
Joined: 4/30/2011
Posts: 12


Hi Zia,
I know what you mean about the other characters. My own query is the same, I'm dying to name at least one other character who is almost as important as the main character, and then the third main doesn't even get a mention name or no. It is hard when you know how important they are to the story, but with just 2-3 paragraphs, we do what we have to!
Zia Ahmad
Posted: Sunday, May 22, 2011 2:25 PM
Joined: 4/29/2011
Posts: 17


Thanks for your feedback Kevin, much appreciated. Being the first time writer, I am learning the ropes as I go along. Your suggestion has made me think that the revised title may serve really well with the way the second chapter ends. Great insight. I'll definitely consider it in the query letter.
Zia Ahmad
Posted: Tuesday, December 13, 2011 12:23 PM
Joined: 4/29/2011
Posts: 17


Thanks to all your comments and feedback, my book, The One Hundred, based on a true story, has now been published on Amazon and Kindle. Hope you will check it out.

Jay Greenstein
Posted: Wednesday, December 14, 2011 8:31 PM
I see problems, I'm afraid. First is that this is a synopsis, not a query. You're trying to tell the plot flow, and that's impossible in so few words. The query blurb should be very like the one on the back cover of the finished book. It's job is to make the reader turn to page one and give the writing a chance to hook them. To do that it deals in concepts and consequences, not details.

Mention that they must break into prison. That's a hook. You might include that it's done for vengeance.  But that's it. That's the concept. The rest is detail and unneeded. And, keep it as short as you can. The less you say the less chance there is of screwing up.

Think of the words that would introduce the film trailer. It would be short, punchy, and deal in the thrust of the story and the drama. Spend some time on Queryshark.com, and you'll learn a lot.

Also, avoid something like, "But will things go as planned?" First, the conventions of storytelling say they won't, so it's not necessary to mention. Next, saying it as you do reads too much like what will follow is: "Read the book to find out." That's the kiss of death for a query. You didn't say it, but to me it felt as if you were going to, so I'd avoid it.

Zia Ahmad
Posted: Thursday, December 15, 2011 10:03 AM
Joined: 4/29/2011
Posts: 17


Jay,
Thanks for the constructive criticism. I appreciate it.
Meghan
Posted: Sunday, February 17, 2013 8:43 PM
Joined: 2/15/2013
Posts: 11


Change ‘murder mystery and love story’ to murder mystery with romantic elements.  This really doesn’t sound that much like a romance at all.  The romance appears to be a minor plot point, at least from the query.  Also, is it completly based or loosely based on events?  Because it may make a difference to some agents if this is truly biographical in nature. 

I have heard about ‘character soup’ on many query blogs and this reads like that.  You have six characters introduced in your first paragraph. I don’t know if it’s important at this stage to mention Daud or his other friends.  If Yosef is the main character, stick with him only and model the query from his POV.  Also, I think it’s understood Pakistan is a dangerous city for youth – the parallels are unnecessary. 

I don’t really get why he needs to break into prison.  He’s haunted and angry so why does he feel the need to kill this man – is it just revenge or is he after something?  The last sentence, ‘yet its plot is unique and the characters larger than life…’ – take it out. This is query letter suicide. It makes you sound vain.  You may want to just mention the unique part but not the larger than life. 

I love the idea for the book.  As someone who was born in Mumbai and has walked the streets of Slumdog Millionaire, I would definitely read this.


 

Jump to different Forum...