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wilderness
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Re: Bengali Girls Don't -- version 3

Post by wilderness » June 25th, 2010, 4:50 pm

zakariyamsherman wrote:
Dear agent x:

Lucky is a fourteen-year-old Bangladeshi girl living in England with a penchant for short skirts, makeup and boyfriends as opposed to headscarves, face veils and brothers in the year 1985. I recommend you break up this sentence because it is quite a mouthful. But when her father learns of her relationship with a Pakistani boy, which is a no-no in their community, he tricks her into going to Bangladesh under the guise of a sick uncle in order to protect his reputation. Agree with JT on "under the guise". Also, "a no-no in their community" seems like a flat way to say it. Can you make it more humorous?

In Bangladesh, Lucky discovers the truth. Her uncle is alive and well and her prospective groom is a thirty-year-old man who lives with his mother.

In a panic she writes to her boyfriend telling him that she doesn’t have her passport anymore and that her parents are planning to marry her off.

Her mother tells her, “Don’t worry. As soon as you get married and He gets his visa, which shouldn’t take too long, you can go back [to England].” That was three years ago, when she was fifteen. I think the tense change is awkward. It will read better if you just say "Three years later, she is still wondering whether she will ever get home" or something. Will she ever get home?

Inspired by a true story (my wife’s), BENGALI GIRLS DON’T is a 96,000-word coming-of-age novel that begins during Bangladesh’s liberation war, the Shangram, in the year 1971, shows Lucky’s parents and two brothers fleeing for their lives (Lucky is in her mother’s tummy), and reveals the atrocities committed by the Pakistani soldiers, the rapes, the murders, the savagery… It shows Bangladesh’s independence. It would be better if you put this in the pitch section or don't mention it. Best to keep the query chronological, in my opinion. The rest of the book deals with Lucky’s tween and teen years in England, the tug-of-war between two cultures, and her constant struggle for freedom.

Sincerely,
Zakariya Mikal Sherman
I think you can still work to add more of your humorous voice to your story, but it has improved a lot in explaining the plot! Good luck!

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Re: Bengali Girls Don't -- version 3

Post by otherside89girl » June 26th, 2010, 8:36 pm

Zakariyam, I saw your book title yesterday while skimming the query forum, and the name was stuck in my head all day. I'm glad I came back to look at your query because now I totally want to read the book! So, here's my feedback...


zakariyamsherman wrote:Here we go again. Thanks for the help.

Dear agent x:

Lucky is a fourteen-year-old Bangladeshi girl living in England in the year 1985. She has a with a penchant for short skirts, makeup and boyfriends as opposed to headscarves, face veils and brothers in the year 1985. Butwhen her father learns of her [forbidden? or something? instead of "no-no"] relationship with a Pakistani boy, which is a no-no in their community, he tricks her into going to Bangladesh under the guise of a sick uncle in order to protect his reputation.

In Bangladesh, Lucky discovers the truth. Her uncle is alive and well and her prospective groom is a thirty-year-old man who lives with his mother.

In a panic she writes to her boyfriend telling him that she's stuck without a passport she doesn’t have her passport anymore and that her parents are planning to marry her off.

Her mother tells her, “Don’t worry. As soon as you get married and He gets his visa, which shouldn’t take too long, you can go back [to England].” [maybe state her mother's words in the narrative voice instead of using a direct quote] That was three years ago, when she was fifteen. Will she ever get home?

Inspired by a my wife'strue story (my wife’s), BENGALI GIRLS DON’T is a 96,000-word coming-of-age novel that begins during Bangladesh’s liberation war, the Shangram, in the year 1971, shows Lucky’s parents and two brothers fleeing for their lives (Lucky is in her mother’s tummy), and reveals the atrocities committed by the Pakistani soldiers as Lucky's parents and brothers flee for their lives before Lucky's birth [or something], the rapes, the murders, the savagery… It shows Bangladesh’s independence.The rest of the book deals with Lucky’s tween and teen years in England, the tug-of-war between two cultures, and her constant struggle for freedom.

Sincerely,
Zakariya Mikal Sherman

Hope that helped. Good luck!

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Re: Bengali Girls Don't -- version 3

Post by GeeGee55 » June 27th, 2010, 6:28 pm

I really love the idea of your book. But...ah yes, there's always a but is there not?

It almost seems to me that you are describing two different books. The first part of the query opens with the young girl defying her parents, and gives some of the plot, and that's interesting enough, but the last paragraph gets very, very serious in tone - the atrocities of war, etc. Where does the story really start? What is the plot? Is her family's escape a big part of that, if so, then I think you need to begin again and give the plot as it is in the book. It's a very big story, I'm glad you decided to write it.

zakariyamsherman wrote:Here we go again. Thanks for the help.

Dear agent x:

Lucky (I wonder why you are using this spelling, when you said above her name is Luky, it could be misread as L-oo-ky, but I don't know if it ought to be changed) is a fourteen-year-old Bangladeshi girl living in England with a penchant for short skirts, makeup and boyfriends as opposed to headscarves, face veils and brothers in the year 1985. But when her father learns of her relationship with a Pakistani boy, which is a no-no in their community, he tricks her into going to Bangladesh under the guise of a sick uncle in order to protect his reputation. With all these clauses it's kind of tricky getting them into the correct place in the sentence. Agree with JT that under the guise of is not used correctly here
In Bangladesh, Lucky discovers the truth. Her uncle is alive and well and her prospective groom is a thirty-year-old man who lives with his mother.

In a panic she writes to her boyfriend telling him that she doesn’t have her passport anymore and that her parents are planning to marry her off.

Her mother tells her, “Don’t worry. As soon as you get married and He gets his visa, which shouldn’t take too long, you can go back [to England].” That was three years ago, when she was fifteen. Will she ever get home?

Inspired by a true story (my wife’s), BENGALI GIRLS DON’T is a 96,000-word coming-of-age novel that begins during Bangladesh’s liberation war, the Shangram, in the year 1971, shows Lucky’s parents and two brothers fleeing for their lives (Lucky is in her mother’s tummy), and reveals the atrocities committed by the Pakistani soldiers, the rapes, the murders, the savagery… It shows Bangladesh’s independence. Some agents are not fans of long sentences, but I don't mind them if they flow well. this one does, but you might want to consider breaking it up The rest of the book deals with Lucky’s tween and teen years in England, the tug-of-war between two cultures, and her constant struggle for freedom. I like this last sentence, gives a good sense of the conflict
Sincerely,
Zakariya Mikal Sherman
Good luck with it, Z

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cheekychook
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Re: Bengali Girls Don't -- version 3

Post by cheekychook » June 27th, 2010, 7:44 pm

Your query is getting better with each revision; the story itself sounds compelling.

The suggestions made by otherside89girl are great; shorter sentences, clarifying a few details.

I agree "guise" is not the right word regarding the uncle. Try the word "pretense" instead.

"That was three years ago, when she was fifteen." This sentence would be fine except for the fact that you open with a present tense statement that "Lucky is a fourteen-year-old." You definitely don't want to say anything in the query that will make the reader stop due to confusion. I don't know the time line for how your story is told, so it's difficult to make suggestions. You say the book begins with her family fleeing Bangladesh before her birth. Does it skip from that background information to Lucky in real time at fourteen? Or does it jump to when she's eighteen and her mother's three year old promise has still not come true? Whatever the case, it could be a simple change: "In 1985 Lucky was fourteen and living in England." Or "Three years later Lucky is still waiting for her mother's words to become reality."

If you want to stick with the word "no-no" you could punch it up by saying something like "the ultimate no-no" or you could change it to "forbidden act". It seems like this was the "final straw" that prompted her father to act and ship her off to Bangladesh, so you want to make sure the significance (and the consequence) is clear.

"...the tug-of-war between two cultures, and her constant struggle for freedom." I like this description; try to work it into whatever version you wind up using.

Overall, very good. You're definitely moving in the right direction.


Best of luck to you!
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Re: Bengali Girls Don't -- version 3

Post by Emily J » June 27th, 2010, 10:41 pm

zakariyamsherman wrote:Here we go again. Thanks for the help.

Dear agent x:

Lucky is a fourteen-year-old Bangladeshi girl living in England Just a suggestion but it might be stronger to break this up and start with She has a penchant... with a penchant for short skirts, makeup serial comma and boyfriends as opposed to headscarves, face veils serial comma and brothers in the year 1985. you need a comma but it also seems awkward to have the year thrown in here. Why not include it earlier "Lucky is a fourteen-year-old Bangladeshi girl living in England in the year 1985" *suggested edit* But when her father learns of her relationship with a Pakistani boy, which is a no-no in their community, "no-no" is a cliche, is there a better way to phrase this? he tricks her into going to Bangladesh under the guise of a sick uncle agree with other comments that as read, this means Lucky is pretending to be a sick uncle in order to protect his after an uncle is thrown in this possessive becomes a bit indefinite reputation.

In Bangladesh, Lucky discovers the truth. Her uncle is alive and well and her prospective groom is a thirty-year-old man who lives with his mother.

In a panic you need a comma here she writes to her boyfriend telling him that she doesn’t have her passport anymore and that her parents are planning to marry her off.

Her mother tells her, “Don’t worry. As soon as you get married and He gets his visa, which shouldn’t take too long, you can go back [to England].” quotations are usually best left out in queries, and this one is too lengthy- in queries brevity is best That was three years ago, when she was fifteen. Will she ever get home? rhetorical questions are to be avoided upon pain of death

Inspired by a true story (my wife’s), BENGALI GIRLS DON’T is a 96,000-word coming-of-age novel that begins during Bangladesh’s liberation war, the Shangram, in the year 1971, shows Lucky’s parents and two brothers fleeing for their lives (Lucky is in her mother’s tummy), just my thought, but I would suggest leaving this parenthetical out and reveals the atrocities committed by the Pakistani soldiers, the rapes, the murders, the savagery… It shows Bangladesh’s independence. The rest of the book deals with Lucky’s tween and teen years in England, the tug-of-war between two cultures, and her constant struggle for freedom.

Sincerely,
Zakariya Mikal Sherman
I can't remember if it was one this forum or not, but I have read an excerpt from your novel. I remember the title and I also remember being very impressed, I think you have a tremendous talent for writing as well as a captivating story to tell. That being said, I do think the query could be strengthened. Writing queries is like flexing a completely different writing muscle and practice makes perfect. The query thus far feels too long, and also suffers somewhat in the concluding paragraph where you are telegraphing what the novel covers. I think the query could be tightened up to be more enticing and hope my suggestions help somewhat.
Best of luck to you-

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Re:

Post by zakariyamsherman » June 28th, 2010, 8:39 am

Okay.
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Re: Bengali Girls Don't -- version 3

Post by Ellie G » June 29th, 2010, 1:35 pm

I'm still really unclear what story this book is telling.

In the first few chapters, Luky is an unborn baby, correct?

Then the next section of the book features Luky as a defiant teenager who ultimately gets sent to Bangladesh and discovers her parents are trying to arrange a marriage for her. How long is this section? Is it the whole book? Or is there another section after this, where Luky is an adult woman--and if so, how far into the book does this section begin?

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Re:

Post by zakariyamsherman » June 29th, 2010, 2:48 pm

Ellie,
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Re: Bengali Girls Don't -- version 3

Post by wilderness » June 29th, 2010, 2:53 pm

zakariyamsherman wrote:Ellie, yes, the book opens with her in her mother's tummy, but the main focus of the book is on her tween and teen years in England. The only reason I include the last paragraph is so that when an agent opens the book they don't say, "Hey, I thought the book takes place in England. How come we're in Bangladesh? and why is it 1971? and where is Luky?" I want them to say,"Oh, okay, we're starting with her birth."
I think you should start the query with the bit about the Shangram and the family's flight. Then, paragraph 2 can begin with "Fourteen years later..." Be sure to explicitly tie in why Luky's birth year had set certain expectations in her parents' minds. And finally, try to bring back in some of the humor and voice from your original query. Hope that helps.

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Re: Bengali Girls Don't -- version 3

Post by Ellie G » June 29th, 2010, 3:00 pm

Okay, thanks. I was thrown because you categorized it as women's fiction. It's not that having a teenage protagonist automatically makes the book YA -- White Oleander comes to mind -- but the book as described does sound much more YA than women's fiction.

As for the opening chapters, my gut instinct says that if a writer start the query description a few chapters in, that's probably because that's where their story starts, and so the book doesn't need those first few chapters. Of course I haven't read your book and couldn't speak to that definitively.

I think it might help to consider, when framing the query, what we readers are ultimately going to be rooting for Luky to do. Is her victory escaping her prospective groom and getting home to England? Escaping her parents and making a life for herself? Coming to terms with her parents' wishes and her heritage? I think if you identify the core conflict, put that as your last line of the query ("Luky needs to X and Y if she's going to achieve Z") and then build backward from there (giving us enough information so we understand exactly what's going on in that sentence), you'll have a good starting structure for the query.

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Re: Bengali Girls Don't -- version 3

Post by clara_w » June 30th, 2010, 10:56 am

I too am confused about which is the story that's beein told here. The only thing that confused me was the last paragraph actually:

Inspired by a true story (my wife’s), BENGALI GIRLS DON’T is a 96,000-word coming-of-age novel that begins during Bangladesh’s liberation war, the Shangram, in the year 1971, shows Lucky’s parents and two brothers fleeing for their lives (Lucky is in her mother’s tummy), and reveals the atrocities committed by the Pakistani soldiers, the rapes, the murders, the savagery… It shows Bangladesh’s independence. The rest of the book deals with Lucky’s tween and teen years in England, the tug-of-war between two cultures, and her constant struggle for freedom.

If I were you, I'd divide the book in 2: One about a teen facing these issue (an YA romance) and another, an adult book about the Shangram. I think both stories are drop dead interesting by the way, but I'm not sure if putting them together works.

See, most of the query tells us about this teen, not about the Shangram.

Good luck!

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Re:

Post by zakariyamsherman » July 3rd, 2010, 5:07 pm

Okay, I hope this is clearer.

Agent x:
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Re: Bengali Girls Don't -- version 4

Post by J. T. SHEA » July 3rd, 2010, 7:43 pm

A week ago you suggested starting with four paragraphs, Zakariya. You were right. In version four each of the same four paragraphs discloses a new and important fact in an abrupt way which seems to assume the reader already knows the fact. Consider the following suggestions:-

Agent x:

Born in a remote village at the time of her country's liberation war, Bangladeshi girl Luky moves to England with her parents and struggles for freedom and identity, while growing up in a mixed neighborhood. Caught between the white world and her Islamic heritage, and needing to make a choice, she scraps her headscarf for sunglasses, her salwar kameez for blue jeans, and runs away with her boyfriend.

Her father, armed with a pocket knife, tracks her down and tricks her into going to Bangladesh, under the ruse THAT HER UNCLE IS SICK.

In Bangladesh, Luky discovers the truth. Her uncle is alive and well, and HER PARENTS want her to marry a 30-year-old man who lives with his mother. In a panic, she calls her boyfriend and tells him her parents are planning to marry her off AND HAVE TAKEN HER PASSPORT.

BUT her mother tells her not to worry, as soon as she gets married and HER NEW HUSBAND CAN GET A VISA TO BRITAIN, which shouldn't take too long, she can go back to England.

But as days and weeks PASS, and THE NOW MARRIED AND PREGNANT LUKY'S due date fast approaches, she wonders if she'll ever get home.

Inspired by a true story (my wife's), BENGALI GIRLS DON'T is a 96,000-word coming-of-age novel that begins during Bangladesh's liberation war, the Shangram, in the year 1971. IT shows Luky's parents and two brothers fleeing for their lives (Luky is in her mother's tummy), and quickly moves on to Luky's tween and teen years in England, the tug-of-war she feels between two cultures, and her constant struggle for freedom. The irony of her birth during a time of liberation and her name missing the letter 'c' is contrasted with her everyday reality: never free, never lucky.

I hope you enjoy the story and request more pages.

Sincerely,

Zakariya Mikal Sherman

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Re: Bengali Girls Don't -- version 4

Post by zakariyamsherman » July 3rd, 2010, 11:27 pm

Thanks for the suggestions J.T. I'm going to play with a little bit.
Zakariya Mikal Sherman
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Re:

Post by zakariyamsherman » September 23rd, 2010, 11:18 am

After
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