The Iron Pillar: Women's Fiction Query

Share your blood sweat tears query for feedback and lend your hard-won expertise to others
User avatar
Melissa LR Handa
Posts: 37
Joined: October 25th, 2010, 4:04 pm
Contact:

The Iron Pillar: Women's Fiction Query

Post by Melissa LR Handa » October 25th, 2010, 4:10 pm

Thanks everyone for your feedback so far. FYI, the most up-to-date query (edited thanks to your generous feedback) can be found at the bottom of page 3--posted around 10 AM EST on 11/02/2010.

Hello! I have recently begun querying agents for my first novel. A friend recommended this site to help me deal with the publishing-industry-induced depression that has followed my first three rejections. Any feedback on my query and advice on developing a thick skin would be most appreciated. Thank you :-D

Dear Mr. or Ms. Agent,

I am seeking representation for my novel, The Iron Pillar, an 85,000 word work of women’s fiction, in which an American woman is transformed through her encounters with Indian culture.

Haunted by her father’s early death and mother’s subsequent emotional estrangement, Daly English would rather systematically shut out the world than let in potentially harmful feelings. Whenever any strong emotion creeps up on her, she captures it and locks it away in her journal, adding to her idiosyncratic collection.

When she loses her job as a middle school art teacher and is abandoned by her long-term boyfriend, Daly has no choice but to move back to her home town and attempt coexistence with her mother, Laine. Within the space of a single day, Daly meets the two people who will drastically change her life for the better—Meghann, the outcast pregnant teenager who serves as an unlikely mentor, and Kashi, a light-hearted charmer from India who becomes her lover. When Kashi invites her to meet his family in New Delhi, Daly happily agrees, unaware of the further difficulties the trip will add to her life.

Just as she begins to open herself back up to life, Kashi’s sudden death thrusts Daly back into an empty existence. Daly unwittingly handles the aftermath in a way that parallels the poor choices her mother made many years ago. Ultimately, the mother and daughter must resolve their pasts in order to secure their futures.

I, like Daly, discovered my true self during the nine weeks I spent in the magical land of India, the homeland my husband introduced to me seven years ago. To further assimilate to this culture, I have learned Hindi and look forward to improving my Punjabi and Sanskrit. India has also permeated my professional life, serving as the topic for my MA thesis in Sociology and driving my career as a Linguistic Validation Research Analyst.

Since July 2009 I have worked as Lead Books Contributor for AnnArbor.com. My column, This Week’s Recommended Read, is a staple in the Sunday print edition. I am also the founder and organizer of the 300+ member Ann Arbor Classics Book Group.

I have included the first [X] of my manuscript below, as per your submission requirements. Please let me know if you’d like to review a complete or partial manuscript for The Iron Pillar. I appreciate your time and consideration.

Sincerely,


Melissa LR Handa
Last edited by Melissa LR Handa on November 2nd, 2010, 10:12 am, edited 4 times in total.

sgf
Posts: 39
Joined: September 13th, 2010, 10:15 pm
Contact:

Re: The Iron Pillar: Women's Fiction Query

Post by sgf » October 25th, 2010, 5:56 pm

Hi Melissa,

I thought this query was pretty good, but I think you could improve it if you were more specific about some things. See below for details:



I am seeking representation for my novel, The Iron Pillar, an 85,000 word work of women’s fiction, in which an American woman is transformed through her encounters with Indian culture. I've always been told to put this sort of information at the end, to just start off with your hook. Nevertheless, this looks fine to me.

Haunted by her father’s early death and mother’s subsequent emotional estrangement, Daly English would rather systematically shut out the world than let in potentially harmful feelings. Consider cutting these adverbs. I don't think they add much to the query.Whenever any strong emotion creeps up on her, she captures it and locks it away in her journal, adding to her idiosyncratic collection. Maybe this last line isn't necessary. It would e better if you showed what she does, rather than tell it in this rather ambiguous way (can't tell if this is being literal or figurative).

When she loses her job as a middle school art teacher and is abandoned by her long-term boyfriend, Daly has no choice but to move back to her home town and attempt coexistence with her mother, Laine. Within the space of a single day, Daly meets the two people who will drastically change her life for the better—Meghann, the outcast pregnant teenager who serves as an unlikely mentor, and Kashi, a light-hearted charmer from India who becomes her lover. When Kashi invites her to meet his family in New Delhi, Daly happily agrees, unaware of the further difficulties the trip will add to her life. I thought this whole paragraph was great, up until this last part, which I felt wasn't specific enough. Can you describe her difficulties here instead?

Just as she begins to open herself back up to life, Kashi’s sudden death thrusts Daly back into an empty existence. Daly unwittingly handles the aftermath in a way that parallels the poor choices her mother made many years ago. I think you need to give the query more of a sense of her "empty existence". More examples than just her having to live with her mom. Also, consider providing examples of the poor choices she makes, though I like how they mirror the ones her mom made. Ultimately, the mother and daughter must resolve their pasts in order to secure their futures. I thought that this last sentence was too vague. I like the idea behind it, but it's too unclear what it means; it raises too many questions: how/what must they resolve in their past and what does it mean to secure their futures?

The rest, I think is fine. Overall, I think this query is on its way, but you should focus more on the details. It feels as if the hook is lost in the generalizations, such as "Daly unwittingly handles the aftermath in a way that parallels the poor choices her mother made many years ago."

I wouldn't be too depressed about just getting 3 rejections. My suggestion is to refine your query and keep trying. I recently read a blog where a fantasy writer sent out 60 agent queries. Out of those, he got 8 requests for additional pages, and of those he got 3 offers to represent his book. And he only needed 1!

Here's the link in case you're interested in reading his experiences. I thought it had some useful tips: http://www.blackgate.com/2010/10/23/my- ... more-13306

Oh, and about a thick skin-- unfortunately, I think only rejection and criticism develops it over time. Just never take the former personally, and use latter to improve your writing. Hope this helps!

User avatar
Melissa LR Handa
Posts: 37
Joined: October 25th, 2010, 4:04 pm
Contact:

Re: The Iron Pillar: Women's Fiction Query

Post by Melissa LR Handa » October 25th, 2010, 6:31 pm

SGF, you are my hero! I had three individual proofers for this query letter (including one published author), and your feedback was by far the most helpful. I was so excited to implement your suggestions that I have, already, created a new draft. I only wish I could unsubmit to those thirty literary agents I have already approached. The thing is to keep trying, I suppose.

Dear Mr. or Ms. Agent,

I’m contacting you because…

Some people collect stamps; others keep coins. Daly English has a collection too: emotions. By keeping them locked safely away, she dismisses herself from their affects. She doesn’t need to feel anything at all, unless it is too strong to be ignored. Daly has one prized item in mind, one that continually eludes capture—the state of contentment.

Haunted by her father’s early death and mother’s subsequent emotional estrangement, Daly English would rather numb herself to the world than feel any of its pain. After she loses her job as a middle school art teacher and is abandoned by her long-term boyfriend, Daly has no choice but to move back to her home town and attempt coexistence with her mother, Laine. Within the space of a single day, she meets the two people who will change her life for the better—the outcast pregnant teenager who serves as an unlikely mentor and the light-hearted charmer from India who becomes her lover. With these new friends by her side, Daly reacquaints herself with love, confidence, and joy during a life-changing journey through New Delhi and Agra. Upon returning home, an unexpected tragedy occurs, negating her recent personal growth. Only Daly’s emotionally distant mother can offer her daughter deliverance from the shackles of an overly-guarded heart. Ultimately, The Iron Pillar is a story about reconciling the past, looking forward to the future, and loving ourselves for all that we are.

I, like my protagonist, discovered my true self during the nine weeks I spent in the magical land of India, the homeland my husband introduced to me seven years ago. To further assimilate to this culture, I have learned Hindi and look forward to improving my Punjabi and Sanskrit. India has also permeated my professional life, serving as the topic for my MA thesis in Sociology and driving my career as a Linguistic Validation Research Analyst. Since July 2009 I have worked as Lead Books Contributor for AnnArbor.com. My column, This Week’s Recommended Read, is a staple in the Sunday print edition. I am also the founder and organizer of the 300+ member Ann Arbor Classics Book Group.

The Iron Pillar is a completed women’s fiction novel, 85,000 words in length. I have included the first twenty pages of my manuscript below, as per your submission requirements. Please let me know if you’d like to review a complete or partial manuscript.

Sincerely,


Melissa LR Handa

Jaligard
Posts: 57
Joined: August 11th, 2010, 1:42 pm
Contact:

Re: The Iron Pillar: Women's Fiction Query

Post by Jaligard » October 25th, 2010, 7:19 pm

You spend a lot of time on the themes of the novel. Focus on the story.

There's also an alarming lack of specificity when you need it most. "An unexpected tragedy occurs?" Then you've specificity where you don't need it "the outcast pregnant teenager who serves as an unlikely mentor." You've got her in the query, but I don't have any idea what she does for the story.

The new opening paragraph doesn't work for me at all. It's flowery and cute, but doesn't move the story at all.

I would recommend starting the query where the story starts, "After Daly English loses her job and is abandoned by her long-term boyfriend, she has no choice but to suck up her pride and move back in with her mother." From there, focus on the story and show us how THE IRON PILLAR is "about reconciling the past, looking forward to the future, and loving ourselves for all that we are." If you have to tell us, you're not reaching our hearts.

I also don't know that you even need to get to the unexpected tragedy. If it's not in the first half of the novel, leave it out.

My two cents. Good luck!

User avatar
Melissa LR Handa
Posts: 37
Joined: October 25th, 2010, 4:04 pm
Contact:

Re: The Iron Pillar: Women's Fiction Query

Post by Melissa LR Handa » October 25th, 2010, 8:11 pm

Thanks for the feedback, Jaligard. I've tried to incorporate your suggestions in this new draft...

Dear Mr. or Ms. Agent,

I’m contacting you because…

Some people collect stamps; others keep coins. Daly English has a collection too: emotions. By keeping her feelings locked safely away between the pages of her journal, she aims to dismiss herself from their affects. Defining entries from Daly’s collection begin each chapter, working to summarize tone and foreshadow coming events.

Haunted by her father’s early death and mother’s subsequent emotional estrangement, Daly English would rather numb herself to the world than feel any of its pain. After she loses her job as a middle school art teacher and is abandoned by her long-term boyfriend, Daly has no choice but to move back to her home town and attempt coexistence with her mother. She meets and falls in love with Kashi, a light-hearted charmer from India, who helps her to rediscover love, confidence, and joy. Just as Daly begins to settle into her new life with Kashi, his sudden demise changes everything. Only Daly’s emotionally distant mother can offer her daughter deliverance from the shackles of an overly-guarded heart.

I, like my protagonist, discovered my true self during the nine weeks I spent in the magical land of India, the homeland my husband introduced to me seven years ago. To further assimilate to this culture, I have learned Hindi and look forward to improving my Punjabi and Sanskrit. India has also permeated my professional life, serving as the topic for my MA thesis in Sociology and driving my career as a Linguistic Validation Research Analyst. Since July 2009 I have worked as Lead Books Contributor for AnnArbor.com. My column, This Week’s Recommended Read, is a staple in the Sunday print edition. I am also the founder and organizer of the 300+ member Ann Arbor Classics Book Group.

The Iron Pillar is a completed women’s fiction novel, 85,000 words in length. Anne Tyler has had a profound influence on my writing; I believe that readers of her fiction may also enjoy this novel.

I have included the first five pages of my manuscript below, as per your submission requirements. Please let me know if you’d like to review a complete or partial manuscript.

Sincerely,


Melissa LR Handa

Ermo
Posts: 111
Joined: December 7th, 2009, 12:22 pm
Contact:

Re: The Iron Pillar: Women's Fiction Query

Post by Ermo » October 25th, 2010, 8:15 pm

Dear Mr. or Ms. Agent,

I’m contacting you because… Put this at the end too. Start with the hook. They know why you're contacting them.

Some people collect stamps; others keep coins. Daly English has a collection too: emotions. By keeping them locked safely away, she dismisses herself from their effects. This sentence sounds like emotions are a tangible things she keeps in a box and makes me think this is a fantasy novel. Try and include how she keeps them. She doesn’t need to feel anything at all, unless it is too strong to be ignored. Daly has one prized item in mind, one that continually eludes capture—the state of contentment.

Haunted by her father’s early death and mother’s subsequent emotional estrangement, Daly English Don't need her full name again would rather numb herself to the world than feel any of its pain. After she loses her job as a middle school art teacher and is abandoned by her long-term boyfriend, Daly has no choice but to move back to her home town and attempt coexistence with her mother, Laine. Within the space of a single day, she meets the two people who will change her life for the better—the outcast pregnant teenager who serves as an unlikely mentor and the light-hearted charmer from India who becomes her lover. With these new friends by her side, Daly reacquaints herself with love, confidence, and joy during a life-changing journey through New Delhi and Agra. Upon returning home, an unexpected tragedy occurs, negating her recent personal growth.What's the tragedy? Only Daly’s emotionally distant mother can offer her daughter deliverance from the shackles of an overly-guarded heart. Ultimately, The Iron Pillar is a story about reconciling the past, looking forward to the future, and loving ourselves for all that we are.

I, like my protagonist, discovered my true self during the nine weeks I spent in the magical land of India, the homeland my husband introduced to me seven years ago. To further assimilate to this culture, I have learned Hindi and look forward to improving my Punjabi and Sanskrit. India has also permeated my professional life, serving as the topic for my MA thesis in Sociology and driving my career as a Linguistic Validation Research Analyst. Since July 2009 I have worked as Lead Books Contributor for AnnArbor.com. My column, This Week’s Recommended Read, is a staple in the Sunday print edition. I am also the founder and organizer of the 300+ member Ann Arbor Classics Book Group. Not sure but I think popular opinion is that agents don't care that much about this stuff.

The Iron Pillar is a completed women’s fiction novel, 85,000 words in length. I have included the first twenty pages of my manuscript below, as per your submission requirements. Please let me know if you’d like to review a complete or partial manuscript.

Sincerely,


Melissa LR Handa

You write well. I think any agent will see that. I know what your main character wants so that's good. But I have no idea what the obstacle is - what's the conflict? Who's the devil wearing Prada? If you coudl incorporate a villian in here, I think you'll have a stronger query. Good luck - I think the multicultural thing makes for interesting and cool books.

User avatar
Melissa LR Handa
Posts: 37
Joined: October 25th, 2010, 4:04 pm
Contact:

Re: The Iron Pillar: Women's Fiction Query

Post by Melissa LR Handa » October 25th, 2010, 8:25 pm

Thanks for the message, Ermo. I think my latest (third) draft covers most of your points.

The villain in the story is actually the mother and also the protagonist herself. They are also both the heroes.

I didn't originally include information about my book club, but I was told to put it in since it showcases that I have a bit of sway in the literary world or at least a teensy-weensy built-in audience.

I appreciate the compliments on my writing style and topical choice. Thanks for your help!

sgf
Posts: 39
Joined: September 13th, 2010, 10:15 pm
Contact:

Re: The Iron Pillar: Women's Fiction Query

Post by sgf » October 25th, 2010, 9:11 pm

Hi Melissa,

Glad my comments helped!

First, I agree with Ermo that the quality of your writing shows in the query letter, and that agents will likely notice it. :)

For the sake of keeping the query short and sweet, consider nixing the first paragraph. It skirts around the story too much for a query letter, when I think you want to get right to it. The next paragraph, I think, is near perfect:


Haunted by her father’s early death and mother’s subsequent emotional estrangement, Daly English would rather numb herself to the world than feel any of its pain. After she loses her job as a middle school art teacher and is abandoned by her long-term boyfriend, Daly has no choice but to move back to her home town and attempt coexistence with her mother. She meets and falls in love with Kashi, a light-hearted charmer from India, who helps her to rediscover love, confidence, and joy. Just as Daly begins to settle into her new life with Kashi, his sudden demise changes everything. Only Daly’s emotionally distant mother can offer her daughter deliverance from the shackles of an overly-guarded heart.

This paragraph already describes Daly's emotional shut down, and in a more direct and succinct way than the first paragraph does. Just a couple of areas that could be a bit more specific though:

1. Consider describing how Kashi's sudden demise changes everything for Daly, i.e., what happens?.

2. Maybe elaborate on the last sentence-- give the query's reader a more specific sense of how her mother can unshackled Daly's overlay-guarded heart; maybe include an example of how she does this. The mom doesn't come across as the antagonist (and/or hero) from the query just yet. I think more details could help to show this.

I've read in a couple of places that you never want to say "fiction novel" in a query because of its redundancy. But if "Women's Fiction" is the label of the genre, I guess it should be OK here. Maybe someone who's more familiar with the genre can confirm.

User avatar
cheekychook
Posts: 685
Joined: May 26th, 2010, 8:35 pm
Contact:

Re: The Iron Pillar: Women's Fiction Query

Post by cheekychook » October 25th, 2010, 9:35 pm

sgf wrote:
I've read in a couple of places that you never want to say "fiction novel" in a query because of its redundancy. But if "Women's Fiction" is the label of the genre, I guess it should be OK here. Maybe someone who's more familiar with the genre can confirm.
Yes, use of "fiction" and "novel" together is listed on many agents' top pet peeves list---don't do do it.

THE IRON PILLAR is a work of women's fiction and is complete at xx,xxx words.
Image
http://www.karenstivali.com

Passionate Plume 1st Place Winner 2012 - ALWAYS YOU
Published with Ellora's Cave, Turquoise Morning Press & Samhain Publishing

User avatar
Melissa LR Handa
Posts: 37
Joined: October 25th, 2010, 4:04 pm
Contact:

Re: The Iron Pillar: Women's Fiction Query

Post by Melissa LR Handa » October 25th, 2010, 10:35 pm

Thanks for the additional feedback, everyone. I'm struggling to find a way to incorporate the unique style in which I tell the story (the first paragraph). The emotion collection is actually very important to the novel stylistically and contributes greatly to the growth of the protagonist. Each chapter conveys the tone of the title emotion and each entry foreshadows what is to come in the protagonist's own words. SPOILER ALERT: The protagonist actually burns her novel as a sort of effigy at the end of the novel and symbolically scatters the ashes.

I've copy-pasted my table of contents, an example from the first chapter's entry, and some in-story text about the feeling journal below. Maybe a pair of fresh eyes can figure out how best to communicate the import in the query letter...

Chapter 1. Emptiness
Chapter 2. Nostalgia
Chapter 3. Happenstance
Chapter 4. Faith
Chapter 5. Captivation
Chapter 6. Infatuation
Chapter 7. Love
Chapter 8. Shock
Chapter 9. Confidence
Chapter 10. Rejection
Chapter 11. Solitude
Chapter 12. Belonging
Chapter 13. Happiness
Chapter 14. Grief
Chapter 15. Emptiness (modified)
Chapter 16. Life

Chapter 1: Emptiness

Today I am a waif on the edge of what was once my life. Now I am floating outside of it, looking back, realizing it was never that great to begin with. My heart is empty just like this echoing apartment. I have nothing to look forward to and nothing to look back upon—no joy, no pain, just nothing. It’s as if whatever hopes I had remaining, those few threads that had been woven into my life, have been yanked free all at once. Everything’s fallen apart, and now I am left a hollow shell of what I could have been.

-from Daly English’s personal journal of emotional experiences
September 2009


...She never wanted to feel anything as awful as that again, so she decided to catch and house her emotions within her journal, like fireflies floating inside a glass preserves jar. It stood to reason that if she kept her emotions locked away safely, she would always remember how they had felt and why they had come to her.

A large majority of the entries in her feeling journal had something to do with her father. When he was involved, even the bad emotions, like fear, had pleasant consequences. He had a talent for seeing the best in any situation. His perennial optimism created a rose-colored world for the little girl.

But when she was twelve her father died, turning her curious collection into something more like a shrine. Somehow his legacy of a positive attitude and a happy spirit were also buried six feet under. Rather than freely feeling whatever life threw at her, she decided that one definitive entry was enough for each emotion. It was a way of coping with how horrible she had felt when he died. Never wanting to feel like that again, she made a conscious decision to stop feeling. Not altogether, just to a much lesser degree. She developed a habit of withholding emotion, acknowledging only those that were too strong to be ignored.

Her journal served the purpose of any other journal too. She could reread an old entry and remember just what had happened, reliving that past experience as if it were new and current. Some pages she looked over frequently; others had never been revisited after their initial rendering. It was a hodge-podge of pages. Her aim was to record the purest emotions--the sparkling gems worth adding to her collection—which meant that from time to time, entries would need to be tossed-out or modified. Daly was happy to erase, cross out, or even tear pages from her catalogue once an entry was no longer valid.

Like every good collector, Daly had a prize item in mind. As much as she wanted any good emotion, it was contentment that appealed to her most of all. She viewed contentment as a mix of happiness and complacency. To her, it meant a prolonged state of positive feeling. Not wanting to change anything in life, enjoying and appreciating everything about it. This was how her father had lived, and it was how she intended to live, if only it would happen for her.

fishfood
Posts: 63
Joined: September 22nd, 2010, 10:31 pm
Contact:

Re: The Iron Pillar: Women's Fiction Query

Post by fishfood » October 25th, 2010, 10:45 pm

Hi there! I purposely decided not to read the other posters' suggetions in hopes that maybe if I hit upon the same issues, it will help guide the trouble spots in your query and hopefully get you some requests! I know you have a GREAT story here, the query is just lacking some descriptiveness that will bring it alive.

EDIT: Did go through an noticed you changed the query a bit, I like the theme of locking emotions away via journal entries, but it's difficult to convey those literary techinques and creativity to an agent. Your query doesn't necessarily HAVE to represent your novel 100%, it just has to be truthful enough to grab the agent's attention. When the agent understands the basic story, he/she may be open to the creative way in which you conveyed that story.

I hope that helps somewhat...:-/ I'm so sorry if I myself am too vague on my suggestions!
Melissa LR Handa wrote:Hello! I have recently begun querying agents for my first novel. A friend recommended this site to help me deal with the publishing-industry-induced depression that has followed my first three rejections. Any feedback on my query and advice on developing a thick skin would be most appreciated. Thank you :-D

Dear Mr. or Ms. Agent,

I am seeking representation for my novel, The Iron Pillar, an 85,000 word work of women’s fiction, in which an American woman is transformed through her encounters with Indian culture.
Queryshark recommends putting this info at the end of the query and just start with the action. It's a toss-up since some agents prefer it upfront. I'd just research the specific agent's preference if he/she has one. I'd also cut the "...in which an American..." don't tell us what the novel is about, show us.
Haunted by her father’s early death and mother’s subsequent emotional estrangement, Daly English would rather systematically shut out the world than let in potentially harmful feelings. Whenever any strong emotion creeps up on her, she captures it and locks it away in her journal, adding to her idiosyncratic collection.

This is where your novel starts-->When she loses her job as a middle school art teacher and is abandoned by her long-term boyfriend, Daly has no choice but to move back to her home town and attempt coexistence with her mother, Laine. Why does she have no choice? Can you say "is kicked out of her shared apartment after being dumped by her long-term boyfriend?" Then maybe I'd get the "no choice..." Within the space of a single day, Daly meets the two people who will drastically change her life for the better—Meghann, the outcast pregnant teenager who serves as an unlikely mentor, and Kashi, a light-hearted charmer from India who becomes her lover. When Kashi invites her to meet his family in New Delhi, Daly happily agrees, unaware of the further difficulties the trip will add to her life. Steer clear of vague statements like these in queries. Think conflict, and choices the character must make.

You mention Meghann, but she plays no role in the rest of the query. While I'm sure she's important to the plot, she doesn't appear to be important in the query.

And Kashi is a BIG deal. She goes from being dumped to falling in love with an Indian man. I'd focus a few lines on a)where she meets Kashi b) why she falls for him--ie, his boisterous laugh and twinkling eye are contagious...something more descriptive that brings their relationship to life.


Just as she begins to open herself back up to life, Kashi’s sudden death thrusts Daly back into an empty existence. Daly unwittingly handles the aftermath in a way that parallels the poor choices her mother made many years ago.

This will read as a much stronger query if you are more specific. Show us how Kashi opens her back up: throw a list of things they do, then it hits us as the reader when Kashi is run over by a bus (or however he dies, dont' say "sudden death"). Then show us her poor choices. She starts binge drinking, she runs amok at a bingo casino, buys horribly clashing clothes--I'm purposely being facetious so you understand how this doesn't really say ANYTHING about your story or the conflict. Ultimately, the mother and daughter must resolve their pasts in order to secure their futures.

What pasts? I know you said her "father's early death and mother's emotional estrangement," but again, that just TELLS me something vague. We all know that the early death of a parent and emotional estrangement by another is a bad thing. But it would help to see HOW bad it is for Daly if you show us why this death was so traumatic and HOW her mother alienated her. Then when you get to the end, show us the choices these two women face in moving on with their lives.

I, like Daly, discovered my true self during the nine weeks I spent in the magical land of India, the homeland my husband introduced to me seven years ago. To further assimilate to this culture,I am a frequent traveler to India, and I have learned Hindi and look forward to improving my Punjabi and Sanskrit. India has also permeated my professional life, serving as the topic for my MA thesis in Sociology and driving my career as a Linguistic Validation Research Analyst.

Since July 2009 I have worked as Lead Books Contributor for AnnArbor.com. My column, This Week’s Recommended Read, is a staple in the Sunday print edition. I am also the founder and organizer of the 300+ member Ann Arbor Classics Book Group.

I have included the first [X] of my manuscript below, as per your submission requirements. Please let me know if you’d like to review a complete or partial manuscript for The Iron Pillar. I appreciate your time and consideration.

Sincerely,


Melissa LR Handa

priya g.
Posts: 109
Joined: September 26th, 2010, 2:10 pm
Contact:

Re: The Iron Pillar: Women's Fiction Query

Post by priya g. » October 26th, 2010, 4:29 am

Melissa LR Handa wrote: Dear Mr. or Ms. Agent,

I’m contacting you because…

Some people collect stamps; others keep coins. Daly English has a collection too: emotions I DO LIKE THIS SENTENCE BUT IT IS BULKY. HOW ABOUT SOMETHING LIKE: DALY ENGLISH'S ONLY COLLECTS EMOTIONS, AND SHE IS NOT PROUD OF THAT. By keeping her feelings locked safely away between the pages of her journal, she aims to dismiss herself from their affects. Defining entries from Daly’s collection begin each chapter, working to summarize tone and foreshadow coming events.

Haunted by her father’s early death and mother’s subsequent emotional estrangement WHAT KIND OF ESTRANGEMENT? YOU COULD SPECIFY A BIT MORE ON THAT AND LATER YOU MENTION THAT HER MOTHER LIVES IN THE HOMETOWN. SO DID HER MOTHER LEAVE HER AFTER THE FATHER'S DEATH?, Daly English would rather numb herself to the world than feel any of its pain BUT SHE HAS A COLLECTION OF EMOTIONS- SO THAT IMPLIES SHE FEELS EVERYTHING. After she loses her job as a middle school art teacher and is abandoned by her long-term boyfriend, Daly has no choice but to move back to her home town WHERE IS THIS? SINCE YOU BRING IN A MAN FROM INDIA, I AM LEFT WONDERING IF SHE MOVED TO A TOWN THERE and attempt coexistence with her mother. She meets and falls in love with Kashi, a light-hearted charmer from India, who helps her to rediscover love, confidence, and joy HOW? GIVE AN EXAMPLE- EG (I AM MAKING THIS BIT UP) HE LENDS HER A SHOULDER TO CRY ON, HIS EMOTIONS NOT SMOTHERED BY HER BIG TEARS ETC. Just as Daly begins to settle into her new life with Kashi, his sudden demise changes everything. Only Daly’s emotionally distant mother can offer her daughter deliverance from the shackles of an overly-guarded heart.

I, like my protagonist, discovered my true self during the nine weeks I spent in the magical land of India, the homeland my husband introduced to me seven years ago. To further assimilate to this culture, I have learned Hindi and look forward to improving my Punjabi and Sanskrit. India has also permeated my professional life, serving as the topic for my MA thesis in Sociology and driving my career as a Linguistic Validation Research Analyst. Since July 2009 I have worked as Lead Books Contributor for AnnArbor.com. My column, This Week’s Recommended Read, is a staple in the Sunday print edition. I am also the founder and organizer of the 300+ member Ann Arbor Classics Book Group. I AM NOT SURE IF THIS PARAGRAPH IS IMPORTANT. (THOUGH I AM INDIAN AND AM JUMPING AT THE THOUGHT THAT WE CAN CONVERSE IN HINDI SOMETIME!)

The Iron Pillar is a completed women’s fiction novel, 85,000 words in length. Anne Tyler has had a profound influence on my writing; I believe that readers of her fiction may also enjoy this novel.

I have included the first five pages of my manuscript below, as per your submission requirements. Please let me know if you’d like to review a complete or partial manuscript.

Sincerely,


Melissa LR Handa
overall, i get the gist of your novel. it has traces of tragedy but one thing doesnt come out too clear: why should her Daly's mother help her? or more appropriately, how? wasnt she also traumatized from her husband's death? would she be the right person for Daly to go to?
Hope i helped!

User avatar
Melissa LR Handa
Posts: 37
Joined: October 25th, 2010, 4:04 pm
Contact:

Re: The Iron Pillar: Women's Fiction Query

Post by Melissa LR Handa » October 26th, 2010, 8:00 am

Here we go. Take... 4? 5? Keep it coming! And do let me know if you have a query on which I can offer feedback. I'm still looking for a way to incorporate the info I posted earlier about the emotions journal and the importance it has on the story as a whole.

Dear Mr. or Ms. Agent,

Some people collect stamps; others keep coins. Daly English has a collection too—emotions. By keeping her feelings locked safely away between the pages of her journal, she aims to dismiss herself from their effects. Defining entries from Daly’s collection begin each chapter, working to summarize tone and foreshadow coming events.

Haunted by her father’s early death and mother’s subsequent emotional estrangement, Daly would rather numb herself to the world than feel any of its pain. After she loses her job as a middle school art teacher and is abandoned by her long-term boyfriend, Daly is forced to move back to her home town and attempt coexistence with her mother. While settling into the boring suburb, she meets and falls in love with Kashi, an Indian man whose light-hearted antics and unwavering belief in destiny help Daly to rediscover love, confidence, and joy. Shortly after the two are married in New Delhi, an explosive accident results in Kashi’s untimely demise. Only Daly’s emotionally distant mother can offer her daughter deliverance from the shackles of an overly-guarded heart, but first she must confront the similar grief that has been plaguing her for more than thirteen years.

THE IRON PILLAR explores themes of love, loss, and survival as Daly attempts to rebuild her life from continued disappointment. Anne Tyler has had a profound influence on my writing; I believe that readers of her fiction may also enjoy this novel.

I, like my protagonist, discovered my true self during the nine weeks I spent in the magical land of India, the homeland my husband introduced to me seven years ago. To further assimilate to this culture, I have learned Hindi and look forward to improving my Punjabi and Sanskrit. India has also permeated my professional life, serving as the topic for my MA thesis in Sociology and driving my career as a Linguistic Validation Research Analyst. Since July 2009 I have worked as Lead Books Contributor for AnnArbor.com. My column, This Week’s Recommended Read, is a staple in the Sunday print edition. I am also the founder and organizer of the 300+ member Ann Arbor Classics Book Group.

I have contacted your agency, because…

THE IRON PILLAR is a work of women’s fiction and is complete at 85,000 words. I have included the first five pages of my manuscript below, as per your submission requirements. Please let me know if you’d like to review a complete or partial manuscript.

Sincerely,


Melissa LR Handa

Jaligard
Posts: 57
Joined: August 11th, 2010, 1:42 pm
Contact:

Re: The Iron Pillar: Women's Fiction Query

Post by Jaligard » October 26th, 2010, 3:35 pm

Melissa LR Handa wrote:Dear Mr. or Ms. Agent,

Some people collect stamps; others keep coins. Daly English has a collection too—emotions. By keeping her feelings locked safely away between the pages of her journal, she aims to dismiss herself from their effects. Defining entries from Daly’s collection begin each chapter, working to summarize tone and foreshadow coming events.
I still think this does not belong. It might fit well in your synopsis.
Haunted by her father’s early death and mother’s subsequent emotional estrangement, Daly would rather numb herself to the world than feel any of its pain. After she loses her job as a middle school art teacher and is abandoned by her long-term boyfriend, Daly is forced to move back to her home town and attempt coexistence with her mother. While settling into the boring suburb, she meets and falls in love with Kashi, an Indian man whose light-hearted antics and unwavering belief in destiny help Daly to rediscover love, confidence, and joy. Shortly after the two are married in New Delhi, an explosive accident results in Kashi’s untimely demise. Only Daly’s emotionally distant mother can offer her daughter deliverance from the shackles of an overly-guarded heart, but first she must confront the similar grief that has been plaguing her for more than thirteen years.
This is better. I'm torn. Most of the advise I have seen suggests you should treat this like the back cover copy of a novel (specifically, your novel). You don't have to tell the whole story here, just the catalyst that will drive your plot. You've got three catalysts in this paragraph: 1) Daly loses her job/boy and has to move in with her mother; 2) she meets Kashi and they fall in love; 3) Kashi dies. That's a lot of story there in one paragraph. It might be too much for us to fully appreciate in a query. (Keep in mind that I write fantasy and don't read women's fiction.)

I would focus on one or two of these catalysts. Expand that and cut out any unnecessary backstory. (We don't need to know about her father's death unless you focus on Kashi's death.) I'd also recommend trimming the language whereever you can.

"Shortly after the two are married in New Delhi, an explosive accident results in Kashi's untimely demise." This should be horrific, but we don't really feel it. The language is too passive; it's too wordy and removed from the event.

"An explosion kills Kashi" is direct. "Kashi is killed by an explosion" removes us one level. "An explosion results in Kashi's death" is another level. "An explosion results in Kashi's untimely demise" is three layers between us and Daly.

It's an explosion. Be blunt, but specific. "Just as she starts fresh in New Delhi, a tanker truck explodes. Kashi dies." (But better.)
THE IRON PILLAR explores themes of love, loss, and survival as Daly attempts to rebuild her life from continued disappointment. Anne Tyler has had a profound influence on my writing; I believe that readers of her fiction may also enjoy this novel.
Cut the themes. I can't stress this enough. With what Daly is going through, we get it. If we don't get it, telling us won't make us feel it any more. I would trim the Anne Tyler bit and move it to the part about the length/category of your novel. I don't know that we care how Anne Tyler influenced your writing, but the comparison might be useful.
I, like my protagonist, discovered my true self during the nine weeks I spent in the magical land of India, the homeland my husband introduced to me seven years ago. To further assimilate to this culture, I have learned Hindi and look forward to improving my Punjabi and Sanskrit. India has also permeated my professional life, serving as the topic for my MA thesis in Sociology and driving my career as a Linguistic Validation Research Analyst. Since July 2009 I have worked as Lead Books Contributor for AnnArbor.com. My column, This Week’s Recommended Read, is a staple in the Sunday print edition. I am also the founder and organizer of the 300+ member Ann Arbor Classics Book Group.
I like the specificity here, but trim it down. I like fishfood's suggestions. I would also cut the Classics Book Group line, but that's just me.
I have contacted your agency, because…

THE IRON PILLAR is a work of women’s fiction and is complete at 85,000 words. I have included the first five pages of my manuscript below, as per your submission requirements. Please let me know if you’d like to review a complete or partial manuscript.
It's looking better, keep at it.

User avatar
Melissa LR Handa
Posts: 37
Joined: October 25th, 2010, 4:04 pm
Contact:

Re: The Iron Pillar: Women's Fiction Query

Post by Melissa LR Handa » October 26th, 2010, 4:13 pm

Once again. I've started the query with my one sentence summary of the plot, and then I've expanded a bit on the story summary and compressed my bio.

Dear Mr. or Ms. Agent,

When Daly English, a strange and solitary young woman, loses everything she holds dear—not just once, but three times—she closes herself off to the world and everyone in it; The Iron Pillar is a journey that takes Daly through the exotic land of India, as she learns to embrace life for all of its hardships, triumphs and exciting possibilities.

Haunted by her father’s early death and mother’s subsequent emotional estrangement, Daly would rather numb herself to the world than feel any of its pain. After she loses her job as a middle school art teacher and is abandoned by her long-term boyfriend, Daly is forced to move back to her home town and attempt coexistence with the mother who shunned her years ago. Wallowing in self-pity would be admitting defeat. Daly finds it much more natural to stave off emotional encounters by locking them away within the pages of her idiosyncratic journal of emotional encounters. This technique serves her well, until she meets someone who cares too much to let her retreat into herself.

Kashi, a light-hearted charmer from India, is a firm believer in the power of destiny, refusing to take Daly on a date until they have met by chance a total of three times—a hat trick of fate. From there, the romance unfolds quickly, transporting them to New Delhi, where they marry. Daly is unable to enjoy her blissful, new life for long; just months after their wedding, Kashi meets his death in an explosive plane crash. Unable to cope with the tragedy, Daly removes herself from the life that she and Kashi had begun to build together. Now only Daly’s emotionally distant mother can offer her daughter deliverance from the shackles of an overly-guarded heart, but first she must confront the similar grief that has been plaguing her for more than thirteen years.

I, like my protagonist, discovered my true self during the nine weeks I spent in the magical land of India, the homeland my husband introduced to me seven years ago. To further assimilate to this culture, I have learned Hindi and look forward to improving my Punjabi and Sanskrit. India has also permeated my professional life, serving as the topic for my MA thesis in Sociology. Since July 2009 I have worked as Lead Books Contributor for AnnArbor.com. My column, This Week’s Recommended Read, is a staple in the Sunday print edition.

THE IRON PILLAR is a work of women’s fiction and is complete at 85,000 words. Anne Tyler has had a profound influence on my writing; I believe that readers of her fiction may also enjoy this novel. Included are the first five pages of my manuscript, as per your submission requirements. Let me know if you’d like to review a complete or partial manuscript.

Sincerely,

Melissa LR Handa

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 0 guests