Thursday, July 16, 2009

#123-Revised-**WINNER**

REVISION
Dear Query Shark:

I am seeking representation for ABIDE WITH ME, a 57,000-word crime novel about friendship, community, football, hope, and biscuits. Oh, and gangsters.

I like the juxtaposition of crime novel and friendship. I'm always looking for that kind of weird pairing. I think it bodes well for a fun read.

John's out the nick after doing seven years for a bodged robbery. And childhood friend Kenny's out the nut house, ten years after bashing up the school bully with a dinner tray. Everything's looking rosy, until John finds out Kenny's got a job as bagman for local villain Ronnie Swordfish. John fears the worst. And he's right.

Kenny, the daft bastard, is handin' out money to all and fuckin' sundry, including John's Mum who's borrowed a large wedge from Ronnie to tide her over while John's inside. But where's Kenny gettin' the money from for this little Robin Hood act, if not from Ronnie Swordfish himself?

John knows Ronnie's got his eye on him, likes the look of him. And when Ronnie helped John out by blowin' up the bastard screw that was makin' his life inside a living hell, John knew he'd come callin'. But a paranoid psycho like Ronnie Swordfish don't trust easy. So what better test than get John to bring Kenny in? Two birds with one stone.

Right here, this sets up both the conflict and the stakes of the novel. If every query letter I got did that as neatly as this one did, I'd never stop requesting fulls.

Faced with handin' over his lifelong friend on a plate or watchin' his own mum and sister burn in their beds, like Ronnie promised, John ain't got a choice.


Thing is, John don't even know the fuckin' half of it.

And that's exactly why, in less than forty words, why I am eager to read the pages, and then the novel.


I have three published short stories to my name, all published by (redacted) in their collections (redacted).

what? "all published by in their collections" doesn't make sense.


I hereby enclose the first three chapters of my novel along with a synopsis, and an SAE for your convenience. Thank you very much for your consideration.


Sincerely,



oh hell yes, send this at once.


-----------------------------------------------------------
ORIGINAL
Dear Query Shark:

I am seeking representation for ABIDE WITH ME, a 57,000-word Mainstream novel about friendship, community, football, hope, and biscuits. Oh, and gangsters.

Mainstream isn't capitalized. It's not a proper noun. Also, what you describe below isn't anywhere close to a mainstream novel. It's a crime novel.

John's out the nick after doing seven years for a bodged robbery. And childhood friend Kenny's out the nut house, ten years after bashing up the school bully with a dinner tray. Everything's looking rosy, until John finds out Kenny's got a job as Bagman for local villain Ronnie Swordfish. John fears the worst. And he's right.

Bagman isn't a proper noun either. Proper on this side of the pond means something other than what it means on your side. Here's what I mean.

Kenny, the daft bastard, is handin' out money to all and fuckin' sundry, including John's Mum who's borrowed a large wedge from Ronnie to tide her over while John's inside. But where's Kenny gettin' the money from for this little Robin Hood act, if not from Ronnie Swordfish himself?



John knows Ronnie's got his eye on him, likes the look of him. And when Ronnie helps him out by blowin' up the bastard screw that's makin' his life inside a living hell, John knew he'd come callin'. But a paranoid psycho like Ronnie Swordfish don't trust easy. So what better test than gettin' John to bring Kenny in? Two birds with one stone.

I'm a tad confused here. Ronnie helps John out by blowing up someone who making his life INSIDE a living hell? I thought John was out of jail?

Faced with handin' over his lifelong friend on a plate or watchin' his own mum and sister burn in their beds, like Ronnie promised, John ain't got a choice.


Thing is, John don't even know the fuckin' half of it.


I have three published short stories to my name, all published by in their collections.

I hereby enclose the first three chapters of my novel along with a synopsis, and an SAE for your convenience. Thank you very much for your consideration.


Sincerely,

This has voice and energy. Normally, it's exactly the kind of thing I'd jump all over. Trouble is, there's so much slang I'm not sure I actually understand it, and I can just hear editors saying "too Brit."



I like this though; I like it a lot. I would definitely read pages from this.

51 comments:

Adam Heine said...

These are some words and phrases I wasn't familiar with. I couldn't tell if they were grammatical errors or part of the voice. If these are intentional, then you can ignore them, or you can take it as what might sound strange to an American ear:

* "John's out the nick"
* "a bodged robbery" - did you mean botched?
* "out the nut house" - I know what a nut house is; it's the missing "of" that threw me
* "handin' out money to all and fuckin' sundry" - I had to look up the idiom "all and sundry", but it might just be me
* "a large wedge" when used to refer to money
* "blowin' up the bastard screw" - the word screw, as a noun referring to a person, threw me

I'm also not sure I liked all the dropped g's. It 'sounds' right in my head, but on the paper the apostrophes kinda stuck out at me.

I don't know if I would've recognized this as a British voice if the Shark hadn't said something. But if I picked up a book that read like this, knowing it was British, I'd totally read it.

brimfire said...

Through the first paragraph and a half, I was thinking there was no freaking way this would work. Mostly, it was because I was thrown off by "out the nick". But after a few more sentences, I heard Max Casella's (from the Sopranos and, my favs, Newsies and Doogie Howser) voice in my head. It takes talent to make a reader hear a voice as vividly as I started as I finished reading this. Crime fiction isn't my genre, but I can definitely see agents being interested in this.

Good job and good luck!

BuffySquirrel said...

The capitalisation isn't conventional for over here, either.

I think after a while the in' endings would begin to wear on me. Sometimes less is more.

Kosmos said...

I am an Aussie. I can follow the lingo, but I do think it is a tad overdone. Sometimes the things that work in dialogue don't necessarily work as smoothly in the body of text.

Aimless Writer said...

I'm totally confused. Too much slang that I'm not familiar with--hell, and I'm from Jersey! We invented slang. Half the people here think they're Tony Soprano.

Southern Writer said...

What Adam Heine said. Except for the last three notations, which I understood.

Oh, and LMAO, Aimless Writer.



word ver: fashus

Faciast for the spelling challenged

Rain Likely said...

Think "Snatch," a terrific movie by Brit writer/director Guy Ritchie. Full of unfamiliar slang and thick accents, but that doesn't hurt when the characters are great and the plot is good.

BuffySquirrel said...

It always amuses me to see other people floundering for a change. Sorry, USians, but this is how we across the pond often feel reading YOUR stuff.

A P Mullaly said...

Hey, I like the voice and the slang is great, but you would have to be really good to carry it for a whole book. Limiting it to dialouge might help.

We have nothing on slang compared to those nuts over the pond. Take a glance at Cockney Rhyming slang. Any group who can use apples and pears to mean stairs is far beyond the realm of us ordinary folk.

BuffySquirrel said...

Cockney Rhyming Slang sounds so cute and harmless, doesn't it? Thieves' cant would be closer to the mark....

Kristin Laughtin said...

I agree with the comments that the slang might be a bit overdone. I'm not sure if it's this played up in the novel, but I found it a little exhausting just in the query letter. Perhaps I'm just not very familiar with some of the terms used as well or it's just touching on some unknown peeve of mine. If this were dialogue, it'd be great, but perhaps tone it down a bit for the body text? I spent so much time trying to decipher the slang that I had to read twice to remember the plot being described.

John said...

This is what's wrong with publishing: an agent is interested in something like this, but hardly any readers will buy it (at least American readers; sorry, "Buffy Squirrel," but we're not USians anymore than you're UKians).

Agents and publishers marvel that this is "edgy," or "has a distinctive voice." They'll pay a $6,000 advance, print 10,000 trade copies, and readers will pass right by after flipping through the first page.

Stop looking for "edgy" and publish great stories. Argh.

Bane of Anubis said...

I like the voice (though there's a bit too much) and despite being a yank, got what was going on - the tense issues annoy me, but I'd probably look at more -- however, I agree w/ John -- this is 'too Brit' for a US audience -- but I imagine the agent would work on placing it in a foreign market or turf it to a UK colleague if they thought it worthy enough.

chelsea said...

I like this a lot. My only problem is with the tense issues in the following:

John's out the nick

. . . including John's Mum who's borrowed a large wedge from Ronnie to tide her over while John's inside.

. . . blowin' up the bastard screw that's makin' his life inside a living hell.

These sentences make is seem like John is simultaneously in and out of prison. I'm guessing it happened like this: Ronnie gave John's Mum money when John went to prison. While in prison, a group of guys made John's life hell. Then John got out of prison, and that's where the story begins.

If this is the case, I think the following changes would make it clear:

John's Mum who borrowed a large wedge from Ronnie to tide her over when John was inside.

. . . blowin' up the bastard screw that made his life inside a living hell.

Either way, I enjoyed this. It's not the type of book I usually read, but the voice would be enough to make me pick it up. And I have no problem looking up slang I don't understand. In fact, I enjoy it.

alice said...

Hey, I'm a Brit and there were a couple of things I didn't understand either. Well, one actually: what the hell is a bagman? Adam: bodge is a word over here, it does mean botch! And is "all and sundry" really not a phrase in America? You live and learn...
I think this is great but I agree that the dropped g's are a step too far. Dialect is tiring to read after a while, but making this small change would lighten the load. Really want to know what happens...

Dawn Fichtner said...

I would have gotten lost in the slang. Great that QS was able to see past it!

Chumplet - Sandra Cormier said...

I'm Canadian and understood most of it. I also think it screams Snatch and I don't mind at all.

It could work if more complete words were used. It's okay to be cutesy but it can easily be overdone and irritating.

Still, I like it.

Verification: canoushy. Gawd knows it's probably some kind of blimey slang for somethin'.

Meg Spencer said...

@Alice: All and sundry is a phrase in America, but not a very common one. It actually sounds a bit old fashioned and formal to me.

Vacuum Queen said...

I think I kindof like the potential storyline, but the wacky cockney is too thick. I like having one character talk like this in movies, but not the entire cast. Same for my books...it would drive me bonkers if the whole book was this thick. Sounds like it's trying to hard to be street Brit, but maybe it's real. yeesh.

Kim Allen said...

I understood all of it, but I'm married to a Brit. And I'd find it very readable. But...and I didn't think I was a prude...I found the use of the word "fuckin'" in the query letter way OTT for me. I can deal with it in the book, but I'd find another word for the query.

i.ayris said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
i.ayris said...

I just want to thank everyone for taking the time to comment on this. In hindsight, the query does look a little overloaded with slang and vernacular. As the book is written in this manner, albeit necessarily diluted, I wanted a flavour of the style to be present in the query.

As Rain Likely said, it is very much in the Snatch/Lock Stock vein, all the I'd like to believe the characters are a little more rounded.

I was amazed Ms Shark said she'd like to read more, and flattered. I know this style is very much an acquired taste, and is perhaps more suited to the shores of Blighty than across the pond, although those Americans that have read the entire manuscript have fallen in love with it. Which was nice.

Once again, thank you all very much for your time.

Warmest regards,

Ian

Rowenna said...

Here's a question--is including profanity in a query a wise choice? It seems pretty ballsy--you never know who's on the other end, you know?

Southern Writer said...

Rowenna said...

Here's a question--is including profanity in a query a wise choice? It seems pretty ballsy--you never know who's on the other end, you know?



I think if you did your research, you know who's at the other end. If you query Rachelle Gardner or Kristin Nelson, for instance, then no, keep it clean. If you query Janet Reid or Colleen Lindsay, you're probably not going to be rejected because of it. It comes down to knowing who you're querying.

BuffySquirrel said...

You can call us UKians if you want :).

Bagman meaning the guy who holds the (illegally-obtained) money isn't even a UK term; it's been borrowed from the US and/or Aus. I think I first ran across it in Sims II.

Patrice said...

I liked the energy of it, as noted. I think most of the problems could be solved by making it

a) shorter
b) clarifying the timeline re jail and post-jail
c) adding the g's back in

Instead of wedge, how about "wad" for the USians -- as in wad of cash. All and sundry was very clear to me. I thought the "all and fuckin' sundry" was pretty funny, though it did surprise me.

One general question is how far you should go to make the query American sounding vs. British? Maybe that different lingo is what makes it interesting.

Finally, I was very surprised that QS didn't object to the short word length. Is 57,000 (is that the number?) enough for a full-length novel? Or is it a novella?

Tell me quick, because I'm trying to bring my comic memoir up to 72,000 words in order to make it marketable.

[Hey, my word verification is chide!]

Rowenna said...

So, Southern, it seems that it's a safe choice only if you're absolutely sure that the agent in question is ok with profanity. Considering that most agents don't maintain blogs or other means of personality-revealing communication with potential queriers, it's something I would leave off in most cases.

The Rejection Queen said...

Too confusing

BuffySquirrel said...

Profanity is religious swearing, not the sexual kind.

If the characters would swear, they should swear. If there's swearing in the book, concealing it in the query is only going to mean the prudish reject it one step later. What's the point in that? May as well weed them out as early in the process as possible!

Southern Writer said...

BuffySquirrel said...If the characters would swear, they should swear. If there's swearing in the book, concealing it in the query is only going to mean the prudish reject it one step later. What's the point in that? May as well weed them out as early in the process as possible!


Ah. The voice of reason and common sense.

Southern Writer said...

Rowena, if you've researched the agents you submit to, you should be somewhat familiar with the books they represent. Do any of those books contain profanity, adult situations, etc? That could be your guide.


ver: oveboa

maybe we're going overboard?

Jen said...

As a Midwestern USian *hee*, I got the slang. Loved the voice, loved the energy, didn't think it was too edgy at all, and would buy it in a hot second if this were the blurb I saw on the backcover in a bookstore.

That said...a few less dropped endings on words and maybe ONE less f-bomb wouldn't be a bad idea. Swearing in the query isn't a bad idea if you *know* who you're querying, but still...two might be a touch too much, so to be on the safe side (ha ha) I would've ditched one or t'other.

Just my two cents.

And I've got gibberish for my word verification...it ain't FAIR!

pulp said...

What _does_ "all published by in their collections" mean?

i.ayris said...

Hi Pulp.

It means, for some reason, the following disappeared when I entered the text:

'all published by Byker Books in their 'Radgepacket' collections.'

No idea why that happened. Thanks for reading.

All the best,

Ian

stacy said...

I really dug the voice in this myself, and I'm American. Hope it gets published, because i would be all over this like white on rice.

Janet Reid said...

Pulp, it means the Shark forgot to insert (redacted) when she chomped out the identifying info.

Mistake corrected.

Thanks.

hope101 said...

Woot, Ian! I'm coming late to the party. I knew you had a winner on your hands.

i.ayris said...

Thank you, Hope, Stacy, and Jen, and everyone else, for your best wishes.

Still waiting on the first three chapters. But that's okay. Takes as long as it takes, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Warmest regards,

Ian

glovin said...

I think after a while the in' endings would begin to wear on me. Sometimes less is more.

--
glovin
Professional Monitering security systems for Homes, Offices & Appartments

Bobbie Wickham said...

Oh dear, I scarcely noticed the slang at all. That's a workin' class Brit education for you.

I would read this. And I would love it.

TraciB said...

Other than the f-bombs, the query letter caught my attention right away. Making it sound as though one of the characters is pitching the story - brilliant!

As for the voice, it immediately brought to mind Don Cheadle's safecracking character in the Clooney/Pitt remake of "Ocean's 11," not to mention at least one character in most BBC Britcoms aired by the PBS stations over here.

I'm glad QS posted this one; it gives me some great ideas for my soon-to-be crafted query letters.

Stephanie B said...

I'm not into crime fiction, but the diction and language didn't phase me at all. I read a great deal of British literature (and not Harry Potter). Heck, if you've read all the way through James Herriot as I have (several times), this is nothing.

WV: orate - am I too wordy?

Glacierman said...

I'm from Montana and had no problem whatsoever understanding the query. I don't think it is a matter of where you are from so much as how widely read you are.

Found the lingo a refreshing take on a query. We have a character pushing the book, not the author.

The book should be a great read, although I personally would have problems with the 'f' word.

Janet Lingel Aldrich said...

I got the slang; I may be a "USian", but I read more British stuff than American, so no prob.

Granted, to be honest, I probably wouldn't read this because I don't much care for "true crime" of this type, myself. Still, there is an audience for this genre and I don't think the strong British voice would necessarily hurt it. As long as it came with a glossary. ;)

Fragrant Liar said...

I loved this query. Loved its gritty realism and the atmosphere author set up right off. I got hooked into the story quickly. As I am a fan of cursing, that didn't bother me at all, but it did stop me in wonder that the agent was cool with it. I'd buy this book myself.

jesse said...

I also found the language here, initially, troublesome. But, as soon as I picked up on the brit slang, I switched over to "Lock, Stock" mode, and Bob's my uncle.

Jokes aside, the formula for setting up conflict here really is brilliant, init? I am incorporating it into my own query.

Thanks.

Jane Marie said...

I completely disagree with the idea that many Americans would pass this book by because of all the slang. I love British authors, and because I ready so many of them, the slang wasn't hard for me to understand. "Out the nick"-the lack of an "of" threw you? Really? I think one of the reasons so many Amercians have ready Harry Potter is because we love to ready the way they talk! I for one feel an affinity with the British that I don't feel for people from other ountries. Some of them may take this as an insult, but I think they are like us. I like to read them because they are like us, but just different enough to make things interesting. If you don't get the slang, or even if you just think it's overdone, it probably means that you yourself just haven't read enough of it. I love it!

Jane Marie said...

Oh dear,I wish I had done a better job of proof reading my comment. I have a sticky keyboard and sometimes forget. So please, pardon my typos.

Ian Ayris said...

Just a little update to say ABIDE WITH ME eventually found a home, and was published by Caffeine Nights Publishing a couple of weeks ago in both paperback and ebook editions.

Thank you to everyone for your comments. Much appreciated.

And especially to Janet, who was such an encouraging voice.

Warmest regards,

Ian

GillyB said...

Ahh! Congratulations!

daemon said...

I want this author to write the dialogue for my books.

I want this author to write the dialogue of the movies I watch.