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THE UNWIFE (Alternative History)


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#1 BadgerFox

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Posted 26 March 2018 - 02:22 PM

CURRENT QUERY DRAFT (V. 6) IN #23

 

 

 

Greetings! In this query I'm hoping to stress my novel's diversity (characters with disabilities, characters from nonwhite and non-English backgrounds, powerful female characters and LGBT+ characters), partially because a LOT of agents I'm planning to query have this explicitly written on their wishlist, partially because I just think it's generally an accurate description of my novel and it's more interesting. How can I weave this into the query so it'll catch an agent's eye? Any advice is welcomed :)

--

 

Dear X,

 

 

Una is a rollicking, plus-sized libertine who loves life - especially the parts involving strong whisky, singlestick fights and naked men. It’s 1889 in a gender-swapped Victorian Scotland, Una’s got a burning ambition to travel the world. Unfortunately, her mother’s got a burning ambition for her travel in on the 7:45 train every morning, to waste her life in some screamingly dull office clerk’s job. Una can’t win. But how can she transcend middle-class convention and live the voyaging life she craves…when she has all the insight and maturity of an undercooked tattie scone?

 

Meanwhile, in Berlin, young father Otto is in trouble. His infant is hungry, his employment prospects are abysmal, and his breadwinner wife’s just vanished. Has she abandoned him? Otto doesn’t know. But the rent’s due now. When a broad-minded friend suggests he sell the one valuable item left - himself - Otto very reluctantly agrees.

 

Still, isn’t it just ‘a job like any other’? Unfortunately, he finds it’s not. Born of Turkish-German heritage, Otto is a POC who’s fetishized, degraded and treated like an ‘exotic’ stereotype by his female buyers.

 

Roaring drunk on a trip to Berlin, three months hence, Una meets Otto making trouble at a late-night café. Immediately smitten, Una means to take advantage…but changes her mind. She might be a lecherous rake, but she’s a principled lecherous rake, damn it! Money is one thing. Mutual desire is another. Otto’s stunned; he’s never encountered such principles before.

 

When their paths next cross, the industrial northern cityscape of Glasgow provides a unique backdrop to a new problem. Otto’s violent wife is back. He’s out of the frying-pan and into the fire. Isolated and at her mercy, Otto wants out, but divorce is considered unspeakable.

 

Una’s half-hearted attempts at a conventional career fail, but a political awakening dawns as she tries to secure justice for a wounded Otto. When Una’s male friend develops a crush on the bisexual Otto, an LGBTQ+ romantic intrigue only complicates matters further. As the abuse escalates and endangers Otto’s very life, Una finally realizes it’s time to stop larking about. Nobody will save Otto if she doesn’t. But can rescuing him help Una find herself? Could achieving her own ambitions be bound up together with his fate? And can she do it before the killing blow is struck?

 

Darkly comic, feminist as hell, and featuring multiple diverse characters (including a POC LGBT+ protagonist) this Alternate History runs to 98,000 words. ‘The Unwife’ hits the Venn diagram between feminist sci-fi (Naomi Alderman’s ‘The Power’, Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’), and quirky Victoriana (Michael Faber’s ‘The Crimson Petal and the White’). The novel’s themes explore how the struggles of POC, disabled and LGBT+ characters intersect within a brutally sexist historical society. I’m a Scotswoman with an MA degree in Scottish Literature from Glasgow University (currently doing my PhD elsewhere), who’s worked in the novel’s setting as a Victorian re-enactor. My fiction was recently longlisted for the annual Mslexia novel prize.

 

I am querying you because [personalized information based on agent's twitter feed/wishlist/website etc].


Spare a little feedback, if you have a moment? :)

My AU historical novel query: here. Thank you!


#2 A. Wass

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Posted 26 March 2018 - 05:16 PM

This reads way more like a synopsis than a query, which isn't a good thing. I suggest you pay http://queryshark.blogspot.com/ a visit and read all the archives. It'll help you get a feel for how to write a query. If I were you, I would scrap this and start over after you've read some good examples of successful queries.



#3 RosieSkye

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Posted 26 March 2018 - 05:17 PM

I'd like to do a line-by-line here, but this query is twice as long as it should be.  Pare it down, and only include the details that are essential to your immediate plot.

 

On the plus side, you've got great voice, and the Victorian gender-swapping is intriguing!  I'd avoid using "POC" and "LGBTQ" in the heart of your query, because those are very modern terms that clash with the 1889 setting.  You don't want to come across as, "Look, look!  I've got POC and LGBTQ here!"  Just word your query in a way that makes those ideas clear in the context of the story, and if you want to stress their inclusion, you can make a brief mention of it at the end, after your title/genre/word count.

 

I look forward to reading again!



#4 Nessa

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Posted 26 March 2018 - 05:43 PM

Way too long.
 
Start from scratch, but follow this blog post. It breaks down each part of the query.

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#5 BadgerFox

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Posted 27 March 2018 - 09:52 AM

NOOOOO! I made a daft mistake and put WAY too much plot in! Why did I do that? I should know better. I’ve already written several decent queries and gotten positive feedback from this very forum. I’m not a newbie. I should KNOW a query is supposed to be shorter than 500 words! *howls of anguished shame*

 

Ahem. Right. Sorry. Try Query Version 2.0: The Correct Bloody Length This Time :

 

--

 

Dear X,

 

Una is a rollicking libertine who loves life - especially the parts with strong whisky, singlestick fights and naked men. It’s 1889 in a gender-swapped Victorian Scotland and Una has a burning ambition to travel the world. Unfortunately, her mother has a burning ambition for her travel to a clerk’s office on the 6:45 morning train, and waste her entire life scribbling in ledgers. Una wants a shot at her dream job! Only, transcending middle-class convention is hard when she has all the maturity and insight of an undercooked tattie scone…

 

Meanwhile, in Berlin, young father Otto is in serious trouble. His infant is hungry, his job prospects are dire, and his breadwinner wife’s just vanished. And the rent is due now. When he’s coerced into selling the one valuable item left - himself - Otto reluctantly capitulates. Alas, he finds it isn’t ‘a job like any other’. Of Turkish-German heritage, Otto is fetishized and treated like an ‘exotic’ stereotype by wealthy female buyers.

 

Yet when Otto and Una’s paths cross, on a drunken holiday spree, their friendship sparks astonishing life-changes. As they laugh, argue, teach, kiss, and fight with each another, Una’s political awakening coincides with Otto ending up in a dangerous abuse situation. When Una’s male friend develops feelings for the bisexual Otto, LGBT+ romance only complicates matters further. As the abuse endangers Otto’s very life, Una realizes it’s time to grow up. Nobody will achieve her ambitions for her – and nobody will save Otto if she doesn’t. Can rescuing him help Una find herself? And can she do it before the killing blow is struck?

 

Feminist as hell, with diverse characters and a PoC LGBT+ protagonist, this Alternative History runs to 98,000 words. ‘The Unwife’ hits the Venn diagram between feminist sci-fi (Naomi Alderman’s ‘The Power’, Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’), and quirky Victoriana (Michael Faber’s ‘The Crimson Petal and the White’). The novel explores the intersection of the struggles of disabled, PoC and LGBT+ characters under a sexist regime. I’m a Scotswoman with an MA degree in Scottish Literature, who has worked in the novel’s Glasgow setting as Victorian re-enactor. My fiction was recently longlisted for the Mslexia novel prize. [Insert personalized information why this particular agent is being queried].

 

Thanks and kind regards,

 

[name]


Spare a little feedback, if you have a moment? :)

My AU historical novel query: here. Thank you!


#6 Nessa

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Posted 27 March 2018 - 11:57 AM

Dear X,

 

Una is a rollicking libertine who loves life - especially the parts with strong whisky, singlestick fights and naked men. It’s 1889 in a gender-swapped Victorian Scotland and Una has a burning ambition to travel the world.​[I wonder if "gender-swapped" is too meta for the query. It takes me out of the story immediately. I suggest taking it out and putting it in the metadata.] Unfortunately, her mother has a burning ambition for her travel to a clerk’s office on the 6:45 morning train, and waste her entire life scribbling in ledgers. Una wants a shot at her dream job! Only, transcending middle-class convention is hard when she has all the maturity and insight of an undercooked tattie scone…​[Great voice, but you can shorten word count by reworking the last two sentences into one.]

 

Meanwhile, in Berlin, young father Otto is in serious trouble. His infant is hungry, his job prospects are dire, and his breadwinner wife’s just vanished. And the rent is due now. When he’s coerced into selling the one valuable item left - himself - Otto reluctantly capitulates. Alas, he finds it isn’t ‘a job like any other’. Of Turkish-German heritage, Otto is fetishized and treated like an ‘exotic’ stereotype by wealthy female buyers.

 

Yet when Otto and Una’s paths cross, on a drunken holiday spree, their friendship sparks astonishing life-changes. As they laugh, argue, teach, kiss, and fight with each another, Una’s political awakening coincides with Otto ending up in a dangerous abuse situation. ​[I know this is gender-swapped, but abuse is a tricky topic and you might want to reconsider. Some agents might feel iffy.]When Una’s male friend develops feelings for the bisexual Otto, LGBT+ romance only complicates matters further. ​[Don't use refer to the romance as LGBT+. It sounds gimmicky and out of place.]As the abuse endangers Otto’s very life, Una realizes it’s time to grow up. ​[The abuse is too vague, and again, reconsider that plot element. I can't tell if Una's abusing him (if so, agents will definitely have issues; "If I see abuse as a plot device, it's not for me."]Nobody will achieve her ambitions for her – and nobody will save Otto if she doesn’t. Can rescuing him help Una find herself? And can she do it before the killing blow is struck?​[The stakes don't feel large enough to me. I also don't see the connection between saving Otto and achieving her ambitions.]

 

Feminist as hell, with diverse characters and a PoC LGBT+ protagonist, this Alternative History runs to 98,000 words.​[Be specific. What is the protagonist's background? Black and bisexual?]The Unwife’ hits the Venn diagram between feminist sci-fi (Naomi Alderman’s ‘The Power’, Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’), and quirky Victoriana (Michael Faber’s ‘The Crimson Petal and the White’). The novel explores the intersection of the struggles of disabled, PoC and LGBT+ characters under a sexist regime.​[Remove this sentence. It should be hinted at throughout your query.] I’m a Scotswoman with an MA degree in Scottish Literature, who has worked in the novel’s Glasgow setting as Victorian re-enactor. My fiction was recently longlisted for the Mslexia novel prize. [Insert personalized information why this particular agent is being queried].

 

Thanks and kind regards,

 

[name]


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#7 RosieSkye

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Posted 27 March 2018 - 12:50 PM

NOOOOO! I made a daft mistake and put WAY too much plot in! Why did I do that? I should know better. I’ve already written several decent queries and gotten positive feedback from this very forum. I’m not a newbie. I should KNOW a query is supposed to be shorter than 500 words! *howls of anguished shame*

 

Ahem. Right. Sorry. Try Query Version 2.0: The Correct Bloody Length This Time :

 

--

 

Dear X,

 

Una is a rollicking libertine who loves life - especially the parts with strong whisky, singlestick fights and naked men. It’s 1889 in a gender-swapped Victorian Scotland and Una has a burning ambition to travel the world. Unfortunately, her mother has a burning ambition for her travel to a clerk’s office on the 6:45 morning train, and waste her entire life scribbling in ledgers. Una wants a shot at her dream job! (What's her dream job? I thought she wanted to travel the world. And "dream job" feels like modern terminology.) Only, transcending middle-class convention is hard when she has all the maturity (life experience?) and insight of an undercooked tattie scone… (I'd tweak this to make it sound more like she lacks real-world/life experience.  Saying she's immature just makes her sound like a bratty kid.  And if she's such a rebel, why doesn't she just say adios to her mother and take off?)

 

Meanwhile, in Berlin, young father Otto is in serious trouble. His infant is hungry, his job prospects are dire, and his breadwinner wife’s just vanished. And the rent is due now. When he’s coerced into selling the one valuable item left - himself - Otto reluctantly capitulates. Alas, he finds it isn’t ‘a job like any other’. Of Turkish-German Alas, since he's of Turkish heritage, Otto is fetishized and treated like an ‘exotic’ stereotype by wealthy female buyers. (I'd just focus on his being Turkish, since that's the exotic aspect of him.)

 

Yet when Otto and Una’s paths cross, on a drunken holiday spree, their friendship sparks astonishing life-changes (this is telling rather than showing). As they laugh, argue, teach, kiss, and fight with each another, Una’s political awakening coincides with Otto ending up in a dangerous abuse situation. When Una’s male friend developing feelings for the bisexual Otto, LGBT+ romance (putting "LGBT" here takes me out of the flow of your Victorian plot, and just feels like you're wedging in book stats) only complicates matters further. As the abuse endangers Otto’s very life, Una realizes it’s time to grow up. Nobody will achieve her ambitions for her – and nobody will save Otto if she doesn’t. Can rescuing him help Una find herself? And can she do it before the killing blow is struck? (Don't ask questions in a query.  "Una must hurry up and figure herself out, before Otto's killing blow is struck."  Obviously that's lame, but you get the idea.)

 

Feminist as hell, with diverse characters (don't tout your own writing - let your previous paragraphs show this) and a PoC LGBT+ protagonist, this Alternative History runs to 98,000 words. The Unwife’ THE UNWIFE hits the Venn diagram between will appeal to fans of feminist sci-fi (Naomi Alderman’s ‘The Power’, Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’), and quirky Victoriana (Michael Faber’s ‘The Crimson Petal and the White’). The novel explores the intersection of the struggles of disabled, PoC and LGBT+ characters under a sexist regime. I’m a Scotswoman with an MA degree in Scottish Literature, who has worked in the novel’s Glasgow setting as Victorian re-enactor. My fiction was recently longlisted for the Mslexia novel prize. [Insert personalized information why this particular agent is being queried].  (I'd reword the top of this as "THE UNWIFE is an alternative history of 98,000 words, and contains POC LGBT+ themes.  It'll appeal to the fans of...")

 

Thanks and kind regards,

 

[name]

 

 

Hope this helps!



#8 smithgirl

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Posted 28 March 2018 - 03:23 PM

Dear X,

 

[Insert catchy hook]

 

 

Una is a rollicking libertine who loves life -- this should be an em-dash especially the parts with strong whisky, singlestick fights comma and naked men. It’s 1889 in a gender-swapped Victorian Scotland and Una has a burning ambition to travel the world. I'm a bit unclear what you mean by gender-swapped. You mean gender roles are swapped? I also feel like the two items in this sentence feel unrelated: This gender-swapped England (Whoa! Big deal) and (seems like a little thing and unrelated): Una wants to travel.  Unfortunately, her mother has a burning ambition for her travel to a clerk’s office on the 6:45 morning train, and waste her entire life scribbling in ledgers. How is this career choice relevant to the gender-swapped setting? Una wants a shot at her dream job! What is her dream job? You need to tell us. Only, transcending middle-class convention is hard when she has all the maturity and insight of an undercooked tattie scone… What? Why does she need to transcend convention? What is her dream job?

 

Meanwhile, in Berlin, young father Otto is in serious trouble. His infant is hungry, his job prospects are dire, and his breadwinner wife’s just vanished. What? This seems completely unrelated to your first paragraph. And the rent is due now. When he’s coerced into selling the one valuable item left -- himself -- Otto reluctantly capitulates. Alas, he finds it isn’t "a job like any other." Why would he think prostitution would be like an average job? Of Turkish-German heritage, Otto is fetishized and treated like an ‘exotic’ stereotype by wealthy female buyers. This seems unimportant.

 

Yet when Otto and Una’s paths cross, on a drunken holiday spree, their friendship sparks astonishing life-changes. I thought Una and Otto live in different countries. As they laugh, argue, teach, kiss, and fight with each another, Una’s political awakening What political awakening? How is that important? coincides with Otto ending up in a dangerous abuse situation. What relationship? With a customer or a romantic relationship? When Una’s male friend develops feelings for the bisexual Otto, LGBT+ romance only complicates matters further. Be specific. As the abuse endangers Otto’s very life, What abuse? We  need specifics. Una realizes it’s time to grow up. Nobody will achieve her ambitions for her – and nobody will save Otto if she doesn’t. Can rescuing him help Una find herself? Don't include rhetorical questions in a query = auto-rejection. And can she do it before the killing blow is struck? This is much too vague.

 

Feminist as hell, Honestly, the query does not read feminist as hell. You have to show this in your query. Don't editorialize. with diverse characters and a PoC LGBT+ protagonist, this Alternative History runs to 98,000 words. THE UNWIFE is a 98,000-word feminist alternate history novel with POC LGBT+ themes.The Unwife’ hits the Venn diagram between feminist sci-fi (Naomi Alderman’s ‘The Power’, Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’), and quirky Victoriana (Michael Faber’s ‘The Crimson Petal and the White’).  These are a lot of comps. The novel explores the intersection of the struggles of disabled, PoC and LGBT+ characters under a sexist regime. Show this in your query. I’m a Scotswoman with an MA degree in Scottish Literature, who has worked in the novel’s Glasgow setting as Victorian re-enactor. My fiction was recently longlisted for the Mslexia novel prize. [Insert personalized information why this particular agent is being queried].

 

Thanks and kind regards,

 

So your query is a lot of telling, and also contains a lot of disparate and seemingly unrelated information.

 

​First of all, you need to start with a hook. Then you need to decide on a MC. Even your if you book is told from two POVs, your query can only have one POV. Decide who is your MC: Una or Otto? I would suggest using Una. Then write the entire query from Una's POV. Everything about Otto is included as it relates to Una.

 

After reading your query, I actually don't see how the gender-reversed setting is important to the story, or that it's a feminist novel. We have a woman who wants to buck her societal expectations to get her dream job (but we never learn what that is), and we have a man who turns to selling his body. Neither of these things requires a gender-reversed society. Male prostitution happens all the time, and it happened in Victorian England, too. I'm sure your novel IS feminist and that the gender-reversal is important to your story, but right now those things are not coming across in your query.

 

Because you are trying to include so much info about two MCs, we never get a clear picture of either of them, or even the overall arc of your story. You should rewrite your query as follows:

 

1. Who is your MC (make us know this person, care about them)

2. Why do they want?

3. What obstacles stand in their way?

4. What will happen if they fail (i.e. the stakes)

 

You need to be very specific about all these things; you can't be vague. To do this focus on one MC, on the absolute crux/conflict of your story. 

 

Query writing is hard, so don't be discouraged. Good luck!



#9 PureZhar3

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Posted 28 March 2018 - 04:42 PM

NOOOOO! I made a daft mistake and put WAY too much plot in! Why did I do that? I should know better. I’ve already written several decent queries and gotten positive feedback from this very forum. I’m not a newbie. I should KNOW a query is supposed to be shorter than 500 words! *howls of anguished shame*  :biggrin: ​don't worry, we still like you

 

Ahem. Right. Sorry. Try Query Version 2.0: The Correct Bloody Length This Time :

 

--

 

Dear X,

 

Una is a ​f?rollicking libertine who loves life - especially the parts with strong whisky, singlestick fights ​comma and naked men. It’s 1889 in a gender-swapped Victorian Scotland​comma and Una has a burning ambition to travel the world. Unfortunately, her mother has a burning ambition for her travel to a clerk’s office on the 6:45 morning train, and waste her entire life scribbling in ledgers. ​I'm digging this so far Una wants a shot at her dream job! ​Hm, digging this less. The exclamation point combined with the sentence feel too childish. Only, transcending middle-class convention is hard when she has all the maturity and insight of an undercooked tattie scone… 

 

Meanwhile, in Berlin, young father Otto is in serious trouble. His infant is hungry, his job prospects are dire, and his breadwinner wife’s ​just vanished. And the rent is due now. ​This doesn't read quite right. Take these four items and cut one out, then make it a list of three again (I suggest the job prospects, which can be figured out easily) When he’s coerced into selling the one valuable item left - himself - Otto reluctantly capitulates. Alas, he finds it isn’t ‘a job like any other’. Of Turkish-German heritage, Otto is fetishized and treated like an ‘exotic’ stereotype by wealthy female buyers.

 

Yet when Otto and Una’s paths cross ​no comma on a drunken holiday spree, their friendship sparks astonishing life-changes. As they laugh, argue, teach, kiss, and fight with each another ​I hope you meant to put either "one another" or "each other", Una’s political awakening ​what political awakening? does this have to do with the dream job (that I don't think you ever expanded on?) coincides with Otto ending up in a dangerous abuse situation ​my brain is having a hard time putting these two things together (can you fit them into a parallel structure?) one also seems far more dire than the other. When Una’s male friend develops feelings for the bisexual Otto, LGBT+ romance only complicates matters further. As the abuse endangers Otto’s very life, Una realizes it’s time to grow up. Nobody will achieve her ambitions for her – and nobody will save Otto if she doesn’t. Can rescuing him help Una find herself? And can she do it before the killing blow is struck? ​Rephrase these as statements... agents reject rhetorical questions.

 

Feminist as hell, with diverse characters and a PoC LGBT+ protagonist, this Alternative History runs to 98,000 words. ‘The Unwife’ hits the Venn diagram between feminist sci-fi (Naomi Alderman’s ‘The Power’, Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’), and quirky Victoriana (Michael Faber’s ‘The Crimson Petal and the White’). The novel explores the intersection of the struggles of disabled, PoC and LGBT+ characters under a sexist regime. I’m a Scotswoman with an MA degree in Scottish Literature, who has worked in the novel’s Glasgow setting as Victorian re-enactor. My fiction was recently longlisted for the Mslexia novel prize. [Insert personalized information why this particular agent is being queried].

 

Thanks and kind regards,

 

[name]


If you have time, I'd appreciate it if you took a look at my query: http://agentquerycon...-realismsci-fi/


#10 BadgerFox

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Posted 30 March 2018 - 09:08 AM

Right. Big thankyous to everyone who’s commented so far. It really helps.

 

Let’s try Query V 3.0 – Sticking to One Character POV This Time. The novel IS dual POV (i.e both Otto and Una are viewpoint characters) but I see that it’s better the query be just one POV. Again, I don’t know what’s happened to make my brain fall out of my skull, when I should’ve KNOWN that, since I’ve literally recommended it to other writers before! Word-count is around 380, but can anyone help me shorten it further?

 

-

 

Dear X,

 

Against the cityscape of a gender-switched Victorian Glasgow, debauched young libertine Una dreams of travelling the world. Unfortunately, her current travels take her only to the local bar. She’s procrasti-drinking. It’s hellish living in a matriarchy when you’d rather eat your own whisky-glass than grow into a matriarch. Here in 1889, a respectable Scotswoman is provider and protector of her household; pious, hardworking and ruling over husband and servants with an iron cheque-book. Mocked as ‘unwomanly’ for her mighty height and singlestick skills, and bored to tears by babies, Una is a shite fit for her future role. But there's no alternative.

 

Yet one comes in the unlikeliest guise. Freshly fired and on a drunken holiday spree, meeting feisty prostitute Otto opens Una's mind. Fetishized by racist female buyers for his ‘exotic’ Turkish looks, Otto’s simmering with rage at a society that forces impoverished young males to become playthings for rich women. Una’s smitten by his beauty and his gutsy tirades.

 

As their friendship deepens, Una’s own political awakening blows her away. Weathering deadly illness, bereavement, a same-sex romantic intrigue, emigration and other struggles together, they discover they both long to defy tradition. Gender roles were a lie. Being an ally to progress is tough, but living a lie is tougher.

 

So when Una discovers Otto’s a victim of domestic violence, she vows to act. She’s utterly in love with him, and she owes him - her newfound knowledge of global politics now makes her a top candidate for her beloved travel jobs. As escalating abuse endangers Otto’s very life, Una realizes she must fight the system alone. Nobody will rescue Otto if she doesn’t. But Una had better act fast – before the killing blow is struck.

 

THE UNWIFE, complete at 98,000 words, is feminist speculative-fiction. Darkly satirical, with diverse characters (including biracial, bisexual protagonist Otto), it’s told from two points of view. It covers similar territory to genre classics like Joanna Russ’ ‘The Female Man’, and more recently Louise O’Neill’s ‘Only Ever Yours’ and Naomi Alderman’s ‘The Power’ - though with a distinctive historical twist. I’m a Scotswoman with an MA degree in Scottish Literature, who’s worked in the novel’s Glasgow setting as Victorian re-enactor. My fiction was recently longlisted for the Mslexia novel prize. [Insert personalized information on why this particular agent is being queried].


Spare a little feedback, if you have a moment? :)

My AU historical novel query: here. Thank you!


#11 ltlibrarian

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Posted 31 March 2018 - 02:05 PM

Right. Big thankyous to everyone who’s commented so far. It really helps.

 

Let’s try Query V 3.0 – Sticking to One Character POV This Time. The novel IS dual POV (i.e both Otto and Una are viewpoint characters) but I see that it’s better the query be just one POV. Again, I don’t know what’s happened to make my brain fall out of my skull, when I should’ve KNOWN that, since I’ve literally recommended it to other writers before! Word-count is around 380, but can anyone help me shorten it further?

 

-

 

Dear X,

 

Against the cityscape of a gender-switched Victorian Glasgow, debauched young libertine Una dreams of travelling the world. Unfortunately, her current travels take her only to the local bar. She’s procrasti-drinking. It’s hellish living in a matriarchy when you’d rather eat your own whisky-glass than grow into a matriarch. Here in 1889, a respectable Scotswoman is provider and protector of her household; pious, hardworking and ruling over husband and servants with an iron cheque-book. Mocked as ‘unwomanly’ for her mighty height and singlestick skills, and bored to tears by babies, Una is a shite fit for her future role. But there's no alternative. - there's a lot of info here, but it's not a hook is my only issue. This seems more like something for a second paragraph. Here we want to learn what circumstances set the character on their journey and a hint a stake or intrigue

 

Yet one comes in the unlikeliest guise. Freshly fired and on a drunken holiday spree, meeting feisty prostitute Otto opens Una's mind. Fetishized by racist female buyers for his ‘exotic’ Turkish looks, Otto’s simmering with rage at a society that forces impoverished young males to become playthings for rich women. Una’s smitten by his beauty and his gutsy tirades.

 

As their friendship deepens, Una’s own political awakening blows her away. Weathering deadly illness, bereavement, a same-sex romantic intrigue, emigration and other struggles together, they discover they both long to defy tradition. Gender roles were a lie. Being an ally to progress is tough, but living a lie is tougher.

 

So when Una discovers Otto’s a victim of domestic violence, she vows to act. She’s utterly in love with him, and she owes him - her newfound knowledge of global politics now makes her a top candidate for her beloved travel jobs. As escalating abuse endangers Otto’s very life, Una realizes she must fight the system alone. Nobody will rescue Otto if she doesn’t. But Una had better act fast – before the killing blow is struck. - this is good for bringing in the stakes

 

THE UNWIFE, complete at 98,000 words, is feminist speculative-fiction. Darkly satirical, with diverse characters (including biracial, bisexual protagonist Otto), it’s told from two points of view. It covers similar territory to genre classics like Joanna Russ’ ‘The Female Man’, and more recently Louise O’Neill’s ‘Only Ever Yours’ and Naomi Alderman’s ‘The Power’ - though with a distinctive historical twist. I’m a Scotswoman with an MA degree in Scottish Literature, who’s worked in the novel’s Glasgow setting as Victorian re-enactor. My fiction was recently longlisted for the Mslexia novel prize. [Insert personalized information on why this particular agent is being queried].

 

There's a lot of great stuff in here, but it seems to lack focus. I think you have fantastic worldbuilding, it just needs to be arranged to be mostly in that second paragraph with hints in the others. Para 1 = hook, Para 2 = character/world, Para 3 = stakes. All the materials are there, it just needs to be rearranged to show that.

 

Hope that helps!


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#12 RosieSkye

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Posted 31 March 2018 - 03:35 PM

Right. Big thankyous to everyone who’s commented so far. It really helps.

 

Let’s try Query V 3.0 – Sticking to One Character POV This Time. The novel IS dual POV (i.e both Otto and Una are viewpoint characters) but I see that it’s better the query be just one POV. Again, I don’t know what’s happened to make my brain fall out of my skull, when I should’ve KNOWN that, since I’ve literally recommended it to other writers before! Word-count is around 380, but can anyone help me shorten it further?

 

-

 

Dear X,

 

Against the cityscape of a gender-switched Victorian Glasgow, debauched young libertine Una dreams of travelling the world. Unfortunately, her current travels take her only to the local bar. She’s procrasti-drinking. It’s hellish living in a matriarchy when you’d rather eat your own whisky-glass than grow into a matriarch. Here in 1889, a respectable Scotswoman is provider and protector of her household; pious, hardworking and ruling over husband and servants with an iron cheque-book. Mocked as ‘unwomanly’   for her mighty height and singlestick skills, and bored to tears by babies,   Una is a shite fit for her future role. But there's no alternative. (I think you can trim this down and let a few of your descriptors carry the weight.  By saying up front that she's a debauched libertine, it's easy to grasp that she's no fit for her expected role.)

 

Yet one comes in the unlikeliest guise. Freshly fired and on a drunken holiday spree, meeting feisty prostitute Otto opens Una's mind. ("While on a drunken holiday spree, however, Una meets feisty prostitute Otto.")  Fetishized by racist (saying straight up that they're racist feels like modern commentary. It seems like a given that a prostitute of a different race would be seen as exotic by women in 1889.) female buyers for his ‘exotic’ Turkish looks, Otto’s simmering with rage at a society that forces impoverished young males to become playthings for rich women. Una’s smitten by his beauty and his gutsy tirades. (It may just be me, but when I hear "gutsy tirades" I feel like this guy is going to be on a soapbox all the time, preaching and annoying me.  Again, maybe that's just me.)

 

As their friendship deepens, Una and Otto experience Una’s own political awakening blows her away. Weathering deadly illness, bereavement, a same-sex romantic intrigue, emigration and other struggles together, they discover they both long to defy tradition. Gender roles were a lie. Being an ally to progress is tough, but living a lie is tougher. (This paragraph is mostly telling rather than showing.)

 

So when Una discovers Otto’s a victim of domestic violence (from whom?), she vows to act. She’s utterly in love with him, and she owes him - her newfound knowledge of global politics now makes her a top candidate for her beloved travel jobs. As escalating abuse endangers Otto’s very life, But Una realizes she must fight the system alone. Nobody will rescue Otto if she doesn’t. But Una had better act fast – before the killing blow is struck.

 

THE UNWIFE, complete at 98,000 words, is feminist speculative-fiction. Darkly satirical, with diverse characters (including biracial, bisexual protagonist Otto), it’s told from two points of view. It covers similar territory to genre classics like Joanna Russ’ ‘The Female Man’, (keep your comps current) and more recently Louise O’Neill’s ‘Only Ever Yours’ and Naomi Alderman’s ‘The Power’ - though with a distinctive historical twist. I’m a Scotswoman with an MA degree in Scottish Literature, who’s worked in the novel’s Glasgow setting as Victorian re-enactor. My fiction was recently longlisted for the Mslexia novel prize. [Insert personalized information on why this particular agent is being queried].

 

 

Hope this helps!



#13 TeaTime

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Posted 31 March 2018 - 07:56 PM

Dear X,

 

Against the cityscape of a gender-switched Victorian Glasgow, debauched young libertine Una dreams of travelling the world. Unfortunately, her current travels take her only to the local bar. She’s procrasti-drinking. It’s hellish living in a matriarchy when you’d rather eat your own whisky-glass than grow into a matriarch. Here in 1889, a respectable Scotswoman is provider and protector of her household; pious, hardworking and ruling over husband and servants with an iron cheque-book (Cool detail). Mocked as ‘unwomanly’ for her mighty height (So are women physically the same in this world as they are in our world?) and singlestick skills, and bored to tears by babies (Isn't this expected for women (acting as men) in this society? It's hard discerning/keeping track of what is opposite in this world, & what is kept the same as our world.), Una is a shite fit for her future role. But there's no alternative.

 

Yet one comes in the unlikeliest guise. Freshly fired and on a drunken holiday spree, meeting feisty prostitute Otto opens Una's mind. Fetishized by racist female buyers for his ‘exotic’ Turkish looks, Otto’s simmering with rage at a society that forces impoverished young males to become playthings for rich women. Una’s smitten by his beauty and his gutsy tirades. (I agree that these "feisty" & "gutsy tirades" descriptors make Otto sound a little too pontificating/not very appealing.)

 

As their friendship deepens, Una’s own political awakening blows her away. Weathering deadly illness, bereavement, a same-sex romantic intrigue, emigration and other struggles together, they discover they both long to defy tradition. Gender roles were a lie. Being an ally to progress is tough, but living a lie is tougher.

 

So when Una discovers Otto’s a victim of domestic violence (From who? Unless men are physically weaker than women, or if this is from another guy, it doesn't feel very threatening), she vows to act. She’s utterly in love with him (This is a bit blunt, maybe find a cooler alternative way to say this), and she owes him - (Em dash this) her newfound knowledge of global politics now makes her a top candidate for her beloved travel jobs. As escalating abuse endangers Otto’s very life, Una realizes she must fight the system alone. Nobody will rescue Otto if she doesn’t (What is standing in her way of doing this? Unless Otto is against getting help, she has the power to whisk him away, right?). But Una had better act fast – (Em dash) before the killing blow is struck.

 

THE UNWIFE, complete at 98,000 words, is feminist speculative-fiction. Darkly satirical, with diverse characters (including biracial, bisexual protagonist Otto), it’s told from two points of view. It covers similar territory to genre classics like Joanna Russ’ ‘The Female Man’, and more recently Louise O’Neill’s ‘Only Ever Yours’ and Naomi Alderman’s ‘The Power’ - (Em dash) though with a distinctive historical twist. I’m a Scotswoman with an MA degree in Scottish Literature, who’s worked in the novel’s Glasgow setting as Victorian re-enactor. My fiction was recently longlisted for the Mslexia novel prize. [Insert personalized information on why this particular agent is being queried].

 

I feel bad, as I don't feel like I have very much to offer besides to heartily second the cuts/strike throughs that RosieSkye suggested. They are done quite well in cutting the excess info & getting this query down to a more management length, which is the biggest problem it probably currently has.

 

Best of luck in getting this polished  :smile: 


Feel Free to Check Out My Current Query Letter Here, Thank You


#14 Oldborne

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Posted 01 April 2018 - 04:32 AM

Dear X,

 

Against the cityscape of a gender-switched Victorian Glasgow, debauched young libertine Una dreams of travelling the world Interesting so far. Unfortunately, her current travels take her only to the local bar Given the location and time period, would this not more likely be a pub or a tavern?. She’s procrasti-drinking. It’s hellish living in a matriarchy when you’d rather eat your own whisky-glass than grow into a matriarch. Here in 1889, a respectable Scotswoman is provider and protector of her household; pious, hardworking and ruling over husband and servants with an iron cheque-book Nice details and great voice! . Mocked as ‘unwomanly’ for her mighty height and singlestick skills, and bored to tears by babies, Una is a shite fit for her future role. But there's no alternative. Good first paragraph. The voice in particular is very impressive. I agree with above critiques with regards to trimming parts of this though.  

 

Yet one comes in the unlikeliest guise. Freshly fired and on a drunken holiday spree, meeting feisty prostitute Otto opens Una's mind The wording of this sentence confuses me somewhat. Is Otto recently fired and on a drunken holiday spree, or is Una?. Fetishized by racist female buyers for his ‘exotic’ Turkish looks, Otto’s simmering with rage at a society that forces impoverished young males to become playthings for rich women. Una’s smitten by his beauty and his gutsy tirades. I disagree with other posters about Otto's description. A character doesn't have to be enticing to us specifically, and I wouldn't downplay important traits to try to appeal to everyone. If he's outraged by the society he lives in then he's likely to be as you've described. And, given Una's current state, I'm not surprised that she's attracted to him. If he was meeker or milder she might have no reason to see him as anything more than a prostitute.   

 

As their friendship deepens, Una’s own political awakening blows her away. Weathering deadly illness, bereavement, a same-sex romantic intrigue, emigration and other struggles together, they discover they both long to defy tradition. Gender roles were a lie. Being an ally to progress is tough, but living a lie is tougher. Feels a bit like a 'Coming Up:' tease. I'd focus on the revelation that they both want to defy gender roles, maybe dig into one specific example that solidifies their joint interest.

 

So when Una discovers Otto’s a victim of domestic violence, she vows to act Is Otto married? Is his pimp the one attacking him? Is being attacked by a pimp considered domestic violence or assault? . She’s utterly in love with him, and she owes him - her newfound knowledge of global politics now makes her a top candidate for her beloved travel jobs I can't really see why this would be the case. . As escalating abuse endangers Otto’s very life, Una realizes she must fight the system alone Cliché, I'd consider re-wording this . Nobody will rescue Otto if she doesn’t. But Una had better act fast – before the killing blow is struckSo I don't fully understand who's attacking Otto or how Una plans to 'fight the power' or why she has to tear down an entire political and social system to save one life specifically. Is she primarily interested in saving Otto's life or re-forming the minds of her fellow women? If, for example, your favourtie tree were ablaze you'd either grab a bucket or call the fire brigade to save the tree. You wouldn't immediately begin campaigning on the importance of forest-fire awareness. Can Una not go to the police? Face Otto's abuser herself? If she can't do these things, that's fine—but why can't she? The way the stakes are worded very much sounds like she's putting the cart in front of the horse.     

 

THE UNWIFE, complete at 98,000 words, is feminist speculative-fiction. Darkly satirical, with diverse characters (including biracial, bisexual protagonist Otto), it’s told from two points of view. It covers similar territory to genre classics like Joanna Russ’ ‘The Female Man’, and more recently Louise O’Neill’s ‘Only Ever Yours’ and Naomi Alderman’s ‘The Power’ - though with a distinctive historical twist I'd stick to two contemporary examples given the length of your query. . I’m a Scotswoman with an MA degree in Scottish Literature, who’s worked in the novel’s Glasgow setting as a Victorian re-enactor So you certainly seem qualified to answer this: were they really called bars back in the day? Genuinely curious. I'm a Brit, too, and to me a 'bar' is an Americanism and a specific type of boozey place. My fiction was recently longlisted for the Mslexia novel prize. [Insert personalized information on why this particular agent is being queried].

 

This is an impressive query that's close to being finished, I'd say. Your biggest problems are the current length and your stakes paragraph. There's a bit of confusion there that would benefit from clarity and details. It sounds like a cool book in an interesting setting and I'm sure you'll find success soon.

Best of luck! 

 


All feedback appreciated: http://agentquerycon...ust-sf-mystery/

 


#15 BadgerFox

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Posted 02 April 2018 - 11:45 AM

MAJOR thanks to all who’ve helped so far. This is so enormously helpful. :)

 

Re: Bars – Oldborne, what an interesting question! :) What we mostly have to do with queries (and with historical novels in general) is strike a balance between authentic words and words that have undergone such massive semantic change or are so unusual they’ll leave a modern audience going ‘EH, WHUT?!’ An accurate word for ‘shitty room you go to get rat-arsed on cheap booze’ in 1889 Glasgow would actually be ‘shebeen’, a word brought over with the Irish immigrants (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shebeen )…but I probably shouldn’t use that because it’s so obscure that even an agent who liked historical novels would probably want me to stop being a cleverdick show-off and learn to actually communicate with a reader better. ‘Tavern’ is too old-fashioned. Both ‘bar’ and ‘pub’ are accurate for 1889 - ‘pub’ is used from 1850ish on, and ‘bar’ was used by Charles Dickens in ‘Sunday Under Three Heads’ in the 1830’s, onwards. They both sound modern, but sometimes it’s surprising which words are older than they seem. However, you make a really good point about modern expectations for Victorian language, and I see that sometimes the less accurate but most comprehensible and ‘Victorian-sounding’ choice can be best - so I went with 'gin palace'...before I edited and cut the sentence anyway! Lol... :D

 

Query V. 4: (Slightly) Shorter and (Hopefully) Sweeter

 

 

Dear X,

 

Against the cityscape of a gender-switched Victorian Glasgow, debauched young libertine Una dreams of travelling the world. Here in 1889, a respectable Scotswoman is provider and protector of her household, ruling over husband and servants with an iron cheque-book. But, bored to tears by babies and mocked for her ‘unwomanly’ physique, Una’s frankly a shite fit for her future role.

 

Yet a glimpse of an alternative comes in the unlikeliest guise. Una is freshly fired and on a holiday spree when a chance meeting with feisty prostitute Otto opens her mind. Fetishized by his female buyers for his ‘exotic’ Turkish looks, Otto’s simmering with rage at a society that forces impoverished young males to become playthings for rich women. Una’s smitten by his beauty and his gutsy spirit.

 

As their friendship deepens, Una’s political awakening dawns. Surviving deadly illness, a same-sex romantic intrigue and a bereavement together, Una and Otto find they both long to defy traditional gender roles. Maybe Otto’s university ambitions are as mad as Una’s wanderlust and distaste for motherhood, but at least they can be rebel lunatics together.

 

So when Una discovers that an old abusive relationship has come back to haunt Otto, trapping him in a dangerous situation, she vows to act. But the odds are against her. Medical orthodoxy holds that male nerves are too dull to sense much pain, women have legal rights over their male ‘property’, and the police don't give a damn. As the abuse escalates, Una realizes if doesn’t find a way to rescue Otto, nobody will. She’d better act fast, though – before the killing blow is struck.

 

THE UNWIFE, complete at 98,000 words, is feminist speculative-fiction. Darkly satirical, with diverse characters (including biracial, bisexual protagonist Otto), it’s told from two points of view. It covers similar territory to Louise O’Neill’s ‘Only Ever Yours’ and Naomi Alderman’s ‘The Power’, though with a distinctive historical twist. I’m a Scotswoman with an MA degree in Scottish Literature, who’s worked in the novel’s Glasgow setting as a Victorian re-enactor. My fiction was recently shortlisted for the Adventures in Fiction novel competition, and longlisted for the Mslexia prize. [Insert personalized information on why this particular agent is being queried].


Spare a little feedback, if you have a moment? :)

My AU historical novel query: here. Thank you!


#16 smithgirl

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Posted 02 April 2018 - 12:41 PM

Dear X,

 

Against the cityscape of a gender-switched Victorian Glasgow, debauched young libertine Una dreams of travelling the world. Here in 1889, a respectable Scotswoman is provider and protector of her household, ruling over husband and servants with an iron cheque-book. Good up to to here. But, bored to tears by babies and mocked for her ‘unwomanly’ physique, Una’s frankly a shite fit for her future role. I'm confused about this last sentence, because it seems to contradict the gender reversal and her supposed male role. I would actually assume that, because she has the male role, she would not deal with babies (wouldn't her wifely husband do that?) -- so why is it a problem that's she's bored by babies? Also, what is unwomanly about her physique? In normal society, I would assume an unwomanly physique would be excessively masculine, so in a gender-reversed society, then I would assume unwomanly would be very feminine? You need to specify in what way her physique is unwomanly, because in this context, the meaning is unclear.

 

The last sentence of your first paragraph seems to suggest that only some aspects of society are gender swapped. Right? Because on the one hand, Una has a traditionally male family role, but at the same time she also has the traditionally female role of child rearing. It's confusing to me how this is a genuine gender swap.

 

Yet a glimpse of an alternative comes in the unlikeliest guise. Newly fired from her job, Una is freshly fired Fired from her job? and on a holiday spree when a chance meeting with feisty prostitute Otto opens her mind. Fetishized by his female buyers for his ‘exotic’ Turkish looks, Otto’s simmering with rage at a society that forces impoverished young males to become playthings for rich women. Una’s smitten by his beauty and his gutsy spirit.

 

As their friendship deepens, Una’s political awakening dawns. This sounds a bit cliche. Surviving deadly illness, a same-sex romantic intrigue and a bereavement together, Una and Otto find they both long to defy traditional gender roles. Maybe Otto’s university ambitions Why are university ambitions a problem? Are men not allowed to attend university? are as mad as Una’s wanderlust and distaste for motherhood, but at least they can be rebel lunatics together.

 

So when Una discovers that an old abusive relationship has come back to haunt Otto, trapping him in a dangerous situation, she vows to act. But the odds are against her. Medical orthodoxy holds that male nerves are too dull to sense much pain, women have legal rights over their male ‘property’, and the police don't give a damn. As the abuse escalates, Una realizes if doesn’t find a way to rescue Otto, nobody will. She’d better act fast, though – before the killing blow is struck.

 

THE UNWIFE, complete at 98,000 words, is feminist speculative-fiction novel. Darkly satirical, with diverse characters (including biracial, bisexual protagonist Otto), it’s told from two points of view. It covers similar territory to Louise O’Neill’s ‘Only Ever Yours’ and Naomi Alderman’s ‘The Power’, though with a distinctive historical twist. I’m a Scotswoman with an MA degree in Scottish Literature, who’s worked in the novel’s Glasgow setting as a Victorian re-enactor. My fiction was recently shortlisted for the Adventures in Fiction novel competition, and longlisted for the Mslexia prize. [Insert personalized information on why this particular agent is being queried].

 

So my biggest confusion about your query is the kind of semi-reversal nature of it. If gender roles are really reversed, why does Una need to worry about motherhood? Wouldn't she just have babies and hand them off to her male caretakers? I made some comments throughout. The story sounds interesting I'm just still unclear on some things.



#17 BadgerFox

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Posted 02 April 2018 - 01:15 PM

Smithgirl:

 

Maybe it would help to read about one of the very few matriarchal societies in existence, the Mosuo of central China? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mosuo . :) My genderflipped society isn't exactly like theirs, but you can see amongst the Mosuo, that men and women have gender roles there that are in some ways totally reversed from traditional Western societies and yet in some ways similar. Generally it's because biology itself causes certain immutable facts, which I stuck with for my novel (so men are still taller and stronger and do not give birth etc). If I did a 100% total gender flip, we'd have to have male characters giving birth like crazy seahorses...which is a whole other kettle of really weird fish, and kind of not the point of this exercise!

 

In Mosuo society, motherhood is a status sign. The matriarch is head of her household, and all her children belong to her, but at the same time a Mosuo woman who's had several children (even if she gives them over to uncles and brothers to care for soon after birth) ranks more highly in society than one with no children. A Mosuo woman who doesn't want to have even one baby is considered bizarre and untraditional. 

 

In the genderflipped society in my question, very tall and muscular women are teased, just as very puny and short men are teased in our own. The female character in question is 6'3'' with a muscular, athletic build (see: actress Gwendoline Christie: http://www.dailymail...a-Chastain.html )

 

Obviously, I do see that it's no good me personally expaining this to you via notes if it isn't coming across in the query! :D I can't send agents a wikipedia link to look the concept up, clearly! I need to make the first paragraph clearer so I don't confuse agents. Following feedback from others, it's been too confusing in a tight word-count to go into details of WHAT constitutes 'unwomanly' in this society, so I took it out. Now it seems it needs to go back in, because the query DOES need to know specifially WHAT constitutes 'unwomanly' after all. How can I best resolve this? :)


Spare a little feedback, if you have a moment? :)

My AU historical novel query: here. Thank you!


#18 smithgirl

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Posted 02 April 2018 - 01:42 PM

Of course you can make your gender-swapped society anyway you want, and that's great you have all those interesting references. I have no doubt you have thought this through in great detail.

 

But if you describe your society as "gender swapped," then people will assume that everything is basically opposite. So then we wonder why a woman who has swapped with a man's role in the family will be dealing with the kids. This causes confusion.

 

Re gender reversal, it might help to think of the difference between gender and sex. Sex refers to a person's reproductive system and secondary sex characteristics; whereas, gender refers to the societal roles assumed based upon a person's sex. So to say the society is gender reversed only refers to a person's gender roles. I think that to have men bearing children would be more of a sex reversal. So when you say your society is gender reversed, then it would assume physical characteristics are the same, but valued differently. Therefore, it would make sense that your women are still like women, they just play a different role. 

 

It's very difficult to convey the details of a complex world/scenario within the short space of a query. My own books tend to involve complex, non-standard relationships and abstract conceptual plots. So I completely sympathize.

 

Maybe things would be clearer if you didn't describe your world as being gender-swapped, since that makes it sound like a simple matter of gender-role opposites. You need to clarify that your situation is more nuanced than a black-and-white role reversal. Maybe say something like:

 

Against the cityscape of an altered gender role society in Victorian Glasgow, debauched young libertine Una dreams of traveling the world. Unfortunately, in 1889, a respectable Scotswoman is not only a loving mother but also provider and protector of her household. She rules over her husband and servants with an iron cheque-book and is chained to the nest. But bored by babies and mocked for her tall, strong (unwomanly physique), Una's frankly a shite fit for her future role. 

 

Try to convey that there is nuance to your gender roles, then we (as readers) are more likely to accept the nuances as they appear in the query. Good luck!



#19 BadgerFox

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Posted 08 April 2018 - 10:52 AM

Query V. 5 - Could It Be Fifth Time Lucky?

 

 

Dear X,

 

Against the cityscape of a gender-bent Victorian Glasgow, young libertine Una dreams of travelling the world. It's surprisingly hellish, living in a matriarchy when you don't want to be a bloody matriarch. Here in 1889, respectable Scotswomen protect and provide for their households, ruling over their husband and servants with an iron cheque-book. But when Una's spectacularly fired from her office job, and her fiance's parents cancel her engagement over her debauched antics, it's plainer than her fiance's face: Una isn't fitting the mould.

 

A glimpse of an alternative comes, unexpectedly. Una's chance meeting with feisty prostitute Otto opens her mind. Fetishized by his female buyers for his ‘exotic’ Turkish looks, Otto’s simmering with rage at a society that forces impoverished young males to become playthings for rich women. Una’s smitten by his beauty and his gutsy spirit.

 

As their friendship deepens, Una’s political awareness grows. Surviving deadly illness, a same-sex romantic intrigue and a bereavement together, Una and Otto find they both long to defy traditional gender roles. Maybe Otto’s university ambitions are as mad as Una’s wanderlust and distaste for motherhood. Fine. At least they can rebel together.

 

So when an old abusive relationship comes back to haunt Otto, trapping him in a dangerous situation, Una vows to act. The odds are against Otto - medical orthodoxy believes male nerves are too dull to sense much pain, the policewomen won't listen, and anyway, female relatives have legal rights over their male ‘property’. Una's got her work cut out. As the abuse escalates, and Una accidentally worsens the situation, consequences become terrifyingly plain. Otto's life is in danger and if she doesn’t find a way to rescue him, nobody will.

 

THE UNWIFE, complete at 98,000 words, is feminist speculative-fiction. Darkly satirical, with diverse characters (including biracial, bisexual protagonist Otto), it’s told from two points of view. It covers similar territory to Louise O’Neill’s ‘Only Ever Yours’ and Naomi Alderman’s ‘The Power’, though with a distinctive historical twist. I’m a Scotswoman with an MA degree in Scottish Literature, who’s worked in the novel’s Glasgow setting as a Victorian re-enactor. My fiction recently won runner-up prize in the Adventures in Fiction competition, and was longlisted for the Mslexia novel prize. [Insert personalized information on why this particular agent is being queried].


Spare a little feedback, if you have a moment? :)

My AU historical novel query: here. Thank you!


#20 jpfranco

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Posted 09 April 2018 - 01:33 PM

  Posted Yesterday, 11:52 AM

Query V. 5 - Could It Be Fifth Time Lucky??

 

 

Dear X,

 

Against the cityscape of a gender-bent Victorian Glasgow, young libertine Una dreams of travelling traveling the world. It's surprisingly hellish, living in a matriarchy when you don't want to be a bloody matriarch. Here in 1889, respectable Scotswomen protect and provide for their households, ruling over their husband and servants with an iron cheque-book. I find the iron cheque-book thing confusing. But when Una's spectacularly fired from her office job,  there were office jobs in 1889? and her fiance's parents cancel her engagement over her debauched antics, oooh, what were these, interesting it's plainer than her fiance's face: Una isn't fitting the mould.

 

A glimpse of an alternative comes, unexpectedly. Una's chance meeting with feisty prostitute Otto opens her mind, offering an unexpected alternative (to what, though?) Fetishized by his female buyers for his ‘exotic’ Turkish looks, Otto’s simmering with rage at a society that forces impoverished young males to become playthings for rich women. Una’s smitten by his beauty and his gutsy spirit.  I'll admit, I was a bit, "wait, what?" and then I remembered this was a gender bending story. 

 

As their friendship deepens, Una’s political awareness grows. This sentence seems to come out of nowhere. I wasn't thinking anything about politics. Surviving deadly illness, a same-sex romantic intrigue and a bereavement together, Una and Otto find they both long to defy traditional gender roles. Maybe Otto’s university ambitions are are, or aren't? as mad as Una’s wanderlust and distaste for motherhood. Fine. At least they can rebel together.

 

So when an old abusive relationship comes back to haunt Otto, trapping him in a dangerous situation, Una vows to act. The odds are against Otto - medical orthodoxy believes male nerves are too dull to sense much pain,  hmm.. I'm not sure what this has to do with his danger, though it is interesting the policewomen won't listen, and anyway, female relatives have legal rights over their male ‘property’. Una's got her work cut out. As the abuse escalates, and Una accidentally worsens the situation, consequences become terrifyingly plain. This is coming across as a bit vague. I think a bit more detail would help Otto's life is in danger and if she doesn’t find a way to rescue him, nobody will.

 

THE UNWIFE, complete at 98,000 words, is feminist speculative-fiction. Darkly satirical, with diverse characters (including biracial, bisexual protagonist Otto), it’s told from two points of view. It covers similar territory to Louise O’Neill’s ‘Only Ever Yours’ and Naomi Alderman’s ‘The Power’, though with a distinctive historical twist. I’m a Scotswoman with an MA degree in Scottish Literature, who’s worked in the novel’s Glasgow setting as a Victorian re-enactor. My fiction recently won runner-up prize in the Adventures in Fiction competition, and was longlisted for the Mslexia novel prize. [Insert personalized information on why this particular agent is being queried].

 

 

Alternative history is not something I'd usually pick up, but I love a good strong female character, so this has me interested. I want to say that I looked at this several revisions ago and was confused, but this time there were only a couple of things that I wasn't sure about, so I think it's coming along. 






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