Wednesday, September 28, 2011

An Agent's Inbox #18

Dear “The Agent”,

Riding the Dam is an almost all true humorous coming-of-age story told mainly from the point of view of ten-year-old Allan. The setting is San Angelo, Texas in the late 1940s where stories of Comanche Indian raids still permeate boys’ recess tales and a perfect day is spent riding on your best friend’s handlebars while looking for the next big adventure. It’s a much simpler time where the biggest fear is getting squealed on by Fatsy Patsy, riding a bucking horse, and losing the best storyteller in San Angelo contest.

While this is the first novel I have written, I have twenty publications in peer-reviewed academic journals. I have published in journals such as Professional School Counseling Journal, Journal of Individual Psychology, Journal of Primary Prevention, Journal of Mental Health Counseling, and the magazine, ASCA School Counselor. I also write a blog, I taught for thirteen years at Georgia State University in the College of Education where I trained school counselors and I have been a high school math and psychology teacher. Currently, I am a school counselor with the largest school system in the Southeast. The boy in Riding the Dam is my father.

I know you are extremely busy and I thank you for reading this query and the first 250 words of my novel. I look forward to hearing from you.



I grew up in San Angelo, Texas in the late 1940s, early 50s. Back then San Angelo, the county seat for Tom Green County, had a population of 50,000. San Angelo is located in West Texas at the convergence of the North Concho River, the Middle Concho River, and the South Concho River, which together form, believe it or not, the Concho River. San Angelo is the home of Fort Concho. Fort Concho was built in 1867 and was the home of the 10th Calvary. The Calvary’s job was to protect the stage and mail line, escort cattle drives, and protect the townsfolk from Indian attack--primarily Comanche.

Fort Concho closed in 1889 when the railroad arrived in town. It was thought that with the railroad came civilization and no need for the Calvary. Too bad that civilized living didn’t come sooner for old Mr. Mann. He was one of our neighbors and he had a huge scar on his right arm. He said it was from a Comanche arrow when he was a boy. My friend and I tried to get him to tell us how it happened, but he never would talk much about it. I guess he thought the less he said, the more mysterious it would seem. He was right. The Fort still stands today--only now it’s a museum.

San Angelo, and most of West Texas, is hot and dry about nine months out of the year.


Janice Sperry said...

Your query should be written in the same tone as your MS. It should introduce your character, his goal, his conflict, and how he plans to acheive his goal. I didn't get any of that from your query.

Your MS starts out like a history lesson. Start with your MC on one of his adventures. You are clearly a talented writer. You need dialogue. You need action. You need shorter paragraphs. You just have to let go of your desire to teach through writing and go for entertainment instead. (You can sneak a lesson in on the side and the kids will never know if you do it right.)

Karen Denise said...

Hi, D.E.,

I agree with Janice that you are obviously a skilled writer, but there are a lot of items missing from your query. How long is this novel? What genre is it? MG, YA? Who is the main character? What is the plot?

The query should be less of an explaination and more of a snipet, if that makes any sense. A good way to find ways to construct a query is look at the back of novels in your genre.

If this is a middle grade novel then the first sentence immediately puts me in the mind of an old man. If it's the late 1940's early 50's then let the reader discover that through clothing, setting, and dialogue. We should meet the MC on page one and he should be doing something. Currently, the query and the first page is a lot of telling and there should be more showing.

I do think you are a talented writer, and I think this is probably an interesting story, you just need to let us see it. Hope that helps!

Anonymous said...

I love the premise for this, since historical fiction is my passion, but the query didn't really make it clear what the plot or story is. I don't mind a bit of explanatory narrative in the beginning of a book (I've read a lot of older books that do that instead of jumping immediately into action), but I think it could be even stronger if it opened by introducing the story and telling us a little bit about the character.

Write Life said...

Query writing is a course in itself! It's difficult even when you think you know what you're supposed to be doing! Check out some websites that feature query writing. There's heaps out there! Query Shark.
Critique Circle. Google them and more.
The idea of the query is to make an agent want to read your story, entice them with just enough to make them want it! You have more details in this query about yourself then your actual story, and it's the story that will sell them!

I love that you're wanting to tell such a personal story and capture a time that has past. I just love that, but you have to tell us about the story, not the little details yet. Those will fill your pages not your query.

As for your opening page, it sounded like an adult recalling another time, which I believe is what you're doing, but if this is supposed to be told from the POV of a ten year old, you have to capture that ten year old voice inside you and let it rip!

I wish you the very best of luck with this. I truly think it's a wonderful idea, and a wonderful way of keeping that little parcel of time alive!

Best, Linda

The Agent said...

I think you need to give a little more story detail in the query. You have introduced the character and setting, but less about what actually goes on in the story.

The opening chapters feel a bit talky and focus on scene-setting rather than putting us into the head of the main character. The result feels a bit dry and could use an infusion of voice.

Dana said...

Thanks all! Your feedback helps greatly. I'm looking forward to revising with your comments in mind.