Wednesday, March 22, 2017

An Agent's Inbox #31

Dear "The Agent":

I would be honored if you would consider representing TROWEL AND ERROR, a contemporary romance complete at 70,000 words. Per your guidelines, I have pasted the first 250 words of my manuscript below.

It’s 1986 and Eleanor Blake is an archaeologist at the Smithsonian. A traumatic assault on a dig frightens her into giving up field work, the part of her profession she loves most. She hides behind her desk job, refusing to admit that she’s unhappy. On a road trip to install an exhibit at a rural museum, she picks up a woman during a thunderstorm. When the pedestrian climbs into her car, she realizes her mistake: it's a man.

Their situations are similar. Eleanor is afraid to pursue her life’s work; Tom Gage has given up his dream of acting on the stage, accepting a movie role to please his demanding parents. A sense of connection over their personal challenges and some strong mutual attraction leads to what Eleanor intends as a one-night stand. Still, it’s hard to say good-bye and the two continue to travel together. As their feelings deepen, bitter arguments erupt. Tom gives Eleanor unwanted career advice he isn't willing to take himself, and Eleanor resents his interference. When she returns home, Tom follows her, hoping to repair the damage. Instead of being flattered, Eleanor views his attention as creepy obsession and sends him away.

An opportunity to return to the field, this time as project director, gives Eleanor a sense of purpose and control. She beings to regain her confidence, determined that a past she can't change won't negatively impact her future. When a strange coincidence brings Tom back into her life, she opens herself to the possibility that a relationship with him is another step forward. From the Great Smoky Mountains, to the National Museum of Natural History, to a Spanish mission in California, Eleanor finds the courage to pursue a life of purpose and fulfillment. But that new life may take her away from the man she now loves, and separate them permanently.

I am a former archaeologist with more than twenty years of museum experience. I worked for the Smithsonian's natural history museum and later for the institution’s national outreach programs. I am active on Twitter [redacted] and on my blog at [redacted].

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

Warmest regards,


Eleanor Blake glanced with trepidation at the menacing clouds gathering on the horizon. She hated the thought of driving through a storm, but the prospect of delaying her journey was worse. Random gusts of wind buffeted the car and raindrops spattered the windshield. She fumbled for the wipers control in the unfamiliar vehicle, finding it just as the deluge hit.

Red lights glared and she tapped the brakes. The speed of the traffic slowed until it was stopped altogether. The car windows were fogged, the glass pebbled with raindrops, making it hard to see. But something was moving out there. A lone figure, obscured by a heavy pack, only jeans and a pair of hiking boots she imagined squelching through the puddles visible. Eleanor was sympathetic, but every warning she had ever heard about hitchhikers clamored in her mind. Offering this stranger a ride might be kind, but that didn't make it right. Not for her. The walker removed the pack and set it on the ground, looking into the distance. Water dripped from the end of a ponytail and ran down the back of a denim jacket. A ponytail? A woman! Her initial sympathy was rekindled, the sense of possible danger faded. She hit her directional signal and pulled over, pressing the button to lower the window.

“Can I give you a ride?”

The head turned and Eleanor's eyes widened as a jolt of adrenaline flooded her stomach. The person looking back at her was a man.


hashtagwrite said...

This sounds so intriguing, although I think the query contains too much info. I'd cut the last sentence of the first paragraph, and just say she picks up a pedestrian in the storm. I'd also remove the sentences after the one-night stand. That is a juicy tidbit that will make the agent want to see what lead to it :) Then I'd pick back up with "a strange coincidence brings Tom back, but re-work the sentence. Something that will leave us begging to know more.

I love the premise!

In your opening sentence, glanced with trepidation isn't as strong as I'd like to see, so maybe going straight to Eleanor hated driving through storms will immediately bring us into your character's mind. :)

JP said...

The query reads like a synopsis. I'm no expert, but motivation, goal, conflict is usually the way to go.

Excerpt - it's both too fast and too slow at the same time.

You can describe driving through rain with less number of words. Use the rest to give us a taste of Eleanor.

Also the jump to hitchhiker danger to woman to man was too fast. Let the reader sink into the scene.

Chris Owens said...

Hi, I agree with one of the earlier comments about the query being too long. Just eyeballing it without counting words, I think 1/4 to 1/3 could be cut. My recommendation would be to cut the fourth paragraph (the last one before your bio paragraph), and replace it with 1-2 sentences summarizing the main issue your protrag faces and what's at stake for her.

I think the writing in the excerpt is very, very good. The only thing I would suggest changing would be to break things up a little. When you submit this to agents, most times you'll be sending more pages, so that may not be as big an issue. Since all I'm seeing is the one page, I'd recommend breaking that second paragraph into two smaller ones of different sizes to provide more white space.

Good luck!

Unrepentant Escapist said...

I love the title. I'm a little skeptical that a woman who suffers from severe anxiety is willing to pick up a hitchhiker, even if she thinks it's a woman, so maybe a little more detail about the motivation there would be nice--like instructions from her therapist to meet new people or something. I think how you tie your life's work into your writing is great.

On the sample, I wonder if you're starting in the right place. If she's about to do the thing that will change her life, I'd like to see a glimpse of her life as status quo first. Your writing isn't my personal style--I prefer a little more plain prose, with a little more internal monologue from the character. I might work on sharpening the voice a little more. I'm not getting a good sense here who Eleanor is as a character. I'm not seeing much physical response to the storm to indicate fear--no heart beating faster, fingers clenching the wheel, etc.

The Agent said...

Your opening is great though I would like to have a sentence telling what the book is about in a nutshell.

Your first paragraph is interesting - I'm intrigued, though I do wonder why she would pick up a hitchhiker if she was assaulted, but I'll still read on.

I'm interested by the relationship that develops and you describe it well in the next paragraph.

And your third paragraph wraps things up nicely. Well done. I'm excited to take a look at your pages.

Your personal connection to archaeology definitely makes me feel like this will be an authentic read. I'll definitely read on!

The text:

I like where you start this, but I'm less in love with the writing. I would likely read on because I'm curious. The ending is a good cliffhanger.