QUERY for historical novel

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Mountain Lion
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QUERY for historical novel

Post by Mountain Lion » May 30th, 2010, 7:59 pm

I am having a forest for the trees problem. Any suggestions would be welcomed.

Re: COYOTE WINDS, middle grade historical novel, approximately 45,000 words

Dear _________:

The coyote. When he's hungry, he hunts. When he’s tired, he sleeps. Sometimes Miles wishes he could be a coyote. A coyote wouldn’t see his father’s dreams turn to dust.

COYOTE WINDS follows Miles Vincent and his family as they move from the optimism of the 1920’s to the struggles of the 1930’s on the western prairie of Colorado . In the promising years, they churn ice cream using summer hail and roast fat geese felled by a tornado. They even adopt and tame an injured coyote pup. But when the rains cease, Miles, then 16, is the first to see that they will never tame the coyote winds.

The manuscript also tells the parallel story of Andy, a 21st Century teenager who promises to write down his Grandpa’s rambling tales of his boyhood on the prairie. Problem is, he can’t remember them. So he tries to tell himself that the promise and the past don’t count, now that Grandpa is dead.

Even though seventy years separate Miles and Andy, each struggles to find his identity in a world where he feels he doesn’t belong. Each begins to see his family with the eyes of a young man instead of a boy. And each learns that times change, but families endure.

.... From here I give my background and personalize the letter.

Thanks

Mountain Lion

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rainbowsheeps
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Re: QUERY for historical novel

Post by rainbowsheeps » May 30th, 2010, 9:35 pm

Mountain Lion wrote:I am having a forest for the trees problem. Any suggestions would be welcomed.

Re: COYOTE WINDS, middle grade historical novel, approximately 45,000 words

Dear _________:

The coyote. When he's hungry, he hunts. When he’s tired, he sleeps. Sometimes Miles wishes he could be a coyote. A coyote wouldn’t see his father’s dreams turn to dust. (This opening isn't bad. I was going to say it might be stronger if you just start with the dreams turning to dust aspect, but, I'll just say this isn't bad and see what others have to say.)

COYOTE WINDS follows Miles Vincent and his family as they move from the optimism of the 1920’s to the struggles of the 1930’s on the western prairie of Colorado. (This is telling. It's not bad, but I'd like to see if you could come up with a better way of showing this instead. If not, this is probably a safe fallback, though.) In the promising years, they churn ice cream using summer hail and roast fat geese felled by a tornado. (This is probably the coolest idea I've seen in a historical novel. Honest. I like it a lot.) They even adopt and tame an injured coyote pup. But when the rains cease, Miles, then 16, is the first to see that they will never tame the coyote winds. (Two uses of the word 'coyote' this close. It'd be hard to just take one out, but it's a little odd. Especially with such different contexts. I'm also not sure what "tame the coyote winds" means, but I'm from New York, so maybe this is obvious to other people. It just seems like the problems is the lack of rain. If the winds are pushing the rain elsewhere, I can understand how that makes sense, but it isn't something that jumps out at me. If 'Coyote Winds' is the name of a famous current that pushes precipitation to the area, it's probably okay.)

The manuscript also tells the parallel story (This doesn't work. Maybe say "70 years later, a typical 21st century teenager, Andy..." and how the stories are interconnecting.) of Andy, a 21st Century teenager who promises to write down his Grandpa’s rambling tales of his boyhood on the prairie. Problem is, he can’t remember them. So he tries to tell himself that the promise and the past don’t count, now that Grandpa is dead. (The last sentence confused me when I first read it. I somehow thought that Andy was fabricating a history for his grandpa, while you're telling the real story of Miles. It makes sense to me now, though, that Andy isn't writing the story at all. He's essentially breaking his promise and doesn't care about the past, and presumably, the story of Miles is showing the reader what Andy's missing. Is that right? That's good stuff.)

Even though seventy years separate Miles and Andy, each struggles to find his identity in a world where he feels he doesn’t belong. Each begins to see his family with the eyes of a young man instead of a boy. And each learns that times change, but families endure. (This is iffy because of the story of Andy doesn't seem to suggest any of what this is telling us. It seems like he's breaking his promise and not caring, but we don't have any hint of what events are going to happen to show him that the past means something. It's also telling. The accumulation of the telling throughout the query makes it a little much.)

.... From here I give my background and personalize the letter.

Thanks

Mountain Lion
All in all, it's a strong premise for a story. It sounds really good. I don't have much else to say. I think the query can be tightened, but I don't think the plot synopsis needs that much work. There's just a little too much telling right now.

Mountain Lion
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Re: QUERY for historical novel

Post by Mountain Lion » May 30th, 2010, 10:00 pm

Thanks. Great suggestions. In the synopsis I do more showing. Perhaps I will combine the two. BTW, Andy does keep in promise. I need to put that in there.

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J. T. SHEA
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Re: QUERY for historical novel

Post by J. T. SHEA » May 30th, 2010, 10:14 pm

A very striking query, Mountain Lion. Depression AND drought. Yikes!

Is Miles Andy's grandpa? Otherwise the two stories seem only tenuously connected. Like Rainbowsheeps, I might like a bit more specific action, but overall I'm intrigued by your voice and imagery.

Mountain Lion
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Re: QUERY for historical novel

Post by Mountain Lion » May 30th, 2010, 10:22 pm

Here's my second bite at this apple.

I've added a few more lines which I think make it less confusing. Thanks, Mountain Lion

The coyote. When he’s hungry, he hunts. When he’s tired, he sleeps. Sometimes Miles wishes he could be a coyote. Then he wouldn’t see his father’s dreams turning to dust.

COYOTE WINDS follows Miles Vincent and his family as they move from the optimism of the 1920’s to the struggles of the 1930’s on the western prairie of Colorado. In the promising years, they churn ice cream using summer hail and roast fat geese felled by a tornado. They even adopt an injured coyote pup. But when the rains cease, Miles, then 16, is the first to see that they will never tame the prairie winds.

Seventy-three years later, Andy Vincent, age 14, promises to write down Grandpa’s tales about growing up on the prairie. Problem is, he can’t remember them. At first, he tells himself the promise doesn’t count now that Grandpa is dead, but as he starts to remember, he wonders if he would have liked that life better than his routine of soccer practice, algebra and the mall.

COYOTE WINDS tells the parallel stories of Miles and Andy as each struggles to find his identity in a world where he feels he doesn’t belong, each begins to see his family with the eyes of a young man instead of a boy, and each learns that times change, but families endure.

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Quill
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Re: QUERY for historical novel

Post by Quill » May 31st, 2010, 4:11 pm

Mountain Lion wrote:
The coyote. When he's hungry, he hunts. When he’s tired, he sleeps. Sometimes Miles wishes he could be a coyote. A coyote wouldn’t see his father’s dreams turn to dust.
I like the idea of this paragraph. Starting with that particular sentence fragment doesn't work for me, though. It's choppy. It trips me. How about "When the coyote is hungry, he hunts"?
COYOTE WINDS follows Miles Vincent and his family as they move from the optimism of the 1920’s to the struggles of the 1930’s
How about omitting "as they move", which is implied.
on the western prairie of Colorado .
How about "the prairie of western Colorado" as being clearer.
In the promising years, they churn ice cream using summer hail and roast fat geese felled by a tornado.
A bit odd highlighting would be natural disasters hail and a tornado as part of the "promising years" but the imagery carries it through.
They even adopt and tame an injured coyote pup. But when the rains cease, Miles, then 16, is the first to see that they will never tame the prairie winds.
A little odd, when the rains cease Miles sees they will never tame the winds? Sounds incomplete, like we skipped something.
Seventy-three years later, Andy Vincent, age 14, promises to write down Grandpa’s tales about growing up on the prairie.
Grandpa Miles? If so, better emphasize this, as it would be a major point of connection between your two story parts.
Problem is, he can’t remember them. At first, he tells himself the promise doesn’t count now that Grandpa is dead,
Your use of the word "promise' again, especially with a different meaning, sticks out for me.
but as he starts to remember,
You just said "Problem is, he can't remember." What, the problem resolved itself? Such a 'problem' wouldn't deserve mentioning in a query. And, maybe use the word "recall" or "recollect" to replace one of the "remembers".
he wonders if he would have liked that life better than his routine of soccer practice, algebra and the mall.
I like this.
COYOTE WINDS tells the parallel stories of Miles and Andy as each struggles to find his identity in a world where he feels he doesn’t belong, each begins to see his family with the eyes of a young man instead of a boy, and each learns that times change, but families endure.
This type of telling paragraph should not be necessary if you have gotten across the points within the query blurb. As such, consider working it in above, and instead say here what genre your project is and how many words.

writeaskew
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Re: QUERY for historical novel

Post by writeaskew » May 31st, 2010, 8:29 pm

My Two cents.

The coyote. When he’s hungry, he hunts. When he’s tired, he sleeps. Sometimes Miles wishes he could be a coyote. Then he wouldn’t see his father’s dreams turning to dust.
I would start with Miles. "Sometimes Miles wishes he was a coyote, When the coyote is hungry, he hunts. When he is tired, he sleeps. A coyote wouldn't have to watch his father's dreams turn to dust.

COYOTE WINDS follows Miles Vincent and his family as they move from the optimism of the 1920’s to the struggles of the 1930’s on the western prairie of Colorado. In the promising years, they churn ice cream using summer hail and roast fat geese felled by a tornado. They even adopt an injured coyote pup. But when the rains cease, Miles, then 16, is the first to see that they will never tame the prairie winds.

skip the folows. Say, In COYOTE WINDS, Miles Vincent and his family, etc. If it were me, I'd simply start telling the story. You know, "In the good years Miles and his family would shurn ice cream, etc. And then the reains stopped, and they learned they could never tame the pararie winds. SEe how it makes the voice a little more active? You want the reader to feel involved in the action, even in the query.

Seventy-three years later, Andy Vincent, age 14,seventy three years later fourteen year old Andy Vincent promises to write down Grandpa’s tales about growing up on the prairie. Problem is, he can’t remember them. At first, (skip the at first he tells himself the promise doesn’t count now that Grandpa is dead, but as he starts to remember, he wonders if he would have liked that life better than his routine of soccer practice, algebra and the mall.

COYOTE WINDS tells the parallel stories of Miles and Andy as each struggles to find his identity in a world where he feels he doesn’t belong, each begins to see his family with the eyes of a young man instead of a boy, and each learns that times change, but families endure.
[color=#0080FFAgain, this can be told with a more active voice, and it will make it a lot more interesting][/color]

I think you'er working with a great idea, and you're definately on the right track. I am interested, and I want to learn more about the characters. I'd read this book, and then I'd give it to my younger cousins to read too. Make the voice as active and alive as the men in your story and you'll be all set. Good Luck!

Mountain Lion
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Re: QUERY for historical novel

Post by Mountain Lion » May 31st, 2010, 10:11 pm

Thanks everyone. Your comments are very helpful.
ML

Ghost in the Machine
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Re: QUERY for historical novel

Post by Ghost in the Machine » June 1st, 2010, 10:51 am

Hi Mountain Lion,

I second Quill on the last paragraph. Tell us exactly how each boy is an outsider and what events are shaping them into men in the earlier paragraphs. Perhaps you can illustrate the parallelism in the sentence structure and word choice so you don’t have to ‘tell’ it.

Ghost in the Machine

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