Quantrill's Raiders - Historical Fiction

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crazeesharon
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Quantrill's Raiders - Historical Fiction

Post by crazeesharon » June 23rd, 2010, 12:27 am

First attempt at a query. Ouch!

Dear _______,

(some kind of smoozing here)

The Civil War dooms 18-year-old Cole Younger's life of privilege in Jackson County, Missouri. His father is murdered, their property seized, and the family home burned down by the Union Army. Hiding out at the farm of his father's best friend, Union troops searching for Cole kill the young son of his host, the final act that drives him to join Quantrill's band of Confederate guerrillas. Fighting side by side with 19-year-old Frank James, the seeds of a lifelong friendship are sown as they depend on each other for survival.

Cole and Frank reluctantly participate in Quantrill's bloody raid on Lawrence, Kansas, an act which finally convinces Cole that the guerrilla leader is insane. But the damage is done, and the guerrillas and their relatives must suffer the repercussions. Long-lost diaries of actual guerrillas are the basis for QUANTRILL'S RAIDERS, a 100,000-word fictionalized account of the true story of the young men who stood up to an invading army, and the price they paid for the insurgency.

I am a former mid-size newspaper reporter, where I specialized in historical features. One article caused the history books in Ohio to be rewritten. Thank you for your time and consideration.

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OneChoice1
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Re: Quantrill's Raiders - Historical Fiction

Post by OneChoice1 » June 23rd, 2010, 11:54 am

crazeesharon wrote:First attempt at a query. Ouch!

Dear _______,

(some kind of smoozing here)

The Civil War dooms 18-year-old Cole Younger's life of privilege in Jackson County, Missouri. His father is murdered, their property seized, and the family home burned down by the Union Army. [Great start for conflict and location. Plus a good way of creating sympathy for Cole.]

--- (Do not mind these)

Hiding out at the farm of his father's best friend, Union troops searching for Cole kill the young son of his host, the final act that drives him to join Quantrill's band of Confederate guerrillas. [This sentence reads awkward. Maybe something like this: While hiding at the farm of his father's best friend, Cole witnesses his host's young son being shot multiple times in his sleep by Union troops. It is the final act that drives him to search out and join Quantrill's band of Confederate guerrillas.]

Fighting side by side with 19-year-old Frank James, the seeds of a lifelong friendship are sown as they (come to) depend on each other for survival.

---

Cole and Frank reluctantly [reluctantly?] participate in Quantrill's bloody raid on Lawrence, Kansas, an act which finally convinces Cole that the guerrilla leader is insane. [I think it will work better--for flow and transition--if you switch around the sentence. Like: Cole and Frank are finally convinced that Quantrill is insane after they see the damages they helped the guerrillas cause with a bloody raid on Lawrence, Kansas.]

But the damage is done, and the guerrillas and their relatives must suffer the repercussions. [If you use my suggestion above, then you would have to change this sentence. Consider: Now the Confederates and the southern states must suffer the repercussions. Also, I think this sentence--whether changed or not--should be attached to the previous paragraph.]

---

Long-lost diaries of actual guerrillas are the basis for QUANTRILL'S RAIDERS, a 100,000-word fictionalized account of the true story of the young men who stood up to an invading army, and the price they paid for the insurgency. [Interesting. How did you get your hands on these 'long-lost' diaries?]

---

I am a former mid-size newspaper reporter, [Identify which newspaper.] where I specialized in historical features. One article [What article? This way the agent can check you out if (s)he wishes to.] caused the history books in Ohio to be rewritten. [Now I'm convinced that you definitely have to name that article.] Thank you for your time and consideration.

I'm not really into Historical fiction, but your story sounds interesting. Your query is a good first attempt, IMO. Good luck!
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fivecats
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Re: Quantrill's Raiders - Historical Fiction

Post by fivecats » June 23rd, 2010, 12:16 pm

crazeesharon wrote:(some kind of smoozing here)
Okay, this made me laugh. Still, I'd recommend you move it to the final paragraph in your query and open with your story.
crazeesharon wrote:The Civil War dooms 18-year-old Cole Younger's life of privilege in Jackson County, Missouri. His father is murdered, their property seized, and the family home burned down by the Union Army.
This could be made even more compelling if "Cole watches his family home being burned down by the Union Army." We get more involved with Cole if we're seeing it through his eyes.
crazeesharon wrote:Hiding out at the farm of his father's best friend, Union troops searching for Cole
Why are they searching for Cole? If the reason needs to be explained in your query (and it doesn't seem necessary to me), mention it. Otherwise, drop it. It's enough to know Cole is staying with his father's best friend.
crazeesharon wrote:kill the young son of his host, the final act that drives him to join Quantrill's band of Confederate guerrillas. Fighting side by side with 19-year-old Frank James,
a quick few words on who Frank is would be helpful, since he's a major supporting character in the story.
crazeesharon wrote:the seeds of a lifelong friendship are sown as they depend on each other for survival.
cliché in need of a rewrite.
crazeesharon wrote:Cole and Frank reluctantly participate in Quantrill's bloody raid on Lawrence, Kansas, an act which finally
"the final act" and "act that finally" mirror one another too much and are a bit too clichéd to be included with such strong writing.
crazeesharon wrote:convinces Cole that the guerrilla leader is insane.
This comes too quickly on the heels of joining Quantrill's Raiders. Even a sentence or two of their exploits with a hint of something being wrong from Cole's perspective would strengthen this.
crazeesharon wrote:But the damage is done, and the guerrillas and their relatives must suffer the repercussions.
For all that this sentence needs to mean for the reader, it's a bit too vague to be as powerful as it should be.
crazeesharon wrote:Long-lost diaries of actual guerrillas are the basis for QUANTRILL'S RAIDERS, a 100,000-word fictionalized account of the true story of the young men who stood up to an invading army, and the price they paid for the insurgency.

New Paragraph.
crazeesharon wrote:I am a former mid-size newspaper reporter, where I specialized in historical features. One article caused the history books in Ohio to be rewritten. Thank you for your time and consideration.
While I don't doubt your claim that an article you wrote "caused the history books in Ohio to be rewritten" it is a very boisterous claim. Tempering it with letting the agent know the subject of the article might help here.

Do you have a platform for yourself? A blog? A web site? A mailing list of people who already follow your writing? Are you part of an Ohio Historical Society or a Civil War Historical society? This would be a good place to include such information, letting an agent know you're already tapped into your potential audience.


On the whole, I think you have the start of a very strong query. Rewrite the clichés and give us just a touch more detail to get us even more involved in your character and the choices he makes and why he makes them and I think you're going to have requests for your first chapters in no time.
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Emily J
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Re: Quantrill's Raiders - Historical Fiction

Post by Emily J » June 23rd, 2010, 2:07 pm

crazeesharon wrote:First attempt at a query. Ouch!

Dear _______,

(some kind of smoozing here) i love the word smoozing

The Civil War dooms 18-year-old Cole Younger's life of privilege in Jackson County, Missouri. I dont care much for the opening line. Read it slowly, it would be more effective if the war doomed Cole Younger, not "Cole Younger's life of privilege in Jackson County, Missouri." See how indirect that feels? His father is murdered, their whose property? his and his murdered father? property seized, and the family home burned down by the Union Army. Hiding out at the farm of his father's best friend, this is a dangling participle, a grammatical mistake, after the comma it should read Cole Younger etc etc unless the Union troops are hiding out, but that seems unlikely Union troops searching for Cole kill the young son of his host, the final act that drives him to join Quantrill's band of Confederate guerrillas. Cut this sentence, start fresh, its too convoluted Fighting side by side with 19-year-old Frank James, this is another dangling participle, it implies that the seeds of a lifelong friendship are fighting side by side with 19 yo Frank James. See the problem? the seeds of a lifelong friendship are sown as they depend on each other for survival.

Cole and Frank reluctantly participate in Quantrill's bloody raid on Lawrence, Kansas, end the sentence and start a new one (suggestion) an act which finally convinces Cole that the guerrilla leader guerrilla leader? feels like a character is missing is insane. But the damage is done, and the guerrillas and their relatives must suffer the repercussions. this is vague, repercussions, could be more evocative Long-lost diaries of actual guerrillas are the basis for QUANTRILL'S RAIDERS, a 100,000-word fictionalized account of the true story of the young men who stood up to an invading army, and the price they paid for the insurgency.

I am a former mid-size newspaper reporter, where I specialized in historical features. One article caused the history books in Ohio to be rewritten. ??? this seems to beg further explanation, but maybe its me... Thank you for your time and consideration.
Watch those dangling participles! A query needs to be technically perfect to start with. You really need to rewrite some of these sentences that have numerous clauses. They just aren't very clear.

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Quill
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Re: Quantrill's Raiders - Historical Fiction

Post by Quill » June 23rd, 2010, 7:45 pm

crazeesharon wrote:
(some kind of smoozing here)
The consensus these days seems to be that the shmoozing is best put after the main part of the query.
The Civil War dooms 18-year-old Cole Younger's life of privilege in Jackson County, Missouri.
Good opening idea, but I agree with another poster here that it's a bit awkwardly worded. War dooming a life of privilege. That's like saying "the stock market crash doomed his life of luxury". It almost works, but not quite well enough to open a query.
His father is murdered, their property seized, and the family home burned down by the Union Army.
Good drama, but I agree with a previous poster that it is confusing to have "his father" (singular) followed by "their property" (owners unknown) (by grammatical deduction it is Cole and his dad).
Hiding out at the farm of his father's best friend, Union troops searching for Cole
Here you have Union troops hiding at the farm. And searching.

Not clear why they are searching for Cole, or even why they murdered his dad...
kill the young son of his host, the final act that drives him to join Quantrill's band of Confederate guerrillas.
Good.
Fighting side by side with 19-year-old Frank James, the seeds of a lifelong friendship are sown
1. Here you have seeds fighting side by side with Frank James.

2. Not sure why you introduce Frank James, except that you must assume the reader knows who Frank James is (future famous outlaw), and for that matter, Cole Younger himself. Maybe give some reference to their future together besides friendship.

3. I also wonder if something more original than "seeds are sown" could be conjured up for this spot in the query.
as they depend on each other for survival.

Cole and Frank reluctantly participate in Quantrill's bloody raid on Lawrence, Kansas,
Agree with another poster's questioning of "reluctantly". Maybe say why they participated reluctantly. Agree that another sentence or two about the Quantrill experience to give context.
an act which finally convinces Cole that the guerrilla leader is insane. But the damage is done, and the guerrillas and their relatives must suffer the repercussions.
This is good, as it points to a tragedy and a lot of drama, not just a shoot-em-up war story. Play this up even more if possible. Furthermore it shows some of your writing voice, whereas some of this query is kind of matter of fact.

Agree with another poster that it's best not to have two "finally"s in the query ("final act that drives him to join" and "finally convinces Cole that the").
Long-lost diaries of actual guerrillas are the basis for QUANTRILL'S RAIDERS, a 100,000-word fictionalized account of the true story of the young men who stood up to an invading army, and the price they paid for the insurgency.
Good. I would put "their insurgency".
I am a former mid-size newspaper reporter, where I specialized in historical features. One article caused the history books in Ohio to be rewritten. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Good, but I'm not sure I'd put in the Ohio history book part, as that's pretty hard for the agent to verify. Anyway, that would be something to tell the agent over coffee, I'd think, after you've signed.

All in all it sounds like an interesting project, something that would grab my eye in a bookstore.

crazeesharon
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Re: Quantrill's Raiders - Historical Fiction

Post by crazeesharon » June 24th, 2010, 8:15 am

You folks are great! Excellent comments, one and all. I was sent to this site by a co-member of The Next Big Writer, and can see why she recommended it. You guys rock!

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