Jan 25, 2010

QUERY: The Bachelor Company

In my historical novel, “The Bachelor Company,” Anthony Ward and Fitch Cunningham meet on board a ship leaving England. Anthony has just dropped out of seminary. Fitch has just committed a crime. Together they befriend a shy cabin boy, Otis Allen.

The three friends settle into menial jobs in Massachusetts. They jump at the chance to join a group headed west to seek their fortune on the route of the Erie Canal, still under construction. As the Bachelor Company, the men pledge not to marry until they have built a home and a business for each of them

But pioneer life in the 1820s is hard. One man turns back as soon as they arrive in upstate New York. Another leaves to take a safer job in a bigger town. Yet another, beset by superstition, drowns himself after his wife dies in childbirth. Anthony, Fitch and Otis stand together, even as their former comrade, the greedy, envious Russell St. John, schemes against them.

The town grows as the canal succeeds, and the men prosper – until Otis is killed in a knife fight, defending his Seneca Indian bride. Without his gentle influence, the bond between Anthony and Fitch frays. Anthony misses the church; Fitch regrets his marriage to the wealthiest – and coldest – girl in the territory.

Russell, who uses blackmail and arson to further his ambitions, rejoices when a bitter quarrel divides the two old friends.

Then the Main Street Bridge, crowded with folks eager to watch a daredevil cross the canal on a tightrope, collapses into the water, and Anthony and Fitch have one last chance to save their town, their families and each other.

“The Bachelor Company” is complete at 165,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Anne Gallagher said...

Okay, I'll go first.

First things first, I think you need to read a few more query sights to get the feel for what a query is. Janet Reid, Nathan Bransford, annerallen. Query Shark.250 words or less. This is way too long and reads like a synopsis.

To me, this query doesn't even start until the sentence, "Anthony, Fitch and Otis stand together as their former conrade, the greedy, envious Russell St. John schemes against them."

But then you never tell us why.

Here is what someone told me about a query, Hook, Conflict, Motivation and Goal.

First you need a 'hook'; a compelling 25 word or less, sentence that hooks the reader into reading the rest. You have none here.

Second, a conflict that opens up the plot, yours I think would be that Fitch & Anthony & Otis make a pact to stand against Russell St. John.

Third, motivation for the characters to get to their goal, which is??? Get rid of St. John???

Fourth, is the goal. To save their town???

I'm not sure. And just so you know
165K is a lot of words for an historical unless it was written by David McCullogh. You might want to revise it a bit before you send it out to query. And reread everything before you put it up to view, there are a few misplaced words, and even a few missing words.

I think you have an intersting story, it's just too long. I hope this helps. Good luck.

Unknown said...

I think the Piedmont Writer did a great job with suggestions for a stream-lined query.
The paragraph headed "But pioneer life is hard" works well as that one sentence.
The trio are interesting. Can't you just say what Fitch did?

RC Writer Girl said...

I think Piedmont hits the nail on the head.

Your query is full of backstory. All at the beginning. We don't need to know that to understand the story.

You need a pithy sentence that helps set the mood and conflict, then you can flesh out characters (a modicum of backstory) after that. Something like: "Three friends who pledge not to marry until they've made their fortunes working find that pledge hard to keep when they roll into a little town on the Erie Canal."

I don't think you ever need to, in the query, tell us how the men met and became friends.

Now, one thing that is unclear in your query is how many men make this pledge. You say three friends take the pledge, but then you mention three guys leaving, and you say there are three guys still left in the pledge (Anthony, Fitch & Otis). I'm not a career mathemetician, but that doesn't add up.

Lastly, I'm not really sure what's at stake for your characters (Anthony and Fitch). It sounds like a bunch of incidents without a real unifying theme. I guess you could say it's friendship, but that doesn't seem poignant enough, as there's not a real emotional connection presented between these two. It's not even clear why they make this pledge. Is it a pledge to brotherhood (of the single life and friendship) or a pledge so they don't unduly burden a wife (as surely a propserous man is going to have a better shot at supporting his family).

I would start with a good sentence setting up the plot (the hook), then, in describing the plot, give us the emotional ante, so we understand not just the actions occuring, but the motivating force.

I know, a lot to do in a query. But, that's what makes a query work well, and what hooks an agent.

Good luck.

Holly said...

Hello, a couple of things:

I respectfully disagree with Piedmont Writer about the length of your query. Your word count is 293, which is fine (it may seem higher because you have so many paragraphs). You're fine as long as the query is one page, including the agent's address and your contact info.

However, the query reads more like a synopsis. You need to summarize more.

Capitalize the title of your novel. This is standard practice.

The last sentence in the second paragraph needs a period at the end.

Agents will probably reject you on the word count. 165,000 words is way, way too long. Can you trim the word count?

Finally, a compliment. Yes, the query needs work, but you write well and your story really grabbed me. Good luck!