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The Boldest of Choices


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#1 Hugh Boyle

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Posted 20 April 2017 - 10:20 PM

Aedan Finnegan set out for college in 1965 with the simple idea of getting an education, maybe finding the love of his life, and just growing up, but, along with all of that, he found himself confronted by the moral dilemma that was the Vietnam War—a situation that put him in the middle of the anti-war movement of the sixties and, strangely years later, a plot involving the assassination of world leaders, including the President of the United States.

When he left Brooklyn for the University of Maryland, Aedan really had no idea about what was going on in Vietnam. So he could not have known how the matter of the war had already begun to insinuate itself into almost every aspect of student life. It changed everything, and it upended all of his expectations of what college would be for him. It was not that he found the times lacking for excitement as a result of the far-away war. In fact, his college years turned out to be much more that he expected, mostly because he was drawn into the anti-war movement by his college friends. And, by graduation, life had become more challenging than he ever imagined—as certainly it had for so many young men of that time. The pending draft, the thing that gradually consumed his waking thoughts, became reality. Aedan knew in his heart what was right, but there was still the question of whether he was up to doing what he knew a man was called to do. Like Huck Finn, Henry Fleming, and Billy Lynn, Aedan is a boy on the verge of manhood caught up in a moment in American history and culture. It is, of course, a different moment from that of the other three—which makes it worth the telling in its own story. What Aedan particularly has in common with these characters is that ultimately he has to deal with the ambiguities of his moment by himself. Amid all of the opinions and advice and shouting about the war in Vietnam and the draft from all who loved him and didn’t, Aedan knows that only he can decide what duty requires. As his moment was unique, so too the resolution of his problem was unique compared to most others of his time—not at first perhaps but when he finally gets things right. That too makes it worth telling.

The Boldest of Choices (203,000 words) is a perspective of the time of the war, it is memoir, and it is fiction—and more. Two stories spin out of that mix of history and fiction. The first occurs during the war years. The second, years later when Aedan, who has found redemption for his failure in the earlier story, is challenged to confirm his redemption. Both stories will keep the reader turning pages as Aedan struggles to get to the right place on things—and as he finds himself in predicaments he never could have imagined when he headed off to college.

This is my first novel. It’s about matters I’ve carried with me for a long time. The first story is a matter held in my heart since the war. The second, of interest surely because there was a Vietnam War, involves an idea that I felt would be worthy of exploration in the context of a novel. To my surprise and so much for the better, neither story ended where I thought to go.



#2 Carney

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 10:12 AM

A couple of things before critiquing the query itself:

 

203K words is more than double what most novels run and way, way, way more than most first novels. It will be EXTREMELY tough to convince any agent/publisher to accept a first-time novel of this length. 

 

Your novel is either a NOVEL (Fiction) or it is MEMOIR (non-fiction). You may write a novel based on real-life experience (very common) but memoir must be real life and not fiction. So you need to decide which genre this falls into and then state that genre alone.

 

The query is way over the general word count of under 400 words. This, added to the fact your book is way over the normal novel word count, doesn't bode well. Agents will suspect you cannot write succinctly and may reject you based solely on that concern without even reading the full query.

 

You spend a lot of time summarizing rather than showing story or character. Then when you read the point of sharing "housekeeping" information -- genre, word count, etc. -- you are speaking to the agent and wandering in your explanations. This doesn't work well for a query. I suggest taking a look at what agents expect and how to best structure a query for this type book. Good luck - 



#3 perpetua

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 10:42 AM

I must agree with Carney's comments above. In addition, according to your first paragraph, you have two stories going on - one in the 60s and one years later. But there is nothing in your following paragraphs about the second one and certainly not about the assassination of world leaders. I think you need to decide what  our story is first and foremost - the story of Aedan's years in Vietnam flashing forward to later years, or the story of Aedan years later with flashbacks to the war. Whichever is prominent in your novel is the one you need to focus on in your query.

 

Keep at it. Writing queries is (for some, including me) worse than writing the novel. But eventually you'll get it right. Reading other people's successful queries is a real help.

 

Good luck. I'd love you to have a look at mine if you have a second: So Fine a Line.

Perpetua



#4 Litgal

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    In between I became a "hybrid" as part of a group of six authors involved in a high concept novel-in-six-parts called "A Day of Fire" which released in November of 2014. The book, "A Day of Fire," tells the story of the final days of the doomed city of Pompeii in a way you've never read it before.

Posted 21 April 2017 - 04:56 PM

Carney has nailed this. I agree with every point.

 

And let me emphasize that your opening paragraph was sooooooooo wordy and when coupled with your astronomical word count this draft of your letter is very likely to convince any agent you query that your manuscript suffers from the same defect.

 

Prune and focus.


Lit. (aka Sophie Perinot)

#5 Hugh Boyle

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Posted 22 April 2017 - 11:48 PM

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my query and to provide your comments.  I am not surprised by most of what you (Carney, perpetua, and Litgal)  have said.  Just thought I'd run it by to see if it got any kind of interest.  I suppose I have a quick and dirty solution to most of what you have observed.  The Boldest of Choices is in two parts.  In form one is a novel (A Novel about the Time of the War in Vietnam) and the other a novella (The Unheard of Occurrence Concerning the Dalai Lama and a War in the Future).  They are independent--in that each stands on its own--but interrelated.  Still, the second part tells the rest of the story for the first.  So, the quick and dirty is to go with the novel, and see what I can do with the novella.  It's just I like it the way it is and can't get myself to brake them up.  But you are helping me get where I have to be.          



#6 augustasands

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Posted 23 April 2017 - 12:15 PM

I feel for you. My first draft of my first novel was over 100k. When I went back to edit out the unneeded text, it went down to a slim 75k. Can I ask what your word count for each story is, respectively? 


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#7 Hugh Boyle

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Posted 25 April 2017 - 02:27 PM

 As to augustasands' request for word count breakdown:  The first part is about 155,000 words, and the second is about 48,000.  It is about more than word count, however, that I refer to Part One as a novel and Part Two a novella.  Part One is the expansive thing, attempting to have the action/conflict play out against the events and the culture of the time in America.  The characters and their conflict are important, but so are the elements of the expansive thing--the events, the places, and the culture.  Part two is primarily focused on a single, fictional event.  It is conceived as the rest of the story.  But, even though it takes place at a different time in America, the times and the culture are not so important to the event.  The action connects to Part One.

 

All of that notwithstanding, I suppose I still have too many words. 






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