Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Saturday Slash

So, I opened up myself to critiquing queries, and quite a few of you said - "Yes! Me! I love it when other people jam their grimy fingers into my carefully polished words!"

OK - my hands aren't actually grimy, but I don't make any promises about the cleanliness of my editing tool. Meet the BBC Hatchet of Death (or, some other colorful description RC Lewis and I come up with at any given moment). This is how I edit myself, it is how I edit others. If you think you want to play with me and my hatchet, shoot us an email.

And a little bit of BBC literary info. We all know the first line of a query is your "hook." I call the last line the "sinker." You want it to punch them in the face, in a nice, friendly kind of way that makes them unable to forget you after having read the 300 other queries in their inbox. Also, at the end, I'm going to tell you what I think your story is about, based on your query. I know how hard it is to get your ideas across succinctly, and how easy it is for your author's brain to fill in the blanks and not see the gaping holes that the average reader may very well fall into.

Also, for my brave Saturday Slash volunteers I will gladly do follow-up slashes (each more kindly than the next) on your query if you post them on the Query Critique board over on AgentQuery Connect. You'll get advice from me, and also people who are smarter than me. If you do post on AQ, be sure to follow the guidelines and let me know you posted so that I can follow up!

And now for our third brave soul. For clarity, my comments are in purple.

Clementine Marvel, age sixteen, would give almost anything for a shot at life in Sector One. Overall, good hook. Right off we know our genre (YA SF) and that there is an ever-present threat in C's life. The only nits I have are some very minor rephrasing. I would write, "Sixteen year old Clementine..." and I'd also strike "almost." No real reason for either of those other than pacing and beat.

In this far-underground strike "far" as unnecessary. Also the word "this" is very specific yet we don't have a name for her colony other than "far-underground." I see that the generic name (Sector Five) comes up later, but here you have a chance for better phrasing and a quick information drop that would suit query writing. My take: "It is possible to escape the underground colony of Section Five and become more than..." colony of her planet, there is a chance to be more than an identification number. There is technology in development like liquid nutrition to keep Clementine from ever feeling hunger. I'm assuming these awesome new technologies are only available to Sector One inhabitants? I'd make that clear, as the way the query is arranged I feel like we're still in Sector Five. There are serum injections to keep her illness-free, if she ignores the side effects. Give me a side effect example here, and you can probably drop the word "serum." Not strictly necessary, just an observation. Also, the repetitive "There is, there are," may be a stylistic choice, but it feels echo-y. I'd find a better way to intro your sentences with smoother re-phrasing.

Most importantly, there is safety. Nice transition. Safety from Security Officials who roam Sector Five's streets with metal sticks drop the "with metal sticks" for phrasing and beat, like the one who gave Clementine her scar. Safety from a poisonous substance secreted by the moon that floats too strike "too"near the planet should this be planet's? surface. A shield keeps most of it out, but every now and then some Moonshine gets through and people die. Nice - I feel like the stylistic echo here of "safety" works well, but I wouldn't use it in tandem with the "there is / are" echoes from the first para. I'd go with the "safety" echoes, as I feel they are stronger, and work on re-writing that first para. I also would like to know how they die. How does Moonshine kill? Do they die from some kind of ultraviolet ray or is this more traditional and they slip into an alcoholic coma?

When Clementine wins a spot as an Extraction to Sector One, she saves herself from that life. From Moonshine. I want to know how she managed that. Even a small sentence will do it, such as, "...wins an Extraction spot by proving she can spit forty feet..." I'd strike the "From Moonshine."

She doesn't realize it will cost her her mind. Nice sinker. BBC like.

Overall, this is pretty strong. We know we're in a SF world where the very environment is threatening it's inhabitants and our MC has a chance to get out - but I'd like to know what she has to do to get there. Once she gets to this "haven" of Sector One she discovers it's not all she had hoped and is faced with a new threat. I like it! Some minor rephrasing and I think you're ready to get out there!

How about it, friends? Let our valiant Slash victim know what you think!

4 comments:

Stephanie Diaz said...

Thanks so much for your suggestions, BBC :) They're really helpful!

Mindy McGinnis said...

No problem Steph! Since you're a tried and true AQC'er you know you can get follow-up advice from me anytime!

Stephanie Diaz said...

Hey Mindy, if you get a chance, I'd love it if you'd take a look at my most recent query for this on AQC. :P It's in Query Critiques, under "Extraction (YA Sci-Fi)

Mindy McGinnis said...

No problem Steph! I'll take a look this afternoon!