Saturday, December 3, 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 next brave soul. For clarity, my comments are in purple.

Although she was raised human, Rena has a destiny to be the vampire queen bringing her face-to-face with a rogue vampire hell-bent on taking her royal blood as a means to gain unimaginable powers. First of all, the hook is one long sentence. It'd be easy to bust up. But as hooks go, it's already raising questions. So she was raised human but isn't actually? I have to admit to not knowing enough about what's out there in terms of already existing vampire lit to know how original this is, but I'm guessing right now you've got to be REALLY freaking original to get interest in a vampire query. I'm not saying it doesn't happen, I'm just saying it seems like a tough sell.

Never in a trillion years did Rena think vampires were real, or that becoming one flowed in her veins Not sure if this sentence actually works... it feels clunky. Then Rena spots Cryder at school: the drop-dead sexy new student that she's been dreaming about, literally. He's her vampire king, her blood-mate, and they are rightful heirs to the throne. The two must band together to end the rogue's vampire plan, but there is a twist. I feel like you need a better way to to say this other than "there's a twist." It sounds more like you saying directly to the agent, "Get this twist!" rather than it fitting organically into the query. Rena learns they must drink each others blood and in doing so awaken latent powers. Interesting, this seems original to me, but again, I'm not that familiar with the vamp lit. The crazed vampire, Bristol, demands Rena's royal blood; if she doesn't deliver, he will expose the true existence of vampires to humans and kill everyone she loves. Hmm... that seems like a pretty odd plan, considering he's a vampire too. Why isn't just killing everyone she loves good enough of a threat?

Rena has only months Months seems like a long time, for the plot. In real life, sure, I'd need a couple months to accept that, but in fiction it doesn't feel like it's adding a lot of urgency to the plot. to accept she is a vampire before all hope is lost. In order to save her loved ones and keep the vampire race's secrets safe, she must fight her own doubts This is the first indication that perhaps she doesn't want to be a vampire, or doesn't think she's capable of being the Queen. Earlier you mentioned that she didn't necessarily believe in them, but that's the only kind of doubting that's been mentioned. and truly let herself become queen.

I feel like I can't give you a really decent crit on this one because what's going to be imperative is distinguishing yourself from every other vampire novel already out there, not to mention the unpublished millions that have probably been crossing their desks in the past years. What I *can* say is that it feels like the crux of the novel is around Rena's choice - does she, or does she not want to / feel that she is capable of being the Vampire Queen? There's romance here, but no triangle (hey, that's just fine!) but again that's not the focus of the novel, it's the choice that's the key - or at least that's the impression I get after reading the sinker. And we don't get to that idea until the last line.  Also, let's talk about these humans that she loves. Does she have a human family? Why was she raised human in the first place? Did her vampire "parents" hide her with humans? Was she in some kind of danger?

Reaching out to my readers, since they might know a lot more about vamp lit! Does the premise stand out to you?


Laura Barnes said...

I gave you an award on my blog yesterday. Come by if you want and get it. :)

Anonymous said...

Excellent site Mindy, I'll be back often. -Kelly

Robin Weeks said...

LOL--I got Laura's award, too! :)

About the query (speaking to the author): Mindy's right about the saturation of the vampire market, and I don't think this query does enough to emphasize the story's uniqueness.

The first line is so common it's a cliche--and not just in vampire lit. Talk about who she IS--not about who she never dreamed she'd be. I can't connect to an individual who sounds just like everyone else I know. Give us some personal details about Rena. What does she want out of life that will be disrupted by the conflict of the plot? Maybe mention her dreams... THEN enter Cryder.

Not sure how I feel about the whole heir-to-the-throne thing, especially since she has no idea of her heritage. Is she adopted? How can she be the rightful queen? Is it just that she's bonded to the future king?

You say "the rouge's vampire plan" like I know what you're talking about... but I don't. I can imagine, of course, but I'm going to imagine something just like something else I've read, enhancing the "been there, read this" flavor. What is the plan? Who are the rogues? Just how powerful are they? Are you talking about Bristol here?

Two vamps drinking each other's blood isn't a twist. It's pretty common in the vamp lit I've read (and I like vamp lit, so I read a lot). Honestly, I'd leave this out or maybe just say that "they drink each other's blood to awaken their powers." Really, I'm leaning toward leaving it out--along with the reference to awakened powers. It's too easy to be a source of conflict, so I'd recommend that your query just mention that they awaken each others' powers or something--but you'll be able to decide once you try it several ways.

Like Mindy, I'm stymied by Bristol's threat. What will happen if he reveals the vamps to the humans? Why would that worry Rena, who just found out herself? Plus the "I'm gonna kill everyone you love" is a VERY cliche villain thing to say. Does he really have that much power? If someone told me they'd kill all my loved ones, I'd be concerned, but my level of terror would depend on the strength of the threat. What makes Rena think he can/will really do that?

Finally, I also agree that "months" seems like a long time frame--why would Bristol give her that time? I'm picturing a scene where he says, in effect: "Your blood is mine! Let me know by Christmas. Happy Labor Day." I'm sure your book justifies it better--give us some more details.

How does she let herself become queen? What doubts does she have that prevent it? HOW do those doubts prevent it? Some queens are queens despite their doubts.

In my own query, I struggle with revealing too much--but I think the more you keep secret from the agents, the less likely you are to attract one. (Or so my success rate suggests.)

From this, I think the main attraction of your book is the king-queen angle. I'd play that up, explain it more, and concretely show what stands in their way to the throne. Also, more about Cryder would be nice--how is he different from the other vamp heroes out there?

Good luck!

Tanya Reimer said...

Great idea Mindy and great feedback!

Mindy McGinnis said...

Thanks everyone! I appreciate your feedback on this one, as I'm not the best advice-giver on the vamp lit - than you my readers!!!