Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Saturday Slash

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.

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 yellow.

Written in the vein of the PENDRAGON series, AMELIA AND THE MANY WORLDS is a middle grade fantasy, complete at 60,000 words. It's very true that some agents like to see the comp titles, genre, and word count up front. I personally like to see the hook out there, but hey, I'm not an agent.

Twelve-year old Amelia is able to travel between parallel worlds using a pendant given to her by an alternate version of herself. See? That's awesome! Throw *that* out there instead of dry facts! But others may disagree. At first, she is only interested in visiting her dog, who is still alive in the reality of the “Amelia” who provided her with the pendant. This is definitely a tricky query to write, as you have to be clear which "Amelia" you're talking about all the time, yet the extra wordage is tripping me up - I'd stick with the more succinct phrase "alternate self" here, even though technically it's an echo, it's better than extra verbiage. Curious, she eventually visits other realms, including one where people live in underground cities to preserve the earth’s surface and another where her middle school’s motto is “all fun all the time.” I'd make it clear that all these "alternate realities" are taking place in the same time period. "Underground cities" immediately makes me think "future" and I picture a very Sci-Fi type environment, even though *technically* she's in the same time... just a different *now*. She discovers catastrophic events are killing people Wait - kill people where? In which alternate universe? And what kind of catastrophic event? That phrase is usually used in conjunction with natural disasters, so why would she "investigate?" and investigates, knowing if she can’t find the cause of the disasters, the next realm destroyed may be her own. Oh I like this a LOT - makes me think of "The Nothing" from Neverending Story - but... I need to *what* is happening and why she thinks it's spreading?  But how is she supposed to do that when every time she travels to a parallel world, an alternate “Amelia” takes her place in her home reality, causing problems, getting her grounded, and telling her mom she’ll try out for the cheer team?  Nice, I like it, but I feel like we need more on what alternate Amelia is doing at home, and how it ties in to her saving alternate realities. Complicating everything is her friendship with Seb, a boy she keeps meeting in the parallel worlds. And maybe has a little bit of a crush on. And woah! A love interest... yeah you definitely want to give this more than two sentences.

As is the typical path after receiving a degree in literature, I enlisted in the U.S. Army to learn psychological operations, study Korean, and to jump out of airplanes. Now a school librarian, I am certain most kids are indeed from a parallel world. I am a member of SCBWI. Like the bio, it's fun, and you include you're a librarian (UNITE!), and that's a foot in the door.

My overall thoughts on this is that you need to take your middle para and make it two - one that's dedicated to alternate worlds, and one that talks about what's going on at home, and why that matters at all, or has an impact on her actions in the alternate worlds. 

So what's the deal with alternate Amelia? Is she a trouble-maker? Sounds that way... so what was her motivation for giving Amelia the pendant in the first place? She just wants to wreck her home life? Or is there more going on here? Expand on alternate Amelia and what her overarching role in the story is.

If you can find away to neatly slip Seb into the parallel realities paragraph, do so. And how does he play in to the larger plot? Is he in danger? Does he know alternate Amelia? Can he travel back and forth as well? You don't have to answer those questions specifically, but definitely tell me why he matters, other than as a propped-up love interest.

5 comments:

mary said...

Thanks Mindy- Awesome comments. I love your suggestions and I have some specific areas to focus in on and work on. Thanks for letting me be on the Saturday Slash!

Mindy McGinnis said...

Mary - thanks for volunteering! You've got a great story here, you just need to polish the query to reflect that.

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