Saturday, July 7, 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 the next brave volunteer. For clarity, my comments are in yellow.

 Ava’s nineteen, but she feels like she’s thirty, and every one of those years has been lonely. Good hook, I like it. She never expected to find friends among the Greek gods, and she definitely didn’t expect the Garden of Eden to become home. Ava falls in love with this I'd use "the" world of Olympians, fauns, and centaurs, I'd set the net sentence apart to accentuate it. This is the crux of your plot.  but war looms on Eden’s horizon. Ares, god of war, wants Eden and the rest of Earth as his own. He and his witches are marching on the Middle East, and they vow to remake Earth as one monotheistic nation- where all people worship him. The Muses say only Ava can defeat Ares, but she’s not magical at all. She could barely handle her home life; Really? Why?defeating the god of war is hardly a skill on her resume.

When Ares kidnaps her and claims he loves her, Ava gives him a chance. He might not be the evil dictator she was told. In fact, he just might be able to unite humans and bring global peace. Marrying him will make her the enemy of the Olympians she loves, but mediating between Ares and humans might be the only way to stop the war.

When his witches sacrifice a human to raise Haides Is there an "i" in that name? from the Underworld, Ava realizes how wrong she’s been about Ares. With Haides as his weapon, Ares could destroy her newfound family and bring the world to its knees. Ava, non-magical already covered that but determined, must find a way to stop him, even though it means risking her life just when she found the family that makes her life worthwhile.

THE OTHER SIDE OF SILENCE is a 101,000-word fantasy novel with series potential. Readers who enjoyed Neil Gaiman’s American Gods and The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss may enjoy its base in mythology, magic, and history. I’m a high school English teacher and have written three short films, each placing first at the Prairie Grass Film Challenge. I earned my B.A. in English writing under James Calvin Schaap, award-winning author. I'd switch the phrasing here to put "award winning" first. 

A couple things. The writing here is good and solid, and the query does a good job of portraying a somewhat complicated plot. I would say though that  same really key points are missing. How does Ava become a part of this magical world? If she's not magical at all, why is she allowed to live in the Garden of Eden? It doesn't sound like the Muses determine she's the one who can deliver them until after the fact. 

Also, the hook, while good, is potentially misleading. Ava feels like she's 30 - that immediately makes her different from most teens and makes us wonder if there IS something different bout her, yet you insist (twice) that there's not. I need to know more about how Ava discovers this world, and is admitted into it in order to be really pulled in.

Also, you hint that her real life is quite bad. She's lonely, she couldn't handle her real life, etc. Yet, we don't know why. Abuse? Neglect? How can she be so easily absorbed out of the real world and into the magical one? I need to know there's a good reason, and not just authorial convenience.

Lastly - It's hard to break in with a book over 100k. You get a little bit of leeway for your genre, but I'm willing to bet you've got a couple thousand words in there you don't need. Same with the query, in a smaller amount. Streamline. In order to get the real world details in here, you're going to have to make some sacrifices. Kill your darlings, and you'll be fine. And last random question - what does the title have to do with the ms?

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