Saturday, July 21, 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.

Art by Lynn Phillips Nelson
http://femboost.tumblr.com/
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, 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.

Avery isn’t as crazy as everyone thinks—her dreams really are coming to life. But ever since she lied about her parents’ kidnapping, she’s the girl who cried wolf. Oh - nice. I'd consider switching your sentences around here. The first one isn't quite as "hook-y" as you want it to be. You start out with kind of an overused concept, but then you turn it around with the second sentence. Consider restructuring for strength, but it's still solid as is.

But one boy believes her. Mason knows Avery is a Dreamer—a regular person with the ability to bring their dreams to life I'd drop "regular," as it sounds like being a Dreamer automatically discounts you as regular.. What he doesn’t know is she’s the future and hope of all mankind, and her dreams are bringing a sinister group of people, the Dream Catchers, one step closer to finding her and harnessing her power for evil. Why is she the Special Dreamer of all Dreamers? How is she the hope of all mankind? Why is she special and different even among Dreamers? And how are her dreams bringing the Catchers closer to her?

As a Waker—a protector of Dreamers—it’s Mason’s job to help her control her dreams and shield her from the Dream Catchers. But learning to trust someone, especially a Yankee Is this book set in the South? Why does it matter that he's a Yankee? who may just be the boy of her dreams, could be Avery’s biggest challenge.

Narrated alternately by Avery and Mason, DREAM MAKER, a YA modern fantasy, is complete at 61,000 words and is on multiple submissions. You don't need to specify that you're querying more than one agent, they expect it.

I'm definitely drawn in by the concept but I need more here in order for this query to escape from the "Special Girl / Protector Boy / World Might End" derivative machine. You really had me with the idea that Avery has lied about something - something HUGE - in the past... and then *poof* that totally left the query. Her parents aren't even mentioned again, or their kidnapping. Are her parents still around? What's the story with the kidnapping? Does it play into the larger plot? Why would Avery lie about that in the first place? You bring up some massive questions that sound like they have the potential to separate this from every other YA urban fantasy, but then you drop them.

I also need to know why Avery is so special, even among Dreamers, and how her dreams are leading the Catchers to her. The concept is interesting, and I like the idea, but I need to see in the query that you've got the execution nailed - show me the details instead of these broad strokes and make it clear that you've got a unique twist on the "Special Girl" story.

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