Saturday, September 22, 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.

For six months now, ten-year-old Ionikus Reaves has lived with a jaw of iron. Great hook. Strike the "now" for flow but otherwise this is a fantastic attention grabber.

It’s heavy, kill the comma and cold, and the only use it seems to have is attracting a lot of unwanted attention. Ionikus hates his jaw only a little bit word choice: "slightly?") less than he hates the gods of Olympus. The day they ordered the draft that took Father, kill the comma again was the day Father frantically attached the metal to Ion’s jaw--with a little bit of magic, but without an explanation. And ever since, (word choice: "since then?") he’s been the Iron-Jawed Boy. A monster even on Atlantis. Some minor rephrasing here and there on this and it's a solid middle para. Use your words a little more economically here for greatest impact.

But soon Ionikus discovers he’s a lot weirder than he thought...in fact, he’s weird enough to be a reincarnated god. And not just any reincarnated god. Oh no --he’s a reincarnated god bound to serve and protect the Olympians--the same beings who stripped him of everything he once loved. again, be a little more concise with your wording. 

In the blink of a cyclops’ eye nice and without much of a choice, Ion’s rushed off to the Achaean Academy, where his godly training begins. But the more he watches and learns, the more he sees the Olympians aren’t what he thought they’d be. Turns out, not all the Olympians favored the draft. Some are so old they can’t even remember their own names. And others are obsessed with macaroons. Hilarious.

Ever since Ion became the Iron-Jawed Boy, he’s never been sure who he really is. This sentence feels like a step backward, narratively speaking. Kill it and you lose nothing as far as this last para is concerned. But when he stumbles upon a forgotten hall in the academy, where he and meets the spirit of his fallen mother, he’s given a potentially deadly mission that could uncover the truth behind his jaw: betray the gods and free Father from the war. This was great until this last sentence here - is this mission itself a betrayal of the gods? Or are you saying he will have to betray the gods *in order* to free Father? I don't necessarily need to know exactly what the mission is, but I do need to know what he stands to gain and / or lose by it in a very specific way.

Overall this is a well written query with an excellent hook. Your biggest downfall is that you're ever so slightly more words than you need to in order to convey your point. In a 300 word query you've got to make sure every word is necessary. Excessive word use also might make an agent wonder if your ms is as tight as it possibly can be. Otherwise, good work!

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