Saturday, October 27, 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
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 this color. Because nobody liked the yellow :)

If Allyson can’t rescue a unicorn from a kidnapping dragon, her best friend will be executed. First of all, what's the difference between rescuing someone from a dragon, and rescuing them from a kidnapping dragon? I think your phrase should be "rescue them from being kidnapped by..." but that implies that the kidnapping hasn't actually occurred yet. If it has, then the person just needs rescued, period. Skim down your phrasing here and look hard at what's going on. Also - what the heck is the connection here between the best friend's impending death and the unicorn / dragon debacle? Right now, all this hook does is raise questions and confuse me. Definitely work on something with more punch. And worse, the dragon is Allyson’s father.

Allyson has never met her father, I think you need another "has" here. The echo is less bothersome than the awkward phrasing moved more times than she’s had birthdays, and never had a best friend until and I also think you need "until she met", for clarity. The way you have it now is technically okay, but the pacing is off Beth. With legendary acne and worsening asthma, nice - here's something that makes your character stand out. Consider working these details into your hook.  Allyson just wants to meet the father who turned her mother into a paranoid move-across-the-nation freak. When she accidentally spits fire on on or at? kidnappers at the mall the phrasing here as well as the "move across the nation" sentence has me wondering what kind of world / genre we're operating in here? When we're talking about unicorns and dragons in the hook, I'm immediately thinking high fantasy but here halfway through the first para I'm getting something else- needs clarification , she starts to understand why her father isn’t in the picture: Allyson is half dragon. Her acne? Emerging scales. Her long time asthma? Actually a fiery breath weapon. Nice - again, here's something engaging and original. Hook material. And since her mother hasn’t shown any tendencies to fry evil landlords, are evil landlords an issue for the family? Allyson suspects her father. Through her discovery, Beth doesn’t bat an eyelash. She’s half troll, and trolls are even more despised than dragons. Is the half-troll part related to her not batting an eyelash? Are they unflappable? 

When trolls kidnap a unicorn, Beth gets blamed, and unicorns kill kill who? for revenge. Allyson is determined to prove Beth’s innocence and keep her friend off the unicorn chopping block. When they start looking for the kidnappers, they get a call from the last person they expected: Allyson’s father. He works with the trolls and knows where they keep their victims, but there’s a problem: Allyson’s father is under a geas a what now? to retain the victims at all cost. Nothing short of death can stop him. Now Allyson has to choose: rescue the unicorn and kill the father she’s always dreamed of, or let her best friend die for a crime she didn’t commit. Great - the last para here really shows me what the book is about, and exhibits voice. This is good stuff here, but you're two paras above need serious work.

LEGACY, a MG urban fantasy complete at 68,000 words, is a road trip culminating at the Ghost Fleet in Suisun Bay (with a side helping of magic).

I think one of the big things here is that you need to get the high fantasy elements out of the opening para, make the urban qualities more obvious. Also, you need to make sure your originality is out there, front and center. Acne = scales? Asthma = fire breathing? Hey - that's awesome! Get it up front so that the agent sees that first. Also make sure your connections are clear. Your hook makes zero sense until the last sentence of your query, and an agent might not get that far.

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