Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Saturday Slash

Meet my 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, 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!

In my YA urban fantasy BECOMING JINN, wishing doesn’t make it so, Azra does.

I think that this is a great hook, but without the first phrase. If the second half of this stood alone, it would pack a punch. The first phrase distances us from the second.

Azra has always known who she is. I think this should be a dash instead of a new sentence here A Jinn. But Azra has also always known who she doesn’t want to be. A Jinn. Combine these two thoughts into one sentence, right now you're pushing the limit on word count so you need to economize On her sixteenth birthday, Azra’s genie magic kicks in. For the rest of her life, she’ll go where she’s told, perform on command, and do it all without question. That's a crappy fate, for anyone, but I can see a teen hating it especially! Screw that. She tosses the Jinn rulebook under her bed. Her powers, curiously strong for a new genie, fuel her ability to wing it. Suddenly we're actually *in a scene* - the query needs to read like the back of a book almost, not show us specific scenes from within. Also I'm confused about the phrase "wing it" - do you mean she can throw things really hard, or that's going to "wing it" - make up her own rules as she goes along? But when she inadvertently skips a vital step, step towards what? she not only risks exposing Jinn magic to the world but puts a human’s life in danger. Either one would be enough to draw the attention of the Afrit, the Jinn’s ruling class, but the combination lands her on probation. Little do the Afrit know they’ve granted Azra’s wish by forbidding her to use magic. Nice - the idea here is a solid one but you need to economize your word use and shave down. Get the little book-tossing mini-scene out here and instead give us the overview. Also, I really need to know what this vital step is - is this her "winging it" towards something else? Undoing her magic? Getting rid of her jinn powers for good? As it stands I have no idea what this step was working towards.

Lying about who she is has always made friendships difficult. This respite from her destiny frees Azra to find a best friend in the boy across the street and a romantic lead in the lifeguard from work. But Azra learns wishes do come with a price as her feelings for the two boys become intertwined. Struggling with normal teen angst for the first time, Azra sneaks a peek at her mother’s teenage diary, searching for advice. The secrets about the father she has never met, the source of her strong magic, and why the Afrit have been watching her so closely reveal as many answers as they do questions about who Azra really is and who she wants to be. When her probation is lifted, Azra must figure out how to grant the most important wish she has ever been asked — one that challenges the most fundamental rules of the Jinn — without losing those she loves most. Yeah this second para is good, you're telling us what is going on in a nice overview here, but I'm confused about why she would be allowed to mix with normal humans since she's only on probation. My assumption of probation means that she will still *become* a Jinn eventually and therefore why would she be allowed to mix? Also, this "most important wish" sounds like the crux of the book - I need to know what it is. What's at risk for our character if she fulfills the wish, or doesn't? And whose wish is it? I need to know that to be drawn in.

See, when genies are involved, there’s always a trick. Great sinker, like it a lot.

With fantasy elements set in the contemporary world, BECOMING JINN has the ability to appeal to readers of John Green as well as Kristin Cashore and Cassandra Clare. Nice comp titles.

A professional editor and writer for more than seventeen years, I have a B.A. in journalism. Nice concise bio.

I think your biggest challenge here is getting the fundamental rules of her existence out there so that it's going to make sense to the reader w/out being an info dump. What does probation actually mean? Does she have powers now at all? Or is she a regular human who then becomes a Jinn whether she wants to or not? When you mention "on her sixteenth birthday, her magic kicks in" but I don't know with the phrasing if this is something that will happen, or something that already has happened? On my first read through I thought it hadn't happened yet, and that her missed "vital step" was something she was undertaking to keep it from happening. Now, I'm wondering if what you're saying is that it had already happened, and her missed step was her trying to undo it.

So - those details need to be made very clear. It's easy to know exactly what you mean when you know your own story, which is why having fresh eyes is a good thing. Get those basic plot points clarified and I think you have an original premise, and a good hook and sinker.

2 comments:

Lori A. Goldstein said...

Thank you for your great critique. It's so helpful to know the parts that work and the parts that confuse!

Mindy McGinnis said...

No problem Lori - thanks for volunteering!