Saturday, April 6, 2013

The (Nearly Sunday) Slash

My apologies to the volunteer for this week's (very late) Saturday Slash! I was out book-shopping this weekend and anything dealing with reality slipped my mind as I became dizzied by titles that I wanted while perusing.

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!

As a time-traveler, Kale has no future. This is a decent hook, but the placement of the next sentence muddies the waters as far as what his abilities actually include / mean. Every few days here is where my confusion comes in - by starting this sentence the way you do, I almost feel like he's in a Groundhog Day situation where he's living the same few days over and over he disappears only to return to a house he doesn’t like to call home. Why not? It’s impossible for him to be normal, and it’s impossible for him to control it. When Kale starts traveling back to World War II, fighting in a war he was never meant to be in, it becomes harder for him to have two lives when he doesn’t think he belongs to either. Nice line.

After six years of being away, Harper moves back in next door. The girl who has haunted Kale’s past from before his time-traveling ruined his life. As in h- he used to be okay with time traveling, or time traveling came along later? They spent countless summers together growing up, things that Kale can never forget—swimming in the river and running through the woods with Harper’s shoe laces always untied. Kale gave up hope of seeing her again, but now they have their first summer together in years. And for the first time in Kale’s life, his time-traveling doesn’t seem like so much of a burden. With Harper, he can be nobody but  himself without worrying where his curse will take him next. Really? I almost feel like it would be the opposite - he has a reason to want to stay home now and he can be pulled away at any moment. 

But when everything seems to be getting better—Kale trying to figure out the secret to his time-traveling and making amends with the father he never got along with too much important information dumped here. It's my first indication that he's trying to control it, and also first mention of why home is bad—Harper finds something in Kale’s past that might tear them apart forever. Because whether or not Kale likes to admit it, the past is Kale’s future, and there’s no changing it. Confused by this - can Harper travel with Kale? Is that how she finds something in his past? Or is this more like a present-day diary entry or some kind of revelation in the present about Kale's past that she discovers? 

I definitely feels like there needs to be more dynamic here. You mention WWII and then it goes away - is that pivotal to the story line as a whole, or not? Is the biggest thing here that Kale could die in the past in a war, or that he is trying to figure out how to stop time traveling so he can stay put? If the big problem of the book is solving how to stop it, that needs to be put front and center of the query. And I definitely need it made clear whether Harper can travel as well - or even if she knows the full truth about his abilities. And what is the something in Kale's past? It sounds like a linch pin of the story, so don't scant on details here, be sure that you're not shrouding the big sell point of the book in mystery.

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