Saturday, May 18, 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!


Samia knows she is a dead girl walking. Great hook. I totally want to know why this is.

Two years ago, I think I'd eliminate this comma her life was that of any other teenager living in Fallujah, until her uncle turned her into a sexual assault victim. But right now that is the least of her problems. I get that the actual assault might not be the point of the book, but the dismissive tone of that line makes it seem like you're minimizing the event itself. Even though I totally get that your story focuses on the aftermath and not the event, you don't want to use blase language in reference to rape. Now all she knows is her life is over. Meh - you already said she knows she's a dead girl walking. This is repetitive. She has just discovered she is about to bring new life Echo here with "life" into this world, except they who is they? won’t let her. Like many women before her, her life echo again will end somewhere in the streets at the hands of her brothers, all in the name of family honor. Aha - so this is why she's a dead girl walking. Great contemporary issues focus, but eliminate some of the repetitive stuff before this so we see it sooner.

Just when all hope of living is gone, someone who? comes to her rescue and a few months later she finds herself in America the land of opportunities the phrase used here is very cliche. Previous sentence is a bit un-wieldly, pare it down. She is determined to make her a life echo again - you really like that word! for her(self?) and her child, away from the world she has left behind - a world filled with lies, betrayal, and bloodshed, all in the name of God and honor. For seventeen years, she manages to leave her troubles behind until finally her past catches up with her. Oh ok - big time leap here. This may mean you're looking at a re-formatting of the query.

Her brother-turned arch-enemy finds an even more powerful tool to destroy her – her son. Through him, he destroys echo not only her life, but the lives of two women closest to her - her boss and her best friend.

For a second time, she finds herself fleeing for her life, this time back to Fallujah what would possibly motivate her to go back?, her war-ravaged home with nothing to show for all her sacrifices except the scars she carries on the inside. Previous sentence needs pared down, it's bordering on un-wieldly as well. Will she find a second guardian angel to come to her rescue, or will she finally get the punishment she eluded eighteen years ago? Don't end with a question

Jar of Broken Hearts is a 125,000 words story that tells of hope in the face of despair, strength, and the ultimate forgiveness, as it follows the life of a young Middle Eastern woman struggling to overcome the hand life has dealt her.

The story itself sounds interesting, but you need to reconfigure this query, in my opinion. You start out with her being the young victim of sexual assault, afraid for her life. I assumed this was a YA title, but then we make the 18 year leap and that kind of threw me. Since it begins with her "knowing" something at a certain point in her life, the hook made me think we were going to be looking at that age / experience for the entirety of the book. But it turns out that's not actually the focus.

I can't help but notice you didn't specify a genre, which is something you definitely need to do. Also, since the focus of the book is NOT on a single event you need to get a hook that conveys that, one that makes it clear we're looking at a broader spectrum than the immediate fallout from this single event. I would also make sure that you're not being too vague - we need to see that you have a legitimate reason for her to be suddenly saved and taken to America, and then also to return to Fallujah. And how the heck is the son ruining her life and destroying the lives of other women? I need to know that in order to buy into the plot.

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