Saturday, March 15, 2014

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.

If you're looking for query advice, but are slightly intimidated by my claws, blade, or just my rolling googly-eyes, check out the query critique boards over at AgentQueryConnect. This is where I got my start, with advice from people smarter than me. Don't be afraid to ask for help with the most critical first step of your writing journey - the query. My comments appear in green.

After Lacey's best friend commits suicide, she needs to heal and Carter is the perfect solution, Choppy sentence here. I'd move your comma to after "heal" and put a period after solution. Start with a new sentence here > but what happens when their troubled tale turns into a forbidden love story? Generally speaking it's not a good idea to end your hook with a question, but I actually think this one works. Overall this is a good hook, and it makes the reader want to see why this romance would be forbidden.

The Boy in my Head If this is the title of your book you need to either capitalize or italicize it. Also, it's better to treat the query as if you were reading the back cover of a book to learn what it's about. The agent already assumes that this is a book that tells a story and that it has a title. It's better to keep your query to the details of what your story is tells the story of a troubled teenage girl, Lacey, who is nothing more than a figment of existence What do you mean by this? It makes me think she's not actually real. , that is until she’s given a guardian angel named Carter. Carter pushes Lacey to free herself from insecurities, grief, guilt and her very small comfort zone. The task is harder than it seems. Lacey has forgotten the beauty of life, and one push could send her off a cliff. Carter and Lacey quickly develop feelings for each other that are no doubt “forbidden.” You don't need to put forbidden in quotes here. No good can come from a mortal and an angel falling in love; Carter knows that better than anyone. So has there been a similar affair in his past? Lacey rejects his warnings, fully believing that their love could be her cure. Carter believes this as well, but he’s not willing to love her then live the rest of his life without her. Why would he have to? By the end of the book, Lacey understands what she’s been missing for so long: Life may not have all the answers, but it sure is worth all the questions. This is a very vague leading statement about what may or may not actually happen in the book. 

The Boy in my Head is very relatable and life changing. This really isn't for you to say - of course you find it relatable, your wrote it :) As a teenager, I know some of the difficulties teenagers face. I know what they’re thinking and feeling. Honestly I would not mention your age. I know a few young writers who have landed agents on the strength of their story alone, and that is what you have to show here - that your writing is strong enough to merit a look. Your age is irrelevant if you have that ability. With this capability, I can write a teenager’s life better than most. Not necessarily - what you're saying here is that you are a teen and therefore you can reach other teens. But if that's your strong selling point then technically any teen who has written a book has the same qualifications as you do. The Boy in my Head has a moral that is unique from most trending Young Adult books. Lacey learns that life may never be perfect or solve all her problems, but accepting and loving life anyway is worth the struggle. This sounds like another allusion to your ending sentence in paragraph two, you need to get what exactly about the story that conveys this message into the query, not state the fact that it is so. I think that’s a moral everyone, not just teenagers, should learn. That's great, but agents and publishers aren't looking for books that are going to teach lessons everyone should learn - they're looking for books that will sell. The Boy in my Head takes a different and more realistic approach to fantasy YA literature. It’s not just a story about a hot angel guy. No, it’s about something important and so very real-something that can not only entertain, but empower. This entire paragraph is about why you think this book is important, and what it stands for. That's great, but a query is not the place for it. You're talking in abstract terms about the message within the story, and not the story itself.

Hello, I’m [redacted] and I’m a teenage author. Again, I wouldn't mention your age. It's not necessarily a strike against you, but you need to hook the agent with your story, not yourself. The Boy in my Head will be my debut novel, that's assumed but it is not the first time I have written a piece for a venue. I have participated in school writing contests, won a writing award, is it a big one that is nationally recognized? If not it's not worth mentioning.  published book reviews on missliterati.com, and completed National Novel Writing Month of 2013. With that said, I have been writing for most of my life and plan to make this novel my debut into the career of my dreams. I hope to show you just how prepared and willing I am to enter the beautiful world of being an author. I understand that you're trying to show your dedication with your bio paragraph - and that's a great thing. However, everything you've mentioned here is something that many, many writers have accomplished - writing book reviews, doing Nano, etc. If you don't have something that truly distinguishes you, don't fret over the bio para. I never had anything remarkable for my bio para either,  so it's not going to sink you. 

Right now the major problem here is that you're spending a lot of time talking about two things that aren't that relative to a query - your own relatability to the audience and the message of the book. Don't get me wrong, these are good points and you've clearly thought them out. However, a query isn't the place to put this much detail towards them.

Your hook is good. What you need to focus on is getting across the actual events of the story in a way that differentiates your angel book from every other angel book. Which, I understand, you tried to do by taking about the message. But you need to give more concrete details about the events of the book that get that message across without flat saying - this is the message which makes this book stand out. Does that make sense?

Look at my comments within the second para and flesh out more in that arena. Give us more on world-building - why can't an angel and a mortal be together? Is it dangerous for one of them? Does he has to give up eternity to be with her? How does Lacey go about learning this lesson that life is worth living? What events are there in this book other than the forbidden romance?

Check out this fantastic post that I just found by Googling about teen writers. There are great examples here of what a query is and what it's supposed to do - and I swear it's purely accidental that my own query is listed here. However, there are other great examples listed throughout this post. 

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