Saturday, February 20, 2016

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.

Amanda lives in the most boring town in the world very tiny nitpick- I'm not sure if you want your hook to have the word boring in it. It's not necessarily representative of the beginning of the book, but pages where characters are sitting around being bored are in fact, boring. You might consider rephrasing—New Pines. She calls it Picket Town, though, because every single house is completely identical identical implies completely and is surrounded by the same-exact, we've got it, they're the same dull, white picket fence. The only thing remotely interesting—and kind of creepy—about New Pines is the never-before-seen bacterium that broke out in it a month ago. Awesome! The mysterious disease only infects kids, and apparently nobody who’s come down with it has recovered from it yet. Oh - we definitely need to know a little bit more about the bacterium, right now. What are the symptoms?

But after an inspiring Social Studies lesson on famous explorers, Amanda investigates the forbidden woods by her house, yanking her friend Sam along for the mission. Much to their  just go with surprise utter shock and horror, they discover what appears to be a giant spaceship in the forest’s clearing. Not only that, but they secretly witness every grownup in town, including their parents, fly out of the ship by themselves. They also spot the school nurse carrying the bacterium’s latest unconscious victim into the ship.

Totally terrified now, Amanda and Sam put two and two together—aliens must have replaced all the adults in town and are testing the bacterium on the kids before using it for global domination. Amanda and Sam race to alert the authorities in the next town over, but the aliens always seem to be one step ahead. Couple that with the fact Amanda and Sam start exhibiting signs of the debilitating bacterial infection themselves, and they’re running out of time not just to save themselves, but all of mankind. So.... where do the fences come into the plot? You gave your whole first para over to them - why?

This sounds totally fun and awesome. It's well-written and with a few nits is ready to go out, I think, if you can explain why the fences matter (if they do). If they don't, they shouldn't get the attention they do in the query. The only other thing I'll add is consider putting the MC's age in the first para so that the agent knows from from the first line if they're looking at MG or YA.


Chris V said...

Thanks so much for "slashing" up my query and for having me on your blog, Mindy! Excellent pointers/advice, as usual :)

Mindy McGinnis said...

You're welcome!