Saturday, October 21, 2017

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.

Seventeen-year-old Zaymie is sick to her soul of living in the super-cramped, domed city that shields humanity from the over-polluted Earth. Cool, good opening with setting and genre very clear. So when she and her two friends almost discover a way to eradicate the contagion how do you "almost" discover something?, the government lets them in on a whopping secret: The pollution is about to finally eat through the dome and annihilate everyone. Impressed by the teens’ genius and dedication to improving humanity, the government selects them for a desperate, top-secret mission of traveling back in time and preventing the advent of the pollution. Wait - so they almost discover a way to fix the problem that is going to kill everyone, and instead of giving them the resources to try and actually fix the problem and use their genius in that way, they instead send them traveling through time? I mean, I get that it's a government solution but this seems pretty backwards.

But shortly after blastoff, so the time machine is like a rocket? Zaymie and her friends’ time machine malfunctions, stranding them in an unknown time filled with giant, mechanical spiders and ferocious, outlandish beasts, including bears with tusks and alligators with shark heads. Without tools to fix their machine so they can resume their mission, the teens climb a mountain in search of intelligent life—only to eavesdrop on a government meeting. Why would they climb a mountain in search of intelligent life? Are they going towards something like a building or a city?

Turns out Zaymie and her friends have been in the current time all along and were dispatched in a deadly jungle, left to die. Apparently the rulers lied to the public about Earth still being polluted, the jungle created by one of the cities’ sadistic rulers out of sheer enjoyment. What about the jungle makes it sadistic? Has it been created to dispatch problem humans? Or is the animal experimentation the sadistic angle? The rulers seek to relish unsure of word choice here planet Earth all for themselves, and the teens are a threat to that. Even worse, the rulers catch the teens eavesdropping on their meeting. Now Zaymie and her friends must make their way back to the domed city and inform everybody of the leaders’ corruption before the rulers liquidize the teens—or worse. Is liquidizing a common punishment? You might want to clarify.

Okay, so, the fakeout of the time machine not being a time machine does clarify some of the questions I had about that being a weird approach in the first para, but it makes more sense as I go. However, it still raises the question of how smart these kids are supposed to be if they are like, time machine - yeah! Sure! I'd consider starting the query with them already having been duped - and realizing it. Right now the query feels confusing, and raises questions about whether or not the manuscript itself is as well.

EXTINCTION DAY is a 65,000-word young adult LGBT light science fiction that will appeal to fans of Elizabeth Briggs’s FUTURE SHOCK. This is a multiple submission. Generally speaking they will assume it's a multiple submission so I wouldn't worry about saying so. My debut young adult dystopian novel, THE FOURTH GENERATION, was released by Clean Reads/Astraea Press on August 2015, with a middle-grade science fiction novel called PICKET TOWN on the way. Meaning it has a publication date, or that you're working on it? Clarify. I have a degree in Creative Writing from Fairleigh Dickinson University and won the individual award for Outstanding Achievement in Creative Writing. I also obtained an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University in 2013. I interned at Kensington Publishing Corp. in New York City in the Publicity and Marketing departments. Nice - great bio! I would clarify as well if you were formerly agented or if you submitted to the press on your own.


Elizabeth Seckman said...

Excellent tips. You wield your hatchet well.

Chris V said...

Awesome - thanks so much for slashing at my query, Mindy! You raise some very good questions, and I will have to get back to the drawing board. Thanks so much again - this is extremely helpful, as always!

Mindy McGinnis said...

Hope i was helpful!