Saturday, December 9, 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.

You wake up alone and scared. Probably not a good idea to frame the query in second person, unless the entire novel is written that way - which I doubt.  Finding your way back to your life, you find you've been missing for two years. To complicate matters, you know you're you, but everyone else sees someone completely different when they look at you. Literally? Or figuratively? Your family has broken apart and moved away, your friend is obsessed with finding you, but of course they don't know you're you, alone you decide to find out what happened to you. Honestly with the repetition of various forms of "you," this is becoming flat out confusing. I would definitely take this out of second person. You need a strong hook, and the concept of amnesia and disappearance has been done many times - what makes this story different from every other one? Get that into a hook, and start there.

During your investigation you uncover the town's dark secret, you're not the first person this has happened to. As you learn more about what happened to the other people you hope to learn more about what happened to you, even as the town you've thought of as home becomes more unwelcoming and the shadows grow thicker around you. Even as you find out that it wasn't a who that took you, but a what. Why did it take you? What does it want? Can you stop it before it takes someone else? Definitely don't end with rhetorical questions.

Combining the creepiness and terror of Daniel Kraus's Scowler with the mystery and suspense of Paula Hawkins's The Girl on the Train (although with a shot of supernatural not a shot of gin and tonic), The Disappearance of Desmond Willows is a supernatural coming of age story. A horror who-done-it, where the victim of the crime is also the naïve and inexperienced detective bent on solving his own kidnapping.

This is my first attempt at a true young adult book. And this is the very first indication of have that this is a YA book. I've tried my hand at micro-publishing my work on Amazon.com, where you can find several of my novellas and two novels published under the name ____. I wouldn't mention your self-published work until you're in a more personal contact level with the agent. If they're interested in your work they will request pages of what you are querying them with.  My short story Warm Blooded earned an honorable mention from L. Ron Hubbard's Writers of the Future in 2014.  Most recently my play, The Last Stand on Mango Street, was performed at the Liminus Theater in Cleveland as part of the NEOMFA Playwright's Festival.  In May of 2016 I earned my MFA in fiction from the NEOMFA program where I studied with author Christopher Barzak.

The bio you have here is good, but you definitely need to scrap the query and start from scratch. Like I said, the very first indication I have that this is a YA novel is at the end of the query. The second person POV makes the main character whoever is reading the query. We need to know who Desmond Willows is in order to care about what happened to him when he disappeared. Look at other queries on this blog, and check out sites like Writer's Digest to see good queries in action.

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