Saturday, April 28, 2018

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.

I enjoyed reading about your interest in “edgy...unusual voices, unique settings, and everyman stories told with a new spin” — and about some of your authors (especially...)

So…I hope you’ll be interested in my novel.

While it's great that you have this personalized, you follow up with the rather obvious statement that you hope the agent will be interested in your novel. The agent knows that is your hope. It's why you are querying. 

THE B’IX LEAP is a genre-bender-with-ideas in the tradition of Berger, Eco, Pynchon, and Vonnegut.

But what genres is it bending? Even the writers you name here can be somewhat held to a genre and style. All told, it's much stronger to open a query with a really good hook.

It’s a “speculative mystery,” a reimagining — exuberant and visionary — what you're doing here is sharing your opinion of your own work, which doesn't carry much weight. Did a really famous author call your work exuberant and visionary? Cool. Mention that. Other than that... probably not.  of Raymond Chandler’s That's the fifth really big name drop that you're using to create allusions to your novel... while still not really telling us what your novel is about  legendary THE BIG SLEEP, complete with dead bodies and byzantine plot twists. Plus human beings from the future. A wrathful female alien bigger than a corn silo. And the wry, unlikely hero who is swept in — to his own surprise — to try to save the day.

The story begins…. I'm halfway through the query, so the fact that you're just now talking about how the story begins is a red flag. 

….in the present day, just after a priceless moon rock has been stolen from a famous retired astronaut living in Maine.

Across town, former New York City ad man T. Durham Blackstone gets a visit from an unusual stranger — claiming (and proving) to be from the year AD 2180 — who announces that the future desperately needs Durham’s help.

Posing reluctantly as a private eye, Durham travels to the Epsilon Eridani star system and learns that the moon rock is actually an artifact of the B’ix, an ancient race of aliens. Its theft has changed the flow of history — imperiling humanity’s future — because it’s the key to “leaping,” a mental technology humans will one day use to roam space and time.

Really confused about why he would need to pose as a private eye in an entirely different star system?

With only his happy-go-lucky leaping instructor at his side, Durham confronts a menagerie of suspects — in an odyssey that takes him around the world and across far-flung starscapes.

Can he figure it all out — and recover the rock — before the future unravels?

Okay, the "unlikely hero" is a tried and true character - but we still need to know, why him? What is it about Durham that makes him the go to guy for the aliens? You also mention dead bodies, a huge, wrathful female alien, and a bunch of suspects... but I don't really know what they all have in common. Right now the query needs focus.

At 108,000 words, THE B’IX LEAP is my first novel. It explores themes of technology, human spiritual growth, and their effects on each other — and is the first in a set of novels I’m creating around the TEN BULLS, an ancient Chinese poem about the stages of progress toward enlightenment.

108k is a bit long for a debut author, and I wouldn't try to pitch anything as a series as a debut, either. Pitch something as a stand alone with series potential, instead.

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