The Saturday Slash

Meet the BBC 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. Also, at the end, I’m going to tell you what I think your story is about, based on your query. I know how hard it is to get your ideas across succinctly, and how easy it is for your author’s brain to fill in the blanks and not see the gaping holes that the average reader may very well fall into.

Also, for my brave Saturday Slash volunteers I will gladly do follow-up slashes (each more kindly than the next) on your query if you post them on the Query Critique board over on AgentQuery Connect. You’ll get advice from me, and also people who are smarter than me. If you do post on AQ, be sure to follow the guidelines and let me know you posted so that I can follow up!

And now for our next brave soul. For clarity, my comments are in purple.

Twenty-five-year-old space pirate “Trig” I don’t think you need his name in quotes, even if it’s actually a nickname is the son of the man who invented the quantum drive

starship; but he’d rather be famous for his own reasons, or treasons as the case may be. Decent hook. I’d consider using a dash instead of a comma there at the end to set apart the “treasons” line with some white space, as that’s your real punch. Perhaps even set it apart as it’s own sentence. 

Since his father’s death Trig has been freebooting about the multiverse, and even this “and even” makes me feel like you’re trumping something earlier in the sentence, but there’s nothing there to one-up. I’d consider dropping the “and” and changing your verb to “escaping” for flow escaped the Vaxaxian
prison moon. Slight issue here on the first read. Lots of information being thrown at me and I didn’t quite process what “Vaxaxian” was / is / means until a third run through the sentence, and I’m still not sure if I’m right. Is Vaxaxian a government or a ruling species and the prison-moon belongs to / is run by them? Or is Vaxaxian the name of a moon that doubles as a prison? A bona fide buccaneer, the only thing quicker than Trig’s draw is his wit and the only thing shorter than his temper is the time it takes his hastily-laid plans to blow up in his face. Nice line. Very nice. Happy now.

When Trig steals the shiny new Rising Sun, fastest and first sentient starship since the machine
rebellion, he still can’t outrun his past. Nice, but rephrase for flow. The ship description in the middle of the sentence tripped me up. The stubborn Sun’s design reminds Trig of his father’s ships; and Ort—the sizable, six-armed, cannibalistic captain of the warship hot on Trig’s heels—is the same Vaxaxian Trig escaped from and embarrassed on the prison moon. Pretty good – you jammed a lot of info into that sentence but it worked out well. Nicely done. It also explains my earlier questions in relation to “Vaxaxian” but I’d still rework that first phrasing a little so as not to lose an agent before they get to this explanation. Ort’s out for blood and Trig hasn’t even another “even” use that I’m not sure is working convinced the Sun to come along for the ride. I get what you’re saying here and I do like it in this last sentence but I think it needs to be smoothed out a little in terms of the idea. You’re saying that he’s having trouble controlling the ship (which really, that’s a good thing since there’d be no plot if he had the fastest ship in the universe and needed to outrun someone) but I need that spelled out just a little better. Seriously, just a tiny tweak there.

From a mysterious shipwreck in a dark fungal jungle to the final showdown on a forsaken space
station, what begins as a joyride of epic proportions spirals quickly out of control. His biggest concern
used to be escaping his father’s shadow; now Trig would settle for escaping with his skin. Nice, nice! Hooray! Love the sinker.

Honestly I think this is a pretty darn great query. I get the whole idea of Trig and his lawlessness, his humor is there in the query voice, and it sounds like an outright fun time. I’m assuming that what we have here is a man vs. machine in that he can’t get the Sun to do what he wants it to do, or what it’s supposed to do, in order to escape his pursuers. I’d hash that out a little harder, as it’s an important point to be clear about. It’s *there* I’d just hit it really hard with a hammer before sending this out.

I would clear up the Vaxaxian thing too, simply because a lot of your sentences here are very wordy, and jammed with information. For the most part, you dole it out very, very well. But that one tripped me up enough to stop me in my tracks as a cold reader, and I don’t know that an agent will pause to do the untangle. Over all, well done. 🙂

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