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.

Art by Lynn Phillips Nelson
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, 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 the next brave volunteer. For clarity, my comments are in yellow.

A flash of pain is all Jimmy Rickliefs remembers from the night he almost died. Decent hook, but it does beg the question of how he almost died. Now he suffers from terrifying seizures and his shattered body can’t keep up with his career as a drummer. Once known for his turquoise hair and outgoing personality, Jimmy turns sullen and withdrawn as depression begins to take its toll. Nice. So far, it’s well written and succinct.

Through the nightmare of his recovery, Jimmy takes some comfort from his pregnant wife’s survival. However, the idea of his wife surviving that same night continues to make me wonder what actually happened? Car crash? But as the stress of his recovery mounts, his daughter is born twelve weeks early.  The stress of his recovery, or the stress of the accident she was also involved in? She wasn’t breathing for two minutes after her traumatic birth. Slight tense issue here – we were with “is” and now wepre playing with “was.” Now and back to present again, seizures are a daily worry and brain damage is always on the horizon. Her chances for survival are slim. Echo here with “survival.” I feel like you got the point across that the infant is in danger without this last sentence, in any case.

With hospital bills mounting, Jimmy has a decision to make: return to the band despite his injuries, or lose everything. While his income can provide for the family, one misplaced strobe light could trigger a seizure and he could echo with “could” be a vegetable. One fall fall from what? or just fall down? and his career might truly end. He knows they can’t live on Allison’s first use of her proper name here income alone, and could another “could” echo be homeless if he doesn’t go back. Jimmy isn’t sure, however, that he wants to go back. Why not? 

Driven is mainstream fiction, complete at 91,668 words. Give the a round number, always. But before you query I’d definitely look at shaving off the extras. 90k is high for mainstream breakout. And also, I’m not sure that “mainstream” is really used that much as a genre? I’m honestly not positive on that one to be honest, so look elsewhere for solid advice on that front 🙂

It sounds like you’ve got an interesting plot but it’s a little buried here. First off – we need to know what the accident was. I’m guessing by the title and the fact that the wife was involved is car crash, but you need to be explicit. Also, the idea of both the infant and Jimmy suffering from seizures is a little confusing. You need to be clear about what danger exactly Jimmy is in, what his recovery entails. Why would a strobe light cause a seizure? Why is a fall a concern? Is he losing consciousness periodically or do you just mean a fall caused by a seizure? You mention that he could be a vegetable, but it sounds like the infant is facing the same dangers, so you need to be very clear about what is ailing each of them, and how the two differ. 

It sounds like the real crux here is the question of Jimmy going back to work, finding his old self again. But we’re not seeing this until the last para, and then at the last line. So why isn’t he sure that he wants to go back? Is it purely the physical that bothers him? Is he worried about his health? Or does it have to do with your first mention of his “rock star” self with turquoise hair that he needs to recapture and can’t quite, after the accident? Be clear about this, and make it happen sooner. We need the obstacles – emotional, physical, mental – tossed out earlier in the query.

2 thoughts on “The Saturday Slash

  1. Thank you =). I got so busy today, this is my first chance to get over here to read. I would say you should read the first draft of this on AQC but it's super scary…and bad, lol! I will definitely do some work on it and re-post over there for all to see.

    Thank you again!!

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