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.
Harold has ruined twelve-year-old Jake’s life for the last time. So what if Harold has Asperger’s and is a genius when it comes to baseball trivia and sixth grade Algebra. Jake’s D-O-N-E. Great hook, very kid-oriented. Voice is here, genre is here.
Harold collects baseball facts like the Smithsonian collects dead things and Jake is convinced that Harold also has a talent for killing his Nice parallels, but the “his” is a little general here. First pass I thought you meant killing “Harold’s” social life social life. But Jake’s finally found a way to put some distance between himself and Harold—middle school. His plan is to not only ditch Harold, but also the Titans, Jake’s baseball team. The team he’s played on since T-ball. The one his dad coaches. Choppiness here. I get that it’s on purpose, but I’d play these connections in with the idea that even though he’s got family connections and a history, they’re second-rate. It seems the best the Titans can do is second place and Jake wants to find a spot on the number one team, even if it means leaving his old friends behind. I need more here about how ditching the team equates to ditching Harold. Does he play?
Jake meets Mr. Williams who was once a Little Leaguer himself. Only no one would play his team because in the 1955 South, white teams didn’t play black teams. Mr. Williams helps Jake understand that some people have a gift to make us better individuals and Harold might just have that gift. It’s also possible that Harold’s knowledge of expert plays can help Jake’s team beat the undefeated Comets.
Lucy, the girl who sits beside Jake on the bus, tries to convince him that there are more important things than winning and that friends come in all sorts of packages. Jake discovers that Lucy, while annoying, might be right and…kind of awesome to sit by. Love this last line 🙂
While I like the two paras dedicated to each supporting character, it pushes your query into a longer place than it needs to be. Combine the two, it’ll be quite easy using the idea that Lucy introduces friends in “different packages” and then the parallel with Mr. Williams having to deal with racism.
HAROLD – THE KID WHO RUINED MY LIFE AND SAVED THE DAY is a 32k middle grade novel. It’s a story full of baseball action, humor, and a lesson about true friendship. As a teacher and school counselor for over twenty years, I’ve worked with kids like Harold who fall on the high end of the autism continuum and who struggle to find acceptance. Currently, I’m a middle school counselor with the largest school system in the Southeast. Great bio – you tout the high points of your book, while showing why you’re qualified to write it – well done!
Overall you just need some tweaks here. The query stands out, the hook is superb, and the lessons here sound great for a contemp MG. I think tightening those last two paras is your biggest concern, and obliterating some of the choppiness involved in the top one. Nice job!