Saturday Slash

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.

Prince Agmund dreams of a kingdom united, but a mysterious sorcerer pictures something else, and his visions don’t include the Ordinal prince. Decent hook, the one thing that’s not quite working for me is that we don’t know what an “Ordinal” is. If it’s explained later on in the query I think that’s fine.

Agmund knows his kingdom’s past, how his ancestors conquered an evil king. He’s also painfully aware of the present, how Ordinals despise their neighbors, even after Otherkin assimilate the ways of mortals and lose their magic. Looks good, this doesn’t lay it out in black and white about what each race is, but it definitely covers a lot of area.  Life is much colder interesting choice of words. I like it. since the death of his mother, and in his father’s eyes, he does nothing right. Hope lies in the upcoming celebration of virtually virtually 100? Like it’s “not quite” 100 years? I’d drop “virtually.” 100 years of peace. It’s a chance to reconnect with his father, for races to come together, and for everyone to move forward.

But Agmund’s hopes mean nothing to the mysterious sorcerer. The sorcerer for better flow here I’d combine these sentences and use “who” for the second “the sorcerer.” invites the spirit of the dead king back to the land of the living, and the two become one. Their It’s not entirely clear who “their” refers to here. And is it really a reward, or more like a goal?  reward…renewed health, revenge, and power, but every bargain I don’t see how it was a bargain. In a bargain someone is either losing something or not getting everything they want. Here it sounds like the sorcerer is getting power and the dead king is getting life back – so who is losing in their particular bargain? has a price, and someone has to pay.

Agmund’s father pays with his life If the king’s death is part of the bargain, the phrasing isn’t quite working for me here. It doesn’t cost the sorcerer anything for the king to die, throwing the kingdom into turmoil. A despised uncle why not our prince? is crowned King Regent, but the sorcerer pulls his strings. Promotion of Ordinals to preferred citizen(s) leads to nightly roundups and unexplained disappearances of anyone “different.” Otherkins must pretend to be Ordinal or cease to exist. This is a cool twist, I like it.

Agmund’s rebuttals are feeble. He looks forward to the day he replaces his uncle on the throne, but getting there and living is another matter. Aha – here we come back to our prince. He really hasn’t been in the query for a few paragraphs. 

I think in order for this to work you need to explain why the uncle takes Agmund’s place. Also what’s the connection between the uncle and the sorcerer? The uncle comes out of left field and is suddenly in charge, with the sorcerer pulling the strings. Who is in charge? And why is Agmund’s life in danger? Because he is arguing? What’s his relationship with his uncle? With the sorcerer?

Keep your MC as the main focus, and pare down. I need you to add some elements and this query is already bordering on too long. A good goal for a query is around 300 words. There’s plenty of room here for pruning, which will leave spaces for the elements I think are missing. Look hard at *every* word and see if you can’t rephrase more simply.

2 thoughts on “The Saturday Slash

  1. Ok, your “hatchet of death” scared me at first, but I survived! I knew the middle of the query got sort of muddled so I appreciate your thoughts on how to fix it. Thanks for all your help!

  2. Hi Susan – not a problem! You've got a an interesting premise here, just get those salient points clear and weed out those little words you don't need. Economical phrasing can save a query!

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