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.

Only one person knew Chloe was gay, and his one thing I’d consider is changing the possessive pronoun here to “their” for flow – we get the gender of the person in question at the end of the sentence. love and support disappeared when he hung himself. Great hook, I’m totally there.

Eighteen-year-old I think you can drop the age tag b/c of the college reference, although it’s not hurting to have it there if you want it. Chloe continues to hide her sexuality her first year at college, afraid it may affect her friendships and jeopardize her mother’s job. Curious as to why it would jeopardize her mother’s job? Unable to deal with the loss of her brother Brock, she tells nobody of his suicide. There’s a bit of mash up going on here – we start with the idea of her being at college and how it will affect friendships, as well as mom’s job, which kind of implies mom might work at the school. And why would Chloe tell people about her brother’s suicide anyway? It’s not great ice-breaker material. I would instead tie into the idea of his suicide being internalized *along with* hiding her sexuality. It’ll make for smoother transitions.

Chloe is stunned to learn her crush, and graduate teaching assistant I think you can safely use the shorter version – TA. Most people know the term, and it’s a mouthful spelled out. Sasha, knew Brock. As their relationship deepens, Sasha reveals the reason behind Brock’s suicide, that he was sexually abused as a child. Well shit. This book is chock full of issues (and I mean that in a good way). Chloe refuses to believe it, until she reads Brock’s journals. But even they don’t explain what pushed him over the edge. I would take away this last line here – it kind of turns the focus off of Chloe’s self-acceptance and into her searching for his reasons. Unless of course that *is* a major focus in the book and if that’s the case it needs to be clarified.

She continues to lead a double life, ignoring that her own secrets are hurting the ones she loves most. Her girlfriend Sasha, whom she keeps hidden. So Sasha is gay? I wasn’t getting that earlier. And Murphy—the boy she’s pretending to date who is becoming her best friend yet doesn’t know she is gay. Hmmm … I’m not sure you need this para at all. It’s lending word count to an already lengthy query, and isn’t informing us on major plot points. OK Chloe is with Sasha, Sasha is gay, Chloe is continuing to pretend… but we got all that already (minus Sasha is gay, which doesn’t seem important enough to mention in a query).

After finding Brock’s last journal, she is consumed with his plan to take revenge on his molester. As in what? She’s going to do it herself? But Chloe’s obsession comes at a cost, What’s that? and she might have to give up everything she’s ever wanted, her girlfriend, her best friend, and her sanity, in order to discover Brock’s final secret. A HA – OK so the focus of the book *is* a combined self-discovery along with the need to know what made her brother kill himself. This definitely needs to be clarified sooner. 

There’s definitely a dual-focus here – Chloe’s sexuality and Brock’s motivations. While your hook is awesome, it conveys more of a “I’m gay and ashamed” feel and the sinker says “I need to know why he did that, no matter what.” Get that second aspect out there sooner. A simple “and she’ll never know why” (or something better than that) tacked onto the end of the hook will clear the waters considerably, IMO.

The Proper Way to Say Goodbye is contemporary young adult novel complete at 72,000 words.

This is a well-written query for what sounds like a fantastic story. I would totally request this if I were an agent. Also I LOVE the title. And I don’t love much.


4 thoughts on “The Saturday Slash

  1. From what I understand, any time the MC is already in college, it's no longer considered Young Adult. Summer after high school, before college, seems to be the limit.

    But I'd definitely be interested in reading it!


  2. Jaye – Yeah, I think this is where the hazy line of “New Adult” comes into play, but I'm not sure that a lot of agents are swallowing that yet. I think it's possible it could still make the YA cut… maybe if the MC were auditing some college classes instead? Yes, the age does bring up some issues within genre, but you're right – the plot sounds great!

    Suzi – It looks great! I think you'll be ready to be shooting out those queries in Oct, for sure.


  3. Yeah, I'm well aware of the issue and New Adult–which I want to stay away from sinced most agents don't believe in it. There are some YA books with college protags, so I'm gonna stick with it.

    I've analyzed (pulled my hair out)the whole change her to high school issue, just as you suggested, and for now, I want to leave it. Down the road, we'll see, but this is the story I wrote and love it this way. It may lessen my chances, but so be it. 🙂

    Thanks again for the help.


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