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 this color. Because nobody liked the yellow 🙂
Fifteen-year-old Prince Alexander knows how to use a sword—using it against an enemy is another story.
He can fire an arrow into an apple from twenty feet away—as long as no one’s looking.
And he’s fawned over by all the single ladies of his kingdom—even though he just wants them to leave him alone. I like the setup you have there pro – con. I would take these three mini-hooks and push them altogether for a hook para. The white space makes it look like you’ve got three mini-hooks and you couldn’t decide which one to go with. There’s no reason why you can’t put them together to form a hook- para.
But when war threatens the Kingdom of Drakon and he falls in love with his commanding officer, Alex doesn’t know what to do. I’d use the same format as you were before with the dash here instead of starting the next sentence off with Especially because technically I’m not sure this next bit is a complete sentence as it stands. when he finds out he’s actually a girl. OK – now that’s pretty fascinating. From birth, his mother was forced to raise him as a boy because only a male can be an heir, and since he’s already got six older siblings—all girls—she had to make a choice. I’d cut some of this, it’s not terribly important that he has six older siblings and that they were all girls. The important thing here is that he needed to pretend to be a boy to inherit, so Mom made that call – gotcha. However – I think the much harder sell here is how the hell she managed to keep Alex so incredibly naive for so long. You’re going to have to show that is a believable plot point. Alex is more than a little peeved at his mom—she could’ve at least given him a hint!—but now he must make a choice: tell the people he’s a girl so he can be with the love of his life, or keep his family safe from prosecution. Err… more than prosecution, I would assume. He’ll lose the throne. Decisions, decisions.
I highlighted some of your text above in blue because I feel like the voice there is not in keeping with the rest of the query. It’s got a very ha-ha blasé touch to it, and that’s not how the rest of the query is reading. Everything else has a lot of angst and self-idenity issues, but these two lines are forcing an angle that I don’t think is necessarily working here.
Overall it’s an interesting concept that I really like, however I think you’ve really got to sell the idea that Alex could be that naive about sexuality and gender for that long. Also, I’m really curious about the other side of this love story – how does the commanding officer feel about all this? Does he know Alex is a girl? The main conflict here is kingdom & power vs. love…. so tell me more about the relationship and how it’s going to play out in terms of the story. Address those two elements and then I think you’re ready to query.