The Saturday Slash

Meet my 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!

Chloe Olivetti was just weeks away from her 18th birthday when she was struck by lightning on a clear summer day. Now her whole world has turned upside down. She has developed strange new powers – enhanced vision, the ability to move instantly through space and time, even astral projection. But as her powers grow, so do her problems. This is a pretty great hook. I think one of the most interesting points is right there in your first sentence – she was struck by lightning on a clear day? Hmm… that definitely raises all kinds of questions. Good job on the first para.

The lightning was actually an Army experiment gone wrong, an experiment echo here with “experiment,” you can easily rephrase to eliminate it run by Colonel Rafael Garcia – why I think you mean “who” just I’m noticing you like to use “just,” which technically is perfectly fine, but if you re-read most sentences w/out that word included, they still make sense. It’s filler happens to be the father of Chloe’s girlfriend, Vanessa.

Now Col. Garcia wants Chloe so he can study her, and he’ll stop at nothing to get what he wants, even if it means kidnapping Chloe, her family, and his own daughter, whom he despises because of her romantic relationship with Chloe. But does he despise Chloe as well? If he has a problem with homosexuality I’d think it’d be reflected onto both of them.

But Chloe’s abilities are still growing, still echo with “still” which again, technically is not a bad thing, but it does show a tendency to overuse unnecessary words and might make an agent wonder if you do this in the ms as well. I’d rephrase to eliminate changing, and Awkward here, I’d start a new sentence she escapes from Garcia’s from Garcia’s what? Army base? home? BBQ tent?, taking Vanessa and her family with her. Except their problems don’t end there. They’re on the run now, with no money and no place to go. So Chloe tries a desperate move, sending herself back in time so that she never got hit by the lightning. Everything goes wrong, however, and instead of returning her world to normal, she ends up injured and lost in a limbo where she can only watch as Garcia’s men kill her parents and Vanessa. While this is all compelling and well-written, it’s reading more like a synopsis than a query at this point, especially when you take the next para into consideration. Skip the details, focus on the idea that her family and Vanessa are killed, and she has the option of going back in time to fix that but at the expense of super-Army at Garcia’s command.

Chloe recovers from her injuries, only now she’s faced with a desperate echo with “desperate” from above para choice: save her family and Vanessa why not try “those she loves” instead of the echo again of family and Vanessa? by moving them all through time to a place where they’ll be safe but Garcia will have created an Army of super-powered soldiers to take over the country, or risk all their lives by going back in time once more and destroying the experiment and killing Vanessa’s father. Very long run on sentence here. Give each of these bad options their own sentence. 

Lightning From A Clear Sky is more than just a science fiction-adventure story, it is the story of a young girl forced to become a woman under the worst circumstances, a girl who finds out life is more than just clubs and school and going to the mall, and there are worse things than being made fun of by classmates or having to come out to your parents who can’t understand your life choices.
As Chloe would say, the whole thing majorly sucks to the extreme. I like this para, as you’re showing how the story has depth as well as adventure, I’d cut the last line, however. 

Overall this is a strong query for what sounds like an original story. You do slip into synopsis mode in the middle, and you need to cut down on the word count – but fixing the first will address the second. Make sure you’re conveying the *idea* of the story, not the story itself in the query. You mostly did that very well right up until the last two paras. Boil down and rephrase, cut out your echoes (there are a few) and watch out for “just” – it’s a killer.


4 thoughts on “The Saturday Slash

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