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.
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!
All her life, Kathryn has been second best in everyone’s eyes but her own. Her younger sister, you see, I’d take this out, it’s adding to your word count and not necessary. is the image of perfection: beautiful and charming, sweet and well-behaved. Everyone wonders: why can’t Kathryn be like Blanche? Well, same here with the unnecessary wording why would she want to be? Why shouldn’t she speak her mind? Why shouldn’t she call a man a fool if he is one? Oh yes, this shrew has her reasons.
Tradition requires an elder sister to marry before the younger, but no man wants to court Kathryn and risk a tongue-lashing… until Sir William arrives in town. For the first time, Kathryn’s supremacy in a battle of wits is challenged. He won’t even call her by her right name, for heaven’s sake, insisting that she is Kate from the very first. His courtship feels like farce – like some comic Romeo, he stages a midnight visit to her window that sets every dog in town howling – but Kathryn is reluctantly attracted to this handsome, clever knight. I like this para, it works for me.
Sold into marriage by a father who wants to be rid of her, Kathryn plunges into a chaotic new life. Though he claims he loves her, Sir William will not let her eat or sleep. He offers her a new gown to replace one wrecked by days of wear, then yanks it away. He shouts and curses, then cajoles and confides. His erratic behavior makes her worry that he is mad, or worse, that he is trying to drive her mad. Okay… that doesn’t sound so great. Definitely not a good situation.
For all these years, battled-scarred Kathryn’s sharp wits and clever words have been her defenses in her war against the world. She must fight to the end in order to learn that she doesn’t have to fight any longer: that she can give up her armor and still be safe. That she can have her Will does she seriously still want him? and keep her will. That she can let go of Kathryn and be Kate.
Um – the writing is fine here, but… do we actually want the female MC to end up with a male who won’t let her eat or sleep? I really don’t think that’s something a reader can get on board with- or an agent. If the male character goes through some kind of massive change of heart that needs to be addressed within the query so that it doesn’t look like the ms is promoting female oppression.