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!
In seventeen-year-old Casey Willow’s world, getting accepted to NYU is her biggest concern until terrorists execute a synchronized attack on America. This is a decent hook, but I question the use of the word “synchronized” – especially in light of the next line.
No one can predict where the next suicide bombing I feel like “synchronized” says that a bunch happen at once. If there’s a lot happening in order then I feel like it’s “organized” not synched will take place. Except Andrew Tate: Hamilton Prep’s richest and most sought after bad boy (okay, and he’s kind of good-looking, too I think the looks are implied, but the tone here is pretty light in comparison with the rest of the material). He seems to have all the answers, much to Casey’s annoyance. But when Andrew saves Casey from certain death at the hands of a terrorist, she wonders if maybe there’s more to him than just another spoiled, rich kid. Then, out of the blue, he asks her to leave New York with him because it’s the terrorists’ number one target. Oh, again here this is kind of a flippant “oh, yeah” add on that isn’t really working for me in terms of both the voice throughout the rest of the query and also the topic matter and the president is about to declare war on the Arabic Alliance, the countries responsible for the attacks, and announce a national draft (which Andrew has no intention of sticking around for.) Wow – lots of talking here in this sentence. Check out your “and-s” – find a better way to get all this information in here without making a run-on. Also the parenthetical needs to go. Against her better judgement, she agrees to go as long as they head to her grandparents’ farm in Wisconsin (Casey’s favorite place on earth). Here again you need a better way to get this information into the query rather than a choppy parenthetical add-on.
But leaving New York isn’t enough to keep trouble at bay. Casey can’t seem to stop her growing feelings for Andrew. Then a cyber attack leads to a national economic crisis. Desperation paves the way for an epidemic of violence. The final blow strikes in the form of a bioterrorist attack that leaves Casey’s grandfather dying of pneumonic plague. Wow – Ok so we’ve got bombing, cyber attacks, economic depression, complete breakdown of society and then a massive illness. Yes, while it’s entirely possible and “house of cards” style to have these things fall together, jamming them all into the query makes it sound like you’re just trying to jam as much action as possible into the book. Stick to what’s of the utmost importance plotwise for the query.
In order to save him, Casey must risk her own survival for her grandfather’s. How? And why? And what role does Andrew have in this?
You’ve got some good stuff here, but this query lacks focus. The first thing we hear about is how badly Casey wants to go to college, and then ka-poof, we don’t hear about this again. It’s part of your hook so I have to assume it comes up later. How does Casey actually feel about all these attacks? Is she scared? Is she angry? Is she resentful that she just lost her chance to go to college and have a normal life? All we know about her is that she thinks she might like Andrew, and that doesn’t exactly make her sound like a compelling heroine.
And my biggest question – how the heck does Andrew know when and where the terrorists are going to attack? Doesn’t this raise suspicions on Casey’s part? How does his knowledge play into the plot and and inform his character? Right now all he’s doing is swooping in an saving the MC, then sitting back to be liked once they get to the farm. Give me more about both these people, make them people within the query, not just plot pawns.