The Return of the 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.

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.

If you’re looking for query advice, but are slightly intimidated by my claws, blade, or just my rolling googly-eyes, check out the query critique boards over at AgentQueryConnect. This is where I got my start, with advice from people smarter than me. Don’t be afraid to ask for help with the most critical first step of your writing journey – the query. My comments appear in green.

A terrible past  has haunted a twenty-four year old young really confusing phrasing here – read it aloud to yourself. Old and young right next to each other doesn’t work, even if it is technically a correct statement lady named Alice Platinum for nearly six years, but when she moved far away from where? to shut away all the lies and gossips, her worst nightmare arose from the blue. A terrible past isn’t a great hook. Tons of novels start out with someone running from something in their past. What makes yours different? 

A horrifying death of a young go-go dancer was witnessed by Alice’s eyes awkward phrasing – what other body part would it be witnessed by? Also, the way this is phrased is very passive. If this death is really horrifying, we need active phrasing here, but the guy who killed her was no other than, you don’t need the comma Jason Hampton; a past high school rival. A rival of the victim, or of Alice’s? It’s hard to tell with the phrasing used here He had figured out who saw him, before everything becomes exposed he kidnapped Alice and kept her hostage for a month. With the past tense usage here it takes a lot of the drama and tension away Now to prevent her from exposing echo with “exposed” him, Alice was again the past tense pulls us out of any sense of urgency forced to join Jason on his dreadful mission what mission? So Alice is being taken with Jason somewhere against her will? without turning back. Not only is the truth of Jason’s deadly murder being exposed, but his luck and faith lies with Alice. Why would his luck and faith lie with her? It just sounds like she’s an unwilling prisoner? Why would he believe she was lucky, or have any faith in her in the first place?

While the whole world assumes she knows a top secret code; a seven letter word which would open a safe that contains one tiny piece of paper, Very confused as to what the code, the safe, and the paper has to do with anything – this seemed like a crime of passion witnessed by Alice, committed by a normal dude. Now it sounds like a spy novel? multiple criminals are after it, Why would they be after it? What’s in the safe? but one in particular is only after her; Mr. Stollen a massive criminal.

Now that her past stopped haunting her, Alice’s future lies under Jason’s hand. Alice tries to force her mind to trust him, Why would she trust him at all? She saw him murder someone and then he kidnapped her but all the evidence provided provided by who? proved her wrong Wrong about what? because she is afraid of— finding out the truth. While an ugly secret becomes exposed, not only about Stollen and Jason’s past rival, Past rival, as in an additional character? Or past “rivalry?” but about Alice’s disappearance Unsure which disappearance we’re talking about – the one where she was kidnapped by Jason? Or is there another one that we know nothing about? and taunting past. Why would her being kidnapped be taunting? Now to stop her past from taking over her future, Alice has to figure out what to do, all alone and to listen to all the unbarring truth which has to be revealed.

I have to admit to being really confused about the relationship between the two characters Alice and Jason. It sounds like she witnessed a murder, and is trying to get away from that, along with the memory of being kidnapped. Then suddenly there’s a safe, and multiple criminals, and she’s trying to make herself trust the guy who formally abducted her? I’m very confused about motivation and relationships on this one, as well as the linear plot.

You open with her moving far away to try to forget something traumatic, but then it sounds like she is still involved with Jason in some manner in the present tense. You’ll need to iron out these progression kinks and character motivations before querying agents.


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