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.
It is the 24th century, and mankind is still shadowed by war. Decent hook. I don’t know what kind of war, or why, but it’s not a bad hook so it’s worthwhile to keep reading.
Thanks to the heroic actions of thirty-year-old Captain Connor Crichton, the space colonies were victorious in the war against the Alliance and Reform Federation, declaring their independence from Earth. The colonies now live free from the cruel discrimination of the Earth’s world powers who still battle for the remaining territories on Earth. Interesting, it has a Revolutionary War type feel, but in space.
Detecting a strange anomaly close to the border I definitely have to wonder how a space border works / what it is separating the colonies from Earth, Connor is sent to investigate what could be an oncoming attack on the colonies. What he finds is much worse. Suddenly I’d kill “suddenly” it’s implied by “ambushed” ambushed by an alien warship, Connor’s ship is sent crashing to Earth. His warnings of the approaching threat fall on deaf ears, and Connor can only watch as Earth is suddenly another use of “suddenly,” again, implied by “invaded” invaded by alien cybernetic organisms – Sentinels. The machines are perfect soldiers, overwhelming both the Alliance and Reform Federation. Question – here you make it sound like Alliance and Reform Federation are two separate things, whereas before I was reading them as a single entity with a long name. This raises confusion – are there two Earth based groups / entities? And what are their roles? How are they different? If this isn’t imperative to the plot, I’d consider only naming one for the purposes of the query.
When asked to become the voice asked by who? And why him? needed to unite the world powers of Earth and stop the Sentinels, Connor considers it a chance to use his cursed combat skills raises questions – “cursed” implies he doesn’t like his combat skills, why not? Also, if he’s being asked to be the “voice” it feels like a spokesperson role, but now his combat skills are key – explain. for good. But along the way, Connor makes a horrifying discovery, one that will make him question whether he’s a man – or a machine. There’s a tease here, and a query is not the place to do that. What’s the horrifying discovery?
A science fiction novel complete at 90,000 words, CYBER tells the story of a man who must decide whether to save the people that hated him, or leave them to their fate. And answer the riddle: What makes a machine, and what makes a man? Fantastic closer here. I like it. There are definitely some questions raised by the query, but overall it’s concise and well-written.