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.
Kesh had never encountered death before the day everything changed. Hmmm…. this might be a little too vague to be a really gripping hook. A lot of people never encounter death, so it’s kind of meh.
After that, it greeted him when his entire family was either kidnapped or killed. Yeah, I think you need to get this into the hook so that the stakes are clear and not vague. Why was his family taken? It stared him in the eyes when he became the commander of an army. It matched him stride for stride when he marched that army into the city that held the remnants of his shattered life. I like the phrasing here, but I feel like I have no idea what’s going on. Was Kesh a child when he lost his family? Is he leading an army as an adult? what kind of army? And why is he marching it into a city? Who are they fighting? What kind of city? Is this sci-fi or fantasy?
Despite having his world wrenched out of his hands, Kesh desires to stand up to the trials before him. He rescues his younger brother Noren, from what / who? but that only marks the beginning of the battle to come. To get his loved ones back, Kesh might have to give up control of his own fate.
Kesh must balance his need for family with his family’s need for a hero, lest everything he fights for be lost to the love of power and the claws of chance.
THE RISE is complete at 70,000 words. It is the first in a planned fantasy series, including the titles THE KING and THE FALL. It is my debut novel. The debut part is assumed, so no need to clarify. Also, querying a series is always tricky. You”ll want to try to make this first novel be capable of standing alone with series potential.
Overall this query is very, very vague. I know there’s a city, an army leader marching into it who doesn’t have a family… and that’s about it. This could be the Civil War, present-day Syria, set on another planet or a peasant uprising in Medieval England. You need to be clear about the setting, beyond the statement at the end that it is a fantasy, and also definitely more details. Fighting hazy bad guys isn’t compelling. They might be fleshed out in the novel, but the query isn’t portraying that. And why was his family captured in the first place? There are a lot of questions here that you’ll need to answer in order to make your query less generic – good luck!