The Saturday 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.

Syra made a mistake. She saved the life of a human. This is a decent hook. I’m curious as to why saving a life is a mistake, and what Syra is, if not human. It could be stronger though.

For thousands of years, humans have hunted Natura, Syra’s kind. Now, two hundred years after the Earth woke and destroyed modern civilization, the humans blame Natura for the destruction. Lots of confusion here. For one thing, there’s an echo of “years” and referencing a timeline that isn’t necessarily highly important to the plot line, while at the same time leading to the reader having to untangle the sentence. Also how did the Earth wake? What does that mean? Why would humans blame Natura? Is this when Natura showed up for the first time? What’s the connection?

Ever since humans and Natura have only interacted in one way—kill or be killed.

Syra never even met a human until two years ago another timeline reference that isn’t necessarily important to the plot line, when her guardian, Orland, moved her tribe into one of their survival camps. Whose survival camp? Natura or human? To stay alive, Syra must pretend she is what she hates—human.

After accepting an apprenticeship with the camp’s medic, Syra finds herself saving more than just the one human life—instead she saves three. So your hook indicates that one life in particular is relative to the plot, but we don’t know who or why.

And each time Syra saves a human, she finds herself questioning what she’s been raised to believe.

When Orland puts his plan to destroy the camp in motion, Syra doesn’t know what to do. If she stands aside, the humans hunting her will die. Her family will be safe, but her friend, held captive by the humans, won’t make it. What friend? What humans are holding this friend? And neither will the innocent humans of the camp, simply trying to survive. So the humans in the camp are innocent, but there are other humans that aren’t so nice who are holding her friend?

Lots of questions raised here. You need to get the details into this query in order to make it stand out in a crowded SF/F genre. Ask yourself what makes this book different from the thousands already out there, and the hundreds of queries in the inbox that morning.