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.
Elliott Waverly is thrown into a world that shouldn’t exist; a world with supernatural weapons, angel feathers, and what seems like everybody out to get her. This is awkward phrasing her in the last part of the sentence. Also any kind of paranormal is hard to pitch without a really, really fresh angle. Right now your hook doesn’t have anything fresh about it – just people and supernaturals co-existing. Everyone she thought she knew, even her parents, have lied to her. About what? The only person that seems to be real is Joel, an angel warrior sworn to protect her, but nothing can ever happen between them; it is strictly forbidden. Why? Elliott was soon to discover she was not the ordinary girl she thought she was. Why is this last sentence in past tense?
Seventeen-year-old Elliott Waverly just wants to forget the past and the three bullets who ruined her life. This phrase sounds like another opener. This is a first paragraph sentence. That being said, it’s a stronger hook with the bullets, however it has no paranormal elements. She wants to forget her parents were taken away from her, killed by a man in a mask. Every time she comes home she’s reminded that the man she was left to, a distant cousin who’s always drunk, will never replace her parents. So she hides away in books leaving real life to others. When she comes home one night, she finds her cousin drunk just like he always is, and his hurtful words really push her over the edge. This is becoming a step-by-step walk through that feels more like a synopsis than a query. Elliott finds herself in the middle of nowhere broken down, alone, on the side of the road with no hope in sight. That’s when a mysterious boy named Joel enters her life and changes everything. Yes, this definitely feels like two opening paragraphs that have such a different feel about them that they could be for two completely different books.
Her cousin is unexpectedly murdered, just like her parents, by mysterious entities. Just as her demise is emanate imminent , Joel steps out of the darkness to save her. It has always been Joel’s mission to deliver Elliott safely to the Elders. Nothing in Elliott’s world will ever be the same.
Complete with 60,000 words, ANGEL WITH A SHOTGUN is a young adult science fiction novel that will draw readers in and make them beg for more as they turn the last page.
A lot of things — first of all — it’s not science fiction, it’s urban fantasy or straight up paranormal.
You really need to clarify your plot. Right now all I see is that there’s a girl with parents who lied to her about something (no idea what) and have been mysteriously murdered (no idea why) by a bad guy (no idea who). And then a cute angel boy who she can’t be with shows up to protect her from… something.
This could be the plot of hundreds of paranormals — why is it different from them? What makes your book better than or distinct from the hundreds of books exactly like this that already exist and the hundreds that are trying to get published? Figure out what makes it pop and get that in the query.