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.
London, 1867. Wayward Collins is anonymous. In the hidden magical communities of the city, a man without magic is expendable, and Wayward will do anything to remain hidden. Not a bad hook, but I think you could easily blend all three of this first sentences together to reduce the choppy quality – “… magical communities of 1867 London…. Wayward Collins will do anything to remain anonymous.” But a miscalculation one night has tragic consequences, and he is trapped into the service of the wizard Lord Cadogan.
Rich, powerful and well bred, Cadogan is everything Wayward despises, and he immediately starts planning his escape. But when one of Cadogan’s footmen is murdered by magical means, Wayward is reluctantly dragged into the ensuing investigation. I think I need to know more about motivation here – if Wayward’s only goal is escape, how can he be “dragged’ into an investigation?
Cadogan doesn’t care that Wayward wants to stay hidden from magic users; he just wants to find the murderer. Why is Wayward the person to catch him? Wayward hates Cadogan from the top of his perfectly groomed head to the tips of his expensive shoes—there’s no way he’s going to co-operate. But Cadogan isn’t asking nicely, and every step of the investigation stirs up further trouble. The dead footman had his own secrets, certain magical factions are suddenly interested in the whole affair, and one particular police inspector just won’t leave the matter alone. This is well written, but again why Wayward and what’s keeping him there?
Dogged by forces magical and mundane, Wayward is unwillingly entangled in the magic and power brewing in the heart of the city. After a lifetime of hiding, he’s attracting the attention of the most powerful magical force in the country. Even if he manages to escape Cadogan, he must play very carefully to ensure he doesn’t end up as a pawn in the magical plots he’s spent his whole life trying to avoid.
CHALK CIRCLES is a historical fantasy novel complete at 75,000 words. It is the first of a planned series, but will also work as a standalone novel.
This is well written and interesting, but the big question still stands – if all he wants to do is leave, why doesn’t he just do it already? It sounds like he has no loyalty to these people, so what’s his motivation to stay?