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.

Elena Tarbon never dreamed she would become an Empress at twenty-six winters past, but neither had she imagined committing mass murder. Huh, okay I’m listening.

Fear grips the jeweler’s town as the advent of magic causes mysterious deaths. With nothing but gems crafted by her connecting the events, vengeful villagers blame Elena’s father, the mayor, for their misfortune Er…. why? If the gems that she makes are the only connection why isn’t she the one in the noose? and hang him. But when Elena discovers that she controls the magic in the gems, she unleashes her own brand of justice, banishing non-magic folk from the town. Standing as a messiah for unwitting nascent magicians this is a bit of a mouthful being persecuted throughout the land, she raises a magical city as their safe haven.

Her upstart rule draws the ire of nobles nobles from where? why do they care if it’s not their land? who send armies to crush her city. A war is stalled by the irresponsible prince confused. Stalling a war seems the opposite of irresponsible – what’s his motive? of the ruling regime, Fabius Throdden. Only he’s also the man who broke her heart ten years ago. However, Elena finds it hard to rebuff the ever-persistent and charming prince’s advances, especially when he claims he had no idea that she was even alive.

Accepting Fabius’ offer to run away and abandon their respective rules means getting her soul-mate back at the cost of deserting her people. Yet the only way she can defend them is to draw magic from gems buried so deep, it could literally shatter the land. Well… then it doesn’t seem that hard of a choice. Deserting her people sounds bad, but if the only way to defend them is to shatter the land anyway… then screw it. Let’s go, baby.

TIDES OF MAGIC is a 104,000 word epic fantasy told from multiple PoVs, tracing the journeys of a wayward prince, a megalomaniac sorceress, a turncoat bandit and an insanely righteous king-in-waiting in the wake of emergence of magic. Hmm… except right now the only people I have a clue about are the sorceress and either the king or the prince (not sure which is Fabius). If these characters have equally shared page time, we need to know something about all four of them in the query.

The hook is good, and you’ve got a lot of what you need here in terms of motivation, etc., but I feel like the world building could be a little more clear in terms of geography. How far away are these nobles that are attacking? Far? Close? It sounds like Fabius and Elena are totally hanging out all the time, so I’m guessing not far… but again it seems like something that needs clarified. Tiny additions like, “nearby” or “far away Ohio” clear this up easily.