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.

An electronic device was implanted into Grey Wayward’s brain when she was three-years-old. It was programmed with two tasks: Modify her DNA to add gills so she can blend in with the Tridens on their tiny planet, and send a signal that allows everything she sees and says to be monitored light years away on Earth. Transforming her into an unknowing spy. Great hook – you’ve done a good job of setting up genre and giving plot hints while providing an engaging first line. The one thing I’ll say is that you’ve got an incomplete sentence dangling there at the end.

Abandoned on Triden, Grey was adopted by a loving family and raised unaware of her origin. When Earth suddenly appears in the sky Hmm… how would Earth suddenly appear? and a security checkpoint is set up outside her small town, sixteen-year-old Grey gets an unusual reading on the scanner and is sent running as in she runs away b/c she’s in danger b/c of the reading? Or like they actually send her to discover things? to discover who she really is and how she got the scars that have always marked her as different.

Eighteen-year-old, witty and fierce human, Rebel, finds Grey and informs her there are two different groups of Humans on Triden. The Patriots who are planning to kill the Tridens and take the planet for themselves and the Resistance who are working with some of the Tridens to bring a peaceful union to both species. Rebel claims Grey’s parents are working with the Resistance, but admits that she knows nothing about Grey’s origin.

Before Grey can decide if she trusts Rebel she’s captured by Triden soldiers, including the first-born-prince-of-Triden, Easton Phillips. The journey across the planet to have her origin tested takes several weeks. Along the way, she needs to decipher the cryptic messages left by her mom and decide who she’s loyal to. Meanwhile, she must navigate her conflicting emotions toward Easton, who has just-enough-tragic-baggage to allow Grey to fall for him despite his faults. (The love of Easton’s life was murdered, leaving him bent on revenge.) I’d axe the parenthetical here. We don’t need to know the origin of his baggage.

The only advantage the Tridens have over the Humans is their gills. Why is this an advantage? Are battles waged underwater?  Grey’s origin test proves she’s human, making her the ultimate threat. Unclear on why her shared parentage would make her the ultimate threat? Easton will do anything to protect her from the leaders of Triden, including selling his birthright in exchange for her safe passage to Earth.

This is a pretty good query, with the exceptions pointed out above. We need to know why having gills is an advantage, and why it makes her a threat. Also – why wouldn’t the people who placed her there in the first place be reclaiming her now that they’ve come to the planet? It seems like they could gather more information from her as an implanted spy. 

OXYGEN is a 63,000 word YA science fiction/romance novel and the first in a planned trilogy. You would definitely improve your chances here by stating that it could standalone but has series potential — only if that’s actually true though. I am a thirty-seven-year-old mother of two girls from Shelby Twp. Mi. with no previous publications. Don’t worry about a bio since you don’t have any publishing credits of a bio that ties in with your subject matter — not having a bio won’t hurt you.

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