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.

Sixteen-year-old Leah Woodlake gets sweaty palms and her stomach flips whenever she sees her classmate, Olivia. At first, she tries to tell herself that the bubbly feeling in her body is nerves. Olivia is a confident, pretty math whiz, so of course she’d make Leah nervous. Not sure how that translates into making someone nervous? Jealous, maybe. But when Leah notices how Olivia smells like strawberries and wonders how soft her lips are, Leah realizes her feelings are something she is too afraid to name. Doing so would surely upset her conservative father and just thinking about being gay terrifies Leah.

The only person Leah can turn to is her sister, twenty-seven-year-old Brooke. Leah doesn’t have any friends? Or are they all of the same conservative cloth as her father? Leah is hesitant to turn to her repeated phrase at first, considering Brooke’s history of drug use when things get stressful. Yet, Brooke showers Leah with the support she needs to admit her feelings to Olivia. Brooke talks to Dad on Leah’s behalf, but the conversation backfires. Dad admits he blames Brooke for Mom’s death years ago This feels like a curve ball – how would Brooke be responsible for their mother’s death? and refuses to accept Leah’s sexuality. The guilt over Mom’s death and failing to help Leah sends Brooke voraciously back to her pills. I feel like the character focus is shifting here – we start out with a hook that features Leah, a teenager questioning her sexuality, and now we’re looking at Brooke, and adult with a pill problem. 

Brooke struggles to keep herself together, if only for Leah’s sake. However, there is no more hiding the truth when Leah and Olivia So are they a couple? make a surprise trip to Brooke’s apartment, and find Brooke unconscious on the bathroom floor. Leah must stand up for the sister she admires and the girl she loves, or lose them both. The focus shifted again here – this para started out focused on Brooke then shifted back to Leah. 

All The Signs We Missed is Young Adult Contemporary at 71,000 words. It is told from Leah and Brooke’s point of view. I have been published in several literary magazines, including Moon Magazine, ALiteration, Mauvaise Graine, Beyond Imagination, FiftyWordStories and more. Thank you for your time and consideration. Good bio!

I’m not sure if you’ll be able to sell a YA title with a split POV where one of the characters is twenty-seven years old. You can definitely try, but I can see it being a turn off for agents.