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.
The Whale Dreamer is about Kelley you want to avoid making a statement like this, and put more finesse into getting the hook front and center. It’s the equivalent of a high schooler’s report starting with “My paper is going to be about…” a young girl who is called to by the whales to surface something they have been protecting since the beginning of time…the dream of the future. This is interesting, but pretty vague.
Morgaine, an elder blue whale, recognized you want to write the entire query in present tense that Kelley held a unique key to the universe, so on Kelley’s ninth birthday, Morgaine took her life. But when Kelley was resuscitated and began her second life, she discovered that she had become a passerby— a vortex that animals on their way to becoming extinct must pass through. That’s definitely interesting. Kelley’s home was taken over with apparitions of wild animals ranging from frogs to lions, and while this was thrilling to Kelley, it was terrifying for her parents and sister. I’m intrigued but I don’t understand why there are apparitions.
And then the whales started calling to Kelley “started” makes it sound like this is first contact, or the beginning of something, but this is the next phase, they showed up in her dreams , whenever she touched water, and even became visible in her school parking lot. How is this compelling when there are already apparitions taking over the house? Feels like a step backwards from tension rather than forward. The whales called because they wanted Kelley to join them in the ocean; but didn’t she already? Wasn’t it necessary for her to be in the water in the first place in order for Morgaine to kill her? because while on land she is a doorway to death, why would she be a doorway to death on land? in the ocean Kelley is the key to life in the universe. Why would this change if she’s in the water? With the help of a gaggle of scientists how does she met them? Why would they help her? , Kelley convinces her parents to let her enter the world of the ocean so she can save the whales and is initiated into the whale counsel and told her true purpose… not to save the whales, but life as we know it. And then in walks fifteen year old May, another passerby, who has been studying and learning the true craft of how to keep all of the wisdom and intelligence of the animals on earth before they are lost forever.
While it’s an interesting concept, the query is quite vague on how the magic system actually works here. You need to show that your world building can hold up for the duration of a novel.