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.

Gerald Norman’s mantra is simple — avoid life, and everything that goes with it. He spent his entire life happily waiting to die, and on his eighty-seventh birthday he did. Which is the same day he was rudely reawakened from death by two complete strangers who, most annoyingly, informed him that he was not supposed to be awake. So far so good – I’m intrigued!

Befuddled, Gerald is shuffled off to start again in a world completely different from his previous.  Awkward sentence structure. Fitted down to his duties what are those duties? of contributing to the ghostly world, Gerald begins to understand that his mantra is superfluous in death. You’ve got a lot of higher functioning vocabulary at work here in this query, yet it’s supposed to be an MG novel. Make sure the voice and wording of the query is similar to that in the ms.

Like a rock concealing maggots, whispers of a notorious ghost’s return has overturned the seedy underbelly of the ghostly world. Why is this ghost notorious, and what about his return brings out the seediness? Horrified, Gerald finds himself thrust into a purpose he would rather avoid when confronted with the face of the vicious ghost. What purpose is that? Should he tell the others that his face is the reflected face of his youth, or is the secret better left hidden behind wrinkles?

Unfortunately, for Gerald, it takes more than death to escape limbo Is that where he is?, and two that are alike to raise the dead. I’m not really getting what the problem is here though – there’s a bad ghost, that is / or has the face of / Gerald’s youth… and that’s a bad thing, but is he trying to defeat this ghost, or help it? Does he want to escape limbo? Is that a reward?

The Land Between is a juvenile-fiction novel and is complete at 70,000 words. It has the shocking horror of Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, and humor of Casper the Friendly Ghost. Chapters or a synopsis are available on request. I teach my target audience, fifth grade to be exact, and use them shamelessly as lab rats for my writing.  Hmmm….. I’m really not sure about the MC of an MG novel being the ghost of an 87 year old man. MG typically has tween protagonists.