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.
Eloise Assad doesn’t think anyone would make the mistake of calling her lucky. Lucky people have families, living bodies, and souls. Eloise sleeps in a grave and works for her sworn enemies: the mages who stake the undead. Unless luck plays a real part in the plot or theme of the book, I wouldn’t use it in a hook. Also why would she be working for her enemies?
The mages know Eloise is a vampire, but to almost everyone else, she uses glamour to pose as a witch. So that’s better in this society? Her secret keeps her alive in southwest Colorado, where climate change refugees have overwhelmed the town of Senna. With thousands of people on the move, there’s no shortage of evil magicians and monsters swarming to Senna to take advantage of them: vampires, sorcerers, shapeshifting mavens, doppelgangers, wraiths and ghouls. Eloise and the mages protect the defenseless from harm. So it’s post-apocalyptic and fantasy? It sounds here like all of these supernatural creatures are part of daily life now. It might take some explaining within the query. Did they just show up along with the climate change to terrorize people? Or is this like an alternate earth where the creatures were always there in the first place?
But a terrible enemy Human? Supernatural? has infiltrated headquarters, and discovered Eloise and her secrets – including the fact that Eloise is in love with a mage. A love that’s forbidden within the strict laws of magic. She doesn’t realize her unrequited feelings are a perfect tool to destroy her as well as the man she loves. Still not understanding the dynamic of Eloise working for her sworn enemies in the first place. I assumed it was a slave / forced indenture sort of thing but it’s not reading that way.
Eloise is now the target of a powerful sorceress, an ancient priestess in control of a coven of vampires. They’ve found a way to annihilate all the mages, starting with everyone in Senna.
As Eloise and her teammates fight for their lives, Eloise must confront nightmares and secrets, terror and lies, her forbidden love and her greatest fear, as she tries to outwit an enemy who is always three steps ahead—only to find herself caught in one final trap. In a vampire temple full of snakes and human bones, Eloise has to face the hard truth that she will never save the people she loves unless the most ruthless vampire in the room is herself. So is that a problem for her? Does she hate what she is?
We need to know a lot more about our MC’s feelings – not just the romance. Does she hate being a vampire? Why is she working for the mages? What does “working for them” entail? Do the mages only go after vampires? If she’s using her glamour to pretend to be a witch, then being a witch must be okay… but being any number of other things isn’t? The world building needs a better explanation within the query in order for this to come together.