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.

Naima and Imogen have been best friends forever. Hmm… I feel like the hook needs some oomph. Imogen has always been the leader and Naima the follower, until their senior year of high school, when Imogen comes up with a plan that Naima just can’t follow. It’s a 9-step popularity plan (1. Get drunk at fair. 2. Get invited to parties. 3. Find boyfriends. 4. Trade up for better boyfriends.), and I’m curious what the next 5 steps are? Things are going well up until step 3. That’s when Naima falls for a pinball-playing, physics-loving supernerd, and the plan starts to feel like a straightjacket. Oh my gosh I personally love pinball. 

Naima gives in to pressure from Imogen and ditches the pinball- playing supernerd in favor of the popular guy Imogen wants her to date. But going out with a guy she doesn’t like (and feeling pressure to have sex with him) sends her spiraling out of control—soon she is skipping school and playing pinball all day at the mall. Confused here – if she’s dating the not super nerd, why is she playing pinball all day? Her parents finally realize she is in trouble and get her into rehab, where she has to learn to listen to her own advice and make her own way. Rehab for what? Pinball?

I have an MFA from the University of Montana and I’ve been published in Every Day Fiction. I am a member of SCBWI. I am currently seeking representation for my contemporary YA novel The Popularity Plan. The manuscript is 42,000 words.

Very cool that you have an MFA, good addition to the bio. However, your word count is a little on the low side. I don’t know that it’s something that will sink you, but it might raise questions as to whether the character building and plot are novel material. Here’s a good blog post from super agent Jennifer Laughran regarding word counts for picture books through YA.

Also, since you start with the intro regarding friendship, where does Imogen factor into Naima’s rehab? And what is she addicted to? What kind of person is Imogen? I get that she’s a leader, but is she a bad influence? Does Imogen need to be stronger against peer pressure, or does she need to divorce herself from a toxic person?

Answer these questions and I think you’ve got a good framework here!

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