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 Selena Bennet’s life is ruined, again, hopefully there’s a reason for this “again.” Right now it reads as a slightly humorous bent when she is kidnapped and whisked away from her new her life was already new and she’s being whisked away again? life. Her kidnappers think her memory has been erased, and therefore their test has failed; if she doesn’t remember, it means they found the wrong girl. And that is exactly what Selena wants them to believe.

Wow. Okay, I’m confused. But I can see that this is probably the kind of plot that is by nature confusing, so I will give the query the benefit of the doubt and keep reading.

What nobody can know is that Selena remembers everything. She knows she’s back in Coronam, the magical universe she left behind when her palace was attacked eight years ago. She knows why she’s being hunted down. The only things she doesn’t know are what she spent the last eight years of her life pining to forget, including how to use her powerful magic.

Okay – this is the first indication that this is a fantasy. The opening query speaking of kidnapping and memory erasing made me think we were in a contemporary, or even a futuristic setting. But we’re not, we’re in a fantasy… or did we start in the contemporary world and then she’s taken back to her fantasy origin world? And, while Selena might know why she’s being hunted down and why her palace was attacked, the reader doesn’t. At this point we just know that we’re in a fantasy with a reluctant magic wielding MC who is in danger of some type – which could be any fantasy.

Desperate to keep her secret safe what’s her secret, that she is the right girl? Do they still think she’s the wrong girl? If so why would she be in danger?, Selena is thrown back into her dangerous world with hopes to still leave it. She doesn’t want to be there? But when she realizes that a lot has changed since she was still the princess, leaving may no longer be an option. The war has started, and this time, she will fight. Why? If she doesn’t want to be there and doesn’t want to use her magic?

Coronam’s Lost a YA fantasy completed at about 95,000 words. It’s perfect for readers who love strong female characters and political intrigue, and will appeal to fans of Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, The Young Elites by Marie Lu and Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi. I’ve spent two summers at the BIMA Arts program for creative writing at Brandies University.

To be honest, mostly I’m just confused right now. If the supposed memory loss (that is faked?) is a big enough plot point to be your hook, I don’t understand how it plays out through the rest of the plot. If she’s the magical princess (but doesn’t want to be either of those things) but is pretending to be the wrong girl, how does she end up back at her palace reassuming her role? 

Why did she want to leave in the first place? What is the role of the memory loss? What is her magical ability? Why was she kidnapped? Did she leave willingly or by force? Was she returned willingly or by force? What is her secret and why is she in danger? Who are the bad guys? What is this war about? Why has she changed her mind about fighting this time?

It sounds like your plot is pretty convoluted – and that’s fine, but it makes it difficult for the author to condense into a query because you intrinsically know all the answers to the questions above, and might see the answers in what you’ve written, even though you’re subconsciously answering them yourself. They’re not in the text.

The best way to clarify a query like this is to have multiple people who haven’t read your book (like me) take a look at the query. Anyone who has read it may also autofill the answers. Fresh eyes on this is will help point you in the right direction.