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.
A vampire, a fae prince and a mutant werewolf enter the bar. You may know the joke. This is a really different approach to a hook, and I think I like it. That’s going to be highly subjective though.
But Claire doesn’t. Not when she travels through the States no one within the US calls it “the States.” If you’re sending to American agents you might want to rephrase with nothing but a suitcase
of clothes and the memories from Chicago haunting her steps. Then, circumstances lead her to take the job of a doorkeeper to a mansion outside a small town, somewhere between Virginia and North Carolina. Technically, there’s nothing between VA and NC so the mansion is either in one or the other.
And the mansion’s residents? There is Todd, the vampire who likes a good J.R. Ward book and marshmallows in his cup of blood. He likes to banter, a lot, with Elfas, the Fae Prince from the second floor who likes books by Karen Marie Moning and drinks lots of tea. Which comes from human waste. BLARGH. Holy crap I’m imagining his breath. Other than that, the literary allusions might be a little heavy here. Do all supernatural creatures read novels in their leisure time?
And there’s Jericho, the werewolf of the third floor who likes cooking and woodcarving. For him everything would be better if he wasn’t born in his wolf form and didn’t dread the moment the full moon touches him every month. Making a note here that this is the only creature for whom you have given an insight into their feelings rather than their preferred snack or reading material.
Claire also has to consider the cursed willow tree by the garden, as (and?) also the gargoyle named Fred who comes to life every night and guards the skies. Consider it in what way? She already took the job, right? The job couldn’t be worse, right?
Then a witch, named Mina appears, claiming that the curse around the house and the residents is failing. She is the only one who can save them and free them from the confines of the house. Or else, she’ll die losing her powers. Wait, I’m confused – the curse keeps them inside the house, so that sounds like a bad thing (curses generally are, right?) So if it’s failing, why do they need saved and freed? And I’m confused about the tie between her powers and the curse.
Claire will have to work along with three creatures of pop culture and myth, help the witch break the spell and stop her growing feelings for Jericho. When her past from Chicago catches up with her? Well, things will become complicated for everyone.
THE OUTCASTS is a stand-alone Young Adult, Paranormal Romance of 67.323 words. It will appeal to readers of Rachel Hawkins, Julie Kagawa and Claudia Gray.
I’m a graduate student of History and Archaeology and I have participated in short story contests hosted by REUTS Publications. Two of my short stories will be published in the forthcoming anthology “Not-So-Local Legends of Triumph & Terror” by the same Publishing House. The first trilogy I’ve written is also published on Tapas.
I have also been a blogger/reviewer since 2013 with wide reading range of almost all genres, so I have a great deal of knowledge of the Young Adult market. I live in Greece and write novels in the genres of sci-fi, paranormal, romance and fantasy. The full manuscript of THE OUTCASTS is available upon request.
Right now what this query is doing is giving us the setting, but not much else in terms of plot. You hint at the beginning and the end that Chicago and things that went on there are going to be an element, but I don’t know what happened there, or how it will tie into anything at all. Don’t be coy in the query – things need to be laid out here.
Also, you say right away that Claire doesn’t have a foot in the supernatural world, but she picks up this job and there’s no reference whatsoever about her feelings or reactions to this new world. Is she scared? Shocked? Intrigued? Is she staying only because she doesn’t have other options at first? It’s clear at the end that she’s all in – possibly for romantic reasons – but we need to know more about her initial reactions, and cause for remaining.