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.
Eighteen-year-old Dallas might be a girl, but she fails to understand most other girls: why they spend hours getting ready, why they actually want to wear dresses, and why they don’t mind perpetuating myths that girls are magical creatures who don’t abide by laws of biology. You’ll want to be careful with your wording. I don’t know that most girls do want those things, or fall into those categories. Sure, some… but not most. She’s especially mad that Valerie, the girl who everyone knows will be prom queen, claims girls don’t poop. Dallas might be a lesbian, but girls don’t have to be lesbians to realize Valerie’s version of femininity is a straight jacket, right? It’s also annoying that Dallas has an unexplainable crush on the not-gay-at-all Valerie, and that the two are in the running for the same college scholarship. It might be better to rephrase this a lot of this opening para little more succinctly – she has a love / hate relationship with Valerie, who represents everything Dallas isn’t, and they are in competition for a scholarship. Everything else here is a little overwritten for query purposes.
When Dallas’s English teacher says students can do social media activism projects in lieu of their senior papers, Dallas jumps for the chance to start vlogging. Her topic: girls should ditch the constraints of femininity and appropriate the subtle perks masculinity could offer them if they weren’t so keen on depriving themselves. The project title: #GirlsShitToo. You’ve really got to get #GirlsShitToo into your hook. It’s beautiful. Valerie is not a fan. And neither is Adree, another girl from Dallas’s English class who starts a counter project that accuses Dallas of unfairly condemning femininity and all that’s great about it. Nice! I like that you’re addressing the opposite argument, too. When their two projects turn into a vlog battle, they garner an audience far wider than their English class. Hello, unexpected online fame. The worst part: sometimes, Adree is right. In front of the whole Youtubeverse. Dallas wishes she could despise her, but she starts crushing on her, too. Oops. And their viewers, including Valerie, must sense it, because they start shipping “Dalladree,” and Valerie’s sudden interest in Dallas’s love life turns them into…good friends!?
When it seems like things couldn’t get more interesting, the high school principal, Mr. Runsberger, catches wind of Dallas’s project. Taking issue with the “vulgarity” of the title, he tells her she needs to terminate the whole thing or face expulsion. Her topic, he says, is “making a mountain out of a molehill,” and might damage her chances of winning the Hearst scholarship. Hello, self doubt. Once faced with a discrimination complaint and public accusations of sexism, Runsberger agrees to let Dallas continue the project with a different title…but it’s clear he’s pissed off and intends to find other ways to punish her before she graduates.
Again, more of a summation here would be great. She’s running into backlash in both her real life… and I think it’s safe to assume in her online life as well. Surely not everyone is on her side, especially if the two vlogs both have big followings. Summarize: Facing backlash in both her real and virtual lives, Dallas’ shot at the scholarship she’s gunning for is jeopardized. (See how concise that is?)
With everything that’s happened, Dallas isn’t even sure she should continue, wondering if opting for the senior paper will put an end to all the ridiculousness. But Dallas’s fans aren’t going to let her quit that easily. And the semester has been thrilling…but how will it conclude? Don’t end with a rhetorical, it’s a tease. Also, this last para needs to pull the other two vloggers back in, along with how their relationships have changed as a result of their vlog war, and if the other two play any part in her decision to continue or quit.
#GST (80,000 words) will appeal to readers who celebrate contemporary YA with diverse characters in progressive places (Upside of Unrequited); and with feminist themes, including explorations of identity (Girl Mans Up); and that illuminates how social media has become an inseverable part of many teens’ lives (Queens of Geek).
Great comp title. I highly suggest just titling this #GirlsShitToo, dropping the acronym. It’s attention getting, and titles always change through the course towards publication. Having such a working title won’t preclude you from publication. It could, in fact, get attention.
I have a Master’s in English Rhetoric and Composition and a desire to assist the movement to get more diverse books published and change the world along the way.
Please consider representing me! They know you want them to represent you. The please won’t help 🙂
Watch your echoes. I hi-lited them in blue. Overall, work on being more succinct. You’ve got a great premise here that I think could really take off, but you need to get more plot and less voice into this query.