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.
Carla Dubrov has taken the lives of many immortals, but the one that will forever haunt her was given. Maybe insert “willingly” here?
Bad blood has always run between the Dubrovs and D’Carteys. The Dubrovs and their kind, the Shadows, feed on human misery. They can manipulate a human’s mind, forcing him use “them” assuming that they can also manipulate females to kill, or hurt himself themselves and others. The D’Carteys, and their kind, the Luminaries, have the power to soothe humans, heal their suffering, and it is their responsibility to make sure no innocent dies at the whims of their enemy. Is the Shadow power something that is specifically of use to the plot? Right now humans don’t come into this story at all, according to the query. Do their powers matter in terms of the query? Right now, they don’t – which means you can trim everything after “human misery.”
Despite the feud between their families, Carla falls in love with Anthony D’Cartey. When their love is discovered, her father condemns her to death, but Anthony gives his life to save her. His murder turns the smoldering feud into the war Carla’s father has long yearned for. Shattered by Anthony’s brutal execution, Carla’s grief turns her into the very killer her father wishes her to be; a killer he molds into his most lethal weapon. Great para here.
Carla barely escapes from under her father’s control, and manages to stay hidden for two hundred years. Okay, so that’s a really long time and it raises the question of how that’s handled in the plot in terms of pacing. Is it necessary for her to be gone that long? Are you just using a scene break and then saying Two Hundred Years Later…. But when she learns Anthony has a brother, Jason, she must resurface. Why? Her father wants nothing more than to bring D’Cartey to his knees by killing his second son as well. Now, Carla can finally honor Anthony’s sacrifice by saving his brother. But a sense of duty isn’t her only motivation. His kind, strong heart reminds her of Anthony,
and no matter how hard she fights against it, Carla starts falling in love with Jason. Her feelings for him fill her with guilt of betraying Anthony’s memory, but even so, they are impossible to stop. Honestly I’d slice a lot of this extra verbiage as obvious. You can simply say, she finds herself “struggling with her feelings.”
As her father’s assassins close in, Carla realizes she is the ultimate target. Her father used Jason to lure her out of her hiding and into his trap. If he kills Jason, her heart will be shredded again, and her grief will push her back into the darkness controlled by her father. He will use her against the very ones she’s trying to protect. Humans? Or D’Carteys?
But before facing her father, Carla must find a way to silence the dark voice inside her head. The voice that craves the same things as her father: death and destruction. Her Shadow’s voice. This is the first indication that she isn’t entirely against everything that her father stands for, the first indication of an internal struggle. If this is pervasive throughout the ms, it needs to be so in the query as well.
SHADES OF DARKNESS: THE LIGHT is a fantasy novel with series potential, complete at 83,000 words.
So, you’re calling it a fantasy but it sounds more like urban fantasy. You mention humans, but I have no feel for setting. Is this on Earth? Is this high fantasy, but there are regular humans present? You’ll need to clarify the genre and setting.