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.
My name is_____ and I am seeking representation for my debut novel, The Last Child. I am interested in your strong editorial background, and your enthusiasm for rich stories such as __________ makes me think you would be a fantastic fit for my book. So, if you’re going to personalize a query it can be a good idea to open with why you’re querying that specific agent. It’s always been my theory that a great hook is going to beat personalization, and that this para can go last. Others may disagree with me – it’s strictly opinion.
In 1532, a young orphan’s desperate wish creates a world where children’s wishes come true. To remain there, however, imposes a terrible price… one the boy is willing to pay. And, I definitely think you have a great hook. Children’s wishes can come true? Cool. We definitely need to know what that price is by the end of the query though.
500 years later, the children of our world are disappearing at an alarming rate. Ten-year-old Danny Thompson isn’t truly scared until his mom goes missing. Alone, he finds himself teetering on the edge of a centuries-old mystery. He learns his mother has been kidnapped, taken to a dark and twisted world where only children can survive– and every moment there brings her closer to death. Again, very cool – however, we just went from being a medieval story to a Sci-Fi story. From 1532 to 2032. It raises questions of how much time we’re spending in each century, and how much world building is spend on each.
Danny must now place his trust in the Keepsakes, an underground resistance of militant stuffed animals devoted to returning missing children to their families. Wielding night-lights, blankets and other childhood trinkets, now transformed into extraordinary weapons, he dives into the world of monsters to rescue his mom and unlock the mystery at the heart of her disappearance. Honestly, I love this – but we just added a third dimension and world building – so we’ve got historical, futuristic, and now a fantasy dimension.
He desperately wants to find his mother, but the fiend who kidnapped her is desperate too, longing for a secret Danny’s mother alone possesses. With this knowledge, the tyrant’s godlike powers will become absolute, threatening not only Danny and his mom but every child on the face of the earth.
Cool. I like it a lot – but what’s the choice the original child had to face? And is he the tyrant in the fantasy world? These things need to be connected in order for a full circle plot to be obvious within the query.
THE LAST CHILD is an 117,000 word Portal Fantasy for middle readers, but will appeal to older readers as well. It is the first in a trilogy, and moved ahead of 4,000 other submissions before advancing to the second round of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest.
And this is where it gets tricky — 117k is way too long for an MG, and it’s too long for a debut, and it’s the first in a trilogy… ouch. Granted, you’ve got three different worlds to build, but you’re still draping a chain around your neck with that word count, with the added weight of a trilogy. If you can find any way at all to make this a stand alone – do it. Also, get this work count down.
You’ve got a fantastic query and premise here – don’t shoot yourself in the foot with the word count.