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.

What if the best sea-navigator in the land is asked to do something impossible: find the gifted healer and Sea Queen, Rusalka, before illness and darkness purges the kingdom of Turkas? In general, you don’t want to open with hypothetical questions. This is even more true in fantasy where the “what if” doesn’t really mean anything to the reader. We don’t know the world, so therefore we don’t know how possible or impossible this task is. In EVREN, the first book of my fantasy trilogy, unfortunately, it’s difficult for a debut to get picked up on a trilogy these days. I highly suggest you find a way to make the first one a stand alone with series possibilities THE LOST SAGES, Evren Greenwood agrees to this dangerous and high-paying job, because this will pay for her wyvern flight across the seas. Again, it’s hard with fantasy to know why this matters. I don’t know what a wyvern flight is. This is her chance to finally escape the invisible pirate army – the Naja –  who want her dead. Okay, so there is a LOT of information here in your first para – is the best sea-navigator in the land Evren? So there’s an illness and darkness in the kingdom? Are they the same thing? And why are pirates (invisible ones?) after her?

When the Sun Goddess, Amataru, saves Evren from the Naja before she gets on the ship, what ship? Evren begins to realize that she is stepping into a complex web of mystery and darkness that is creeping across the land. don’t tell us about this complex web – show us. Before leaving, Amataru asks Evren to answer her call when the time comes.

Before she can leave Turkas and the Naja behind forever, but I thought the purpose was to find someone who can fix Turkas, right? Doesn’t that mean returning with them? Evren must face sea serpents, water nymphs that make the pirate crew different pirates than the Naja? nervous, and fend off growing feelings for the handsome and eccentric Captain Sa’av.

All the races – elves, sun sprites, water folk, and landwalkers –  must work together to fight the darkness what darkness? the illness? and reunite the Lost Sages: those prophesied to fight back when the moon is covered and the villain, the Star of Shadows returns. So is the Star of Shadows the one causing the illness / darkness?

Torn between the desire to win her freedom freedom from who / what? and engage in a quest much bigger than herself, Evren must decide what to do. Does she answer the call and discover the forgotten magical past within her so she’s magical?, or will she turn her heart on everyone she loves and leave behind Turkas and her Captain, forever? Also a bad idea to end with a rhetorical.

So, your basic problem is way, way too much info. I don’t understand the overall goal here – find Rusalka, or reunite the Lost Sages? You open with one, then lean towards another. I’m unclear on why pirates are after Evren in the first place, or what the Sun Goddess has to do with anything. It sounds like a fun adventure fantasy, but you’ve got to get only your most main points in here, otherwise you’ve got a mishmash of character names and plot goals, which will only make an agent think that the manuscript is the same way.

Winnow down to the main plot point or obstacle, use that as your hook. You’ve got too many character names in here, creating a soup that makes it hard for the reader to tease out what matters. You did a good job in the para with the love interest of mentioning subplots at a glance. Use that same approach Amatura and the Naja – no proper nouns – and get your major villain and obstacle out front and center.

I feel you here – fantasy queries are hard. You’ve got so much world-building, and you want to show it all. This isn’t the place – that’s what the synopsis is for.

2 thoughts on “The Saturday Slash

  1. Waaah thank you so much, Mindy!!! I am going back to the drawing board 😉 Lol. Queries are so difficult but your feedback has helped me. Thanks heaps!

    Loie <3

  2. You are welcome Loie – don't be discouraged. Fantasy queries are especially difficult. Remember to focus on your main plot. One trick some people use is to only allow to proper nouns in a query – so you can only name two characters. That can help you winnow things down, real fast!

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