The Saturday Slash

Axe2 clip artMeet my Hatchet of Death. 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 me an email.

The first line of a query is your hook, and it really needs to work. You want it to punch your reader 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 intimidated by my blade, 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.

Highway robbery is hard. Hard how? Difficult or dangerous? Or hard because the character has a moral struggle with it? Be more specific and find a more dynamic word for your hook. But when you’re born illegally like Shaina and Amsel, stealing from your Edenite overlords is the only way to survive.

With Shaina’s swordplay and Amsel’s smarts, the adopted so they have parents? siblings have carved out a life in the deserts of what was once New Mexico. But during a routine hold-up, Shaina’s daredevilry and Amsel’s curiosity lead them into an Edenite facility where they discover — and steal — the key to a reality-warping power called gnosis.

Armed with this new weapon, a budding insurrection invites the thieves into its ranks. Shaina joins eagerly, hungering for bloody revenge against the Edenite marquis who murdered her family. Which family? Biological or adopted? Amsel joins reluctantly, dreaming of building a peaceful world where common people can live as equals with the Edenites and not as enemies.

But gnosis is not simply a weapon, and the wielder can’t choose the type of power they hold. Hotheaded Shaina is kept from the battlefield when she manifests the power to close wounds and grow plants, naming her the avatar of a rain goddess she doesn’t believe in. And peace-loving Amsel gains the deadliest gnosis ever seen: Deletion. What does it do? We need to know more, especially since it’s the title of the work.

Both reject their unique abilities, seeing them as curses. But allies and enemies alike seek to use the pair as pawns in a greater game. If the siblings can outplay these chessmasters, they will reshape their world from the atoms up. If they fail, they will become tools of destruction and propaganda, doomed to help their world burn.

Complete at 129,000 words, hello, long ass book! Notes on word count below. DELETER is a futuristic fantasy novel dealing with themes of power, sexuality, and gender. Really? Because I don’t see sexuality reflected in this query. This standalone novel has two planned sequels. If it can stand alone, I’d leave it at that. 

Word count – you’ve got a problem. Fantasy gets more room than other genres for world building when it comes to word count, but you’re still over the top. As a debut, you need to clock in under 100k, no doubt, and I’d push closer to 85k, if at all possible. And honestly, it probably is. Very, very few books actually need to be 129k words.

The query itself is fairly strong, other than my comments above, but it’s so focused on these two characters that I have no idea if there are any supporting characters or not – other than hazily defined good guys and bad guys

And that’s not going to cut it. Every book has good guys and bad guys. Rebelling against the power holders isn’t unique either. What about this plot is different and special, and why do they want to revolt against them anyway? Why are they bad?

You say they’ll have the chance to rebuild their world from the atoms up – what does that mean? Or become tools of destruction and propaganda – what does that mean? 

The writing here is strong, and you might get some nibbles with this query (if you get the word count down) but I’d suggest more specifics to really garner interest.

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