Meet 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.
An ambush. We don’t have any context for this, so immediately I’m thinking a wild west scenario, which is inaccurate. I’d cut the opening line. When Dad insists Maggie meet him at the house the house… is it her former home? Using a non-specific makes me wonder if this is abandoned or… what? she hasn’t set foot into in a year, she knows she’s walking into an ambush. Whether it’s to reconcile her with her narcissistic devil of a mother or to make Maggie go back for a few weeks to the job that has made her miserable, she doesn’t care. If she hasn’t set foot there for a year, has she been out of town for that long? Why would her parents want her at an old job? Is it a family business? Not as long as she gets the funds for the short film that could jumpstart her career as a director. But what connection does this trip home have to this funding?
The movie gets her talent noticed by a producer…and Mike Gennaro. An A-list actor and her best friend. But if he’s her best friend then he’s certainly noticed her before, he’s just suddenly interested. There’s a difference. She’s had a crush on him for years, but she knows better than to act upon her feelings. Her mother is his agent, and she’s spent a lifetime convincing Maggie she’s not good enough for him or Hollywood.
When Mike asks her to direct his new production company’s debut movie—one her mother hasn’t brought him—and Maggie discovers her crush isn’t one-sided, the devil in full makeup doesn’t let them be. The reference to mother as a devil earlier was too long ago for me to realize this indicated her mother. Jealous of Mike’s relationship with her daughter and determined to regain control over her golden goose, she plots to get Maggie fired from the studio. And just in case that doesn’t work, she’s prepared to use her trump card: a secret she shares with Mike that when revealed may cost Maggie the mental wellness she’s been struggling to achieve. Maggie must find the strength to fight back for her dream job and the only man who can make her happy. But first she must choose to live.
THE MOST BEAUTIFUL EVERYTHING is a 94,000 word women’s fiction. While it’s a standalone novel, it has series potential.
Make sure that you explain yourself about that first para. You mention an ambush, that she hasn’t been home, that she needs funding… and we never find out what connects all those things. Just that she gets the funding and then the plot starts. The first para has almost no connectivity to the rest of the query.
Also, if you have any experience at all in the film-making industry, or even just more than average knowledge of it, mention that in a bio.