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.

 

If she could, seventeen-year-old Kit Miller would marry her best friend, Jane, in a heartbeat. But even if this weren’t an impossibility in sixteenth-century England, Jane is getting married, and Kit knows that Jane’s new husband will make Jane happier than she ever could. Some of the phrasing here is a bit contorted. Clean it up and make it a bit snappier – example, “There are many reasons Kit Miller can’t marry her best friend Jane…” then mention the time period and then something more simple like, “… and of course there is the fact that Jane is engaged to someone else.”

On their wedding night, as Kit tries to accept because of the phrasing here, it sounds like it’s Kit’s wedding night, which is confusing since Jane is the one getting married the loveless life that stretches ahead of her, Jane’s husband It doesn’t get cleared up until here, so I would work some rephrasing in is stolen away by the cold-hearted Faerie Queen. Only one who has nothing to gain from winning a mortal back can journey to the Faerie realm. Will Kit give up her chance to have Jane all to herself and take on this challenge? Of course she will.

Earlier you say that the husband can make Jane happy, but you don’t necessarily put it right out there that Jane wants to get married, loves this guy, etc. I’d encourage you to clarify how Jane feels about her intended, and move that mention to the above para. Kit is doing this b/c she wants Jane to be happy, right? So it’s a good natural fit to put it there. Also, some indication of whether or not Jane is aware of Kit’s feelings for her would be useful.

As she soon learns, though, the journey to the Faerie realm is the easy part. Kit’s quest is to bring Jane’s husband safely home, but along the way, she will have to navigate a Faerie court full of intrigue, get swept up in a long-simmering struggle for control of the realm, embark upon nightly battles against creatures who sow despair in the minds of mortals, and perhaps even enter into a romance with a beautiful, commanding faery Huntress.

In the Faerie realm, there is a place for everyone, even a lonely, boyish girl like Kit, and for most of her time there, the thought of returning home is the last thing on her mind. But eventually, Kit will have to decide if the story she wants to tell about her own life can be reconciled with her love for Jane and her newfound political alliances in the Faerie court, and what she will do if it cannot. I think some clarity here in this para. Is Kit having to choose between returning or not returning? It sounds like she’s trying to reconcile her love for Jane with her life in the faery world, which seems like it wouldn’t be all that difficult, given that she’s probably just pining without the actual presence of Jane. And… we lost the husband? Where’d he go?

TO THE GREENWOOD is a YA historical fantasy, complete at 110,000 words. It would appeal to fans of S. Jae-Jones’ Wintersong and Shadowsong, and Holly Black’s The Darkest Part of the Forest and The Cruel Prince. Good comps, but get that word count under 100k. It’s only 110. That’s totally doable.

Though I have, alas, never been seduced by a Faerie Queen, I do have a master’s degree in Folklore, which I think is the next best thing. My short story, “1558,” won fifth place in the 86th Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition, Children’s/Young Adult category, in 2017. Additionally, as I am a queer woman, this is an “own voices” novel, and further features a cast of characters diverse in racial identity, sexuality, gender, and (dis)ability, all in a realm in which these “othered” identities are normalised.

Great bio. Overall, this needs some re-phrasing and clarification but you’re on a good path!

4 thoughts on “The Saturday Slash

  1. Thanks so much for the feedback! This is so helpful. One question: how important is it that the tone of the query letter reflect the tone of the book? I’d love to make the letter snappier, as you suggested, but I worry that it would clash with the more lush, character-driven voice of the ms itself. Is this something I should worry about?

    1. I wouldn’t worry overly about the query language matching the tone of the story. In a situation where you have a humorous book, or a really sarcastic main character, yes, that would be helpful to have a similar tone in the query. But they expect you to be concise in a query, so if that doesn’t match the voice of the book perfectly, it’s acceptable. As long as your voice for the manuscript is similar to what you named for your comp titles, I think you’re fine.

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