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 blue.

In the year 2040, Gerick Grantley’s world was plunged into unfathomable darkness, as humanity was pushed to the brink of extinction by seemingly immortal bloodsuckers known as revenants. This reads a little fuzzy because of the fact that we know 2040 is the future, but the past tense of “was” is at work. We see below that the story itself takes place in 2050, hence the past tense. Find a way to start the query without the introductory prologue about something that happened ten years before the story starts.

More than a decade after the Crisis of 2040, the walled city of Harvest Moon, Virginia stands as one of the last vestiges of civilization. Through fearless determination and guile, Gerick has earned a reputation as the most accomplished captain in the Vanguard, the military unit tasked with completing perilous missions tell us more about these missions – what is their purpose? beyond Harvest Moon’s all-encompassing wall. Great! So, why not start with something like… “The walled city… has stood for a decade against the seemingly immortal bloodsuckers known as revenants…” It encompasses everything from your first para, without the prologue feel.

In a unit beset by low enlistment and a high mortality rate, Gerick resolves to protect the new Vanguard cadets under his leadership. During their first mission together, Gerick and his new team will combat the vampiric undead and forge new alliances, with who? Are there humans outside the wall? as they fight to uncover the mystery behind the revenants, which is bigger and far more horrifying than Gerick ever imagined. Need more on this.

The first in a planned series, THE CURSE OF THE REVENANTS (90,000 words) is an adult horror/dark fantasy novel set in a fresh yet terrifying post-apocalyptic world. This is my first novel, and I’m seeking your representation.

Definitely push this is a standalone with series potential, rather than trying to sell it as a trilogy out the door – but only if that’s an honest possibility for the manuscript. Also, there’s no need to state that it’s your first. They’ll assume that if you don’t have publishing credits, and also no need to state that you are seeking representation – that’s the whole idea of the query letter 🙂

Overall right now what you’ve got is perfectly fine, yet very vague. There is a threat, a walled city, a group of people who protect others, and a larger dark secret behind the threat. This could be a query for The Passage by Justin Cronin. But it’s not – it’s a query for your book. 

What about your book makes it different from other post-apoc novels that are similar? You say that it’s a fresh world, but I’m not seeing anything here that illustrates that. I have a feeling that the dark secret behind the existence of the revenants is the key to showing what makes this unique, and if that’s the case you shouldn’t tease it in the query, but come right out with it.

2 thoughts on “The Saturday Slash

  1. Thanks for the great comments, Mindy. This is incredibly helpful. I think some first-time authors like myself feel like the bio is obligatory. Is it better to omit this part altogether to provide more room to talk about the book? Also, what do you recommend as the limit for how many characters should be introduced in the query?

  2. On the bio – a little bit about yourself that is interesting or informative or relevant to the book is fine, but if you don’t have anything that fits that bill, I don’t know that it hurts to omit it. If your query is strong enough not having a bio won’t hurt you (in my opinion).

    As for characters, you don’t want name soup, but if they are relevant to the main plot and can spice up the query, go for it. Is there a romance angle for Gerick? If so, get that person in the query. A sidekick / best friend, or “unlikely group of heroes?” If you can get others in there with a one sentence description, go for it. But I’d limit it to 2 or 3 supporting characters – but that’s not including the “bad guy.” If you have a main villain, get that character in there.

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