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 blue.
Fifteen-year-old Jerri Campbell, who despises all things popular, gets taken in by the queen bee at her new school and uses the opportunity to redefine what it means to be popular. This is cute, and a decent hook, but it could be the lead in to anything from a horror movie to a self-help. Is she redefining it by promoting body positivity? Or is she redefining it by murdering the queen bee and replacing her? Just a tiny bit more info here in the lead in to give us a touch more feel for the genre. You’ve also got an echo with the word “popular.”
Jerri Campbell wants to be invisible. Ever since her dad’s recent anxiety attacks, she’s done her best to avoid drama, even when he made her change schools in the middle of sophomore year. What’s the connection to her wanting to be invisible and his anxiety attacks? Same question for her changing schools? Instead, she focuses on reconnecting with her best friend Lucy back home, who seems to have ghosted her. But when Jerri gets paired with popular girl Celebrity Orion as her student tour guide, she is unwillingly thrust into the spotlight. Not understanding why a simple (one day, I assume?) tour guide pairing would thrust her into the spotlight? Did something remarkable happen?
Jerri’s natural instinct is to resist, but she realizes she might get Lucy’s attention by documenting the inner workings of the popular crowd for a laugh. Documenting how? Online? Like a blog? Or only to Lucy? Only Celebrity isn’t what Jerri expects her to be. At least, not at first. Maybe there is a way to do this popularity thing right. And Jerri is determined to find it. If she can pull this off, she will prove to everyone, even Lucy, that popular girls can be kind and loyal, too. If she can’t, she will become what she despises: selfish and disloyal. Why? What is this thing she’s trying to pull off that will either prove that everyone is great, or that she herself is horrible?
Fans of Morgan Matson’s Since You’ve Been Gone will enjoy the aspect of proving something to a friend who has disappeared, while fans of Mean Girls will enjoy the popularity showdown. Is there a showdown though? It sounds like Celebrity is a decent person…
You’ve got the bones here, but they’re disjointed and out of place. Did Lucy ghost her b/c there was an argument regarding popularity? Or is that an unrelated issue to her falling out of touch? What does Dad’s anxiety have to do with anything, and why the school change? Why does Jerri want to be invisible? Is it connected to any of the things above? You say, if she can pull this off, she will prove to everyone… But what does that mean? Is she documenting a single event that will serve as proof? Does Celebrity know her actions are being documented? Is there a fallout between those two? Does Jerri have to prove loyalty to one or the other?
You can see there are a lot of questions that this query raises – and that’s a good thing, you want the reader to be curious. But you also don’t want them to be confused, and right now you’ve got too many questions raised, not enough answers. Draw the lines between the related elements in the query, and let us know a little more about the driving plot points. Like I said – good bones. You just need to put the skeleton together 🙂