Friday, September 16, 2016

Face-Lift 1329

Guess the Plot

The Hatchet

1. An innocent hatchet, bought by a serial killer, must devise a way to bring his master to justice.

2. You may have read the Newbery Award-winning young-adult wilderness survival novel of the same name. Same story, but this time it's about a girl. Also, this one has talking animals. 

3. A hatchet found in an abandoned hotel where a grizzly murder spree took place is now on display at a local museum. Will the class touring the facility successfully write their required report on the exhibit, or will they succumb one by one to the haunted object? 

4. Ah, my pretty, so firm in the hand we are, so strong, so smooth, so sharp. Are we cold and hungry? Why yes, yes we are. But not for long my pretty. Soon the screaming will begin and we shall find warm flesh to sate ourselves in.

5. Lauren finds a hatchet and wonders if it's the hatchet that was buried back when the humans-mages feud ended. It must be, or someone wouldn't have written a book about it called The Hatchet. Which means the hatchet will fetch a pretty penny on eBay, or it would have if civilization hadn't been completely decimated.

6. When Todd shoplifts a hatchet from the hardware store, he has no idea his little brother will get hold of it and use it to chop up their baby sister. What Todd does know is that he's the one who'll probably get blamed for this, which would be totally unfair.

7. He wanted to be feared. His calling card- a hatchet left standing in the ribs of his enemies-should make his alias known throughout Ontario. His next victim: the news editor who keeps reporting him as `that ax guy.' 

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

The Hatchet is complete at 49,000 words and a low fantasy YA.

Civilizations has desecrated into ruins and disrepair [First of all, desecrated isn't the word you want. You may have meant decimated, but even so, civilization hasn't decimated; something else did the decimating, and civilization has been decimated.] ever since the incursion of Unawakened. [To simplify: Civilization has been decimated by the Unawakened.] [Who named them the Unawakened? If they managed to decimate us while they were sleeping, I'm glad we never had to face them when they were awake.] And Lauren wants nothing more than to survive holed up in an evacuation centre somewhere with her brother, Dustin. But when he's gravely injured, things had to take a detour and she is forced to overexert herself to save him from them. When she strangely manages to come to, [Before stating that she comes to, you might state that she lost consciousness. It isn't implied by the action of overexerting. Also, the word "manages" suggests that she takes an active role in coming to, which isn't usually how it works when you're unconscious. Also, what do you mean "strangely"? I admit it's strange that she manages to do anything after losing consciousness, but perhaps it would be best to simply say, When she comes to.] she made [makes] her way to the nearest evac-but not alone. [No point saying "but not alone" unless you also say who else is along.] All was [is] well until Dustin is reported as dead.

As she escapes the evacuation [centre] to find him, [Why is it called an evacuation centre? Refugee centre or safe house sounds more like it. Evacuation centre sounds like a public restroom in Great Britain. It's not clear that anything was evacuated, anyway, unless all of civilization has evacuated all places.] she discovers a secret that'd long breathed in the dark. A hatchet that's dusted only on the surface. [Is "escapes" the right word? Are those in the centre not permitted to leave?] [What do you mean "dusted only on the surface"? I can't tell if that means there is dust on the surface or there isn't. Or neither. Where else could a hatchet be dusted besides the surface? I mean, if you look at a hatchet and say, "This hatchet has been dusted," we assume you mean the surface. We don't wonder if the interior of the hatchet has also been dusted.]

Thank you for your time and consideration.


{The Hatchet refers to the feud between humans and Mage, that comes from the saying 'bury the hatchet'. In this case, "A hatchet that's dusted only on the surface" means the humans tried to broker a peaceful pact with Mage but did nothing to soothe the hatred and resentment simmering under the surface. Thus, creating a hatchet that's polished on the outside but has hidden cracks.} 

[1. Presumably this explanation is not part of the query, and thus will not be read by anyone, and thus will not clear up the meaning of "dusted only on the surface." 
2. If the phrase is to be used at all, maybe it should be "polished only on the surface," as "dusted" can mean that dust was applied or removed. Better yet, "only half-buried," since it comes from "bury the hatchet." Is the hatchet she finds one that was buried after the feud? In any case, finding a hatchet is an odd way to end your summary. It sounds more like where the main plot begins than where it reaches a crucial moment. It's no more meaningful to us than if she found a pendant or a yoyo or a screwdriver.
3. There's nothing in the query about anyone named Mage, but there's a brief mention in the synopsis that was also submitted (to be posted tomorrow) of a war between humans and mages. Not clear why it's Mage (singular) in the explanation here. Is Mage a country? Are the unawakened the Mage?]


You need to clearly summarize your story in the query. The synopsis may have more detail, but no one's going to read the synopsis if the query is unimpressive.

The plot summary switches back and forth between past and present so often I got dizzy.

Who are the Unawakened and what do they want? What does Lauren want, assuming she finds her brother?

Many of the word choices are either way off or at least not spot-on. This will lead anyone who reads the query to assume the book has the same problem. I know this because I have made this assumption.


Anonymous said...

If you don't know what a word means and what it implies, you probably shouldn't be using it in the limited space you have with which to convince someone to buy your book.

desecrated: treat (a sacred place or thing) with violent disrespect; violate

I'm thinking you might mean descended, but you also say there was someone causing the destruction so you might mean decimated which has phrasing issues as EE pointed out.

You say that civilization pretty much doesn't exist, and then you say people are still evacuating, which is confusing. I wouldn't think there'd be many people around to need an organized process like evacuation or places to evacuate to if there wasn't civilization of some kind. Also, if most people are all already holed up in shelters, it might help to mention why/how Lauren and her brother are not.

You don't mention that Lauren and her brother are separated anywhere. I don't know if she starts out looking for him at the beginning of the story or if they are separated at some point in the middle.

With your included comment on the title, I'm no longer certain that the hatchet she finds actually exists or if she discovers the remains of some failed treaty in a metaphorical way. I also fail to see the relevance to what the rest of the query paints as a survival/rescue sibling story.

Start over

MC: Lauren <- good. We get queries here where the author hasn't specified an MC, which makes the rest of the query even more difficult to make work.

MC wants: To survive in a shelter with her brother <- Is this the overall story goal? If this is the initial goal, but something more important comes up, you need to focus on the more important thing. Finding a hatchet has no obvious relevance to this goal. Everything you mention in the query should be relevant to this goal and it should be obvious how it is relevant to this goal.

MC's plans/obstacles/skills: I assume basic survival & tracking issues. If she's being attacked by your Unawakened (it would be more helpful to specify if these are zombies/vampires/whatever) we need to know what her skill set is to fight back or run.

Stakes: What is at stake for the MC? Her brother's life or something else?

Take a step back and a deep breath. Decide what the story is that you're trying to sell. State that story as clearly as possible.
This may not be accurate:

After a zombie army attacks Lauren's hometown, she and her brother attempt to make their way to a shelter in a nearby city. She and her brother are separated when they run into a zombie squadron. Lauren eventually reaches the shelter only to learn that her brother may have been killed. She must escape those who are trying to keep her safe in order to go back and look for him. etc.

AA said...

Who, or what, are the Unawakened?

You really don't say when they're separated. Dustin is gravely injured, Lauren saves him. She wakes up (apparently she was knocked out) and makes her way to an evac (center?) and then discovers Dustin is dead, or presumed dead. When she woke up, was he missing?

Then she escapes. I, also, don't get how she can enter freely but must escape to get away. And I couldn't figure out whether you were talking about a literal or metaphoric hatchet. Either way, what significance does it have? What does it mean, and why is it important?

When you write a query, you know what your story is about, but your reader doesn't. Keep that in mind while you rewrite.