Saturday, March 3, 2007

Hook Advice?

All right, here's an area where my knowledge and skill at sales/marketing are apparently falling short: the hook. I think I'm pretty good at writing synopses now, and good with some other aspects of the query letter, but I'm having trouble distilling a compelling hook for THE GUARDIAN, which is after all a relatively complex book. The faults in my hook are most recently evidenced by literary agent Rachel Vater's hook critique, to which I submitted my hook (I'm #25, but don't read it if you don't want to know a major spoiler). Her entire comment was: "Alternate worlds, demons trying to kill people with magical powers for some reason. Nothing here really caught my eye."

Ouch. I even sent her my new-and-improved version of my hook, rather than the one I had previously been sending to agents. I've gotten personal responses based on my writing quality, I think, more so than my query itself, and I think my query--most specifically the hook--has been what has been holding me back from getting more requests for the full. Certainly I've gotten good comments from the two professional readers who have read the entire thing (Matt Bialer and Beverly Swerling), but neither one of them decided to read the entire thing because of my hook or query letter alone.

So, I'm realizing that if I hope to get another agent to pick up THE GUARDIAN based on the query letter and sample chapters alone, my best chance at that is to have a much stronger hook than I presently do. I've already gotten some excellent advice from Karen Mahoney, but I thought I would make a formal post about this and see what ideas or techniques everyone else has, too. For some reason, as much as I've read comments from agents and other writers, I just don't quite "get it" yet when it comes to hooks. Somehow my book, which has been praised as being very original by those who have actually read the whole thing, comes off sounding more than a little cliche when I try to write my hook (in all fairness, I tried writing hooks for other works, like THE MATRIX and THE DARK IS RISING, and somehow I manage to make those sound cliche, too. Yikes, I must be doing something wrong).

So, any thoughts?


Chandra Rooney said...

I am so sorry that you got that kind of response from Rachel.

Unfortunately, I don't know how to tell you how to make it better. (Didn't go read the hook because I want all the suprises I can get from THE GUARDIAN.)

Christopher M. Park said...

Thanks for the moral support! But, just to be clear--I'm not necessarily looking for tips on how to improve my existing hook. I think perhaps I'm approaching the entire thing from the wrong angle, and I'm looking for other people's ideas on hook writing technique in general.

Oh, and I'm glad you didn't read the hook, actually--I'll be really interested to hear your reactions to certain scenes in the book as you get to them.


Rachel V. Olivier said...

I couldn't tell you either. Even when it comes to cover letters for a job I'm more likely to be the person who says, "please consider the enclosed/thank you for your time" and leave it at that. You just hear so much about people who say not to say too much, but let the story speak for itself. Okay then, this is my story (resume, etc). Read it and let it speak for myself. If you have an questions then you know where to find me. Be an adult and figure it out. Yes or no.

But it doesn't work like that.

Christopher M. Park said...

Hi Rachel,
Thanks for the thoughts. In some ways, I have that tendency as well (although in other ways, I have the tendency to say too much). I'd rather they just read the work and love it for what it is, too, but since my hook isn't on page one I guess that isn't too reasonable. Oh well....