I wasn’t going to talk about this yet, but the more time that passes, the more I keep thinking about it. And I need to share this with others. It’s killing me.
Let me start by informing you that I intern with a literary agency. I read hundreds and hundreds of queries, and I see the same mistakes being made again and again. But this post isn’t about writing a good query (I promise I’ll do a post on that at some point in the future); it’s about writing a good hook, your 1–2 sentences that sum up your entire book.
But rather than just tell you the kinds of things that I see, let me SHOW you.
Consider the following made up hook:
“In my book, TITLE, we follow MC (main character), a normal high school girl who suddenly becomes drawn to the mysterious MAIN BOY—and MC doesn’t know what to do when she discovers that MAIN BOY isn’t human.”
How do I phrase what I’m thinking as politely as possible?
Could you make your hook any more unoriginal?
Mysterious inhuman boy. Normal high school girl. Let me see how many books that hook could be referring to just off the top of my head: TWILIGHT (of course, you were all thinking that one); HUSH, HUSH; NEED; WINGS.
For the record, let it be known that I do not have a problem with any of these books, nor am I saying that they’re all the same story because they’re totally not. In fact, I really enjoy each of those books. My point is that your hook is not about what makes you like everyone else. Your hook is about what makes you different.
Are books with normal girls and mysterious boys bad? No. In fact, they’re quite popular. Teens (and many adults) love them. But the question you need to ask yourself is what makes my book different from every other book?
THAT is what you need to say in your hook. Because, really, hundreds of books can be boiled down to the same one-line hook. Emphasize what sets you apart. What makes you different than everyone else? Nay, I ask you, what makes you BETTER than everyone else? (Though please don’t phrase it like that in your query.)
Is it okay to write a vampire romance? Yes. BUT ONLY IF IT’S DIFFERENT. (Believe it or not, vampire romances are still being sold.) Is it the mythology that’s different? Is it your main character? Is it the bad guy? Tell me in the hook what the most exciting and most different thing is about your story.
And face the fact that if you can only reduce your story down to a line that exemplifies many other books, YOUR BOOK HAS ALREADY BEEN WRITTEN. Don’t try to tell me that your main girl is the MVP of the basketball team whereas Bella was an awkward klutz. Not different enough.
Now think about this:
“In my book, TITLE, we follow MC, a self-professed hypochondriac who finds herself drawn to the mysterious MAIN BOY—and MC doesn’t know what to do when she discovers that MAIN BOY has contracted the appearance-altering vampiric disease.”
Don’t judge me; it was the first thing I came up with in 10 seconds.
Also, I’m sure there are several more books I missed that could be summed up in my original hook. What else can you think of?