Tuesday, May 28, 2013

QK Round 1: Repo Girl versus Liars and Lovers

Entry Nickname: Repo Girl
Title: How to Drop a Class (and Fall in Love)
Word count: 94K
Genre: YA Contemporary


Darcy Covington doesn’t know the difference between a pawn shop and a thrift shop. She’s never scrubbed a toilet or shopped at Wal-Mart. Even her dog eats gourmet food, so she’s totally unprepared when her car is repossessed from the parking lot of her elite private school, and her new nickname, Repo Girl, goes viral. She’s stunned to discover that her father, a semi-famous motivational speaker, has skipped town, abandoning his family while his business collapses. Even David Letterman comes up with ten reasons why her father won’t ever return home.

Darcy has spent most of her life hiding in the shadows of larger-than-life people like her infomercial king dad and drama queen best friend. Now that she’s on a one-way trip from the penthouse to the outhouse, can she find her own voice and the strength to cope with the changes crashing down on her? And maybe fall in love along the way?

First 250 words:

“Darcy, you’d better get outside! There’s a tow truck hooking up your car.”

I stared at Ryan, with whom I’d been in lust since seventh grade, trying to make sense of his words. It took a moment to realize that he was not, in fact, admitting he’d been in love with me for the past five years, but was instead rambling something about my car.

“Tow truck? My car?” It was like he spoke Klingon but I didn’t have a universal translator.

“Yeah,” His blue eyes flashed with excitement. “You should hurry. Those tow trucks can really screw up your car.” He shrugged, tossing his messily perfect bangs out of his eyes. “I guess they were serious about us not parking in the handicapped spots. But man, that’s harsh.”

Handicapped spots? I never parked in the handicapped spots.

My body kicked into gear. “Thanks,” I called over my shoulder as I ran for the doors to the parking lot.

I cut across the manicured soccer field toward the east end of the parking lot. As I ran, my stomach roller-coastered. Why was someone towing my car? Did I park illegally? Dad would kill me if he had to pay to get my car out of an impound lot.


My Audi was already fully loaded onto the tow truck by the time I got there. A swelling crowd of students milled around, pointing and exclaiming, one of them with great dramatic expression and lots of gesturing. Salena. My best friend.


Entry Nickname: Lies and Lovers
Title: Lies My Father Told Me
Word Count: 34,000
Genre: Contemporary YA (in verse)


When fifteen-year-old Eden Thompson’s dad dies, poetry is her only escape. Her friends are distant and her mother spends most of her time shut away with a bottle of wine. Desperate for a connection with other people, Eden shares her words online. Just beyond the screen she finds Mason, a university student who leaves her long poetic messages that fill the empty space in her life. Having also lost a parent, he understands her pain and quickly becomes her one constant.

When they finally meet in person, the heat of Mason's body and the sensation of his fingertips against her skin awaken a part of Eden she didn't know existed. But she swore to her dad that she would wait until marriage to have sex, and she doesn’t want the last promise she made to die with him. Uneasy with Mason's desire for more, but scared of losing him, Eden's resolve weakens with each dizzying kiss.

On the anniversary of her dad's death, Eden's mom drunkenly slurs a secret that changes everything: her dad wasn't the person she thought he was. Her family, her life, her promise to him––all of it was based on a lie. Now that everything she knew is broken and betrayed, she turns to Mason, hoping for an escape from her pain. Torn between what her father wanted for her and what Mason wants from her, Eden must finally decide what it is she wants for herself.

First 250 Words:

This Is The Part Where My Father Dies


At the funeral,

everyone laughed,
but my mom’s voice—
it sounded more like a cry.

She drank too much wine
and laughed too loud at the stories
my dad’s
family and colleagues and friends and students told,
their voices rushing
to fill the emptiness
with anecdote.

They were all

Her lips and teeth were stained
with red,
and when I looked at her,
all I saw was
an empty shell,
a book
without any pages.
Dead but not dead.

She was a stranger,

Sometimes there was a glance
in my direction
for a few moments
too long.

Like sweat,
I could feel it on me.

Nobody said anything.

I had lost
my words.


I couldn’t understand how
there could be
an afterwards
now that
he was gone.

The car swerved to avoid
a deer but
my dad instead.

it was ten months later.
I was fifteen
and ready for high school:
with my knee socks and their elastic bands
slipping down my legs,
with my tartan kilt in green and blue,
with my ring and
my promise
I made him
only weeks before
            he died.

I want you
to keep this
until you get married.

The ring slid on
so easily.
It fit
so perfectly.

But it was so much heavier
than the metal it was made of,
and the way it wrapped itself
around me,

like it could never leave.
Like it would be there


  1. This comment is reserved for the judges' votes

    1. Victory to Lies and Lovers. I loved your query. It read clearly and beautifully. And your first 250 hooked me. Beautiful verse. Made me interested in reading more. Congrats!

      To Repo Girl, I think throwing in "and maybe fall in love along the way?" actually weakened your query a bit. It ended too cliche for me. Good luck to you.
      ~Savage Blue

    2. Victory to Lies and Lovers

      Lives and Lovers, this is fabulous and the query is fantastic.

      Repo Girl, love your premise. The word count is too high for YA contemporary. It should be between 50K-70K. I would remove the questions at the end of your query - agents are turned off by that. I'd rearrange the opening page to introduce your main character before the dialogue. I do think this sounds so fun, but I would whittle down that word count.

      Wonderful job to both!

    3. Victory to Repo Girl: Awesome query! You laid out the character’s motivation, the stakes, and plot smoothly. The first 250 felt a bit stuffy, but this could be due to the MC’s social class. It wasn’t the most exciting opening. Maybe show her witnessing the car getting towed and her reaction to this life-changing event would amp up the tension level. Right now it’s second hand info.

      Liars and Lovers: Fantastic query. The first 250 I found difficult to read simply due to stylistic reasons. Your writing is beautiful, but I would have to be in a certain frame of mind to really appreciate this the way I should.

      It comes down to personal choice. Good luck to you both.

    4. Victory to Lies and Lovers

      Repo: I LOVE the David Letterman line. BUT ending a query with a question is a big no-no. Not a fan of beginning a MS with dialogue either. I would have loved a better sense of character in your first 250 too. You DID give a great premise and a good idea of the plot though, and that's fantastic.

      Lies: I LOVE the last line of your query. It give a depth and passion to the whole story. What does SHE want. I've never read a novel in verse, and this sounds like a brilliant concept for one. I got chills reading it, and definitely wanted to read on. Great job!

    5. Victory to Lies and Lovers, because of the poetry and prose. Repo, just a few things to fix, but mostly, you were up against an excellent entry.

      Repo—I love the premise behind your query and I think the query can make an effective blurb for the back of the book. However, I think it doesn’t tell enough about what will happen to Darcy. The last paragraph is much too general (while the first paragraph is much too detailed). Both these issues need to be addressed, but your premise and writing are both strong. The 250 is hilarious, by the way, although you can ease up on the commas ;) I think you can create more “Oh darn, no!” surprise and anger once she truly realizes her car is being towed.

      Lies and Lovers—I LOVE THIS. So unique, and your poems are so amazing. Beautiful and heart-wrenching. I want to read more, seriously! The query was well written as well, although maybe a little too heavy—clean some stuff up, get rid of redundant sentences that say the same thing, etc. But this book sounds amazing.

    6. Victory to Liars and Lovers

      For the REPO GIRL query, I think I need to see more than stereotype. The riches to rag trope can be done well, but there's little in the query that hints that Darcy learns anything but possibly coping mechanisms in her fall. What's her story arc? What redeems her? As for the 250, I wasn't connecting with the dialog. It didn't feel authentic. The "tow truck" and "car" repetitions got, well, repetitive. And I wondered why Ryan shrugged, as the gesture didn't seem to fit his words.

      I thought the query for LIES MY FATHER TOLD ME was quite well done. As for the 250, there are some quite beautiful turns of phrase here. The only place I faltered was at the "The car swerved" stanza. It fell flat for me both rhythmically and in placement after "he was gone." Perhaps delete and put a transitional "Then" before "Somehow"? I loved the ring being "so much heavier than the metal it was made of."

    7. VIctory for Liars and Lovers

      Repo Girl: I'm concerned that your word count might take you out of consideration with some agents right off the bat. There's a great agent post on acceptable word counts here: http://literaticat.blogspot.com/2011/05/wordcount-dracula.html. I love the voice in your query and the wordplay is amazing. You've given is a great set-up for who she is and what the inciting incident is, but then we don't learn what comes next. The query should tease, so we don't need to know everything, but we do need some examples of the specific conflicts and the stakes. if there is a romance (as you hint) I'd like to know a little about that and how her newly-poor status plays into it. This is nitpicky, but in first 250, I don't think a teen would phrase something "with whom" or "swelling crowd of students milled around" so right away I was concerned that you might not have a handle on a YA voice (though the dialogue nailed it!) If Ryan's eyes were flashing with excitement, it seems odd to have him shrugging (generally an apathetic gesture) in the next instant. Is he excited or disinterested? Cute premise though- I'd read on.

      Liars and Lovers- Amazing query and first 250. Love the premise and the idea of wrestling with hormones versus a deathbed promise- such a great internal conflict that seems really appropriate for this word count and format.

    8. Victory to Repo Girl!

      Repo Girl: I think I’m having a wonderful flashback to the 80’s. This seems like one of those brat pack movies I so loved. I’m hooked by the sentence that David Letterman has done a top ten about her dad. And the same voice is in your first page. It was funny. It was full of voice. I loved it.

      Lies and Lovers: Your query really made me feel the choice. It was more an experience than a query letter. Your verses were well-crafted and they held my attention. Unfortunately, verse is not for me.

  2. Repo Girl: I had to read the query twice to make the connection between 'reposessed car' and 'dad jumping town'. I'd suggest making that a little clearer. In your 250, you have Ryan's eyes all excited, then in the next beat he's shrugging like he's being nonchalant, it seems like a weird and abrupt tone shift.

    Lies and Lovers: 'This is the part where my father dies' INSTANTLY had my attention. I wanted to read that scene. Then we go straight to the funeral, which doesn't seem about dad's death so much as Eden's relationship with her mom. I think both elements (the heading and the section) are strong, but they don't belong together, if that makes any sense.

    Good luck to you both!

  3. Victory to Repo Girl - Ultraviolet
    Lies and Lovers - I really enjoyed some of the imagery in your verse (particularly the too long glance as "sweat" and the emotional weight of the ring). Things that I was not so fond of were the skipping over of so much time after her Dad's death and that (in your query) initially it seems Eden desires Mason physically but by the end of the query it's only that Mason wants sex from her. I did like the concept of the story and probably anyone who has close cyber-friends will be able to relate to that angle. I'm also not sure that finding out her Dad lied will change the story for the better, I was intrigued with the idea of being trapped by a promise made to someone who's now dead.
    Repo Girl - I loved your sense of humor and genuine-sounding teen voice. They came through in both query and 250. I thought it should be "rambling on about my car" but otherwise the opening scene flowed well and was entertaining. The concept of reverse Cinderella appealed to me and I think it would also appeal to YA readers. The word count seems a bit high...hopefully you've edited ruthlessly and that's all gold in that 94K.

  4. I'm glad that I'm not judging this pairing! I really liked both entries.

    Repo Girl- Great query at just the right length. First line of query invites me into Darcy's life and you just keep reeling me in. 250 read so smoothly and I wanted to keep reading. Very engaging. Good luck!

    Lies and Lovers- Great premise and I totally connect with promise idea. Plenty of emotion and soul in your writing. Though not usually a fan of verse, your 250 leaves me wanting more. Good luck!

  5. Lisa Brown RobertsMay 29, 2013 at 11:13 AM

    Hello, Lies and Lovers, this is Repo Girl :)

    Stopping by to check out our comments. How interesting that we both have entries about fatherless girls!

    Your poetry is very powerful and drew me in immediately. Eden's voice is strong, and sad, and made me want to read more. Your verses about the promise ring show the premise of your entire story so succinctly.

    Your query was terrific and really made me want to read your book. The last line in particular is perfect, and a great log line.

    Best of luck!

  6. I'm more attracted to Repro Girl because of the tone. It captures a teen voice and I like the drama spiced with humor tone. I think the query could be a little tighter. It felt a bit repetitious in places. We know her father is a semi-famous motivational speaker, we don't also need the "informercial king" phrase. I also think that phrase is a little misleading. It conjures up someone hawking an ACME can-opener, glass-cutter, knife-sharpener, orange juice squeezer.
    Lies and Lovers seems on target for it's audience, but it's not my type of book. I'm a bit concerned that the first 250 words are a poem as it makes me wonder if a lot, if not all, of the book is in verse. I know some people like that, but I don't. It also feels really depressing. I need a glimpse of lightness—but that's me. Like I said, it's on target for it's audience. The query felt a bit coy. The query is for an agent or editor. Why keep the father's secret a secret? You're trying to interest a professional in your story. Be up front about the secret and why it would affect Eden.

  7. Repo Girl: Your query is short and solid. The only thing I'd suggest is avoiding the questions at the end of it, but I think this has been mentioned. Your first 250 are great too. I especially like the second paragraph where she's referencing Ryan. Great work!

    Lies and Lovers: Your query is amazing. I have nothing to give ya except a virtual high-five! I've never read a book in verse, but your first 250 makes me think that I should.

  8. Repo Girl - I am a little torn about yours. I liked your query and was totally ready to like your MC, knowing that she grew up with money but wasn't a loud, obnoxious mean girl is refreshing. But I hated to find out she drives an Audi. In high school. That's probably a personal preference and nick-picky of me, but it did color my opinion of her. Also, I am not a fan of books opening with floating dialogue, it doesn't ground us in the book. But I did like where you started the story (running to the repo) and I do like your voice. And I did believe that she was just coming out of a some swoon worthy day dream.

    Lie and Lovers - Again, this is all just personal preference stuff but here goes. I haven't read many books in verse, but they are really interesting and can be very compelling, and I think you can do it. But what threw me was the promise to her father. It just struck me as creepy, the idea that he's dying and makes her promise to wait to have sex until she's married? Seems weird to me. Maybe if it wasn't a deathbed promise (and if it wasn't, it came across that way), it wouldn't seem so odd to me. Your imagery is great and I bet the scenes with Mason are awesome.

  9. Both of you have strong voices -- and this is a tough match-up because the styles differ so much.

    REPO: There's so much personality in the query. Some great phrasing (Lettermen, from penthouse to outhouse). I don't think you have to try as hard, though. You don't need the pawn shop/thrift shop example. And like others have said, eliminate questions at end of query. You can rewrite to give us an idea of the stakes.

    I agree with another reviewer that "infomercial" has a whole other connotation than the one you're looking for. I also agree that you could start the 250 words with some daydreaming/swooning and then get into dialogue.

    LIES: Wow. I've not read a novel in verse. But based on your excerpt, I can see how it can lend itself to powerful storytelling. I've seen the concept of a 'promise not to have sex' ring. And I think it works here, but I'd like there to be higher stakes than just a decision to keep a promise or go ahead and have sex? What else complicates her journey?

    I think I'd choose Repo, though, just based on marketability of story and the strength of the MC's voice.

  10. Repo - I love this. As the not rich kid in school, I knew people who had Audis and BMWs (and even flashier cars!) provided by wealthy parents. I hated it, so that would have colored my opinion of her, but I really love the idea of stripping away all these luxuries to figure out who your character really is.

    Liars and Lovers - I don't know how to judge your words. I love them, but I don't know how to give suggestions out of ignorance for how a novel in verse works (closest I have is a fondness for Shakespeare). I can say that your imagery and word choice is vivid. I wish I had something more solid for you.

  11. Repo Girl- I adore this query and 250. So much fun, so much voice. And taking a potentially unlikable character and making her sympathetic- I'm sold!

    Lies and Loves- This story seems really intriguing. I've never read a novel in verse before, but this made me want to. Not sure how to tell you to improve your 250 due to my lack of knowledge about this writing style, but to me, it reads very well!

    Great job, all!

  12. Repo Girl: The Query was very professional and well written. I liked the idea of this girl having to deal with economic change, but I didn't feel there was much to hope for (other than that she gets over being poor.) Not enough at stake for me to sympathize. Then again, I don't really read romance or YA contemporary, so it might just be my own taste. The first 250 were engaging but a little info-dumpy for my taste. Like when you mention your history with the boy in the first few sentences.

    Liars: The Query seemed a little meandering at first, but then when you got to the part about her finding out her dad wasn't what she thought (and the implications on her resolve to remain virtuous) the story got my attention. Great stakes, and that's a questioned I'd like answered. (I hope she discovers why she wants to save herself for her own reasons, but I can't deny what a compelling dilemma it is.) As for the first 250, I don't usually care for poetry, but it kept my interest. If it goes on much longer, however, I think it would be too tedious for me.

  13. Just stopping by to thank everyone for their comments! I know verse is often a love-it or leave-it format and I'm glad I got even some of you interested :) There are some wonderful verse novelists out there and I hope those of you who were interested by my 250 but don't usually read verse maybe take the chance to pick up a published novel in verse :)

    Repo Girl, I was pretty nervous when I saw this match up because our stories are so different in tone (though interesting that they are both fatherless girls, as you said) and I think yours is really charming and I really love the humour that is evident in it so far, lines like "Even her dog eats gourmet food," in your query definitely made me smile. You've got a great voice and best of luck querying!

  14. Congrats Lies and Lovers! Your poetry is gorgeous and I wish you the best as you move on to the next round.

    Thanks to everyone for their thoughtful comments, and special thanks to Michelle for hosting round 1 of this fun contest :)