Tuesday, May 28, 2013

QK Round 1: Automatic Victory for Meryl-&-I

An entrant has decided to withdraw due to personal obligations that have arisen, and unrelated to this competition. Please continue to leave comments for Meryl-&-I.

Entry Nickname: Meryl-&-I
Title: Blame it on Meryl Streep
Word count: 95K
Genre: Women's fiction


At age 28 TV producer Laura Sanders has never been in a relationship, never had sex, and never been loved. Certain that something has to be terribly wrong with her, she’s resigned to a dull, lonely life in the company of a few friends and her disinterested cat.

But when she watches the movie Mamma Mia, Laura is unexpectedly mesmerized: Meryl Streep seems to dance off the screen, showing Laura all the joy and passion that’s lacking in her life. Clearly Meryl Streep would be the perfect coach to guide her to a happier place.

Instead of spending her evenings watching Grey’s Anatomy and memorizing some of the show’s relationship conversations to copy whenever she feels the need to cover up her own inexperience, Laura now hangs out with her new BFF: imaginary Meryl Streep.

Meryl pushes Laura to try online-dating, advising her to rule out profiles with nicknames such as MrCool4Sale, OrgasmGiver or GotSomeWantSome. She teaches Laura her icy The Devil Wears Prada demeanor to copy when dealing with bigheaded, bullying co-workers. And she encourages Laura to spend more time with her new colleagues: women more likely to discuss vibrators than Danish directors. All of a sudden Laura is something she’s never been: cool. And while her sex-life used to consist in hugging her pillow good-night, Laura now has three potential love interests: two very real men … and one very imaginary Meryl Streep.

But soon Laura feels invincible and starts to ignore Meryl’s advice. Her best friend thinks Laura should finally grow up? – Laura counters with radio silence. A great date reveals he’s no Meryl Streep fan? – Laura dumps him. Her boss ignores Laura’s ideas? – She goes behind his back. Ultimately Meryl is all that Laura has left. Will she be able to take what she learns from her fantasy life and rediscover the very real possibility of love and happiness that await her? Or will Laura lose touch forever?

First 250 words:

I’m Laura Sanders.
I’m twenty-eight.
I’m a TV producer in Los Angeles.
I’ve travelled the world.
I have a cat named Sartre.
I own 108 pair of shoes.
I’m a virgin.

The worst part about my pathetic, lonely life is the constant pretending. Pretending to be normal. Everybody knows the drama of love, the passion, the pain, and not knowing makes you a complete freak. Until some years ago I used to be honest and tell friends that I never had a boyfriend, never had sex. Someday I’ll tell a stranger that I killed a person. Simply to see if that confession arouses a similar mortified look.

The look is always followed by the insensitive comment: Why don’t you just pick up a guy at a bar? A woman can get laid even if she’s coyote ugly and you look cute. Thanks, but no thanks. I don’t want to get laid. I want to be loved.

Next is usually the sexist, but popular, good advice:
Good Advice Number One: Be dumb. Men don’t like smart women.
Good Advice Number Two: Be hard to get. Men still think like hunters.
Good Advice Number Three: Be a listener. Men need attention.

Finally there’s the worst part: the awkward silence. After all, everything everybody talks about are relationships and to fit in you need stories to contribute. So I make up stories. Stories that cover up the fact that I’m an invisible woman, unable to catch a guy’s eye, let alone his heart.


  1. This comment is reserved for the judges' votes

    1. Victory to Meryl & I.

      Great voice. I was a bit confused about the imaginary Meryl Streep becoming a love interest, is that correct? But, passed that, you definitely had me wanting to read more. Congrats.

      To Die for: Your query talks about being fast passed, but I don't really feel any of that energy in the voice or the writing style. Maybe work in a bit more conversation elements into the first 250 to help it capture the audience as well?

    2. Victory to To Die For

      I LOVED The Death Brokers query and first page (Though I think both can be tightened up). I really like the premise, the promise of thrills, and the fact that your MC is real. I mean heck, I'd go after a million dollars too. I like to see imperfections in MCs, and the fact that your MC unintentionally put her son in a compromised position for the sake of providing more for him shows the complexities of parenthood. Well done.

      Admittedly, I read Meryl-and-I several times and I just couldn't wrap my mind around the premise. I couldn't not think of your MC as schizo. And I don't know if that's what you intended. I think this is one of those stories that just isn't for me.

      Loved your writing style though.

    3. Victory to Meryl & I

      To Die For, this is an interesting premise, but your query at 296 words is too long (see below for more info. on that). I like that first line in the query. It's a great hook. The opening pages didn't pull me in. What is the purpose of taking the reader through the garage, carrying groceries, riding the elevator, and looking around the apartment? Nothing is really happening in this opening scene. He's lived there for awhile and he's noticing the paintings for our benefit not his. He would probably not think about it any longer. He's seen it every day, why think of it now? Just to give the reader the layout and decor of the apartment? I'd start this story in another place. Look through your following chapters and see if there is a place where you can start this story. Some place that has something that moves this story forward and hooks your reader. This is such a great premise, but the query is clunky and the opening pages need spice.

      Meryl & I, this is another great premise. Can you use a living person? I don't know - that just went through my head. Your query is too long at 322 words (see below for more info.). I wouldn't reference Grey's Anatomy in the query or the manuscript. Use something more general like "reality TV" or something. Using Meryl's movies is fine because people will probably watch those for years and they won't date your story. Grey's will be canceled one day and won't be on TV and you will date your work. The last paragraph needs to be reworked. Maybe get rid of the questions and answers, and do ditch the rhetorical questions. Great voice in your opening pages. Don't know if I like the opening personal information, though. I'm indifferent to it. I think you could use a better sentence that hooks the reader to start the opening.

      Note: I'm noticing that in some of the entries for this contest the queries are too long. Queries (the meat part) should be no more than 250 words (Did everyone hear that? I hope so.) Please tighten your queries. Also, make the synopsis (the meat) two to three paragraphs (preferably two) and add one paragraph for word count, genre, and comparisons and one paragraph for your bio. If you don't have a bio, then that paragraph isn't needed and don't think you can add another paragraph because you don't have a bio. Queries should entice the agent to ask for more, not give them too much information where they don't read the entire thing. They should be short and enticing. Focus only on the plot (no subplots), make the conflict and stakes clear, and finish with what your main character has to do to reach his ultimate goal or survival. Don't give away the ending, that's for the full synopsis. I hope this helps.

    4. Hi Meryl & I!

      Your writing is great, but I'm with SacredIbis above. I couldn't really imagine all that happening to someone who wasn't clinically insane or something. Your first 250 hit me weird too, with the lists and your MC kind of introducing herself. It felt like a lot of telling. And, I don't know much about it, but isn't 95K kind of long for a women's fic? Just some thoughts.

      Congrats on moving on, and good luck!

    5. Meryl-&-I: While it personally irks me that the MC needs a man to feel "normal," I won't let that color my comments. I think it's a great premise and the 250 has great voice. I would shorten the query a tad, and I would lose the ?s before the m-dashes in the last paragraph, but don't lose the voice and, so long as it all fits on a page along with the closing biograph and with lots of paragraph breaks and white space, I wouldn't worry about exact word counts. Good job!

    6. Congrats to Meryl-&-I! This is a hilarious idea. And your first 250 are so very folksy, just like she is having a conversation with us. Which I assume is the goal.

      Just a suggestion or two for your query: The last line of the fourth paragraph makes it seem like Meryl is another love interest. I find that rather odd. It doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of the query. At first I thought it was a mistake but it clearly says 'three.'

      A nitpick: You say ‘sex-life used to consist in hugging her pillow,' maybe try changing the ‘in’ to an ‘of.’

  2. To Die For:
    Intriguing premise but I assume these people are alone in the world. An accidental swap sets the story in motion and she seems to be accidentally involved as well.

    I assume Lee’s husband died and was part of the scheme? Or is Mark a former lover? Unclear to the reader.

    So the threesome are going to steal the money the Reapers stole from everyone else? If that is the plan, I lose sympathy for her. Her son needs to be mentioned sooner in the story so we understand the part he plays. Is this a love triangle?

    In the 250, how does he wipe away sweat with both arms full? I don’t see him laughing if he is truly nervous. Is this Mark, who is entering the apartment? Some clarity would help solidify this query and selection. Good job and good luck.

    The presence of good friends makes her life seem far less dismal than you paint it. Perhaps they have little or no time for her or came with the job, where they are more acquaintances than friends?

    How does the imaginary Meryl guide work? Does she see her? Imagine her voice? And in the end, she has sexual attraction toward Meryl? How is Meryl a potential love interest?

    The question and answer section (last paragraph) is a bit clunky. I had to read it twice.

    The first 250 starts a bit trite but then leans in towards sympathy inducing insight. Go more with the sympathetic world view. Show us Laura in action, struggling to guess the proper responses to a simple situation. Good job and good luck.

  3. Victory Meryl-&-I - Ultraviolet
    To Die For - your concept promises fast-paced action and suspense, which is great. Overall I thought your writing was strong. Here are my concerns: Insurance companies-doesn't everyone already hate them? Why does Lee need a man to help her run away and why choose Grey? Is there something beyond his good looks that she needs for her daring escape? I'd like to know what she'd done to protect her son and why it didn't work (obviously she didn't just take off without making some arrangements). I agreed with many of Nicole's points as well.
    Meryl-&-I - I find your premise intriguing, fangirling taken to the extreme. But I did want to know more about how this actually works in her life. Does she talk out loud to Meryl, does she write notes, is it all in her head? Also, does she no longer have friends? Or if she does, how are they dealing with her new Meryl-personality? I found the last paragraph of your query somewhat vague and confusing. I did like the voice that came through in your 250 and found Laura a sympathetic character overall.

  4. Victory to Meryl & I from Judge Interrobang.

    Fantastic concept and query. First 250 are dead on with voice. Love it.

    To Die For: Query feels choppy, and opening 250 needs to grab. Right now it's too descriptive.

  5. To Die For- I like your premise but had a little difficulty staying with the query. Then in the first 250 you introduced Dr. Eli Grossman and I hadn't remembered him from the query. I think I would really enjoy this book if I didn't have to connect so many dots. Are Lee and Mark formerly married? Who is watching Lee's son? How does Grey get into the picture? It appears to me that you know your story so well that you might inadvertently be leaving out details the reader might need. Good Luck!

    Meryl-&-I- Although I'm not an ardent women's fiction reader, I think I'd like to keep reading your book. The premise strikes me as a cool balance of desperate and dangerous. I keep asking myself "how?" How does she interact with Meryl? You made me smile at some the dating website names. Your query and 250 foreshadow a good mix of humor and sympathy. I trust you. Good Luck!

  6. To Die For: Great premise but I felt that the query needed to get into the goods a little sooner. And same with the first 250. Not that it necessarily needed to have anything crazy going on but if it's scene setting or descriptive, I feel the voice should push through a bit more. It sounds really cool though--the stuff towards the end of the query.

    Meryl & I: This sounds fun and I would read it. I think though, especially since you have so much character and good stuff in your story, that there's no reason for you not to have a better hook!

  7. To Die For - with respect to the query, it would definitely make me check out the book (my recent habit is to download that free chapter and decide whether to pay for the whole thing). I'd definitely download. I think contests where all you're getting is the first 250 are hard. I don't know how important Eli is since he doesn't appear in the query. Since you've written a thriller, you might need to punch things up a bit more. Does Eli meet a terrible end? Maybe start with that.

    Meryl-&-I - liked the query quite a bit. I'm not sure about the reference to Devil Wears Prada. Even though you're not trying to compare your book to it (I get more of a Julie and Julia vibe), it might be a mistake to make the reader think of any book but yours. Not sure if I explained that well or not. I really liked your first 250. The only thought I had was that I wanted something happy or funny to happen soon. The murder comment was nice - I don't want to think she's depressing throughout.

  8. To Die For-

    Awesome concept. Seriously, freaking cool and unique! What I'm not as impressed with is your opening line (no it's not bad, but when it could be great...)"The black Cadillac squealed into the garage. Dr. Eli Grossman parked in his usual spot, popped the trunk and removed two grocery bags." Why start with a drive way and a grocery bag when you could immediately thrust us into the intrigue? I'm talking just the first line, not the whole page. That line could be the start of about 100 other books. Make it stand out. Make it unique. Just throwing in some of that paranoia into that line would make it better. I LOVE the opening to your query, that's fantastic. So I'm just a bit disappointed when I find myself reading grocery bags.

    Meryl &I- I LOVE your opening page. The list is only okay for me, I'm not sure how everyone will take it (but it's different so I won't rag on you about it ;-) it's the rest that I love. It's relatable and a little humorous. How many times have you heard that horrible advice? Already I know if I continue to read I'll be in good hands. The character is intelligent, relatable and entertaining. Love. The query, didn't hold my attention as much. I think because you don't show the voice and wittyness of the character. You describe her as, almost, a cat lady. Down trodden, plain... can you spice her up a little in the query? Let us know that were in good hands (like you do in the first page)

    This is an interesting match up and a hard one to call IMO. I seriously don't know who I'd choose if I were a judge. Good luck guys!

  9. To Die For-Love the idea. Sounds like it will be action packed. I think your query can be tighter. You have a LOT going on in the query, and I'm not sure we need all of the information. The first 250 let us know about the fob, and while I know the fob is important, I'm not sure Eli Grossman parking the car is. I think I'd rather see some of what's set up in the query to start, maybe the switching of the fobs or something like that. It's a great set-up, and I'm interested in the story. I just want to see faster pacing.

    Meryl and I-I love everything about your first 250. It's funny, original, and relatable. I like the set-up in your query but would like to see more of the quirkiness that is apparent in the first 250. I'm smiling just thinking about all the different Meryl Streep movies she'll watch and what kind of advice she will take from them!

    Good luck, writers!

  10. Meryl: I think you really have something great here. Dare I say, I can so see this as a movie. I love your voice in the query and the 250. This is so different but yet so relatable. We all go a little crazy sometimes (or more than sometimes) and its nice to know we're not alone in taking advice from the voices in our heads. I'd love to see how this turns out...great job! Congrats on the victory!

  11. Meryl-- I love the concept here of an imaginary Meryl Streep giving her advice. I think you could condense your query, especially the last paragraph. I think you can just elude to how she messes up her life. And Meryl being a love interest was a bit confusing. Love the idea and I like the voice.

  12. Meryl-This is a cute concept. I've actually worked with Meryl Streep and I can totally see where she would inspire this level of fangirling! The other comments make mention of anything else I would have pointed out, so I'm going to address a comment to you, that also applies to others her: I've seen this entry in contests before and, while I love and support contests (obviously, since I'm a judge here) if I were an agent seeing the same queries in many contests, it might make me wonder why no one has snatched this up yet. Whether rightly or wrongly, it would likely lead me to surmise that there are deeper issues at play in the manuscript, which might keep me from requesting. That could be totally off-base, but I do think this happens. This is not directed at you personally, but to everyone in the contest circuit: if it's been a bit and you're not getting requests or your getting requests that end up in passes, it might not be an issue with your query and first 250, but a deeper one with your ms. That is the time to bring in more CP's for a fresh perspective or to take a hard look yourself at what the bigger issues could be and take a break from putting your work in public forums while you do so. Again, this isn't intended just for you but for so many. Believe me, I get how addicting the thrills of contests can be and I participated in my fair share while on the agent hunt, so this is advice I'm giving that I didn't necessarily follow myself. Take that how you will:)

    1. oops- meant "you're" not "your" above.

  13. Meryl & I: I love the first seven lines! Immediately establishes voice and the beginning of a fun read. Take the following bossypants line-edits as you wish.

    To make it a double entendre, you could change “Until some years ago” to “Until I learned to fake it”

    I’d capitalize all the relationship discussion phrases. Ex: “The Look” “The Insensitive Comment.” “The Awkward Silence” And for a way-out suggestion: Change “good advice” to “Uncalled–For Opinion (UFO) and use the outer space/alien theme throughout. UFO #1: Be dumb. UFO #2: Be hard to get. Etc.

    Jazz up the last paragraph:

    “When The Awkward Silence happens, you know everyone’s looking at you, even though you’re busy examining the salt on the rim of your fourth Margarita. They wait expectantly for your contribution to “The Relationship Conversation” and if you don’t jump right in, you get The Look, quickly followed by several Insensitive Comments and a galaxy’s worth of UFOs.

    So I make up stories. Stories that cover up the fact that I’m the alien—some kind of freak from outer space who can’t fathom this earth custom called “love.”