Tuesday, May 28, 2013

QK Round 1: Tricks Aren't for Kids versus Little Red Head

Entry Nickname: Tricks Aren't For Kids
Title: NAKED
Word count: 66,000
Genre: YA contemporary


When sixteen-year-old Anna ran away from home she just wanted a little freedom, she didn't plan on becoming a prostitute. That just sort of happened.

She would do anything for Luis, her pimp, anything for a life with him. Until they both get busted.

Luis goes to jail and Anna is sent back home to the suburbs and the parents who hate her. To Anna, that’s more terrifying than dark alleyways and threats of STDs. She can’t even pretend to be normal when everyone knows her secrets.

Anna feels more naked now than she ever did as a prostitute.

Then she meets Arney, a geeky boy who teaches her to eat honey suckles and climb trees. He's the only one who doesn't look at her like a prostitute. Just when she is beginning to separate Anna from the hooker, an old John finds her and attacks her in the parking lot after homecoming. Now the whispers get louder, the stares get bolder. Anna must face her controlling parents, the nasty rumors, even her old pimp, if she’s ever going to gain control of her own life.

First 250 words:

I look into the familiar blank eyes that stare back at me from a Missing Person’s poster. The name reads: Anna Rodriguez.

The name’s familiar, but it’s not me. Not anymore.

I turn away from the innocent thirteen year-old in the poster, with her pony tail and pearls around her neck. Now I just find myself wondering how much I could cop out of a necklace like that. Three hundred?

Every time I pass this poster I stop and stare at the girl I used to be, but that just brings attention. I’m not allowed to bring attention.

So I keep walking and make a plan to go the long way around Bleecker Street so I won’t ever see my parents attempt at finding me again. I cross my arms, and breathe out to see if I can see my breath. It’s getting cold, I hate cold.

I shake my head. I mean, it’s been three years, I don’t see why my parents still try to find me. I’m not their little girl anymore.

You’d think they could at least find a better picture, you know? No one would guess that girl was me. Why not use a picture like that one from Halloween when I dressed up like Cindy Lauper but really just looked like a hooker? That might catch someone’s eye.

I smile at my stupid joke, but know they want to cling to the ideal, pristine daughter they always thought they had. Too bad I was never that girl.


Entry Nickname: The Little Red Head
Title: The Believer
Word Count: 91,000
Genre: YA Fantasy


Sixteen-year-old Syndle Baxter is the only person standing between a powerful druid and the safety of her island home. The only problem is she isn’t a wizard.

The Isle is a mysterious place hidden in the Atlantic Ocean where wizards and Believers (non-wizards) live together in strained harmony. Syndle becomes disillusioned by the fact that she’s destined to remain a second-class citizen simply because she can’t do magic. When she befriends a wizard apprentice named William, and he asks her to go with him to find his missing mentor, she drops everything to join him on the quest, seeing this as an opportunity to do something Believers rarely get to do.

Their search takes them into the Bermuda triangle where they find a group of druids, whose ancestors were banished from The Isle centuries before. Syndle and William discover the leader’s plot to take over The Isle. Using an ordinary mirror, a bit of dumb luck, and no magic whatsoever, Syndle stops the druid’s attack long enough for them to get away.

With new confidence, and William as her best ally, Syndle returns home to improve the lives of Believers like her. The druid, defeated but not dead, bides his time as he infiltrates the island and plots his revenge on Syndle. This time he’s prepared to finish her off for good, and prove once and for all that Believers have no worth, before seizing The Isle for himself. Syndle puts her life on the line to stop him, but this time there might be no escape.

First 250 Words:

Deep in the heart of the Atlantic Ocean resides a small, very unusual, island. For one thing it drifts, never staying in one place for too long, and never coming close to other land masses. For another, the rest of the world isn’t aware that a whole society lives there. But what really makes this island special is it’s the last place on earth where magic still exists.
It’s called The Isle and it’s my home.

A brief history of The Isle goes something like this: Long ago the island used to be right up near the coast of England and there were all kinds of comings and goings between us and them. But over time people stopped believing in things like magic and all else that goes with it. The lack of belief caused The Isle to fade. So all the wizards, the fairies, the druids, the trolls, along with all the people who still believed in magic packed up onto the island and just…left.

That’s right, the island drifted away, right into legend. Except that legend has forgotten about us, too.

I love The Isle. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else, but there are times I’ve felt like my beloved home doesn’t love me back.

On the first day of work at my first job as a mail carrier, the biggest challenge was trying to stay positive. I walked down twisting streets, checking my map marked with red lines to make sure I didn’t miss anyone’s mail.


  1. This comment is reserved for voting. Judges, please reply here. Thank you.

    1. Victory to Tricks Aren't for Kids. Solid query and writing.

      To Little Red Head, I loved your query and your writing is strong, but the exposition dump turned me away. I'd advise taking a sprinkling approach. Let the reader learn this through the first few chapters. Also, the I loved the Isle line is strong.

      Good luck to you both!

    2. Victory to Tricks Aren't for Kids

      I'm starting feel like "me too" again. Drat that SavageBlue for beating me to the pitches.

      Any who, I loved NAKED - great pitch and opening!

      The Little Red Head, I love fantasy and was so excited with your query but the opening, while interesting, was too much info. to start with. Sprinkle this in with action and introduce your character right off, and then give us all this stuff in small doses.

      Great job guys!

    3. Victory to Tricks Aren't for Kids: The query and 250 brought tears to my eyes. Good job making me cry. What I'm drawn to though is the hope you infuse into the query. The promise that the character will come out stronger in the end. I'm curious as to why Anna ran away at thirteen, and I'd read the book to discover her secrets. Love this!

      The Little Red Head: The beginning of the first 250 didn't draw me in. It did the opposite. Show the action don't tell us straight away. The premise is intriguing and I love fantasy. This sounds like a fun book full of adventure and magic, or no magic in Syndle case. At least she’s smarter than the average druid.

      Good luck to you both.

    4. Victory to Tricks aren't for Kids (Your nickname has me in tears)

      To Red Head: You have an interesting premise, but I would like to see more of what makes your story unique in your query. Also, the info dump in your first page turned me off.

      To Tricks: You have a very emotional and well written first page.

    5. Victory to Tricks Aren't for Kids.

      Tricks: My only complaint is that in your query you introduce Arney and then leave him out of your final sentence. Is she risking her friendship with him, along with everything else? That felt important to me.

      Red: I love your query and concept. BUT, I'm with the others. A little too much info and not enough action in your 250. Mix all that in as she's delivering mail and you'll be golden ;-)

    6. VIctory to: TRICKS

      Tricks: Really interesting concept and I liked the query a lot. In the opening 250 the parents are desperate to find her and I found myself wondering how that so quickly turns to hate once they do. Surely, they had to envision this scenario for her as a runaway and would be invested in trying to get her the help she needs. But maybe that's just me being naive! I also felt that Amey should be part of the stakes at the end since he has space in the query. Does he stick by her or does she stand to lose him too?

      Red: I wasn't connecting with the query but I couldn't tell if it was just that this isn't my kind of story or if there was more to it than that. I think the issue with the first 250 is that the voice sounds very, very middle grade to me versus YA.

    7. Victory to Tricks Aren't For Kids

      I think the query for NAKED is strong as is; it and the 250 should get requests, but I'm going to point to a couple of places to think about strengthening. Overall, I see Anna being assimilated back into her home, but I'm not seeing how she really feels about it after the assault. What's the life she wants to gain control of? What is Anna working toward achieving? Do her feelings for Luis vanish? I think putting the parents hating her into Anna's words (Anna knows/is certain her parents hate her...) will make it more clear that assertion is from her perspective. As for the 250, I think the passage captures her discomfort with her current life and her ties back to her old life very nicely. And it's a great way to bring in her parents' concern without being blatant about any of it. Well done!

      The query for THE BELIEVER left me with quite a few questions. The log line hints that Syndle is the only one who can stop the druid from taking over her homeland. But if she's surrounded by wizards, fairies and others with magic, why is she the one who has to stop a single druid? Is William's missing mentor important as it seems they never find him? How exactly is Syndle going to improve the lives of other Believers if dumb luck was such a major factor in her temporarily overcoming the druid? What does being treated as second-class citizens entail exactly? As for the 250, my mind heads right to the world-building on this small island. Folk have enough mail they need a carrier for it, meaning they have to have enough resources to make paper. If the paper is made magically, then why isn't it delivered magically? Are there guilds of wizards creating substantial things out of the ether since the island doesn't get close enough to any other land for commerce? Is the small isle big enough to sustain a growing population of trolls and fairies and wizards and Believers? The writing itself is solid and very nice. It just doesn't make me ready to believe in magic yet.

  2. Hey Little Red Head! I'm your opponent Tricks Aren't for kids. Good luck today.

    A few comments on your entry. Druids! Wizards! An secret island that floats and a normal girl stuck between. Sounds pretty awesome :-)

    "The only problem is she isn’t a wizard." This part could be stronger. Since we don't really know the connection to being not-a-wizard in her society, we don't really know why that matters. Can you say something like "without a weapon, or magic-- yeah, this should be easy" (The last bit adds a little voice, which you can take or leave. It might not be fitting for your character and that's fine. Just an idea!)

    And the page has a lot of back story right away. It's not bad at all, but I think it would be a little better if you start with your character first then jump into the world building. I want to care about a character more than I want to know about the world (but I want both!)

    Anyway, this sounds pretty cool so good luck! May the odd be ever if you favor!... Oh wait, wrong game. :-) See you around!

    1. Hi! Nice to meet you, Tricks, I'm The Little Red Head. Thanks for you comments, I actually love your suggestion about the first paragraph, that voice would fit my character well.

      Your story sounds edgy and intriguing. I love your query. The last paragraph makes me ask a few questions. What is it about eating honeysuckle and climbing trees that Anna finds interesting, after all she's been through? I also want to know what everyone is whispering about exactly? I mean, I it's obvious everyone is judging her because she was a prostitute, but what exactly are they saying? I don't know if you can work any of that in there, but it's an idea. Oh, and I also would like to know why her parents hate her...because she was ran away and became a prostitute, or is it more than that? I sense more, but I could be wrong.

      Anyway, nice work and good luck to you, too. :D

  3. Tricks Aren’t for Kids:
    I don’t think anyone plans to be a prostitute so I would like to see what forced her into that position. And I’d like to know what drew her to Luis, other than Stockholm syndrome.

    I’m intrigued by the vicious rumor mills of HS, especially when they actually have juicy details to go on in this case. Is the old John Luis or someone else? It’s unclear.

    Are her parents just controlling or truly evil? I have a hard time believing that they hate her. I would like a hint of what went so terribly wrong in her life for her to choose such a dire path. The opening scene is lovely and dark. Good job and good luck!

    The Little Red Head:
    I am intrigued by the set up but struggle with a bit of dumb luck thwarting a powerful wizard. Perhaps a bit more elaboration on that fact? So the evil druid is readying his hordes to take over the Isle. If the goal is for her to defeat him once more without magic, I feel like we need to know a lot more about what makes her unique. Apparently, she is clever and resourceful. Can that be shown?

    The first 250 is too much exposition. I like the lore but it can be sprinkled in throughout the story. She is our protag so start with her. Show us those unique things about her, even if it is delivering mail. Does she have an oddball way of tracking the mail, which can foreshadow her unique mind?

    What do you mean when you say “Legend forgot about us too?” Good job and good luck!

  4. Tricks Aren't For Kids: Very interesting premise and definitely not something that's usually touched on in YA contemporary. I really like the query, I think you lay everything out very well. I disagree with a previous commenter that you need to explain in the query how she ended up as a prostitute. I think the way it's worded in the query gives us a very good feel for your MC's voice, and I assume we'll learn in the actual novel how she ended up there. I think your 250 is great, with a nice balance of voice and exposition. It really grounds us well with this character, which is fantastic. Good job!

    Little Red Head: Non-wizard kids in a magic community? Premise after my own heart. :) I agree that the first 250 has a little too much exposition. I would just start with "on the first day" and try to sprinkle the rest of the exposition in the opening chapter.

    Good luck to both of you!

  5. Tricks Aren't For Kids: I love your 250, and I agree that there's a nice balance and voice there. I'm already interested in the character. I wish the query had a little more explanation about why she became a prostitute and why she loves her pimp. Did she not think being a hooker was a big deal, or was she forced into it?

    Little Red Head: Cool premise! I agree with the others that I'm not super excited about opening with the description of the island. It's really interesting, but doesn't intrigue me as much as the line "I love the Isle..." I think that line is fantastic.

  6. Tricks: I love your voice in your first 250. YOu get a real sense of who your MC is and just from this alone, I'd want to read on...find out what makes her tick, why she's so hell bent on not being found. Your query is really great too. Interesting premise, very different. My first MS was risqué and judges/agents/CPs either loved the idea or hated it, afraid it wouldn't sell. But I'm learning that this business is subjective. I would read this book even if it is something unique and definitely not cookie-cutter or fairytale-ish.

    Little Red Head: I agree with Danielle about starting the first 250 with the line, I love the Isle. It's such a great hook, if you hadn't read the query you'd want to know why her hometown has betrayed her. Fantasy is not usually my thing, but this premise is really interesting. But fantasy or not, who doesn't like a sassy, young character who wants to cause some mischief and go against the rules for the greater good?


    This nickname. It is so good.

    I believe the first sentence is grammatically incorrect; the two phrases are each complete sentences, so that comma should be either a semi-colon or period (or maybe em dash as well? I'm not a grammar expert but it doesn't read right to me). Same with the first sentence of the second paragraph.

    But other than that I think the concept is very intriguing and relevant, and the writing is solid. The 250 is equally intriguing.


    I like this premise a lot and think it sounds really exciting, although I am wondering if the query gives away too much? It seems a tad complex and synopsis-like for my tastes. I think you've got a very good story on your hands, though!

  8. Tricks Aren't For Kids, Mentor Rebecca Here!

    Query Wise: Your first sentence had my eyebrows up, so bravo on getting my attention! You tense-hop a wee bit between your first and second paragraph. I love the query in general, except when describing the attack by the John, that felt like a bit more summary than you really needed (as to location and such). The only thing I was left unclear on is what she deems as "control of her life." Does her having control mean going back to the streets? Succeeding in her home environment? I'd want to know in what direction your'e taking the story, I suppose. Really, it's a great query!

    A bit about the label though, I would be more comfortable labeling it as Upper YA, almost NA due to the mature subject matter. (That's totally the mom in me).

    As for the first 250: Fabulous. I love the first line, it brings you right in with immediacy. Fabulous voice, she sounds so jaded and I love it. Grammatically, "It’s getting cold, I hate cold." - needs a semicolon. ;) The only suggestion I have, since your writing is super solid, is that to get in deeper POV, maybe consider cutting out the "you's" because they make it sound like she's telling the story instead of in the story, especially in present tense.

    Good luck, this is GREAT!!!

  9. Tricks- I think the subject matter is fascinating. I've read books about the transition from life at home to life on the street, but rarely the other way around. I get a great sense of the conflict immediately. My one question that could be clarified: she's going home to a small town? Is that why everyone knows she was a prostitute? You probably answer it later, but that was the first thing I wondered.

    Red Head-I also love the line about the Isle not loving her back! In fact, I would for sure think about using that as your first sentence! And then you can expand on what she loves about the Isle which will make the exposition-y stuff have more emotion/meaning to it. Also, I'm wondering if your query letter doesn't provide a bit too much play-by-play. I don't know how much happens after the stuff with the mirror etc, but I would maybe simplify it and say something about her coming to the rescue with dumb luck and then about the odds she's up against after that.

    Good luck, guys!

  10. Red Head - I love the idea of beating a wizard and saving your home without magic, and I was drawn in by the query but I wish the story started with some action. I'm sure there is lots of it through the rest of the story!

    Tricks - really heavy subject matter but I like that's it's being addressed. Things like this do happen and it's very sad. I'd definitely read on.

  11. Victory to - Tricks Aren't For Kids - Ultraviolet
    Red Head - I liked the whole "drifting British Island becomes invisible, winds up in the Bermuda Triangle" element of your plot, but I wasn't sure the rest of it seemed original enough in today's market (MC with no magical powers must defeat enemy with magical powers or else MC's world is destroyed). If the writing had been super-engaging I might have been swayed but the opening 250 was a lot of telling so it didn't rope me in as much as it might have. I would start with "I love the isle" and weave the rest of it in as you go along.
    Tricks - your query didn't wow me and I even had some concerns about the almost flippant air it had toward genuinely scary issues. It's a fine line between "voice" and the author describing her own work. What made me choose you was your 250 which showed your character's strong voice and your ability to invent emotionally engaging imagery.

  12. Red Head - I agree with everything Ultraviolet above has said. The drifting island is very evocative but you've got to resist the info-dump in the 250. I also think you need to cut out chunks in your query. Seeing as there are a lot of similar stories out there, you need to pick and choose your strongest features which to me would begin with the drifting island.

    Tricks - this is a discomforting premise so watch that you keep your protag likeable. There are moments in which she veers into unlikeable but her voice saves her. If you can pull the likeability off, it will be the absolute strength of your story. I think your nickname is so good I'd actually make it the title of the book.

  13. Tricks Aren't For Kids: Your query is very strong! It's an edgier topic than I like to read, but you handle is tastefully and the opening 250 really sets the tone.

    Red Head: I am a huge fantasy fan, but I feel as though your query comes off as a summary. Your novel has exciting elements, so I am certain you can make the pitch more thrilling. The same goes for the 250!

  14. Tricks Aren't For Kids: Your query made me curious about your MC, which is a good thing. I'm not usually drawn to contemporary stories, but I love your edgy voice and would read your book. Your 250 drew me in and kept me curious about Anna's life. Very well done.

    Little Red Head: I love your query, though I wish it showed a little more of the spunky voice we see in your 250. If I was searching for a book at my local bookstore, I'd buy your book at the first mention of druids. I think your opening would be much stronger if you started at "I love the Isle." I found myself skipping over your second paragraph as back story never draws me in.

    Good luck to you both!

  15. Naked: I love this premise. Next to all the paranormal and SFF queries (and I say this as a SFF fan and writer :) ) this is just so fresh and different. It instantly has me wondering how this will work and what would someone in Anna's situation do? I can see a lot of great character development happening.

    I am intrigued by Arney and I LOVE this line: "who teaches her to eat honey suckles and climb trees."

    I've read the first 250 before, and it's great. I don't think the 250 words need to set up plot, but it is a bonus if they do and your does. We instantly see her current situation and what is likely to happen...her parents will find her. Great stuff.

    The only line I tripped a little on was this; " I don’t see why my parents still try to find me." I wonder if it should be: I don’t see why my parents are still trying to find me?? Just a thought.

    Believer: The first line of your query is great. It succinctly sets up the plot and ends with a punch. I like the premise and love that this is a magical story about someone who isn't a wizard. I think you set up the conflict well.

    I think the first 250 needs some work. I am all for breaking the rules (i.e. don't do setting or exposition in the first 250) if it works. Yours comes close to working. I really liked the descriptions and history. But it could be stronger just starting with her being mail carrier (which is great!) and let the rest filter in. Show that she loves the island instead of having her tell us. Adding the history in later will keep the reader curious. You want them to think "What is this place?" before you answer that question.

    Good luck to you both! :)

  16. Tricks.... WHOA! I am floored. By ALL OF IT. Your query was intense, informative and the voice so strong. The first 250.... AGAIN, WHOA!

    Little Red...

    I ADORE fantasy and your premise is WONDERFUL!!!!! I do agree that your query needs tightening and to focus on more of her battle..

    The first 250... Lots of wonderful INFO, but if you weave that info into to action, you first page will sparkle.

    Trix/ Stacey...

    I am Michael/ BLINDED PASSION.... We do have a major similarity in our writing. I would love to read your work and partner. Thanks for connecting with me. Your voice is AMAZING... Aidan and Syndie are soul mates...