Sunday, June 1, 2014

QK Round 1: A Bit of Code versus Love Is Hell

Entry Nickname: A Bit of Code
Title: HELLO_WORLD
Word count: 80K
Genre: Adult Sci-Fi

Query:

Scott Gris’ skills as a surveillance expert come in pretty handy when he’s breaking down firewalls with his hacker buddies. But internet hijinks aren't enough; they're going after the holy grail of hacks–UltSyn's Human Information Drives, assets implanted with cerebral microchips. When they find an encrypted list of names, Scott's convinced his missing sister, Victoria, didn’t just run off with her boyfriend like her family was lead to believe. 

Obsessed with finding Victoria, he tracks her halfway around the world. As Scott digs deeper into restricted databases he discovers those who enlist with UltSyn get far more than they bargained for. Plunged into a world of human trafficking and corporate espionage, Scott is determined to find his sister, no matter the cost. Targeting Sonia, the HID believed to contain information about his sister, he plans to steal her data and use it to bring UltSyn down. But when the information reveals that his sister has been working for UltSyn all along, he has to find her–before UltSyn finds him.

First 250 words:

The whole world lives in two places at once. The one that is real and then the digital verse, where a pull of the strings can affect the world outside. But doing so leaves a trace. Even the corporations, the engineers, the hackers that live in both worlds can’t fully wash their footsteps away. The bigger you are the larger the shadow you will cast.

That was part of the reason why I turned into a lone wolf. My digital trail is tiny in comparison to an organized group. I had no loose ends that could be pulled; no emails about where the team would meet up, no phone calls to check in with would be co-workers. It worked better this way.

I wasn't trying to take on the world, just trying to save one person.

It never seemed liked an outlandish goal at the time.

I hacked into several databases and started tracking the movements of Human Information Devices. HIDs are flesh and blood hard drives and the classified prizes of business world. Valued for the ability to keep secrets. The rest of the world is only just now seeing them as the technological wonder they are. I had a feeling this is where the person I was looking for disappeared to.

Before this, HIDs were urban legends, the Holy Grail of the hacking community. If it was even possible to hack them it is incredibly hard to do. It was a challenge a lot of people wanted to take, but I was the only one ever given the chance.


VERSUS


Entry Nickname: Love is Hell
Title: Daughter of Lilith
Word Count: 71,000
Genre: YA Paranormal
  
Query:

As a half-demon, sixteen-year-old Ariel rips souls from the living as casually as mortals order coffee.

Raised by her abusive teacher, Batal, Ariel blindly accepts all humans are a worthless blight on the world – especially males. But when a car accident leaves her stranded, a minister’s son, Mike Flannery, goes beyond the call of duty to help.

Getting to know him, Ariel starts questioning her upbringing. Mike’s kindness and sincerity suggests he’s not the filthy slime her teacher claims him to be. She soon realizes he brings out something in her she didn’t know she had - humanity. Refusing to return home, Ariel vows to never again let Batal or anyone else manipulate her. However, Batal is not about to let one of her pawns escape without a fight.

Now the renegade demon realizes letting Mike into her life is endangering both of them. She can deny her new feelings and walk away to protect him from the creatures of Hell, or confront her sadistic headmistress, risking an eternity of suffering for a chance at love.

First 250 words:

I silently walk over to the bed, where the woman sleeps next to a man similar in age. His arm draped over her, as if to protect his possession.

A nightstand displays several pictures of the couple, including a wedding photo. The two seem happy together. But I know it’s nothing more than a façade. Men are incapable of love.

I walk around the room – as I must – searching for any signs that would prevent me from fulfilling my duty. As usual, I find none. No one from today remembers the ancient agreement.

Returning to the bed, I stand beside the woman who is asleep on her side. An elongated pillow rests between her knees and under her enlarged belly, supporting her womb.

I shake my head. How can any self-respecting female allow a son of Adam to defile her? I glare down at the male. Instinctively, I feel the corners of my mouth tighten into a snare. My stomach churns creating a bitter taste in my mouth, making me want to spit. Control, Ariel. Stay in control.

I suppress my feelings, as I’ve always done. A lesser being may not be able to, but I’m not like these frail creatures before me. I’m a daughter of Lilith, I serve The Mother.

I hold out my hand, palm facing down. I listen to the expectant mother’s breathing, and focus on her heartbeat. It’s slow and rhythmic.  

I lower my hand so it hovers over her belly. Another heartbeat comes into focus, faster but still harmonious – the child’s.

19 comments:

  1. This space reserved for judge feedback and votes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A BIT OF CODE

      QUERY
      I’m a big fan of hacker stories after reading Cory Doctorow’s LITTLE BROTHER. But what you have to be able to do with stories like this cater to those of us who aren’t as hacker literate as you might be. Are these HID drives inside humans or separate from them? Cerebral microchips sound like they are in someone’s brain, correct? Are the drives where all the chip data is stored? Hacker noobs need some help here. 

      Great stakes in the brother/sister relationship. I like that. But does Sonia play a bigger role other than giving him the info he needs? Why bring up a character by name if she’s not a bigger part of the stakes?

      FIRST 250
      This is all great information about our MC and HIDs, but it’s all telling. It feels like, “Here’s information you need before reading the story. Now I’ll get to the story.” Can this info be given to us more organically and timely? I’m much more interested in Scott’s day-to-day life as a hacker and how his missing sister is going to catalyze the story. Can we start with him in the middle of a hack? Or looking for his sis? Something that puts us in his life and cements us in his story. Back story is important, but we don’t need it all up front.


      LOVE IS HELL

      QUERY
      Love the first line of the query. HOOKED.

      “Getting to know him, Ariel starts questioning her upbringing.” This sentence isn’t necessary. Your description of Mike and her changing judgment of him tell us this. Great stakes at the end

      FIRST 250
      Totally agree with the comment from Max about the incongruence between the query and first 250. For a demon who so brutally takes souls, she seems to pause and reflect an awful lot on this mission. If brutal is how she begins, we should see this brutality from the start.

      Don’t waste words on unnecessary details like “similar in age” (assumed) or “who is asleep on her side” (we already know she’s asleep).

      Fantastic end of the first 250, though! I don’t want anything to happen to a baby, but that would solidify the MC’s brutality. Gah!

      These are such great ideas, writers. I'd read both of them. But there can be only one. ;)

      VICTORY TO LOVE IS HELL.

      Delete
    2. Book Boyfriend ConnoisseurJune 1, 2014 at 9:49 PM

      A Bit of Code

      This isn't usually my sort of book, but let me tell you, I am very intrigued! The query is a little wordy to me. This line in particular "UltSyn's Human Information Drives, assets implanted with cerebral microchips" I'm guessing there are implants inside someone's head. It's not too clear though. (At least to me) The first 250 seems to be a lot of back story and info dumping. I'm not getting a clear feel for the main character here, more or less what they do.

      Love is Hell:

      Lots of Demon stories out there now, yet to me this one stands out quite a bit. For one, I love the fact that the half demon is a broody girl, and not a broody guy for once. The query is simple and clean, telling me the stakes and goals. I do love that first line of the 250 too. Certain lines to me are more telling though, than showing, for instance "The two seem happy together." okay, are they hugging, smiling? SHOW me. Same with this one "I suppress my feelings" Does she suck in a breath? Squeeze her lips in a tight line? Again, try and let me see those things. Regardless, this is very intriguing.

      Victory to: Love is Hell

      Delete
    3. Allusion AssassinJune 3, 2014 at 2:41 PM

      A BIT OF CODE
      I found your query to be kind of confusing. You have to make sure you are taking us non-hackers on the journey with you. I don’t get what HID is and the UltSyns stuff lost me.

      Your hook needs to be reworked. The opening sentence is superfluous. Also, it conflicts with the opening page which talks about him being a lone wolf. The opening should be pithier with more suspense – “Scott Gris is on the verge of collecting the ultimate prize in hackerland – a Human implanted hard drive with information that can take down the immoral Ultsyn corporation that made it. So what the hell is his runaway sister’s name doing on the HID’s encrypted data list” Not that, but you get the idea. Try to inject some of Scott’s voice also.

      I feel like your second paragraph repeats a lot. You tell us frequently and often that Scott's out to find his sister at any cost. Give us more specifics and detail on how he goes about it. What is in his way? Killer last line.

      I don’t think the info dump in the opening is necessarily bad, it just needs to be paired with action. Show Scott doing something, on some kind of job, while you explain the background. Then it wouldn’t feel like such a dump.

      LOVE IS HELL
      Your hook doesn’t really give us any mystery. I think it should be more of a problem statement than a statement of fact. Something more along the lines of “Her whole 16 yr old life Ariel had been taught one thing – men are scum incapable of basic decency. So Mike Flannery CAN’T really be being nice to her and more to the point, she can’t be liking it.” Not that, but something like that maybe and combine your first two sentences. Move the third sentence to the big body paragraph.

      I think the rest of the query is fine. The stakes are clear. It could really use more voice. Ariel’s personality doesn’t come through at all.

      The opening felt a bit forced to me. If this is no big deal, she does it all the time, why is she stopping to think about it so much. Some of the words were stiff, like “similar in age” and “like I must” and “I feel the corners of my mouth…” It was a lot of telling. Stories like this are tough because by necessity the MC’s journey will make us not like them in the beginning, but it’s hard to want to keep reading when you don’t like the MC.

      I like the premise of a hacker hacking into other humans to save his sister more than a mislead, man-hating demon coming to her senses.

      VICTORY A BIT OF CODE

      Delete
    4. HELLO_WORLD
      I had to read this twice to understand it, and I think it's because there's quite a bit of hacker/spy jargon that might be a barrier for people that don't read in that genre a lot (of course then again, you'd want an agent knowedgable in the gener so maybe that's not such a bad thing?)

      DAUGHTER OF LILITH
      From what I understand, anything with angels/demons is a hard sell right now, but your query is really clear and concise. I agree with Captain Yawp that the sentence starting "Getting to know him" is unnecessary.


      Victory to Love is Hell

      Delete
    5. A Bit of Code
      Sci-Fi queries are the hardest! Getting across those crucial world-building points to someone who has no concept of the story takes careful wording. I feel the query is good, but it can still use work to make it great. We start the query with Scott, however, we then move to “THEY’re going after the holy grail” Who is they? After reading the whole query, I gathered UltSyn is a corporation of some sort, but when the name is first used I had no idea of that, so it slowed me down trying to figure things out. HID’s seem to be very important to the story, but they’re not really explained beyond “cerebral microchips.” What do they do? Why are they used? I believe they should be explained in some detail. As far as the first 250, sorry to say this, but it feels like an info dump. I think you need to reconsider how to start your novel. Throw us into this world, SHOW us, don’t just tell us about it.

      Love is Hell
      Nice query. The characters, conflict and stakes are very well stated. The wording is clear and I didn’t have to pause to wonder or reread. Same for the first 250. Man, I worry about what Ariel plans to do to the unborn child I would definitely keep reading to find out. Ariel sounds like a character who will have much to learn. I can almost picture her journey. Well done.

      VICTORY TO … Love is Hell

      Delete
    6. A Bit Of Code: Hey, this query sounds great. you've got a pretty solid premise outlines here and reasons to read. I also like the idea of it being about a brother looking for his sister. I only wish you had added some more detail to the query that would give us a more in-depth look into who Scott is and what kind of guy he is--same goes for his sister. Make it a little more personal. You really had me hooked until I got to paragraph five, where once again, I was wanting something more intimate/personal. I was okay with the background info at the beginning but then when paragraph 5 came and it was more background, I was thrown a bit. I think you have some great stuff here but I'd love to see you give us more of who your MC is as a person, rather than "hacker."

      A Bit Of Hell: I think your query is pretty solid, and as I'm sure you know demon stories might be a tough sell but if you have a great query and pages, an agent or publisher who's into that/looking for it, will request.
      Your 250 is great in the sense that it has action and something is going on, so we're definitely going to be pulled in. However, I would suggest going through and omitting some of the "I"s that start off the sentences and paragraphs and also the telling and use showing to pull us even deeper into your MCs story and world.

      Both queries are pretty solid and this is actually a tough one for me but I'm going to call VICTORY TO: A BIT OF CODE
      xoxoSally Draper

      Delete
    7. A BIT OF CODE

      Query: Interesting and exciting premise. You lay everything out in the query well, but it's pretty wordy and could be tightened up. It's a lot of complicated information and for non-techy types might be a tough sell. Maybe simplify a bit? Also, the part about 'Sonia' is confusing. If it's the name of an HID or program consider doing something to set the text apart so we don't assume it's a female character? Your last line is a great hook.

      250: Your query sets this up as a pretty thrilling story, but your opening fell flat for me. Not that I was expecting it to start with a bang, but I'd hoped a bit of that energy would show through in your narrative. As it stands you're just telling us what's happened and details about the company. The writing is well done, but I kind of feel like I'm reading an instruction manual. In my opinion, starting with a more gripping scene would be quite helpful.

      LOVE IS HELL

      Query: You've laid things out nicely. We know the main character and her stakes. We get what's going on without it being weighted down with too many words or details. The only thing I'd like to see is more of Ariel's voice which would give it a good pop. Nice hook in your first line.

      250: This opening is intriguing, but it's a lot of telling. We want to be in Ariel's head/body and so far you're only really explaining what she's seeing and doing. Sprinkle more for the reader to connect to, more of what Ariel's feeling and it'll pull be more effective. That being said, I would keep reading.

      Best of luck to you both! VICTORY to LOVE IS HELL.

      Delete
  2. A Bit of Code:

    I love the opening lines of both the query and the 250, although I feel like the 250 is stronger element. A few things are confusing in the query. Just to clarify: UltSyn puts chips in people and stores their data in them? Or are these machines that have "cerebral microchips" that make them more human-like? Referring to HIDs as 'assets' confuses me, and is doubly confusing when a HID is referred to as "Sonia". (As opposed to SONIA or S.O.N.I.A.) Humans with computer chips or servers with brain chips? I think it's humans, but I'm not 100% sure.

    The first paragraph has a lot of unclear connections-- an encrypted list of names doesn't necessarily explain why Victoria disappearance is now suspicious. Was she one of the names? Or her boyfriend's? What makes Scott suspicious?

    You also sort of gloss over Scott switching from "fun and games hacking" to hunting the big game. Why does he make the switch? Between this and it being unclear why he becomes obsessed with Victoria's disappearance, I feel like we're missing his inciting incident.

    I'm not sure that you benefit from the pluralization of subjects in the first paragraph. The sentences would be stronger with "Scott" instead of "they".

    In the 250, you lose me a little bit at the sentence: "I hacked into several databases and started tracking the movements of Human Information Devices." Don't gloss over this! This is a novel about hacking, and you should NOT handwave it the first time we see it. Maybe once we've seen lots of hacking then you can start yada-yadaing it, but the first time we see Scott hack you should show us the details. Really get in there! Especially in the first 250-- it will give your reader confidence that this is novel about hacking from someone who knows what their talking about! (Even if you're making it up.)

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  3. Love is Hell

    Here I feel like the the query is very strong, but I have some misgivings about the 250. First off, a crackerjack first sentence to the query! I'm in! Second paragraph is good, too.

    Would probably change "starts questioning her upbringing" to 'questions her upbringing' or 'forces to Ariel to question her upbringing'. Starts doing something is just not active enough a construction for a query, IMO.

    When I hit the word 'headmistress' I retroactively realized that Batal was female, which jarred me (ever so slightly). Maybe work that in earlier. But a strong query.

    The 250 makes some very peculiar choices with its opening.

    "I silently walk over to the bed, where the woman sleeps next to a man similar in age."

    It's kind of a strange sentence, yeah? First, it's an odd detail to focus on-- the man and woman are similar in age. This is the opening, and we're investing a lot of first capital there on kind of an amorphous and unimportant detail. And we don't know their age-- are they young, middle-aged, old? All we've got is that they are similiar. I also trip a little on the lack of parallelism between "the" woman and "a" man. Having read the query, I'm guessing you mean that to suggest disgust for the man with the article difference, but it still read a little strangely.

    The wedding photo is another detail that is included but still keeps us at arms length from the couple. We don't know what the photo looks like, we don't know how old they are, it's just there. I guess what I'm saying with both of these things is that you're providing details, but no imagery, and it's making things feel a little vague. If you gave the couple more details, I think it also would help rachet up the tension in this scene.

    "Men are incapable of love." - I feel is too much saying and is maybe overwriting the scene. You're kind of just stating the thesis of the character outright here, yes? Besides, the scene seems to end with Ariel ripping the soul from (a man? the woman? a baby boy?), right? I think we'll get her dislike from that!

    "As usual, I find none. No one from today remembers the ancient agreement." - Love the mystery of an unexplained ancient agreement. I'd kill the "As usual" though-- the next sentence makes it redundant, and I feel like less is more in a scene this tense.

    "I shake my head. How can any self-respecting female allow a son of Adam to defile her? I glare down at the male. Instinctively, I feel the corners of my mouth tighten into a snare. My stomach churns creating a bitter taste in my mouth, making me want to spit." This is overwritten. There's shaking, there's glaring, there's mouth tightening, and kind of a biological Rube Goldberg machine resulting in spit. Do one of these things. Your readers are smart! We can figure it out Ariel is not feeling this guy with just one of these details.

    It finishes strong though. You gotta be on the edge of your seat for babies in danger!

    One last thing: I feel like there's a disconnect between the book you describe in your query and the book we see in the 250. In the query, you say: "Ariel rips souls from the living as casually as mortals order coffee." (Which is a killer line, by the way.) But in the 250, Ariel doesn't seem casual at all, with her face-wrenching and disgust at everyone. She seems rather righteous. Is this is case of the query not matching up to the book, or the 250 not being representative of the rest of the novel? Something to consider.

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  4. Bit of Code

    You have a very good query, it sets up the stakes right away.

    The first 250, while it's well written, it feels like too much telling right up front. Maybe have him actively hacking the system from the very beginning, and explaining some of the other things as you go along?


    Love is Hell

    The query is really good, you've instantly caught my interest.

    The first 250 - I agree with the others. She does seems to be pondering quite a bit. Also, I agree there are things that are assumed, that could be trimmed, but overall I really enjoyed your entry.

    These are both great! Good luck to you both.

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  5. Bit of Code: I love stories about hackers and your query does a great job of explaining the stakes.
    The 250 reads as a telling prologue. You might want to incorporate the information through out the first chapter. Or even start the story earlier when Scott learns HID's aren't just a myth.

    Love is Hell: The query is great. Ariel's voice shines through.
    You lose me a little in the 250. There are 8 separate paragraphs, and all but 2 start with "I." Maybe trim/combine some of the paragraphs to tighten up the action. It's actually should be a tense scene, with Ariel standing over 2 sleeping people. If you amp up the tension in this section, your reader will be hooked.

    Good luck to you both!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Another tough call I’d say…

    A Bit of Code
    This one hooked me. I like the hacker-espionage angle. Also the brother/sister angle. In the query the only thing I’d suggest is maybe finding a way to introduce UltSyn and Human Information Drives in separate sentences if possible (i.e., one new concept/thing per sentence).

    The 250 is all telling, but it reads pretty well IMO and so drew me in. My main comment would be that I think some of the concepts could use a little breathing room. It throws a lot at the reader in just 250 words: two worlds, digital footprints, lone wolf, saving someone (with no mention of who), saving the world, HIDs, etc. The voice is good, so I think if anything you could expand on some of these and provide a little more info. One nit: something feels off in the tenses in this line: “If it was even possible to hack them it is incredibly hard to do.”

    Love Is Hell
    Again, great hook here in the query. The only potential problem I see is that “male saves woman from her male-hating” risks being somewhat cliché and outdated (i.e., here in the 21st century). But the paranormal angle does add an interesting twist.

    I think the 250 could benefit from a stronger opening line, but other than that I thought it worked well. It paints a nicely sinister atmosphere, and we know something bad is going down.

    Good luck to both!

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  7. Bit of Code:

    I do so love anything that smacks of Blade Runner--hunting down the HIDs reminds me of replicant hunting. I am intrigued by the premise for sure. The twist with the sister adds the very critical human aspect of the story. The query is pretty solid, but I wanted to really understand why he and his friends are so eager to go after the holy grail of hacks--just because that's what hackers do? It felt a bit vague to me there. The rest seems clear. Like the other commenters, I found the first 250 a bit more problematic. It might make a lot more sense to start with a concrete scene between some of your characters. Show us these crazy hacker guys and give us clues about the situation bit by bit. I'd like to see the MC's personality and feel the world through his eyes. Great premise though. Good luck!

    Love is Hell:

    I am not a big reader of demon or angel stories, so I am coming at this with zero context. What is most interesting to me is how Mike's kindness impacts her. I am really intrigued by that dynamic. It might be good to know in the query a bit more about why these demons who serve Lilith hate humans so much. Is her teacher a particularly nasty unusual demon or are all demons bad? This is just me, but I hope that Batal is not a caricature of an anti-male feminist. She seems pretty extreme. My biggest question about the query though has to do with how quickly Ariel decides to not go home. It sounds like she decides in one night. That seems too fast. Maybe that can be clarified. I did really like the first 250. Totally creepy and I am so freakin worried about that baby and the couple. Yikes! I wish I knew the purpose of what she does as a demon. A lot of the paragraphs began with "I"--you might want to try switching that up a bit. I would definitely read more! Good luck!

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  8. A Bit of Code:

    On the whole, I really liked the query. It caught my attention and made me want to read on. I'm a sucker for sibling stories too, and I like that there seems to be some real depth in yours. So often "save the sister" plotlines involve an overly innocent character, and I like that the relationship is complicated and not what your protagonist expects. Like a lot of people before me, I wasn't as excited about the 250. It had some nice phrases, but the intro is a bit info-dumpy for me right now. I would love to see this novel start in scene. It seems like you've got the potential to begin with so many good ones - performing a hack, looking for his sister. As it stands now, the energy grinds to a halt after the query. Get to the exciting stuff and explain the backstory as we need it and you'll totally have a book I would love to read!

    Love is Hell: I'm also not much of a paranormal romance reader, so this is tricky territory to tread in for me too. In general, my questions about the query and the 250 were about the same. There were aspects of both that felt kind of ambiguous to me. For instance, in the query, I read about how she hates humans... and then the 250 seemed to be about hating men. I'm confused. Her loathing didn't seem to apply to the woman, just a sense of not understanding. I agree with some earlier comments about where there were awkward phrases in the 250 as well. Loved the tease about "ancient contracts" that would prevent her from doing her work. Looking forward to how that plays out. I also agree that the scene occasionally gets a little overly speculative, but the speculation I thought at least had good inner voice. I'd trim rather than ditching it altogether.

    Best of luck to both of you! Congrats on getting in!

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  9. Wow! Lots of high stakes here!

    Code:
    I like your query- it's very tight and creates suspense. Having the brother/sister relationship creates more interest for me, someone who likes emotionally driven plots. I'm wondering what will happen to the MC if UltSyn catches him- will they kill him? Put him in the human traffic market? I got lost when you used the HID acronym later in the query- since it's a new concept to readers, perhaps you should spell it out.

    Your 250 explains a lot very quickly - I was impressed with how well you packed in all that critical information in just a few paragraphs. I'm running with you and ready to read more. There's a lot of "is" (to be) - could you find stronger verbs to use? The verb tense in the 2nd to last sentence is confusing. If it was possible, it "would be" difficult might sound better.
    Great job!

    Love
    You make the stakes for your compelling demon very clear in your query. I like that you give humanizing characteristics to a monstrous character.
    The sentences and paragraphs in your 250 are short and choppy, which is good for increasing the sense of tension. This worked well. I stumbled over "snare". I think of that as a verb. Or a drum.

    Good luck to both of you on these excellent entries. Glad I don't have to judge.

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  10. A Bit of Code:
    I'm very intrigued by your concept and would love to see how it develops in your novel. Your 250 is captivating as well, though it took me a few moments to realize that this is a character monologue reflecting back on the story we're about to read. Because world-building is so complex and has to be done so carefully I suggest working on clarifying the first paragraph of the query and the last two paragraphs of the 250. These are where you delve into details of your fictional world and I would like to see you dwell on them a little while longer.

    Love Is Hell

    I like your concept. It reminds somewhat of Beautiful Creatures, which of course was a huge success so you've definitely got something marketable. Your query is very clear and well laid out though it could use a little more voice. The 250 introduces your world and your character very well and presents the reader with a great snapshot into the MC's life. However, I think you could go a little subtler with the MC. A few strong phrases can go a long way in painting a picture.

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  11. Mrs. Malcolm ReynoldsJune 4, 2014 at 2:25 AM

    A BIT OF CODE

    Query –

    You explain this plot extremely well – but where is your VOICE? This is Sci-Fi…all wheels and metal and numbers and, well… Sci-Fi. That’s why your voice has to stand out, or this query will read like the amazing machines you’re writing about, and that can work against you. There is a heart, here. I catch glimpses of it in places like this: “his missing sister, Victoria, didn’t just run off with her boyfriend like her family was led [you said “lead” here – I do it all the time] to believe”. The main thing here is that you don’t have to be heavy on the mechanics of your story as much as you need to be heavy on the voice and the heart.

    First 250 –

    Lots of backstory going on, here. Since your story is so heavy on tech, again, I would take a step back and lighten this. Jump in to some action, let me see Scott work. Don’t tell me about what he does – show me. (Again, I can spot this because I do it All. The. Time.)
    “I wasn’t trying to take on the world, just trying to save one person. It never seemed like an outlandish goal at the time.” ---- this might well be your opening line. This is the line that had me sitting forward. I honestly think the first two paragraphs can come later on.

    Just be very, very careful here. I’m 250 words in and have no idea where I am. No sights, smells, tastes – nothing. This 250 really needs a smidge of action.

    LOVE IS HELL

    Query –

    Excellent first line. I see it, and that’s what you need in a query. Your voice really comes through, here.

    I really see this story. I would be careful with little phrases like the beginning of the second paragraph’s “getting to know him”. This is one of those rare moments in a query where you can really give me a dash of detail. Is this a long journey? Hours? Days? Are they on busy highways? Abandoned highways? Take full advantage in this small space to really paint me a picture.

    First 250 –

    The first line holds a chance to really show off your writing ability. How old is the woman? Is she older? Young? Does she have tattoos or scars? Salt and pepper hair? Is she in her twenties? Give me a defining feature. Really take the chances you have here to paint me a full picture.

    Excellent line about the ancient agreement. Just enough backstory to keep me leaning forward, but not enough to be a plot dump.

    This seems as though it will take a dark turn, so I really want you to make sure that your character is likeable. I am all about redemption stories and the first 250 are strong – this is more a note for the overall manuscript. Make sure there is something about her that makes me want to stay with her until she meets Mike, because I’m not likely to stick with a protagonist who kills a baby (though they may not be where the story goes) unless they give me a very compelling reason to.

    Overall? The market is soaked with demon stories, but I think this one is strong enough to stand out. It’s simple without being simplistic. Well done, indeed.

    Incredibly tough call. I love both ideas, but I think A BIT OF CODE adds a bit of freshness that the market needs. VICTORY TO A BIT OF CODE


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  12. Both are very interesting ideas.
    A BIT OF CODE: You do have a bit of techno jargon overload in your query, leaving me feeing bombarded with information. I loved the first paragraph of your 250. It drew me in right away. After that, I need something more - either emotion or dialogue.

    LOVE IS HELL: You have a solid query. Well done. Your 250 bothered me a bit. The narration seemed a bit stilted. If that's the speech pattern for that time period/realm then that's fine. It seems antiquated to me though.

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