Sunday, June 1, 2014

QK Round 1: Skateboarding Sherlock versus Split Sister

Entry Nickname: Skateboarding Sherlock
Title: Skidsters
Word Count: 62,000
Genre: Science Fiction


Adrenaline junkie Jedediah Tank lives for the thrill of a perfectly landed trick on his frictionless skid-board, until he crashes into the most dangerous ride of his twelve-year-old life.

Falling into an alley during an illegal race, Jed witnesses two men in purple suits threaten a physicist employed by mega-corporation, Skid Technologies. Three hours later the physicist turns up dead and Jed’s the only one holding any clues. Too bad he can’t go to the police.

Created in 2020, Skid Tech reduces friction by ninety percent, eliminating the need for gas-driven vehicles and creating a cleaner future. But it’s also illegally applied to the bottom of boards, allowing kids, codenamed skidsters, to race through the city as if it were their personal playground. Jed himself is a skidster prodigy, targeted by the cops, who'd love to hand him a one-way ticket to juvie lock-up. There’s no way the coppers will take him seriously—unless he uncovers some hard evidence.

Jed recruits his friends to investigate Skid City’s world of corporate criminals. As Jed peels back the layers of lies protecting the ruthless men in purple, he exposes a project that could level the entire city. To stop the mysterious syndicate from demolishing his city, Jed must bend the laws of physics to their breaking point or it’s—time’s up, you’re dead, Jed. 

First 250 words:

In about 2.07 seconds, I was going to crash. The math didn’t lie—the acceleration of an object by the pull of gravity is 32 feet per second squared and falling at a velocity of…Nevermind. I was going to crash, plain and simple.

I glanced down at my skoard as I fell, jamming my back foot against it, praying for the magnets to catch. Please catch, c’mon. Please.

They caught. I now had milliseconds to save my neck. As I fell into the alley, the glint of an awning caught my eye. I kicked my heel back on my skoard and the sleek bottom of the board bumped the metal canopy. My skoard and I hit a railing a story below, then a dumpster, and finally the alley floor. I grabbed the dumpster’s lid and ground to a halt.

Allowing myself to release the breath I’d been holding, I shook my head. Lucky that dumpster was there. That’s the trouble with skoards. They just keep going—nearly impossible to stop. But that’s also what’s great about them.

It’s a love-hate relationship.

I double-clicked my heel on the skoard and the magnets from the bottom of my shoes and the top of my skoard separated. After that near-crash, I wanted to stay still for a second or two. Resting my hands on my knees, I took deep breaths. I could still feel the adrenaline shooting through my veins like electrical currents through a cell tower.

Calm down Jed, you ain’t dead yet.


  1. This space reserved for judge feedback and votes.

    1. Book Boyfriend ConnoisseurJune 2, 2014 at 8:26 AM

      Skateboarding Sherlock:

      Congratulations, you're the first entry to make me laugh. I love the voice here, even more so how it comes out in your query. The first paragraph in your query needs to be broken up into two sentences, I'd say. It reads a little long to me. I do like it though, especially "his twelve-year-old-life." I'd like to know how the two men threatened the physicist. Physically? Or verbally. I think that might add a little more visual picture for me. Corporate Criminals is a little vague to. Maybe add in something a little more specific there. Give them a name...if you have one. Your first 250 is spot on to me. Action packed, but definitely gives readers a sense of who Jed is. This line threw me off a bit though. "Allowing myself to release the breath I’d been holding, I shook my head" Maybe simplify this, or just say I blew out and shook my head. (Or something like that) Otherwise, well done. I'm not a middle grade reader, but this is a book my ten year old would immediately be drawn too.

      Split Sisters

      There's an awful lot going on in this query, even if it's necessary. I was a bit lost trying to figure out what in the world was going on. (until I had my second cup of coffee) I like your premise (portals and such leading to a place called 'Seattle') I know this is fantasy, but it also feels a bit Dystopian to me as well. I'm confused with the rift storms. Are they portals then? Is that what you meant? Instead of saying portals of such, simply say rifts storms filled with portals leading to... That might clarify things. Cutting a hole through her father's chest is a little off too. Maybe simply say he has a disease that's incurable. If it has a name, say that instead. Then there's talisman. That sort of came out of nowhere to me. Like I said, you have a lot going on here, and if it's all necessary to the book, then find ways to simplify some of your wording. Don't get me wrong, this is exactly the type of book I'd pick up at a book store, I just think the query is a bit wordy. Your 250 is excellent. Grabs my attention right away. Can she hear her father's ragged breaths though? Or just his coughs? And Ali murmured a soft groan. Take out the soft groan and just put in her sleep instead. "His gaze drifted to the fire, illuminating a pale, haggard face." Something doesn't seem right here with this sentence. To me, its like your saying another face is in the room when his gaze drifted to the fire. I know you meant her father, but it needs to say her father somewhere in there. Otherwise, I'm very curious to see where this story goes! Good job.

      Victory to: Skateboarding Sherlock

      To start, question about genre. What's the age range. It just says Science Fiction, but your MC is 12. Is this MG or adult sci fi with a 12 year old?

      I love the voice in the query, but I think there's way too much explanation about about the frictionless board. You can say in one sentence that what he's doing is illegal and that's why he can't call the cops. I don't think we need a whole paragraph here.

      First 250-Great voice again! Be careful with repetition. Jed says he prays for the magnets to catch, and then you show the praying. Choose one way to show us. When he lets out the breath he's been holding, you can just say he let out a breath, a big exhale, something that SHOWS rather than tells he was holding his breath. Overall, it's a tight 250 for me.

      This query is really long. I love the portal idea, but I think it's over explained here, and I get lost in that explanation. All we really need to know in the query is the MC's status quo, how that status quo gets shaken up, and what the stakes are that cause the drama to hook us and make us keep reading. I also get thrown a lot by the use of quotation marks. They aren't necessary the way you are using them.

      First 250-Great description of the sleeping sister, of what's going on with the dad. Really enjoy the snapshot of what's going on with the family. Only thing that's missing is Shasta. We need more of her in this first 250 so we can form an attachment and see her through to the end.

      These are awesome, writers. For reals. My VICTORY goes to SKATEBOARDING SHERLOCK.

      Your query opening has good voice but doesn’t punch us. Intrigue is great but this is just vague.

      The next paragraphs tell us too much about the wrong things and not enough about the right things. We don’t need all the backstory about the board or Jed’s juvie issues. All of that should be melted to a single sentence or two. Also, I think you should move all of that up into the second paragraph. Then you could use the rest of the space to tell us more about the threat, the physicist and the stakes for Jed.

      If he’s in trouble with the cops, why wouldn’t he just forget the whole thing or assume someone else would figure it out? The query doesn’t give us a compelling enough reason to believe that Jed has to go after this. What’s in it for him?

      The opening is great. Agree with the others that you need to keep an eye your repetition and showing vs telling. Other than that, strong effort.

      A standard query should be about 250 words. Yours is…longer. Your opening paragraph isn’t a proper hook. It’s backstory. Trim, trim…16 yr old Shasta is convinced the cure to her father’s death sentence is locked in another world, the original place her parents are from. Her problem is how to find one of these rift portals in time to save him. Not that, but you get the idea. That would take the place of both paragraph one and two.

      I think paragraph three could be dwindled to a single sentence about her sister. We don’t need to know about the talisman or that her sister has a plan, only that together, they end up in the strange land of Seattle (perfect btw). With all of those changes, I think the last paragraph (your best) would then stand on its own.

      The opening is good, but I agree with the others that we need more Shasta in it. The description is well written, I’m sucked into the scene. But I’m not sucked into Shasta and that’s what you have to do to get us to keep turning the page.

      While I liked the fast pace and voice of SKATEBOARD, to me the stakes are too unclear. SPLIT SISTERS has a great premise and clear stakes and for me, an easier query fix.

      So I'll be a contrarian. Victory to - SPLIT SISTERS

    4. Skateboarding Sherlock: Your genre should be MG SF, I presume. Your story sounds original and fun, I like it a lot, and your query is good, I really don’t have any suggestions. Perhaps, as an MG, a brief mention of his family background or friends might be nice? And perhaps the general setting, ie a bit more about the city/times than just the info about Skid? And I don’t think you need to say ‘juvie lock-up’, just juvie would do. But that’s it, nicely done.

      Your opening page is great, well-written and full of energy. Particularly like the opening para. A few tweaks would make it even better and easier to follow: the word ‘skoard’ looks a bit awkward to me, maybe just call it a ‘skord’ which is easier to read automatically, especially on a first page? Either way, you repeat the word ‘skoard’ far too many times on this page, mix it up a bit. I was confused why he was grabbing the dumpster’s lid till I realised it was still attached to the dumpster and he was trying to slow himself down, I’d clarify. I also think this opening page would be both more grounded and more exciting if we knew that he was taking part in a race – otherwise I presume it’s just a kid messing about on his hi-tech skateboard which is less gripping. ‘Allowing myself to release the breath I’d been holding, I shook my head.’ is a bit clumsy, I’d reword. But overall this is a fun start.

      Split Sisters: This sounds like a very cool story, with the different worlds either side of the rift (reminds me a bit of Fringe), and nice clear stakes in that she wants to save her father. But I think your query could read more smoothly. It’s a little long and disjointed and I’m confused in the last para – are the rebel group in Seattle or Gyra? I’d try to edit it down a bit to the essentials, and also try to put a bit more of Shasta’s voice or personality in there.

      Your opening page is pretty good, although I think you could make your opening lines a tad punchier. I don’t think you need ‘But what for?’ I loved ‘his shoulders dwarfing the chair he sat in. Nothing in our house ever looked big enough for him.’ I had to reread ‘balt it’ to check it wasn’t a typo – I presume it’s made-up slang, but it threw me a bit on the first page, since it isn’t something I could guess at the meaning of. If you’re going to make up swearwords, I’d try to make them more guessable, or alternatively not make that the only made-up word at the start of your book. Overall this page tells us plenty about the characters and situation, but it isn’t quite hooky enough for me, especially for what sounds like a high-octane fantasy thriller. Perhaps because there isn’t enough of your MC there, it’s all her father. I’d like to get to know her first. I wonder if there’s a slightly more exciting place to start.

      These two are both good but could both do with just a little polishing – to me it’s (yet another) very very close match-up. I’m going to give victory to Skateboarding Sherlock for having more voice and a more exciting first page.

      The info about Skid Tech seems a bit info-dumpy placed where it is now -- if you could work that into the first paragraph where you're talking about Jed, I think it'd flow a lot better.

      I love the portal-fantasy concept. The query has a lot of things happening all at once, and I think that cutting out the parts about wandering around for months, finding the fishing village, meeting up with her sister, etc. and focusing on just the main conflict might help the clarity.

      Victory to Skateboarding Sherlock


      Query: Great hook. The query is well laid out and we get Jed's stakes loud a clear. We also get a taste of his voice. But, the details regarding the corporation pulled me away - I don't know it's necessary to go so far into in the query. Loved your last line

      250: Great action. I would like to get more insight into what Jed's feeling emotionally and physically. The guy is plummeting to the ground from a great height and at a ridiculous speed! He's either freaking out or used to it so it's no big deal. Either way, I want to relate. That being said, the concept is intriguing and I would continue on.


      Query: I'm digging this premise, but your query has a lot going on. I found myself needing to reread sentences to totally follow. It sounds like a complicated story, so try to pare things down to the absolute minimum. We only need to know enough to sell us on your story. You've got your main character. You've got your setting. You have conflict. Then your stakes. It's all there, just take out the erroneous words and details and try to come up with an effective hook. Add some voice. I know... Easier said that done. Wonderful last sentence.

      250: Totally made up for the query. You're writing is lovely and I'm right there in the scene - this family is in anguish over Shasta's father's illness. I would like more of your main character. It's a lot about what's going on around her and less about her. But, I'm sucked in and would definitely keep reading.

      Both wonderful concepts. VICTORY goes to SPLIT SISTERS.

  2. I think this one’s going to be tough to judge…

    Skateboarding Sherlock
    I really enjoyed this 250. First paragraph made me laugh. Well done. I would totally kill myself on a skid-board, but it’s a neat twist on the common sport of skateboarding.

    RE: the query, I felt it jumped around a bit. It introduces the frictionless skid-board, then talks about the incident in the alley and states that Jed can’t go to the police. Then it goes back to explain skid technology, then picks up o why Jed can’t go to the police. I’d suggest rearranging the elements to make for a smoother flow to the whole thing.

    Split Sister
    Really, really liked the idea of these rift storms having sucked them away from (presumably) the modern day to another world. Very cool. And the 250 totally drew me in.

    Tripped over “For months she has been on the run” in the query because to me “on the run” suggest she is a fugitive form the law, but nothing else about the query or 250 indicated that, so I was a bit lost on that point. And to some extent the query felt slightly more like a synopsis and less like a hook. But only a little.

    Best of luck to both entries!

  3. Skateboarding Sherlock
    Query: LOVE this concept, and love the skater flavor sprinkled throughout this query.

    "Created in 2020.." is almost too abrupt of a transition from the setup of the 2nd paragraph. It starts off very character-focused, then goes into the setting/science background, and then back. It'd be great to smooth this transition out.

    Also, I don't understand Jedediah's motivation to get that involved with a crime he witnesses. Sure, people want to do good if they see someone get murdered, but why would he delve into a world of corporate criminals, and work that hard for cops who aren't on his side either, for a random murder he witnesses? The threat of a project leveling the city also comes out of nowhere for me - that sounds more malicious/dangerous than plans to demolish the city, so you may want to reword this for clarity. Bending the law of physics to save his city -- love this set up!

    250: Love the calculations at the beginning. I feel like I didn't quite understand how magnets and his heel related to the skoard. Since it's a brand new concept, the first time you mention the skoard, you may want to sneak in a physical description - I'm imagining it to be a hoverboard? So say something to that effect - otherwise I don't know what he's really talking about. The "choreography" of him falling, then hitting the railing/etc is hard for me to picture. Some more descriptive action wording rather than bumping the canopy or hitting the railing (versus grinding or sliding along) may help here.

    This is a good action start, but it doesn't give me a sense of character. I am intrigued to keep reading, but not held in suspense past your 250.

    Split Sisters
    Query: This is a very engaging set up. But the query seems way too long, and way too leading through the story before it gets to the "and read more to find out..." part. It seems that you can consolidate the first two paragraphs into a sentence or two, and then focus on the rest of the hook.

    One major critique: I don't know who Shasta is as a person. The first paragraph sets up the past, the second sets up the problem (why is Shasta on the run?), the third tells me more about her sister, and the 4th is the setup for the story. She's a blank slate here, so I'm not invested in her story. It also seems like they're willing to go through a lot for the mere chance of a cure for her father's illness.

    250: Since the first 250 is all we have to judge here, I'd suggest tightening up this beginning to raise the momentum. It starts with a lot of character action - wincing, listening, opening doors, pushing her blanket off, etc - and the little time you have in the beginning to grab a reader could be better spent. Also, "he was one of the most ferocious men..." is telling instead of showing. Tell us about the muscles barely contained by his tanned skin, the scars threading across his arms, or whatever he does to show how ferocious he is.

    Not a judge, but vote would go to Skateboarding Sherlock!

  4. Skateboarding Sherlock
    Very intriguing premise and 250. I think your query needs some more connecting words between paras eg. a 'so' before Jed recruits his friends... Also, the 'Too bad he can't go to the police' line would work better if it's shifted towards the end of the next para, where it's explained. Now, it seems randomly stuck in and makes me confused as to why he can't go to the police. And this might be completely wrong on my part, since I'm not into YA, but 12 seems a bit small for the subject matter (syndicates and corporate criminals). 13/14 would work better?

    What an amazingly tense 250. Hooked me throughout, right from the awesome first sentence. I was literally holding my breath when he was about to fall. Great job.

    Split Sisters
    I love your premise but think the meat of your query is a bit lost in between the world-building. Just mention the rifts once and your cool concept will come across, don't worry.
    I LOVED your 250 till the last para. It introduces the different characters in a very effortless and intriguing way, and really complements you query. The last para seems a bit meaningless and dragging though. And sometimes, word choices were a bit confusing eg. I associate 'My heart sped' with a more happy emotion, as in when the MC sees her crush or something. Also, 'balt it'? 'My gentle giant' also seems like something you'd say to a lover.

    Good luck to both entries!

  5. Skateboarding Sherlock
    I like this - the premise, the voice, that character, the skater vibe. Great. Loved the 250. Although, I almost feel like this is a slightly older character? Maybe younger YA rather than upper MG? Might just be me expecting a teenage skater. Hard to tell with just this peek at the story. They query seems to jump around, especially when it hits the 3rd paragraph, which feels more like back story. I'd suggest eliminating (or find a better way to sprinkle in) the first half of that paragraph and tie the end of it to the paragraph above.

    Split Sisters
    The query is clear, but maybe could use some trimming. It feels like a lot to take in. But the last paragraph is great, and the stakes & goal are clear. Loved the image of the yarrow and comfrey hanging in the kitchen. The 250 does an excellent job of setting the mood. I feel drawn in already, even though this is such a quiet scene.

    ACK. I love them both and do not envy the judges!

  6. Skateboarding Sherlock

    Query: First off, I really love your concept of the skid-board. You do a great job of using the skid-board as an example of how everything in this "frictionless" future works. So when it comes to world-building, I think you have that down perfectly in this query. You also detail the plot in a very clear way, and I love how you've infused some of your MC's voice into the query. It makes even the query entertaining to read.

    The one suggestion I have for your query, as someone already mentioned, is to go a bit more into motivation. Why does Jed want to stop this corporation? Sure, stopping them from demolishing the city is a pretty good reason, but it doesn't seem like he uncovers that plot until further into the novel. So why even start investigating? You could probably imply that whatever this corporation has planned will impact Jed's races, and perhaps he discovers this near the beginning? Also, I'm wondering if it would be to your benefit to add the motivation behind why the syndicate would want to demolish the city. To create anarchy? So they can more easily take it over during the ensuing chaos? I think providing motivation will not only show that your characters care about their situations, but will in turn make the reader care more.

    First 250: Very good hook, and it immediately establishes your character's voice. I also think you do a great job showing how the skoard works instead of telling us, especially with the magnets on Jed's shoes. All the movement also makes your opening easy to picture, and I can see from what I've read in the query, things are already going to be moving along (where the plot is concerned). I don't really have any suggestions for this. Great job, really enjoyed it.

    Split Sisters

    Query: I love this concept of a daughter/father relationship! Those always hit me right in the feels. Also, it's very unique. Not to mention heartwarming to know that Shasta would go through all of this for her father's health.

    As others have already said, I feel like your query is very wordy. I would recommend to read each sentence / plot point you talk about and make sure it follows along with the main plot and it's not part of a subplot, or a detail we don't absolutely need to know (like the talisman). Too many things going on at once can lead to confusion and frustration. From your world-building, especially when it comes to those portals, it does seem like this world is very complex, as are the stakes. While I really like that (it shows there will be many layers to the setting and plot), I think you may still be able to get that sensation across with fewer words/sentences. Specifically the first two paragraphs. I think those can be condensed a lot. Maybe use some contractions as well -- the tone is a bit stiff and formal.

    First 250: Really love that image in the first paragraph of the disease "digging through his chest." It's very vivid and powerful, and it helps show her father's sickness is painful through the imagery you use. You also do a great job introducing each character. The way you address the senses with the smell of the herbs is also very nice, plus the detail tells us something about Shasta's mother. And then there's her father's coughing. Ali's crying. They each have a powerful opening image that makes them easy to remember and differentiate from each other. Great job!

    I hope you find these comments helpful, and good luck to you both! Thanks for the read! :)

  7. Skateboarding Sherlock

    I get your query. Not so sure about that math in your first 250 words, but ignoring my math difficulties, I’m impressed with your entry and hope I can learn something from it.

    The query was well laid out. I understood Jed’s motivation and his goal and I liked how you set the situation up so that he had to solve this conspiracy without the authorities’ help. I love how you explain the stakes, “Jed must bend the laws of physics to their breaking point or it’s—time’s up, you’re dead, Jed.”

    Your POV in the first 250 words is up close and personal. As a reader I was definitely in the moment with the character. Also, I enjoyed the humor in lines such as, “It’s a love-hate relationship.”

    That said you might be able to deepen the POV even more if you look at your filter words. Instead of saying, “I could still feel the adrenaline shooting through my veins like electrical currents through a cell tower,” you might consider saying, “Adrenaline shot through my veins like electrical currents through a cell tower.”

    All the best and I hope I find your novel on Amazon soon so I can read the rest of the story.

    Split Sisters

    The concept of rifts and alternate worlds is cool. Your opening sentence, “Everyone knows that “the other world” exists,” sets up the story well. The first paragraph works for me, but as a critiquer, I wonder if you could tighten up and clarify the next paragraphs. Instead of “on the run,” consider saying something more straight forward. “For months she’s searching for a way to enter the rifts safely.” Also in the next paragraph, is it necessary to say, “So when her older sister, Ali, manages to track her down, Shasta is sure Ali comes with nothing but bad news. But Ali’s not one to leave home without a plan and in her hand is a talisman with powers almost as hard to believe in as the spirits,” or can you get by with something shorter like, “when Ali’s contrary/argumentative older sister shows up with a talisman, which stabilizes rifts or maps out the rifts or whatever it does, they risk rift travel to a place strange and dangerous to them – a city driven desperate by the rifts that tore the earth apart. A world the girls know only as ‘Seattle.’”
    It’s up to you, but that’s my suggestion.

    Your 250 words draw me into the story. I feel your narrator’s pain. You've set up her motivation well and made her likable by showing her love for her father. Based on your beginning I’d read this story. Thanks for putting it out there, entering Query Kombat and giving me this opportunity.

  8. Skateboarding Sherlock: 62K seemed low for sci-fi until I saw your MC was 12. So this is MG SF? I like the first two paragraphs, but just when I’m intrigued by why he can’t go to the police, there’s a jarring backstory jump. The info’s important, but it needs to be integrated better into Jed’s story.

    First 250: Good action with a bit of science and humor. There was a little discord between the voice of Jed’s internal monologue “you ain’t dead yet” and the narrative “like electrical currents through a cell tower”. To me, those seemed a little too different to be smooth.

    Split Sisters: Oooh, a generalization in the first sentence that I don’t agree with…DOES everyone know that “the other world” exists? Maybe change it to something like, “In sixteen-year-old Shasta’s universe, everyone knows . . . “ I found this query a little confusing because I think it’s probably a complex story. Can you dumb it down for us a bit?  I feel overwhelmed with the characters and locations. Also, you start a lot of sentences with “But”.

    First 250: I don’t get the “But for what?” sentence at the end of the first paragraph. Some sentences can be tightened up a bit, like “Ali murmured a soft groan” could be “Ali groaned”. You can probably also spread out the description of older sister to other sentences, it doesn’t need to be immediate.

    Good luck to both!

  9. Skateboarding Sherlock: Cool concept, I think kids would love this. IMO, I would definitely shorten or omit the backstory in the 3rd paragraph. Everything was really fun and intriguing and that backstory stuff really did slow it down for me.
    Nice work with your 250 I like the voice and the action and like another poster, I did want a little more info on that skateboard though. ; )

    Split Sisters: I love that this is about sisters and think it's a great selling point. I was definitely interested in reading more of the query and 250 based on a premise of a sister story. : ) I think the hook needs work though. I would try to brainstorm a couple shorter and sharper opening lines that will really reel the agent in. IMO, you should start your query at paragraph two.
    I like that the opening of your first 250 is personal and already we are feeling sympathy for your MC. One thing I would avoid so soon in the ms though, is having that question at the end of the first paragraph--it pulls the reader out of the story before they are even in it enough. Hope that makes sense!

    VICTORY TO: Skateboarding Sherlock

  10. Oops above post w/vote going to Skateboarding Sherlock is from a judge--me!
    xoxoSally Draper


    I found the opening tag-line of this query excellent. The setup that follows is tight and clear. After one read-through, I had a strong sense of what to expect, without knowing too much – a tightrope that you ably walk.

    The 250 words matched exactly what the query had set me up for. For the whole entry, I really only have two minor quibbles:

    (1) “codenamed” – a code name implies something designed to conceal what the object named is. It sounded from what little I’ve read that they were just “called” skidsters – unless the police have taken to using that as a code name that the skidsters themselves wouldn’t use.

    (2) This is probably completely a me thing, but I have to try: Any chance of switching to metric? 9.8 metres per second... so much more sensible :)

    Best of luck, and see you on the shelves!


    This entry has a great deal going on, tho you do lay it out fairly clearly in the query part. However, I found myself stumbling over how much the query promised. There is Gyra, which seems to be a primitive world “elsewhere” from our world. It was not clear to me, from just the query why it is important to the arc of the story that the Adler’s are there. It is impossible to tell (at least for me, and again, just from the query – the novel itself might show this perfectly well) whether being stranded in primitive Gyra is anything more than location MacGuffin, if that makes sense. I.e., would the book be different if they lived in a less technologically advanced area of a dystopia as opposed to on a mysterious superstitious world? It might be – but I can’t tell that from the query, and that made me wonder why the rift stuff was important.

    You also say Shasta is “on the run” – from whom and why? She’s clearly not on the run in the first 250 words.

    The 250 words were clear and certainly I would keep reading – but based on the query, I have no idea what to expect next. I get the sense that there is a lot in the novel that would be interesting, it is just hard to tell what that would be, of the abundance of conflicts in the query.

    That said, I might be over-rotating on this, because I have been so guilty of over-complicating my queries. It really does sound like you’ve got some excellent, suspenseful action in the novel itself, and I hope to be able to read it someday soon.

  12. Skidsters: I really liked your query outline - it had great pacing and tension and outlined the plot so well. The opening sentence is one of the best hooks I've read in ages! I think in the third para you could probably ditch the explanation of the technology and just focus on the fact that they're skate racers using illegal technology or something like that? I also loved your 250 word opening, it's got a cool voice and kicks of the tension well.
    Split Sisters: I love the premise of rift storms as portals that suck people out of one world and into another. Nice device! And having her father ill is also great motivation so I'm instantly invested in the character and I know what's driving her. I had a few questions about Ali, like where she has come from, why she left the family in the first place and why Shasta is so suspicious of her return? Her mention raises more questions than it answers - is it possible either to leave off the mention of the problems associated with her return, or can you give us a clue or two - did she run away, was she exiled from the family, is she a trouble-maker? And then the fact she is in the opening scene confused me a bit - seems to contradict the query. But your opening 250 is full of beautiful imagery and setting, you have a real talent with words :-)

  13. Skateboarding Sherlock:

    I love this kid and his skoard. Reminds me of Tally and her board in Uglies, but seems different too. The anti-friction tech sounds really cool. His age struck me a young. Seems like he should be more like 15 or 16. The query is very strong. I did want a bit more about why the evil corporation might want to level the city. The first 250 are also quite good. There were a few places you could cut, I think, where the action was over-explained, like this one: "Allowing myself to release the breath I’d been holding," You could just say "exhaling." Great voice here though. Very engaging! Good luck!

    Split Sisters:

    Love seeing Seattle from the perspective of these characters! Sounds like their world is more primative than the "futuristic city." I'd actually like that to be more clear in the query. Are they parallel worlds in the same time? How do storms create openings to such worlds? I like the quest for a cure from a different world. It's a bit like my story, where a girl has to fight the cult she lives in to get medicine to her sick brother from the modern world outside. I was confused by the violent rebel group. It is not explained, so I don't know what they are rebelling against or what world they are in. Can you make that last paragraph more specific? I do really like the fact that both sisters are trying to help. The 250 read really well. I felt totally immersed in the scene! My only question has to do with the expression "Balt." That felt awkward to me. But if it's used throughout, it might work. Really really like this one! Good luck!