Monday, June 1, 2015

QK Round 1: DEATH BY DOZIER versus A GIRL AND HER SERIAL KILLER

Entry Nickname: Death by Dozier
Title: After You Died
Word count: 70K
Genre: Young Adult Historical Thriller


Removed at author's request.

VERSUS


Entry Nickname: A Girl and Her Serial Killer
Title: The Confidant
Word count: 62k
Genre: Young Adult Thriller

Query:
18-year-old Stella Stokes has a secret: the main character in her novels, Gideon, a dashing English serial killer, actually talks to her. He’s been by her side, offering peanut gallery commentary, advice, and affection for every pathetic turn in her adolescent life, and as much as some of the darker suggestions he makes scare her, she’s never been worried to have him. After all, he’s not real; he can’t really kill anyone, nor can he make her do the killing for him.

The summer following high school graduation, Stella and her best friend, supernatural-obsessed, almost-transitioned FTM Quinn, decide to take a few weeks to explore California. However, their first stop at an idyllic beach town isn’t quite as calming as they would’ve hoped: a prank-gone-horribly-wrong leaves Quinn and Stella standing over four dead bodies. The killer? Gideon. As they clean up the mess and beeline out of town as fugitives, Stella is convinced that they’re in terrible danger, but Quinn refuses to accept it. Quinn pulls a timid Stella into a quest to discover just what Gideon is—ghost, demon, byproduct of a mental illness, or something else entirely. And, as the bodies stack up and the authorities close in, Stella has to resist cracking under pressure, or risk caving into Gideon’s deepest desire to see her kill with him.

First 250 words:

"You're barmy if you don't think a paid professional screwing up your haircut is adequate reason to kill them.

After a solid minute of looking through my drawer for a good bikini, I thrust out the first two semi-matching blue polka dot pieces of water-friendly fabric I see.

"No Gideon, you're barmy or whatever you just said if you think I'm going to murder someone because she cut my hair too short,” I reply. “Besides, aren't you English? It’s say your cut looks great and suffer in silence. Besides, my bob doesn’t look bad.” 

I know Gideon's staring at me, like anyone would when engaged in deep conversation about murdering, but I ignore him, dropping my shorts and pulling off my panties. 

"Testy today, aren't we? A bit out of character for you.

I slip on my bikini bottoms and thank the universe that my bikini top is still tied at the top. 

"Don't you dare make writer puns with me right now. We're still talking about you wanting me to kill my fr—acquaintances.”

I pull on the bikini top, but Gideon grabs the back straps before I have the chance. As much as Gideon gives me the creeps every other second, I can't deny how good it feels to have his hands press against my skin as he ties the knot. 

"Not too tight, is it, poppet?" he whispers in my ear.

I sigh, his smooth, tenor voice my off button. Or on.

“No. Thanks."

26 comments:

  1. This space reserved for judge feedback and votes. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Princess of LlamasJune 2, 2015 at 2:31 AM

      DEATH BY DOZIER: I think you have a good query in here, but it gets lost. I’d keep the first paragraph intact. The second paragraph reads as a former opening paragraph. It repeats a lot of what you’ve already said. I’d get rid of everything except parts of the last sentence, which I’d tack on to your first paragraph: “And with no real defense to mount, he’s convicted and sentenced to five years at the Dozier Reform School.”

      From there, I think you can work with the rest of your query. “Asher finds out quickly that Dozier isn’t a run-of-the-mill reform school. It’s . . .” The main thing is to focus on Asher, not the background of the school, and what he has to do to prove he’s not a murderer.

      For the 250, I absolutely love your opening line and the opening paragraph! Then I get lost. Is this a dream? I ask because you’ve already said she’s a corpse, so how is she walking in the woods? To me, the longer this part went on, the more it took me away from that strong opening.

      A GIRL AND HER SERIAL KILLER: I really like this query until you say Gideon is the killer. Maybe Gideon tells her he’s the killer? Maybe there’s something about the scene that makes Stella think it’s Gideon? Or, you can skip that exchange entirely and say later that as they beeline out of town as fugitives, Stella can’t shake the feeling that “Gideon’s signature was all over the scene” or “Gideon was involved.” To me, if the book’s primary conflict is figuring out whether Stella, Quinn, someone else, or a paranormal Gideon is the murderer, you don’t want the query to say Gideon is the killer. I like everything else—the only other thing is “timid Stella” – you want a MC with agency, and if she’s already talking to Gideon, “timid” doesn’t seem accurate.

      As for the 250, this is creeeeeeepy. But creepy like I want to read more, like Stella is not necessarily going to be a reliable narrator. Yay! And that she likes Gideon helping her dress? Gives me the shivers. I almost wonder if this is going to be too risqué for YA, but I’ll leave that issue for the others.

      Well, I can definitely see why these two weirdo creepy entries were paired against each other! I like them both and would totally read these. For the sake of the contest though, I think one has a better query and 250. Victory to A GIRL AND HER SERIAL KILLER!

      Delete
    2. VICTORY TO DEATH BY DOZIER

      Here's why: The query is strong (except for a couple of typos) and it could be tightened but overall the premise is intriguing. The 250 needs to be clearer because I wasn't sure if this was a memory he had of her or a dream he's having. The writing is strong though and I want to read more. Good job overall. Good luck!

      A GIRL AND HER SERIAL KILLER

      The query drew me in but I'm wondering if this is paranormal and Gideon is a ghost/demon? I was confused by the 250 because if Gideon is a ghost or a hallucination how can he tie her bathing suit top on? I'd also cut down mentioning Quinn by name and say, her best friend and her go on from there. I wouldn't mention who the killer is, let us guess. And why does Quinn pull a timid Stella into anything? If she's the MC wouldn't it be the other way around? I wouldn't mention Gideon is a serial killer at all. Start with who your main character is: Eighteen-year-old Stella doesn't mind having a British boy around her 24/7 even if she's not sure he's a ghost, a demon or a hallucination. He's been with her since childhood and she's never had to be afraid of him. Until now. Or something similar. You want to give us the character, her goals, the obstacles (stakes) and the inciting incident. Sometimes answering the journalism questions of who, what, why, where and when helps. Good luck!

      Delete
    3. Death by Dozier

      Query:
      One, the first two paragraphs essentially tell us the same thing: Asher is considered responsible for his girlfriend’s murder. Cut one or the other (or somehow combine the two, but lower the overall word count, which is too high anyway). Two, I found the third paragraph confusing, and between the third and fourth felt like we were almost into a different story altogether.

      So my basic problem here is that I’m not sure what the main story is: is about Asher being a potential serial killer, or about him being stuck in this terrible secret prison? It makes a difference, because if it’s primarily about him possibly killing people, then the prison stuff doesn’t need to be as prominent in the query. If, on the other hand, the prison is the main focus, then how he got there is less important than the details about the prison itself. Does that make sense? Right now the way the query is written, it’s a story that feels like it’s going in several directions.

      (if the point was that this prison is so bad he needs to solve the case so he can get out, then to me that’s somewhat redundant; I would think most anyone who’s in prison for a crime they’re not sure if they committed would want to find out the truth, so the harsh prison angle isn’t really needed; no prison is a picnic; I’m not suggesting both can’t be elements in the same story, but in the query I would suggest that one needs to dominate)

      Finally, it mentions “haunted” as being a real possibility in the opening, but the supernatural never comes up again. If there’s no supernatural element, I’d rephrase (the line itself is terrific, but it should reflect the actual story).

      Nitpicks (mostly comma usage):
      But, the evidence says otherwise, as the only suspect — Reads very awkwardly.
      those who manage to escape — Made me think him escaping is part of the story.

      First 250 Words:
      I thought overall this was well done. Very, very, disturbing, and not really my genre, but well written nevertheless. Not much to comment on.

      Nitpicks:
      but I still feel like I'm being boiled, — Would suggest period instead of comma here.


      A Girl and Her Serial Killer

      Query:
      The way it’s written now, the second [paragraph feels very much like we’re starting a completely different story. Eventually the two come together, but there’s a definite rift between the paragraphs.

      I’m going to suggest a radically different approach here: open the query with the prank that leads to the four dead bodies (it is a thriller, after all), THEN introduce Gideon and the fact that he’s a fictional character. The murder will hook the reader, and the supernatural elements will give it the twist. After that lay out how Stella and Quinn aim to tackle the problem. And if the hook is that Stella might become a killer herself (along with Gideon), then make sure to set that up in the rest of the query.

      Nitpicks:
      The second sentence of the first paragraph is super long. Took me two tries to get through it.
      18-year-old Stella Stokes has a secret — Too generic, as in, this opening (or slight variations of it) gets used a lot.
      the main character in her novels — Novels she’s written herself?

      First 250 Words:
      I tripped a lot over the dialogue in this one. It didn’t feel authentic. Too on the nose. Opening with a discussion about murder is potentially a great hook into the story, but I would suggest more subtlety or something. Maybe it’s the fact that the narrator doesn’t seem all that bothered by the discussion (even though it sounds very much like they’re discussing real murder) that’s throwing me out.

      *****

      I’ll be honest (not that I’m, like, usually dishonest or anything): even though the query could use reworking, I think the premise for A Girl and Her Serial Killer was much clearer and would be excited to see an updated version. But based on where things are at now, and even though I still feel lost as to the overall thrust of the story, to me the writing is much stronger and more confident in the first entry of this match-up, and so on that basis VICTORY TO DEATH BY DOZIER!

      Delete
    4. Death by Dozier

      Query:
      My two big issues with your query are: it's very repetitive (and because of that, also long) and the last paragraph sounds like an entirely different story altogether. I think you can combine the first two paragraphs, or use one or the other. I'm also questioning why, as a 17-year-old, he wouldn't have been charged as an adult and received a higher sentence? My biggest suggestion is that you hone down on what the story is really about--is it him trying to figure out who murdered his girlfriend? Him trying to survive prison? His life outside of prison and trying to find out who the killer is? Once you have that down, I think you can easily add in the right details to really sell us on your story, which by the way, sounds really interesting.

      250: My first thought--is this a dream? If it is, I'm not sure I love it as an opening. Also, since the query is about him not remembering, and dealing with prison, starting here threw me off a little. I'm not really in love with the opening paragraph either. You have some great details in the second paragraph, but I think it might be too much at once. Can you sprinkle a little, and add the rest in slowly through the scene?

      *****

      A Girl and Her Serial Killer

      Query: When you say "her novels," I'm not sure if you mean the ones she wrote, or the ones she reads. In the first paragraph, I'd cut "a dashing English serial killer" so the sentence reads easier. Consider rephrasing "to have him." I think you can rephrase this using stronger language. Chop the second sentence into two. Then, in the last sentence, I think you can add back in the serial killer part like: "After all, he's only a fictional serial killer..." Second paragraph-when you say it's a prank gone wrong, it sounds like it's more of Stella/Quinn's fault than any kind of mystery. I'd also skip telling us that Gideon is the killer. Isn't that the whole mystery? Who really did it and what's going on? I know it was said above, but if Stella's the MC, I'm a little concerned that Quinn is driving the action and Stella is "timid." Also, based on your 250 it seems like there's a strange relationship between Stella & Gideon, and I wonder if that plays a significant enough role to add in here?

      250: "I thrust out" seems awkwardly phrased. Is she pulling it out of the draw, or thrusting it at someone? Third paragraph-"It's say your..."-is there a typo in here? I"m very intrigued, and a little skeeved out that she's letting Gideon watch her change. I definitely want to know Gideon's age bracket here. Is he some creepy older guy, father figure? Did he die young and he's perpetually a young-ish guy? I think throwing that in will help. Small nit-pick, does he really creep her out every other second? Because she really seems to like him being there. Love the vibe you've got going on at the end here and the dynamic between the two of them. It's really drawing me in.

      *****

      I can definitely see why these two entries were paired against each other, and while both sound very interesting, I think the query and 250 were clearer and better developed in one. And one of them made me *really* want to keep reading. Therefore, VICTORY TO A GIRL AND HER SERIAL KILLER!

      Delete
    5. Dozier - I actually think this is solid as is. I found the query to be clear and creepy and completely something I would read. The 250, while atmospheric, is almost too vague and dreamy, though I do like the opening line a lot. Wondering if it can be tightened to get more actual detail about the plot in right away.

      Serial Killer: I think the query is fine, though I did get a little bit of whiplash from all the naming of characters. Perhaps pare that down. The 250 I found confusing and also the voice much older than YA. I'm definitely intrigued though and would keep reading.

      VICTORY TO DOZIER

      Delete
    6. I didn’t read the other critiques, so I’m sorry if I’m repeating what has already been said.

      DEATH BY DOZIER:

      Query: I think you could combine paragraph one and two, since they basically say the same things with a few unique tidbits thrown in. For example:

      Seventeen-year-old Asher Flemming's starting to think he's haunted, crazy, or a murderer. Although he remembers nothing from that night in 1968 when his girlfriend was killed, the cops found Asher covered in her blood. He knows there's no way he'd ever hurt her, but the evidence says otherwise. He’s convicted and sentenced to five years at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys.

      I realize your next paragraph about the school is intended to educate us, but I’m not sure this is the right place. You need a tight query that’s full of voice and so intriguing an agent will scramble through the stakes to get to your pages.

      That said, you could reword it so it’s from Asher’s perspective and give us the creepy facts surrounding the school.

      250: Your first paragraph is great for setting the scene, but it comes across like a prologue. I think your story starts in the second paragraph when all the fun stuff is about to happen. And the tense switch is a little jarring.

      No comma needed after lashes.

      I don’t have anything else to add about the 250 other than I absolutely love the imagery you create. Excellent job.


      A GIRL & HER SERIAL KILLER

      Query: Such an interesting and exciting concept. I’m drawn in right away by the idea of a book character living. Even better, of a book character killing. It reminds me of Phantom of the Opera, with all the mystery and intrigue I love about that story.

      I’m not sure what FTM means.

      While I’m aware an MC can be eighteen and still be considered young adult, the voice of this rings more like new adult to me, as does the confident/sensual way Stella interacts with Gideon. Just something to consider.

      I like the idea of a supernatural-obsessed friend, but wonder why she wouldn’t accept the fact Gideon could be the killer. That seems contrary to her personality. I’d think she’d be the one believing he could do it, rather than Stella, since Stella is confident Gideon isn’t real.

      Your stakes of Gideon trying to lure Stella into join him on his killing spree are cool, but they don't ring true because you call Stella timid. I’m not sure how or why she’d truly be at risk.

      250:

      I love the interaction between Gideon and Stella. So creepy. It takes talent to make a reader feel things in so few words.

      I think you mean “pull out” rather than “thrust out” a bikini.

      I felt a little uncomfortable with how easy she is around him. While I know she believes he’s not real (or so it says in the query), if I picked up your book and read without knowing what the story is about, I’d assume he’s in the room with her like any ordinary man. Her free way with him is more risqué that I’m use to reading in young adult, i.e., dropping panties, his hands pressing against her skin, etc.

      How can his voice be her off button when it’s apparent he turns her on?


      DECISION: This is a true dilemma, since I equally enjoyed the shivery creepiness of both of these entries. How can I choose?

      Michelle! Can I pick both?

      I imagine she’s shaking her head right now.

      So, okay, since I must, I give VICTORY to DEATH BY DOZIER

      Delete
    7. Death by Dozier:

      Initially, I wonder what it is about this story that means it has to be set in the 1960s. This is important, because I don’t believe many agents are looking for “recent historical” (I actually hate even calling the 60s historical), and we have to decide who’s going to the agent round. So—why couldn’t this story be set in 2015? (Don’t say cell phones or the internet. That can’t be the answer.) Putting that aside, I am SUPER intrigued by the idea of a main character who’s antagonist is in his own mind.

      Here's my other issue: Temporary insanity is a defense.

      The word “Before” at the beginning of your 250 tells me one of two things - either this is a prologue, or you’re in dual timelines. Dual timelines are cool, but then your query should say that, because I’m confused. But then, also…. this isn’t before, because the MC is saying “I remember the night my girlfriend died…” It’s after. Honestly, I think you’d improve this page dramatically if you cut the first paragraph. But I also wonder if it would be a lot more powerful to start with Asher getting arrested (if that’s where your story starts), or wherever the true beginning is. The writing is really beautiful, but I feel lost.

      Random side note: try to avoid main characters with similar names. Same length, names starting with the same letter is too close. One of them should probably be changed.

      A Girl and Her Serial Killer:

      I love this premise. Very “Stranger than Fiction,” but with a twist. However, 18 is pushing the upper limits of YA already, and given your subject matter, I’m not sure this is really a YA novel.

      There’s room for a little more detail in your query. Also, never use a question in a query - even if you answer it. Just say something like “To make matters worse, the killer is Giddeon.” But how do they know that? Who are they in danger from if the killer’s a figment of Stella’s imagination? I just feel like you could clarify a few details and then really hammer in the stakes. I also feel like you’ve got too many adjectives describing Quinn. If you want to highlight that he’s transgender to show that the book has diversity, “transgender” flows better than “almost-transitioned FTM” (also, some agents might not know what that means, but if you spell out female-to-male, it’s just a ridiculously clunky sentence).

      In the 250, I was OK with Giddeon talking to Stella, because that’s what you told me to expect. I didn’t expect to see him standing in the room, talking to her, using expressions. Consider whether to say that he’s real to her or that she really sees him in the query. Also, it seems a bit odd that she’s turned on by this guy who creeps her out. I know this super creepy guy, and the ONE time he put his hands on my back, I jerked away and nearly punched him. (Just sayin’). Is there a romance between Stella and Giddeon? I feel like that’s what you’re hinting at, and that’s….. I don’t even know how to finish this sentence. I’m just looking at the screen, blinking a lot. Partially because he’s a serial killer, and partially because he’s a figment of her imagination. Personally, I’d cut that line. Also, why are we starting here? I'd really like the first page to give me a hint of the action.

      The voice works for me as YA, but I still wonder if you should age the whole thing up.

      ARGH! I don’t know what to do. Both are great concepts. I have a few issues with both. The query in Death by Dozier really grabbed me. But the voice in Girl’s 250 grabbed me harder and I wonder if it's more marketable. VICTORY TO A GIRL AND HER SERIAL KILLER.

      Delete
    8. Death by Dozier

      Query:
      If you are going to keep the first paragraph (which you could probably revise to combine with the 2nd) the 1st line of the 2nd paragraph "17-year old Asher remembers nothing from the night in 1968 his girlfriend was killed." is redundant. We know this from the prior paragraph. You have a typo in the last sentence "The Dozier" should be 2 words.
      Your query has some good info, but it repeats itself A LOT. You need to take another pass, and focus less on plot and more on premise and overall tone of the novel. As it stands, the repetition makes it blend into the background and won't make it stand out of the slush pile.

      250 words:
      Your first paragraph is fantastic! It's got a nice hook, much more than anything in your query. You should inject some of that passion/feeling into the query ASAP. The 2nd paragraph is a bit of a strange transition. It goes from passed tense, to present, and isn't clear what you're doing. As a reader this makes me worry about the quality of writing. The remainder is fine (accepting the tense change for what it is) and your final paragraph is really lovely. It gives us a strong idea of who Asher is.

      A Girl and Her Serial Killer

      Query:
      Your 2 paragraphs are bit of a disconnect. I'm assuming that perhaps the first paragraph is more background and the 2nd paragraph is a stronger description of what happens in your novel. If so, you need to revise. Don't get bogged down in background, just give us the premise and flavor of your novel. Also, you need to revise your description of Quinn. If you read that sentence aloud it's a mouthful. Simplify.

      250 words:
      I think you need an "an" before "adequate" in the first line. I'm completely baffled what "“Besides, aren't you English? It’s say your cut..." means.

      Verdict:
      Both of these have promise as well as problems, but I am going to say Victory goes to A Girl and Her Serial Killer. However, that author is in desperate need of a re-read and edit before the next round.

      Delete
    9. Death by Dozier: This sounds like a super interesting story (though it seems more like psychological horror than a thriller to me, maybe?). But I think you can tighten and polish this query a little, it reads a bit disjointedly at the moment and is also a touch long. For starters I think you can get rid of most of the first para, since you repeat it later. Here’s an idea of how I might tighten it:

      17-year-old Asher is beginning to think he's haunted, or crazy -- or a murderer. With his luck, he's all three.

      Asher remembers nothing from the night in 1968 his girlfriend was killed. Though he knows he’d never hurt anyone, least of all [girlfriend’s name], when the cops find him covered in her blood, the evidence is damning. He’s sentenced to five years at the Dozier Reform School. But, like Asher’s memory, Dozier hides violent secrets of its own.


      Hidden by the headlines about Martin Luther King Jr., Robert F. Kennedy, The Vietnam War, and the Civil Rights Movement, juvenile boys from truants to murderers are hidden away in the sinister Dozier school; those who manage to escape with broken bones are the lucky ones. Asher's afraid he may end up like many of the other students beneath unmarked graves, or worse, they may end up his next victims.

      When he wakes up outside, covered in blood with no memory of the days before, he fears he's killed someone else. As Asher's possible body count grows, he knows the answers he needs are trapped within his own mind. Asher's stuck between being a victim or a killer. He needs to prove the murders aren't connected to him or risk losing his sanity and freedom forever.


      First page: I like this first page, it’s well-written, nicely atmospheric and I can picture the scene well and practically feel the heat. But I think you can make the first line punchier, and hold back most of the info in the first para until later, which would allow you to segue more smoothly into the following flashback. Perhaps something like:

      You never wonder what your girlfriend would look like as a corpse.

      At least, I didn’t. There were a million things I expected to happen once Avery was my girlfriend, but murder never crossed my mind. Especially back on that idyllic afternoon.

      Her long white dress whips behind her as she disappears into the trees.

      (I wrote too much and the blog wouldn't let me post it all at once, so second half below!)

      Delete
    10. A Girl and Her Serial Killer: Ooh, what a cool premise for a story. (Although this is another entry where I think the nickname is much better than the real title.) This is a pretty great query and would definitely make me want to read the book. (I also like that it has a trans bff.) I think I’d start a new para after ‘The killer? Gideon.’ I’d rejig the final sentence a bit to end on a punchier note, maybe: ‘As bodies stack up around them, Stella has to keep one step ahead of the authorities, not crack under pressure, and most importantly, not cave to Gideon’s deepest desire to see her kill with him.’

      First page: This is a fun first page, although if I hadn’t read the query I’d be a bit confused about what was going on and who Gideon is, and why, if he creeps her out, she’s getting undressed in front of him. I think you need to tell the reader who Gideon is (ie he’s imaginary) somewhere in this first 250, in fact preferably right at the start, maybe after the opening sentence, just tell us who’s talking, make a joke about her imaginary serial killer bff – it’d be a great hook to start on.

      ‘the first two semi-matching blue polka dot pieces of water-friendly fabric I see.’ Is a real mouthful, I’d cut some of the adjectives.

      ‘“Besides, aren't you English? It’s say your cut looks great and suffer in silence. Besides, my bob doesn’t look bad.” ‘ This is a bit of ‘as you know Bob’ dialogue – she know’s he’s English, she wouldn’t say it. I’d tweak to ‘“Anyway you’re English. Don’t English people just say their cut looks great and suffer in silence? Besides, my bob doesn’t look bad.”’

      I was confused by ‘I slip on my bikini bottoms and thank the universe that my bikini top is still tied at the top.’ because it sounds like she’s wearing the top. I think you can smooth the whole bikini bit, maybe:

      Gideon's staring at me, like anyone would when engaged in deep conversation about murder, but I ignore him, dropping my shorts and panties and slipping on the bikini bottoms.

      "Testy today, aren't we?” he says. “A bit out of character for you.”

      "Very funny. You don't get to make writer puns at me.”


      Wow, this is extremely close – these are both fascinating premises I’d like to read. I’m going on the one that has a more energetic first page, and because I can’t resist humour – VICTORY TO A GIRL AND HER SERIAL KILLER.

      Delete
    11. Note: For round 1 since there's so many entries, I'm judging based on the query only!


      DEATH BY DOZIER

      Very neat premise. I'm a sucker for stories with amnesia and false memories and mind games, and this one sounds fascinating.

      The sentence structure of the first sentence threw me off a bit. It seems inconsistent. Have you tried inserting elipses instead? "think he's haunted... or crazy... or a murderer." Also, is this paragraph supposed to be a hook? BC the second paragraph seems to repeat what was said there, making it seem redundant.

      Also, the last sentence in paragraph 3 makes it seem like he'd rather die than kill someone else, which I guess could be the case, but it seems odd, since he's not even really sure if he killed his girlfriend in the first place.


      -vs-


      A GIRL AND HER SERIAL KILLER

      Another fascinating premise! I love the idea of an 'imaginary friend' come to life - very chilling!

      one thing that could use a bit of clarification: which came first, the novel or the imaginary friend? Are her stories based on Gideon because she hears him, or did Gideon start talking to her AFTER she wrote about him?



      Victory to... A GIRL AND HER SERIAL KILLER!

      Delete
  2. Death by Dozier--

    I think you can just erase that first paragraph of the query. It's a little repetitive with the 2nd, and the 2nd says it more succinctly.

    "Hidden by the headlines about Martin Luther King Jr., Robert F. Kennedy, The Vietnam War, and the Civil Rights Movement, is the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys." that line confused me a lot. Like I have no idea how those things go together. The first paragraph in the 250 is a little confusing too.

    A Girl and her Serial Killer--

    That 2nd sentence in the query is way too long.

    The 250. I don't think you can thrust something OUT of a drawer. Into, sure. Also, he can physically touch her and she doesn't think he's real?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Death by Dozier/ After You Died

    It's so weird to hear that 1968 is historical, dang I'm old, but your story sounds interesting.

    It was a little hard for me to determine the stakes in your query. I think it might be because you have so much going on. Is the main plot of this story for Asher to recover his missing memories? Figure out why he's losing time? Or to survive his five year imprisonment? You should pick the MC's driving purpose and highlight that in your query, use the other details lightly to enhance suspense and add mystery. Also, try to give a little more personal insight to Asher. What makes him special enough to follow on this journey?

    The 250 was great! You have a very engaging style, pulls the reader right in. The opening kind of feels like a dream sequence, if that's true you might want to watch out. Starting a novel with a dream is a huge cliché and usually frown upon, especially for debut authors. Also, be careful with your comma usage. I saw a few misplaced and unnecessary ones. I've found this guide very helpful: http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/commas_big.htm

    Overall, I enjoyed your writing style and think you have a compelling story.

    Good luck!
    Jamie


    A Girl and Her Serial Killer/ The Confidant

    I really like this concept, great idea! I didn't see any problems with your query, you set up the character, stakes, and possible outcomes very well. The only thing that troubles me is the age of your MC. Eighteen is usually too old for YA, now that NA is around. Is there any reason that you need her to be eighteen? Will your story still work if she were seventeen? If so, you might want to consider aging her down. If not, you could have an NA novel on your hands, which would leave you open to more risqué content ;)

    Your 250 is very fun, great dialog, definitely would want to read more! My only suggestion is to watch mixing tenses. In your second sentence, you mixed past with present tense–thrust and see.

    Overall, I enjoyed your sample very much.

    Good luck!
    Jamie

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  4. Death by Dozier: Great concept! I'd love to see you combine the first two paragraphs into one shorter one. It feels a bit redundant. Why is this school so evil? There are a lot of unnecessary deets like the headlines of the day, but no hint as to what the evil is at this school. Please let us know!

    First 250: I love "There were a million things I expected to happen once Avery was my girlfriend, but murder never crossed my mind." as the opening line instead of the two you have. You set a great scene, I can almost feel that Florida humidity... good job!

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  5. Oops, sorry, hit publish before commenting on a girl and her serial killer.

    This is a cool and unique idea. Did her character come to life or was he always there in her mind and she just started writing about him, and does she even know? Yes, I'm intrigued! The stakes are clear and compelling. And fun....

    First 250: I was thrown off by the word "barmy." Actually had to look it up in the dictionary. Is her character British?

    I got confused though when he appeared as not just someone in her mind but a physical entity that touched her. This was not made clear in the query.

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  6. DOZIER: This looks like an awesome premise! Some repetition in the query, e.g. between the first and second paragraphs – you could probably combine them; I think the second paragraph is clearer, maybe work in some of the additional details from the first? – and the first and second sentences of the third paragraph, which might work better rephrased as something that follows more smoothly from the end of the previous paragraph (e.g. “Dozier houses juvenile criminals from truants to murderers.”)

    Lots of lovely dream-like images in the first 250, but between the tense shift after the first paragraph and some odd phrasing (why would she leave devastation in her wake? Am I missing a reference here?) I’m a little confused. You might be able to strike the first paragraph altogether.

    SERIAL KILLER: Great query – spooky and compelling! There were a few places in the first 250 that threw me, though, e.g. “…like anyone would when engaged in deep conversation about murdering” (not sure this follows) and bikini straps (took me a few re-reads to grasp that there’s a halter top plus back closure involved since both are described as being tied). Gideon’s Britishisms might be a little over the top in such a short space.

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  7. Death by Dozier -
    I love thrillers and think this is a good concept. The query opens with a great hook, but I think if you trim the 3rd sentence of the 1st paragraph you can combine elements of paragraph 1 and 2 to avoid repetitions. When starting a sentence with a number, you need to spell it out (Seventeen-year-old...). I did wonder about a 17-year-old being sentenced to 5 years at a reform school -- this may very well be what they did in 1968 -- but I would've expected him to be transferred to a prison or something at age 18. Great opening line in the first 250 as well. I found the shift from past tense in the 1st paragraph to present tense in the 2nd paragraph jarring and suggest making it consistent. Suggest rejigging the following line: 'In her wake she leaves flowers that she wove into her hair, instead of devastation' as it sounds like she could've woven devastation in her hair. For me, the mix of the speech tag 'call out' followed by saying the words 'seep' from him didn't mesh. I also thought you might want to see if you can cut word repetitions used in close proximity (hair, trees, through). That said, I liked the idea, the era and the promise of a story set in a creepy reform school.

    Girl and Her Serial Killer -
    This sounds like a fresh, fun idea. I was a little confused by the query. When referring to 'her novels' is Stella a writer who has been writing since adolescence -- or does this refer to a series of books she's read since that time period? I also found the following unclear: ' ...they're in terrible danger, but Quinn refuses to accept it.' Since they're described as fugitives, I assume Quinn knows they're in danger. I wasn't sure if you're saying Quinn doesn't think they're in danger from Gideon? If so, perhaps clarify? In the first 250, I would've liked some sense of where Gideon is in relation to her. I'm assuming she can see as well as hear and feel him. If not, ignore! I noted a couple typos in the excerpt: Missing comma here - 'No, Gideon, you're...' and apostrophe/missing letter or extra word here? - 'It's say your...'

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  8. DOZIER: This looks like an awesome premise! Some repetition in the query, e.g. between the first and second paragraphs – you could probably combine them; I think the second paragraph is clearer, maybe work in some of the additional details from the first? – and the first and second sentences of the third paragraph, which might work better rephrased as something that follows more smoothly from the end of the previous paragraph (e.g. “Dozier houses juvenile criminals from truants to murderers.”)

    Lots of lovely dream-like images in the first 250, but between the tense shift after the first paragraph and some odd phrasing (why would she leave devastation in her wake? Am I missing a reference here?) I’m a little confused. You might be able to strike the first paragraph altogether.

    SERIAL KILLER: Great query – spooky and compelling! There were a few places in the first 250 that threw me, though, e.g. “…like anyone would when engaged in deep conversation about murdering” (not sure this follows) and bikini straps (took me a few re-reads to grasp that there’s a halter top plus back closure involved since both are described as being tied). Gideon’s Britishisms might be a little over the top in such a short space.

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  9. Death by Dozier:
    Query:
    You have a nice hook in the intro right off the bat. Very intriguing! However, it’s hard to stay focused on that aspect because there are some sentences that are cumbersome, which I had to read more than once to fully grasp your intent (e.g., but whatever buried the details of her death deep in his mind isn't letting a single second free). You could also lose a few pronouns here (just “blood” versus “her blood”) and phrases (“as the only suspect”, the phrase outlining current events, etc.), as this would streamline the query. You have a great idea here, a very intriguing premise, and I think with a little polishing you can really let this shine!
    First 250:
    You have a knack for creating a vivid scene. You did an excellent job with imagery and sensory detail in paragraph two. I like how you capture Avery’s personality in such little space as well; I can see that she’s flirty and vivacious and strong-willed. However, I think the piece would benefit from a little structural clarity. What is “before” in this sample—the murder? The time in the school? If it’s before her death, then the character would not be aware that she would die, so we, as readers, would be seeing this in scene as opposed to narrative summary. Also, I would consider cutting the line “that’s Florida for you.” The tone is a bit off compared to the rest of the paragraph. It’s more chatty, whereas the other portions are more ethereal. Overall, great concept and a unique premise!

    A Girl & Her Serial Killer
    Query: I think you did well here. It’s concise yet still gives us the stakes and highlights clearly. Your premise is fascinating, and it reminds me a bit of Stephen King’s THE DARK HALF.
    250:
    While I love the idea you have, I’d be happy to see some of the craft-elements polished up. I think the dialogue could use a bit of tweaking. For instance, the section starting “No, Gideon, you’re barmy” seems unnatural, perhaps because there is simply too much of it here. If you trimmed it, it might help to make it more authentic. I, too, was confused about whether he could actually touch her, and if she’s creeped out by him, would she fully disrobe in front of Gideon? What sort of control over him does she have, given he is a character in her novels? That might be something you have incorporated into the plot/character arc, but I did wonder the dynamics of the relationship. Again, great idea here, and once you solidify some of the elements in the first 250, I think this portion will be in good shape!

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  10. Awesomely creepy entries! Here are my two cents, for whatever they're worth:

    DEATH: Your query is interesting and does a great job introducing the conflict and trouble the MC's in, but I did think that is was a bit on the long side and seemed to repeat some information (the details are stuck in his mind, instance). If the focus of the novel is on the reform school, they it might be best to focus more on that, with just some of the pertinent bits about his girlfriend's death (I did love the bit about it being the night she said she loved him, it's a great hook). As for your 250, I found myself a bit lost--is this a dream? It has that quality to it, almost, which is interesting, but I found myself unsure of my footing for where we were beginning.

    GIRL: Whoa. Fascinating concept! I did find myself wondering if anyone else could see/detect Gideon, especially if he can actually touch things (and really, this just made me want to read on to find out, so no biggie). How does she know Gideon is a serial killer? From history books, or does he tell her? Also, what era is he from? Okay, really, I'm finding myself just asking questions because I want to read more :) In your 250, I was a bit thrown by the second to last line about the on/off button--I had to read it a couple of times to make sure I got what she meant (though the implication was clear enough).

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  11. DOZIER: Interesting idea, and I feel compassion for your protagonist, while assuming he's innocent. :) Some nit-picks. I haven't read the other judges' comments to keep my own thoughts clear, so forgive me if I repeat. 2nd sentence, watch your tense. It should either be "was the night she died" or "is the night she dies." There is some repetition of ideas in your query -- would you consider combining your first and second paragraphs? Also, I would combine some sentences in the third paragraph, so you only mention the Dozier school once, perhaps something like "...Dozier School for Boys, where juvenile boys from truants to murderers are hidden away." You have good detail in your query, and I get a good sense of where he is and what's going on. It's just needs to be tightened up. First 250: Again, you're good with giving a sense of place and how he is feeling. It's a bit confusing going from the first paragraph to a present tense scene. In your first sentence, perhaps say "you've" never, instead of "you" never. I would cut "between breaths" to tighten things up (because obviously he'll do that between breaths). Also, I would make your last sentence into two. "...being boiled. That's Florida for you..." Great job, and congratulations!

    GIRL: Wow, what an intriguing and creepy premise! :) You really get across the weirdness of it! A few comments: in the first sentence of your query, would you consider cutting "the main character" bit, so it's something like this? "Gideon, the dashing English serial killer in my books..." It would make the sentence smoother. I understand the urge to use "pathetic," but it isn't necessary. I would cut it. "Have him 'around'" would make more sense than just "have him." I may be out of it, but I don't know what FTM means. Maybe everybody else does... Cut "that" in convinced "that" they're in terrible danger. Cut "And" at the beginning of your last sentence to make it cleaner. First 250: This kind of creeped me out, which I guess is what you want! :) In the 3rd paragraph, you need a comma "No, Gideon..." Same paragraph, not sure what the sentence "It's say..." means -- is there a typo there? And the sentence, "I sigh, his smooth tenor voice my off button" doesn't really make sense to me. The feeling of the 250 is partly creepy to me because she's dressing (or undressing!) in front of him without a qualm. Isn't she at all uncomfortable? Most teenage girls I know would be. Good luck and congrats to you!

    Victory to DEATH BY DOZIER, mostly because I felt too uncomfortable with GIRL. Sorry.

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  12. Dozier: Great concept! The first paragraph makes me want to read more. The rest, though, seems a bit choppy. A bit of streamlining might be in order.

    The first 250 are very intriguing. Fantastic first line! Past the first paragraph seems like a flashback - is that so? It makes me want to keep reading, to find out what happens to poor Avery. Well done.

    Serial Killer: I suppose my first question is, are they Stella's books she reads, or those she writes? Second question: what is an almost-transitioned FTM? Is Gideon seen/felt by only Stella, or can Quinn see/feel him as well? How can Quinn help Stella if she's the only one who actually knows about Gideon? I feel like I'm missing vital pieces of information in order to put the story together in my mind.

    Your 250 ring a bit false, unfortunately. Unless the issue is Stella's mental health (in which case the end of the story will reveal the reason behind her behaviour in this beginning), then blithely undressing in front of someone who's discussing murder is edging past the disturbing and into the frightening. Uncomfortably so. Of course, not having the advantage of the entire story makes this question impossible to answer, so if I were an agent, I'd probably request a full just to see, out of curiosity! Ultimately, though, the common thread is that information is missing.

    Good luck to both entrants!

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  13. DEATH BY DOZIER

    Asher Flemming...HA! That’s the name of a character from Gilmore Girls :p

    So after I got over my chuckle about that...I’m not sure you need the first paragraph. It reads like a summary and is pretty much the same as paragraph two. Although I do like the first sentence. Maybe a combo: “Seventeen-year-old (<<spell it out!) Asher Flemming's starting to think he's haunted, or crazy -- or a murderer. With his luck, he's all three. He remembers nothing from the night his girlfriend was killed. The cops found him covered in her blood outside a mansion in Florida...ext ext.”

    I paused over the fact Asher was convicted of murder and sentenced to only five years at a reform school? Seems odd. Is this oddness connected with Asher’s memory loss/ possible murders?

    For the 250...OMG you’re first line! Love it! Yanks me viciously into Asher’s head. The whole first paragraph really is brilliant.

    But then the second paragraph comes and we jump to...something? I’m not following the progression here. Is he dreaming? Subtly can be your best friend in writing, but not at the expense of clarity (I’ve been known to make this mistake too). What you have here is really, really well done. Just shore that break up and I think you’re good.


    A GIRL AND HER SERIAL KILLER

    Ooo...this sounds creepy. Your query opens strong. I get a sense of Stella and her conflict with Gideon. It’s after “The killer? Gideon,” that the clarity begins to break down for me. Quinn refuses to accept they’re in terrible danger, but she pulls a timid Stella into a quest? Sounds like the roles reversed all of a sudden. How does Stella have to risk cracking under pressure? What pressure?

    Oh moly. Your 250 is creepy and filled with juicy unreliable narrator vibes. Your first line is funny, but starting with dialogue is tricky. I have no idea who’s talking yet. Could you start with something to ground us in the scene before hitting us with this line? The "trust" line tripped me up too. Otherwise, yeah, not what I needed to read before falling asleep :p

    ----

    Two really creepy entries. Great job guys!

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  14. Death by Dozier

    Query:
    If you are going to keep the first paragraph (which you could probably revise to combine with the 2nd) the 1st line of the 2nd paragraph "17-year old Asher remembers nothing from the night in 1968 his girlfriend was killed." is redundant. We know this from the prior paragraph. You have a typo in the last sentence "The Dozier" should be 2 words.
    Your query has some good info, but it repeats itself A LOT. You need to take another pass, and focus less on plot and more on premise and overall tone of the novel. As it stands, the repetition makes it blend into the background and won't make it stand out of the slush pile.

    250 words:
    Your first paragraph is fantastic! It's got a nice hook, much more than anything in your query. You should inject some of that passion/feeling into the query ASAP. The 2nd paragraph is a bit of a strange transition. It goes from passed tense, to present, and isn't clear what you're doing. As a reader this makes me worry about the quality of writing. The remainder is fine (accepting the tense change for what it is) and your final paragraph is really lovely. It gives us a strong idea of who Asher is.

    A Girl and Her Serial Killer

    Query:
    Your 2 paragraphs are bit of a disconnect. I'm assuming that perhaps the first paragraph is more background and the 2nd paragraph is a stronger description of what happens in your novel. If so, you need to revise. Don't get bogged down in background, just give us the premise and flavor of your novel. Also, you need to revise your description of Quinn. If you read that sentence aloud it's a mouthful. Simplify.

    250 words:
    I think you need an "an" before "adequate" in the first line. I'm completely baffled what "“Besides, aren't you English? It’s say your cut..." means.

    Verdict:
    Both of these have promise as well as problems, but I am going to say Victory goes to A Girl and Her Serial Killer. However, that author is in desperate need of a re-read and edit before the next round.

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  15. DEATH BY: Agree that either first or second paragraph of the query needs to be cut. Another question is: Does this need to be set in 1968? In the query it sounds like it's set in that time period because all the other national headlines make no one pay attention...but that could easily be said of today's current events. If it's a dual timeline, make that more clear in the query. I would also change your title - After You Died feels too vague.

    GIRL: I agree that I would revisit who the audience is - while we know teenagers would gobble this up, the concept and query would make me wary to push this as YA. Also, it may raise the stakes if she's a few years older and has had some commercial success with her novels? I think this concept has a lot of potential, but am wondering where it's going - my instinct is to think that she has multiple personalities. That personally has more appeal to me than paranormal.

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