Monday, June 1, 2015

QK Round 1: FAKE HEIRS DO IT BETTER versus THE ONE ABOUT TEMPLES, TYRANTS, and TWINS

Entry Nickname: Fake Heirs Do It Better
Title: The First Law of Loyalty
Word Count: 99k
Genre: YA Fantasy

Query:

Every night, seventeen-year-old Arun climbs above the mud and grime of the streets into the Grand Hotels to steal the foreigners’ gold. Her gang is her family, and she follows the old philosophies that say serving one’s family is more important than any laws. 

When her cousin, Jaruk, is one of several boys kidnapped by a Grand Duke as part of a plot to put a fake prince on the throne, her loyalties are torn. Although gang rules forbid her from meddling with nobility or politics, she can’t abandon him to the duke’s schemes. Arun loves him like a little brother, and the duke is torturing the boys in his attempts to recreate the long dead royal family’s magic. But what the gang doesn’t know, they can’t punish. Sneaking behind their backs, she steals and trades for information she needs to break Jaruk out of the duke’s guarded mansion.

Taking Jaruk back isn’t enough to keep him safe. He knows too much for the duke to let him go, and there will be nowhere to hide when the duke’s “prince” controls the country. To protect Jaruk, Arun must outwit the duke and discredit his prince. That means creating her own more convincing fake heir, a con too high-profile to hide. Saving Jaruk will not only bring dishonor to her family, but it will be the end of her place in the gang.

First 250:

I would've rather been with my brothers, slinking through darkened hallways and snatching treasures from empty rooms. Instead, I sat at the back bar of a dockside inn. The stench of booze and sweat strangled me, the pressing heat like chains. Through the smoky haze, I stole glances at the unfortunate pair of foreign sailors beside me, their misfortune being they were idiots about to lose a bunch of money. At least, that was the plan.

They watched my accomplice, Petch, move three cards in circles on the bar top. Their thick, hairy arms folded across their chests gave them an intimidating edge, but the ignorance plastered on their pale faces indicated they'd make fine marks.

Petch stopped shuffling the cards. "Which one is the queen?" he shouted. The din of the off-key piano and the men bellowing along nearly swallowed his words. I placed a silver coin on the middle card. He flipped it, showing me the face of our country's first queen. Black smudged the edge of her gold headdress. I sent a silent apology her way for Petch shoving her face into the bar’s grime like that.

Petch pushed me two silver coins. Now came the part where I persuaded these sailors to throw money at the game, and therefore convinced Boss Suttirat I wasn't a completely incompetent con artist.

"You look intrigued." I turned to the sailors, tried to make my voice feathery and cute—not so easy with all the noise.


VERSUS


Entry nickname: The One About Temples, Tyrants, and Twins
Title: The Diminished
Word Count: 83,000
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Query:

Sixteen-year-old Vi has always dreaded the violent mania that inevitably destroys everyone whose twin has died. Just when she finds a way to escape the city and the grasp of the temple where she was abandoned, her freedom is ripped away. Vi is sold to a cruel man whose collection of oddities is completed by the addition of one of the diminished.

Disgusted with the brutality she and the other servants are subjected to, Vi embroils herself in an underground rebellion. But when she discovers that her twin may not be dead after all, she must decide between staying to aid the rebels and escaping to find the twin she's spent her whole life missing.

First 250 Words:

The tide was low and the boats not yet in the water, and so I walked, shivering, into the sea. Though the weight of the whole ocean pushed me back toward the shore, I slogged through the icy surf as fast as my legs would propel me. A wave crashed into me, sending me reeling back a step. The cold wind whipped black curls loose from my braid and into my eyes, but I kept my focus on the red marker bobbing in the waves and my fingers in my ears. Eight more strides before I could dive.

I checked my knives, my nets, my ballasts. The rabid cheers from the square rang out over the roar of the waves, mingling with the screams of the seabirds. I tried to breathe deeply, to get ready. Focus, Vi, I thought. Seven more steps.

The crowd had begun to gather, still drunk from the night, long before dawn. Their voices swelled as the sun peeked above the horizon, and before the Ancients chanted the morning prayers the crowd was calling for the dimmy's blood. Six more steps.

Her name was Skalla. I'd only met her the once. She was some spice trader's daughter, and he'd had coin enough to dress his girls in silks and brocades. When Skalla's twin sister died, sudden-like from the whispering cough, Mother Lugine dragged me on her visit.

"Vi," Mother Lugine had said, " it's important that she sees an example of a dimmy who's managed to keep from going bad."

17 comments:

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

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Query: Fake Heirs
      Wordcount is a wee bit high. Can you get this down to 95k? I’m not sure we need to know she loves him like a little brother. Her gang is her family, and he’s her cousin already makes the connection clear.
      What are the stakes? What will the gang do to her if they catch her?
      I really like the Anastasia esque fake heir thing. I think with more clear stakes on what the gang will do to her, and how exactly she’s going to procure an heir, this query will shine.
      250
      There’s a little too much telling here. (for example “at least, that was the plan” let us see the plan going astray instead.) I think if you trim words to show her actually conning the men, or starting to, we might get a better sense of her personality. The setting is very clear, and very vivid. Great job here. However, I’ve seen a lot of fantasies open in dingy bars. What does yours bring to the table? What unique spin will you have? I am totally sure your story has it, I would just like to see it more on the first page.

      The One About Temples
      Query: This query is a little short. What can you add in way of stakes and background? What type of a world does Vi live in? Medieval? Dystopian? Etc I do really like the concept of twins without a half being evil, but I’d like to know how rare they are in this world. Likewise, I’m a sucker for an underground rebellion, so maybe that’s a spot you can shine more of a light on. The wordcount is spot-on, so nicely done with that!
      250
      The voice and world-building is very strong in this. Although I’m a little confused as to why Vi is in the water, I am hooked to find out what is happening next with Skalla. The other judge has given some tightening tips, so I won’t repeat those. The sort of flash back with Mother Lugine is also a bit jarring. Do we need that in the first page? But if I was an agent, I would turn the page and keep reading.

      That being said, victory to THE ONE ABOUT TEMPLES!

      Delete
    2. Princess of LlamasJune 2, 2015 at 11:43 PM

      FAKE HEIRS DO IT BETTER: This sounds a lot like THE FALSE PRINCE. A lot. That being said, I think this query needs to be tightened. You tell us her gang is her family, so no need to say she loves Jaruk like a brother. Also, the entire second paragraph is meaningless unless we know what she’s risking by breaking the gang’s rules. Is the crux of the book her battle with the duke? If so, I’d consider taking out all the stuff about abandoning, what they don’t know they can’t punish, etc., and move straight into the conflict with the duke. There’s no need to raise a question about her loyalties being torn when you tell us in the same query she picks Jaruk over the family. I’d also consider revising for a stronger last sentence that concisely sums up the stakes. Right now, I’m not sure what they are. If she fools the duke, she saves Jaruk but they’re kicked out of the gang? And if she fails they’re dead? This needs to be clearer.

      As for the 250, I’m not crazy about the first line. Maybe, “I should have been with my brothers, slinking through . . .” ??? Right now it reads clunky. Then, for the last line, “I turned to the sailors, trying to make my voice” instead of “tried to make.” That being said, I really, really like these 250. It establishes the scene, world, and is a great starting place. Nice!

      THE ONE ABOUT TEMPLES, TYRANTS, AND TWINS: OK, I’m just going to admit it. I’m lost. The only thing I take from the query is that her twin might not be dead and she has to leave some kind of rebellion if she wants to find her. I don’t get how, if at all, those things are related. I don’t get a sense of her world, the violent mania she’s afraid of, or what the rebellion is about. You have a lot of room in here to add more details to give the reader an idea of what kind of world this is, who Vi is, and the stakes. If she finds her sister, what? If she doesn’t, is the rebellion affected? More specifics would make this so much stronger.

      As for the 250, I don’t get why she’s in the water, what she’s doing, what a dimmy is, and who Mother Lugine is. Now, that being said, if the query provided more insight, this might make more sense. But right now, taken in the abstract, I’m really in the dark. Yes, there’s vivid imagery here, but to me the first 250 really needs to get that plot moving, and this doesn’t do that.

      Two twins stories! I’d really like to see both of these after a revision, as there’s such potential here. Both queries need work, but the 250s are strong and well-written. As I just can’t get my head around what’s really going on in the second one though, victory to FAKE HEIRS DO IT BETTER.

      Delete
    3. Fake Heirs Do It Better

      Query: After reading this, I feel like I have a general idea of the story, but there's not enough clarity here for me to really understand what's going on. Some questions: Is there already a prince on the throne? Why would she be allowed to steal, but not meddle in politics? Why is torturing boys helping him revive dead magic? What part does magic play in this at all? Is the story mainly focused on saving Jaruk or creating a fake heir? Whichever it is, I'd focus more on one than the other. What are the real stakes here? The choice is to save Jaruk, or lose her family? I know it's against their rules, but if they're all really as close as you say, I'm not sure I'm buying no one else would be upset about Jaruk being captured.

      250: Great setting/world-building here. I'm really feeling the bar and the noise and all that good stuff. The writing is good too, though I'd love to see a little more personality here for our main character. I guess my biggest criticism is that this is a familiar opening, and I'd really like to see a little more uniqueness in it. Show me how your MS is really going to standout.

      *****

      The One About Temples, Tyrants, and Twins

      Well, let me just say how much I love your nickname, for the obvious reason ;)

      Query: I think the other judges have mainly hit on this, but you're query is too short and doesn't have enough information/detail. Here are some questions I have that might help you decide what else to add in (of course you don't need to answer all these questions): Why are the twins dying? Do one half of all twins always die? How prevalent are twins in your world? I'm assuming Vi doesn't suffer from the same mania and that's odd? Why is she trying to escape? What is the diminished? (I'm guessing it's a twin who's lost their other twin) What is the rebellion about, what are they rebelling against? Also, I think you need stronger stakes. Show us why she can't do both. Is her presence in the rebellion really that necessary for it to succeed?

      250: Without as much clarity as we need in the query, the 250 is slightly confusing. I'm not sure why she's wading through the water, but with the crowd gathering I'm also getting a sense that this is an execution or some type of rescue. (I could be way off-base here). My gut is telling me that a "dimmy" is the twin who lived and is therefore diminished without their twin. I'm also guessing that it's rare for Vi to not have gone crazy/violent when her sister died and she's being used as an example. Again, lots of guessing that can be cleared up with a more to-the-point query. Beyond the confusion, I think the writing is really good. Great imagery, sensory details. You give us information without overloading us. Good job.

      *****

      It's interesting because one entry I feel has too much information to be clear, while the other doesn't have enough to be clear. Both 250's are well written, so this is really tough. Overall, I think one of these seems to be more unique, and the writing resonates more with me. Therefore, VICTORY TO THE ONE ABOUT TEMPLES, TYRANTS, AND TWINS!

      Delete
    4. Fake Heirs Do It Better

      Query:
      I’d say this one is close. A few thoughts: 1) the whole “fake heir” think feels a bit thin at the moment because we don’t know who the fake heir is and yet she or he presumably plays a key part in the story; 2) it says “one’s family is more important than any laws,” but isn’t Jaruk family (he’s Arun’s cousin)? 3) the two halves of the final sentence basically say/imply the same thing. Plus, it’s not as strong a hook as it could be. We need to know the actual consequences of her breaking the rules, and we need to know a bit more about why she’s willing to do so to help Jaruk (“loves him like a little brother” is a bit cliché; it’ll do, but I guess I wonder if there isn’t an even stronger motivation).

      First 250 Words:
      This is solid. A confident voice. Lots of great little observations. Well done.


      The One About Temples, Tyrants, and Twins

      Query:
      I’m going to take a slightly different approach here and comment directly as I read:

      Sixteen-year-old Vi has always dreaded the violent mania that inevitably destroys everyone whose twin has died [this mania needs more unpacking so the reader understands; and is this saying she had a twin who died? I know it says so later, but make it clear here so the reader knows]. Just when she finds a way to escape the city [what city?] and the grasp of the temple where she was abandoned [so, is this her home?], her freedom is ripped away [by whom?]. Vi is sold to a cruel man [too vague; name him and give us some idea of who he is] whose collection of oddities is completed by the addition of one of the diminished [I get the sense this is intended as “one of The Diminished” which means is also needs further unpacking; your reader has no idea what these terms mean in your story].

      Disgusted with the brutality she and the other servants are subjected to, Vi embroils herself in an underground rebellion [if she’s been sold, how does she become part of a rebellion?]. But when she discovers that her twin may not be dead after all, she must decide between staying to aid the rebels and escaping to find the twin she's spent her whole life missing [if life was so brutal, and escaping was an option, why wouldn’t she have tried to do so even before she learned about her sister].

      I can see the basic foundation of what the story is, but you could easily make the query twice as long and give your reader a lot more detail to work with without the fear of being too long.

      First 250 Words:
      There’s good writing here. I think it could be made stronger given that it’s using 1st person POV (see judge Tracy Townsend’s recent tweets on this)—less straight reporting and more introspection/opinion on what is taking place—but overall it’s working pretty well.

      *****

      Both entries have decent writing and an intriguing overall premise, but at this point I felt one to be more developed. So I’m giving VICTORY TO FAKE HEIRS DO IT BETTER!

      Delete
    5. Fake Heirs Do It Better

      Query:

      Interesting premise, but a bit muddled. Which is the main plot? Saving Jaruk from the Duke's Dungeon or making her own more convincing heir? OR is she doing them both at the same time? It's unclear whether she only starts making the heir after Jaruk is back with her or not. Revise to give us less plot and more about the stakes and overarching premise of your novel. Also...you make it sound like Arun runs this gang, so it's odd she can't change the rules. I assume she doesn't run the gang, but perhaps knowing who does would clarify why the rules cannot be broken? That being said, if explaining all that is going to make you reveal more background/plot just revise to make those kinds of questions less immediate in the reader/agent mind.

      250 words
      I like what you've got here. We get a strong sense of Arun here, and who doesn't love watching a con from a con-artist's perspective. Very solid writing, that makes it seem effortless, which is always a plus!


      The One About Temples, Tyrants, and Twins

      Query:
      I'm assuming Vi is a "diminished" because her twin is assumed to have died? It's not really clear why she must make the choice you pose. Wouldn't it be easier to escape if she led the rebellion? Also...is this "cruel man" surrounded by an army? Why will it take all of them to overthrow him? Your query is wonderfully short and to the point for a fantasy novel, but you might want to try revising it so readers don't have as many questions. However, keep at it in terms of brevity. It's a welcome bit of fresh air in queries!!!

      250 words
      I have no idea what is going on in these first 250 words. Why is she swimming? What is the transition from swimming to thinking of Skalla? You need to give us some context here, and there doesn't appear to be any reason to hide it. Let the reader in, so they can enjoy the journey with Vi.


      VICTORY goes to FAKE HEIRS DO IT BETTER

      Delete
    6. Fake Heirs Do It Better: I have a soft spot for likeable criminals, and friends as family, so this hooks me. All the same, I think you could cut some of the lengthy plot points and inject some more voice in their stead. I bet a thief/con artist MC has plenty of voice to spare. I’d also like a name of the city, and am not sure why grand hotels is capitalised. You also don’t end very pithily – you should try to finish with a ‘if MC doesn’t succeed in doing X, Terrible Thing will happen.’ formula, or alternatively make it sound like she has an impossible choice to make.

      First page: very nice first page. Clearly written, lively sensory and setting details, tells us about the MC and makes her interesting, hooks us with possible danger or at least intrigue. Very well done, I honestly don’t have anything to add.

      The One About Temples: This query is far too brief – don’t sell your story short, it can comfortably be twice as long. And because it’s so short, it reads disjointedly and I’m completely confused about what happens. Give us some worldbuilding information and some personality and voice of Vi’s. Start by telling us what happened to her twin, why Vi’s been abandoned, why she’s in the grasp of a temple she needs to escape from. What is the rebellion about – who are they rebelling against? There’s a lot more information need here.

      First page: This has got some nice writing and great atmosphere in it, but could use some clarity, as I don’t really understand what’s happening. I’d start with the time of day and crowds and chanting and setting, *then* zoom into your MC walking through the sea, and I’d explain exactly what’s happening, what a dimmy is – it can be a good hook.

      VICTORY TO FAKE HEIRS

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


      FAKE HEIRS DO IT BETTER

      Sounds like you've got some high-profile scheming going on in this story, which could be a ton of fun.

      One thing that confuses me a bit - the first paragraph states that family is more important than laws, but if Jaruk is like a brother to her, then why wouldn't his safety trump the gang's rules anyway? I'm not seeing the reason for that internal conflict.


      -vs-


      THE ONE ABOUT TEMPLES, TYRANTS, AND TWINS

      You win the shortest query award! (Kidding. That's not really a thing.) The good news is, that gives you lots of breathing room to delve into more specifics about Vi and the world she lives in. I'm particularly interested in what it is she THINKS happened to her twin at the beginning, WHY she was at the temple, what the mania entails, and why she can't both help the rebellion AND find her twin.



      Victory to... FAKE HEIRS DO IT BETTER!

      Delete
  2. Two really intriguing entries! I enjoyed reading them both.

    HEIRS: What a fun idea, and I like the protagonist already. I was immediately reminded of some other books I enjoyed (THE FALSE PRINCE and Ally Carter's HEIST SOCIETY books) so that's a plus for me! :) I am a bit worried about the high word count -- anything over 90,000 is a red flag for agents, unfortunately. Perhaps there will be some who will be willing to work with that! A few nitpicks: QUERY - lose the commas around "My cousin, Jarek," because that makes it seems as though he's her only cousin.; maybe use Jarek's name in the second paragraph instead of "him," to make it clearer; and what would you think of swapping the "love him like a little brother" sentence and the "what the gang doesn't know" sentence (with a few revisions to make this work). I had to read those a couple times to make it work. FIRST 250: Enjoyed this scene! It's a little awkward starting the book with "would've" right away. How would you feel about making it "I would rather have been" to make it read a little smoother? The sweat and booze actively do something to her, so the heat needs to, as well, not just "like chains." Make sense? Finally, "convinced" needs to just be "convince." Great job!

    TWINS: What a neat idea! Haven't seen this before about the twins, and I love it. I do feel like the query is a little too sparse to really get a hold of what the book is about, though. Can you add some more detail? More about her freedom, that "dimmy" is short for diminished (I had to read this a few times in the 250 to get that), about who else is involved in the rebellion. Are there any other characters you can mention? FIRST 250: Do you think it might read better is the boats "were" not yet in the water? Also, the word "propel" stopped me, as it kind of stood out. How would you feel about using a more "normal" word here? Other than those things, the 250 reads really well, and I enjoyed it!

    Both of these entries are intriguing and I can see them both doing well. Congrats to the authors! But I have to choose, and while I am concerned about the high words count of HEIRS, I think the query itself is stronger, so I have to say

    Victory to FAKE HEIRS DO IT BETTER

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  4. Fake Heirs -
    I always enjoy stories with grifters, cons and thieves! In the query, I wasn't clear on how saving her cousin will dishonor her family. Perhaps add a bit of specificity there? I enjoyed the opening 250 and just had one quibble -- perhaps rejig the first paragraph to avoid using 'unfortunate and 'misfortune' in the same sentence?

    The One About...-
    I liked the idea of a place where people believe a surviving twin will automatically go bad, but felt a little unmoored in the query. Though it's a fantasy, I still wanted some sense of where the story would take place. In the opening 250, the prose was lovely. I did want a better sense of where Vi was in relation to the gathering crowd -- is the town square visible from the water's edge or out of sight? I had one picky point -- I thought the 'long before dawn' would work better if inserted earlier in the following: 'The crowd had begun to gather, still drunk from the night, long before dawn'

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  5. FAKE HEIRS: Identifying the gang as her family in the first paragraph muddied the waters for me a little bit when you bring up her cousin and the potential for bringing “dishonor to her family.” If there’s a dichotomy in play between blood family and chosen family, can you set it up a little more clearly at the outset? I feel like I need to know who the former group is before bringing them dishonor really has any bite as a potential consequence.

    I like the scene-setting in the opening 250!

    TEMPLES: I agree that we need more specifics to give the same concrete sense of place you communicate in your 250. Can you add a few words, for example, to tie the term “the diminished” to the first sentence more clearly?

    Nice images in the 250, very vivid, and you add some great touches to make the voice match the fantasy setting. My one quibble is that Mother Lugine’s line here makes it sound like she’s talking *about* Vi instead of to her (as the opening salutation seems to indicate).

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  6. FAKE HEIRS: Love your premise so much. I’d amp up Arun’s stakes even further: Saving Jaruk will not only be the end of her place in the gang or bring dishonor to her family of thieves, but it will make the Duke her mortal enemy.

    The opening 250 left me salivating for more! I loved how seamlessly you wove together elements of your plot and your world-building (the playing card portraying the land’s former queen used to con the sailors). Great voice and imagery. Your writing reminded me of Marie Rutkoski’s The Winner’s Curse series.

    TEMPLES: Very unique and compelling concept with clear, nicely defined stakes. I felt that your query, at only 115 words, could be expanded to explain Vi’s circumstances in greater detail. I wanted to know what she did before she was sold, who ripped away her freedom and what made it so hard for her to leave the rebellion (Are there friendships/romances she would have to give up? Obstacles she would have to overcome?).

    First 250. Your writing is lovely and engaging, your pacing is perfect: Vi’s tense, quiet scenes provide striking contrast with the escalating violence in the square and set the mood for your story. I would recommend mentioning the shouts from the square sooner to explain why Vi was stuffing her ears, maybe even show her external thoughts. Well done!

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  7. Fake Heirs,

    I agree about the query being a little unclear as to how the political con will dishonor her family. I understand that she swore to not get involved in politics, but if she's saving her cousin, isn't that more important? Besides that, I'd like a hint as to who the fake heir will be. Is she going to use her cousin, or someone else? Otherwise, interesting premise. I agree with Mrs. Pollifax that for me, this brought to mind THE FALSE PRINCE.

    You have a fantastic 250. Great descriptions, good pace, interesting characters. My favorite description was "The din of the off-key piano and the men bellowing along nearly swallowed his words." Gorgeous.

    Temples,

    I'd like to see more world building in your query. As Mrs. Pollifax mentioned, you have a really interesting/engaging/unique idea here with what you're doing with the twins. Build on that! I want just a hint of history. In a world where everyone has a twin, what's it like? Do the twins do the same job? Or do they finish each other's jobs? Setting up how the world acts when its made of twins will help explain why it's such a problem to have your twin die. Your query strikes me as timid. Take confidence, you have an interesting story, and we want to hear about it.

    As the others have mentioned, your 250 is lovely. I am, however, confused as to what your MC is doing. She's wading into the water, about to dive. A crowd is gathering. Suddenly there's this Skalla character. Is she diving to find Skalla, or just remembering Skalla in this moment for some reason? Oh wait, just reread it. I see Skalla is the dimmy. My bad, I thought that "dimmy" was referencing the MC, and that they were gathering to see HER death. Now this looks more like a rescue attempt. In that case, I definitely need to know your MC's relation to the crowd. Beside? Below? Can they see her?

    Good luck to you both!

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  8. FAKE HEIRS

    So cool. I love fantasy-heist stories.

    A few notes on the query...

    I would make the first sentence of second paragraph active: “When the Grad Duke kidnaps her cousin, Jaruk, as part of his plot to put a fake prince on the throne, Arun’s loyalties are torn.”

    Well, except the fact I’m not sure how her “loyalties are torn.” Sounds to me like this Grand Duke is a bad dude and she would risk anything to save her cousin.

    Similarly with the “dishonor her family” line, how will saving Jaruk bring dishonor and end her place in the gang? It’s not something I’ve been able to determine from the information in the query alone.

    Love where the opening scene jumps in. Feels like just the right place. And the subtle ways you pull in world building (such as the line about their first queen on the card) are awesome!

    A few line edit suggestions...

    “Through the smokey haze, I stole glances at the unfortunate foreign sailors beside me. They were about to lose a bunch of money.” I actually think you can drop the line about the plan. I gathered it through her talking about them losing money, and then her accomplice is in the next line.

    I want something more concrete than “ignorance” plastered on their faces that make them a fine mark. Ignorance isn’t concrete, therefore, it’s more difficult to picture.

    “Now came the part where I persuaded...” I’m not sure I want you to tell me this. It’s telegraphing. Granted, I don’t know what happens beyond the first 250 words, but I’d rather see her trying to con the sailors without her giving it away first.

    Overall, great job!

    TEMPLES, TYRANTS, AND TWINS

    OOoh! Twin stories.

    The concept of the remaining twin going crazy sounds really creepy/cool; however, after reading the query a few times, I’m not sure I grasp the plot beyond that. When did her twin die, before or after she was abandoned? What do you mean by “the addition of one of the diminished?” The dead twin?

    In the second paragraph, where do these other servants come from? How does she find out her twin is not dead?

    If you can clarify the conflict so that it reflects the awesome premise, I think you’ll have something really special here.

    Minor note, try to make your first sentence of the query as punchy as possible. Avoid wishy-wash terms like “has always dreaded.” Rephrased it could read: “Sixteen-year-old Vi dreads the violent mania...”

    Really beautiful writing in the 250. I felt like I was right there in the ocean with Vi. But...why was she in the ocean? She’s diving for something, obviously. I’m guessing food at this point. But what about all the cheers? That makes it sound like she’s doing this for sport and there are spectators watching.

    I agree that “Her name was Skalla” comes out of nowhere. Anyway to smooth the transition from her actions to this thought?

    Love the last line! Clear up my points of confusion, and it’s one that would make me turn the page.

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  9. Good job, both you of you! I feel like these comments should come with a disclaimer for my current lack of coffee. >.<

    Fake Heirs:
    Intriguing plot! But for a story with kidnapping, dark magic, and con-artists, the query reads a little flat. I don’t get a sense of urgency. The 250, however, did give me a better feel for the world. Not sure I would keep reading from the query alone, but I would keep going from the 250.


    Temples, Tyrants, and Twins
    The “diminished” made me do a double-take – I assume it’s a reference to Vi?

    And see, now the coffee is kicking in and I see that your title is also The Diminished. Ahhh. Perhaps you could work in an explanatory aside in the first or second sentence? Your query is exceptionally concise - so concise that you have plenty of room to give a bit more about the diminished-twin-mania, the man who captures her, or the rebellion (or all three! ☺).

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  10. My two cents, for whatever they're worth:

    FAKE: Interesting premise and great stakes. Your query sets this up well, though I would have liked a bit more attention on how she's going to set up the fake heir than on why she has to do it. Otherwise, it flows well and got me interested. The first 250 are good, but don't completely drag me into the story. Is there a reason she's playing the card game, some stakes at risk? I'm not sure the first couple of sentences are strictly necessary, but I'd definitely keep reading!

    THE ONE ABOUT: Hmm, I left this one with more questions than I would like. Could you potentially show some more of this world in your query? Does everyone have a twin? A detail or two about what happens to them if their twin dies? It's very sparse, which can be good, but I wanted to hear a bit more to get me interested. Your first 250 are very interesting, though I'm still not completely sure I knew what was going on. Skalla's the one in the water? Is Vi trying to save her? I was just a little too confused to get what was going on, though the writing itself was great.

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