Monday, June 1, 2015

QK Round 1: NO SUCH THING AS COINCIDENCE versus BEST(IARY) WESTERN

Entry Nickname: No such thing as a coincidence
Title: Coincidences
Word count: 80k
Genre: NA Paranormal

Query:

Being invisible is good for three things: bank vaults, men’s locker rooms, and saving the world.

For Ami and her partner, Luke, being able to become invisible is part of their job. Their unknown employer assigns them to make “coincidences” happen, from reuniting long lost lovers to toppling empires. But their next job goes way beyond what they’re comfortable with—stopping a bio-terrorism attack on San Francisco. Breaking into illegal laboratories and Federal buildings to figure out who’s behind the outbreak makes bank vaults seem easy.

It doesn’t help that Ami is too in love with Luke to even enjoy the locker rooms. She might finally have a chance to push their relationship past the friend-zone if it wasn’t for angry FBI agents chasing them down hilly streets and invading their homes in the middle of the night.

With the clock ticking down to the planned Independence Day attack, Ami and Luke must prevent the pathogen’s release, escape the FBI pursuers, and handle their feelings for each other. With thousands of lives hanging in the balance, they’re going to need more than a coincidenceto pull it all off.

First 250 Words:

Three big perks to invisibility:

1.     Bank vaults

2.     Men’s locker rooms

3.     Saving the world.

Vaults, well, I’ve only done that once, and I had a good excuse. Men’s locker rooms could be fun, but really, there’s only one person who I want to see naked and he made it clear we’re just friends. Repeatedly. Like how over the past twenty minutes, as we’ve bumped along the pockmarked Mexican toll road, he’d said exactly three words to me. And one of those had been ‘no.’

And the saving the world bit?

Not as fun as it looks in the movies.

#

The car Luke rented looked like it had been in a demolition derby. My head hit the window as we bounced over a small crater, knocking my sunglasses into my nose.

I rubbed at my forehead, giving Luke, my partner, a pointed look.

He didn’t look over. Not that I was surprised—he was focused on the road and something else that took his mind miles away. Before I thought better of it, I reached over, chose an arm hair, and plucked it out by the root.

“Hey! What was that for?” His thoughts seared into my mind while he rubbed his arm like I’d stabbed him. One of the bonuses of our position: telepathic link. It’s great for when we’re both invisible and need to talk, but a serious liability when it means I accidentally start chattering in his head. I swear I busted the switch that keeps my thoughts to myself. Now it shorts out like wiring that’s been chewed by some neurological rat.


VERSUS


Entry NicknameBest(iaryWestern: Young Adult Paranormal Fantasy
Title: Fugitive Motel
Word count: 90K
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal Fantasy Bildungsroman

Query: 


Teenage Iris overcomes her anger at her father’s deceits and accepts her birthright to become the next Innkeeper of a hotel for supernatural monsters.

During the day, Iris Vox sleepwalks through high school. At night, she plays the grown-up behind the reception desk of her father’s Kansas hotel: checking supernatural Others in and out, seeing to their out-of-the-ordinary needs, and dealing with their dangers. Keeping the Other world safe and secret is the only life Iris has ever known, but it’s one that's becoming harder now that her “juicer” dad spends so much more time pooled in his bathtub as a human smoothie.

Just as sleep is a luxury to Iris, so is the truth. Her father, always loving but never forthright, won’t admit that something’s changed in his "condition". Deeply angry at her father’s lies, Iris turns to her guests for human contact, learning about their curses and sorrows, finding her role as a listener and a solace. Confronted with the rise of a dangerous magical threat, Iris finally learns the truth of her father’s mortality and has to make peace with becoming the next Innkeeper, or get out of the secret business for good.


First 250: 

5:45 a.m. and a man staggers in through the automatic, smoked-glass doors. Glad for some action, I look up from my magazine to take a better look at my customer. Nothing special about him, just a salesman coming in after driving all night from one meeting to the next. An older man with skin like a re-used paper bag.

But the stagger…it’s not quite right. Drunks usually weave. This guy is lurching forward like he’s got an absolute goal. Our desk. Me.

Yep. Pale, sullen, haggard with a side of desperate determination? Definitely looks like one of ours.

“Can I help you, sir?”

“Have you got a room, miss?” he slurs.

The man grips the rim of the counter to steady himself, his very clean fingernails pointing toward me. With a great effort he lifts his left hand and slaps it on the counter twice. That’s good. It’s half of the sign. Still, he’s not finished performing.

“What are you looking for exactly, sir?” I prompt.

You have to say it or you can’t come in!

There’s a long anxious pause as he tries to remember what to do next. He’s now gripping the countertop so tightly that his nail beds are turning whitish gray where the pink flesh should show through.

“Rest and feed,” the man answers, trawling the words out of some hard-to-access place in his brain, laying them heavily out on the counter.

Bingo.

It’s the right answer, the part of the code he missed before.

33 comments:

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

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No Such Thing:

      I really love the hook in the query, until I saw that it directly quotes the first page of the manuscript. Try to avoid that. Personally, since the first paragraph of the manuscript isn't really necessary (it's a short prologue), I'd delete it and leave that section as the hook of your query.

      Otherwise, I've got a few questions: Were Ami and Luke born with the ability to become invisible? Is this something their employer did? Why is the FBI the enemy if we're trying to stop a bio-terrorism attack on San Francisco? That sounds like something the FBI wouldn't want to happen. This query's a bit on the short side - less than 200 words. If you bring it up to about 250, you can add enough detail about the overall plot to leave your reader desperate to keep going.

      In the first 250, delete everything before the #. And I'm really unclear on why the main character is pulling out Luke's arm hair. If he's hit the last 20 potholes in a row or something, say so. The voice is good, and it's a good start, but I really want to see more of why they're in the car, where they're going, etc. Deleting the first part gives you more room for the rest.

      Best(iary) Western:

      This is one of my favorite nicknames. Your query's pretty good, but it's also a little short. Tell me more about the Others, what type of needs Iris tends to, her father's lies, etc. There are a lot of places to add a little more information. I'd also like to know more about this "dangerous magical threat." Understanding the danger the main character is facing will help make the stakes feel a bit more urgent.

      Overall, your first page is very good. There are some spots that it could be tightened, a few adverbs that you don't really need. (like "looks like" is unnecessary, and you could say "immaculate" or "pristine" or even "shining" instead of "very clean"). The present participle can be rewritten, and there are a few other unnecessary words. You have to watch for that stuff on the first page, because it can make the agents wonder if the entire manuscript needs tightening. If you have a lot of very, looks like, "is Xyz-ing," now, etc., read through to remove as much as you can before sending the MS to agents.

      VICTORY TO BEST(IARY) WESTERN

      Delete
    2. Princess of LlamasJune 2, 2015 at 2:27 AM

      NO SUCH THING AS COINCIDENCE: I’m not sure this is paranormal. It sounds from the query and first 250 that science is at play here, as you suggest a bonus of their positions is a telepathic link, which infers it’s a controlled, elective feature. This might be YA Fantasy. Or scientific fantasy (which isn’t a thing yet, but I emphasize yet). That being said, I don’t think it’s a disadvantage in actual querying, as your first sentence to the agent can be, “. . . COINCIDENCES, my 80,000-word contemporary fantasy with a mix of scientific elements.” Or something like that. (Also, paranormal is slow right now, so labeling it some sort of fantasy might actually be helpful.)

      To the query: I like his query! A couple of suggestions: The “next job goes way beyond what they’re comfortable with” confused me a bit because you’ve just said they’ve toppled empires, implying they’ve already done some pretty hefty stuff. Also, I’m not sure of the men’s locker rooms being featured so prominently because both in the query and the first 250, Ami tells us she doesn’t care at all about that. Right from the start she essentially refutes what she’s just told us. Invisibility is awesome for tons of other reasons. I'd consider including something else.

      For the 250, I have the same comment on men’s locker rooms as above. The only other thing is that if throughout the book Luke and Ami are going to communicate telepathically, you might consider using italics for all telepathic thoughts instead of quotation marks so the reader can more easily follow and you don’t have to add “thoughts” or “think” every time as a language tag. Overall though I think this 250 is well written and serves as a good intro to Ami, Luke, and a hint to their special powers. Nice!

      BESTIARY WESTERN: Sorry, but I’m not a fan of the first line—it’s nothing you don’t say later in the query, and to me it’s not as interesting as the first line of the second paragraph. As for the rest of the query, I think it’s great! Only two things—first, if you can explain what a juicer is and what her dad’s issue is, I think the query could be clearer. You mention lies, but it’s vague what that means. I understand the desire to tease, but by referencing his condition a few times and centering Vox’s conflict around her dad, we really need to have a better understanding as to what’s going on with him so that we can better understand Vox’s conflict. Second, as to that conflict, I get a little lost as to whether the conflict is if she’ll forgive her dad, if she can defeat the magical threat, or if she’ll become Innkeeper. Clarifying that part would show your story is cohesive. Your query isn't that long. I think you definitely have room to add some specifics about dad, the Others, and the magical threat.

      As for the 250, I have nothing to say other than that I really like it! I think it’s a great starting place. The action moves, pace works. Not a lot of backstory, but good amount of hints as to what’s going on. Really, really good.

      Another tough match-up! Two strong queries with just a couple of nit-picks! Based on the query and 250 though, victory goes to BESTIARY WESTERN!

      Delete
    3. No such thing as a coincidence

      Query:
      Great opening line, and great overall premise. My overall critique is that the language could use tightening: “being able to become invisible” = invisibility; “what they’re comfortable with” = their comfort zone, etc. And instead of “With the clock ticking down” describe the actual “clock” for us (e.g., “with only 24 hours left,” or whatever, etc.). Details are preferable to vague, generic statements. Also, not sure why they have trouble with stopping an attack, given that the opening line gave the impression they were used to “saving the world.”

      Needs a stronger closing hook too.

      First 250 Words:
      Although I know the temptation, I would recommend against using the opening line of your story to open your query as well. One, it kills the line when it should have its greatest impact (i.e., in your story). Two, it gives the impression you felt you couldn’t come up with an equally good line to open the query. Trust me: if you can write one line that grabs, you can write others. You just have to push yourself.

      Not sure why the scene break is in there.

      The telepathic thing is cool; so cool, in fact, that it might actually belong in the query. I say that because the romantic element seems to be a big part of the story, and a budding romance where the two people can read each other’s minds adds all kinds of extra intrigue. Something to think about anyway.

      The overall narrative voice is good, but don’t be afraid to push it even a little more.


      Best(iary) Western

      [don’t get too fancy with the genre :)]

      Query:
      There’s an awful lot crammed into the opening line here (and I’d suggest simply stating her age outright; story expectations will vary depending on whether she’s thirteen or nineteen). In fact, having read the rest, it reads more like a logline. Could probably cut.

      Regarding the rest, the query spends a lot of time telling us about Iris but not much actually setting up the stakes. What is her father’s “condition”? Who is the next innkeeper? And since she doesn’t seem too keen on the hotel, what does it matter if they lose it? There’s just not a lot of tension in the query, and I found many of the details too obscure (for example, what exactly is a “juicer”?).

      First 250 Words:
      I don’t have too much to say here. It reads well enough. Definitely more “spark” in the voice here than in the query, although I think it could be even stronger. To make full use of the first person POV, we should be getting more than just narration of what’s going on, we should be getting opinions and a sense of character from her thoughts as well.

      *****

      Another great match-up (or tough one, depending on how you look at it). But because of the playfulness already evident in the voice, as well as a slightly clearer overall premise, I’m giving VICTORY TO NO SUCH THING AS A COINCIDENCE!

      Delete
    4. No Such Thing As A Coincidence

      Query:
      Really like the opening line here, but wondering if it could use some verbs? (robbing bank vaults, spying in men's locker rooms...) Since I've already read your 250, I can tell you that I think adding in the telepathic part sounds fairly important, and also intriguing. Consider cutting "unknown" about their employer. I think it raises more questions than anything else. I'm also curious about their invisibility--is it something their employer gave them? Something they were born with? I'm confused why a bio-terrorism attack is out of their comfort zone, but toppling empires is not. Both seem to be pretty huge. I think you could use a smoother transition between the second and third paragraph. Is there a way to add in a mention about their non-relationship above that? ("For Ami and her unfortunately-platonic partner, Luke" or something). In the last paragraph, I'd cut out "Independence Day Attack." I don't think it's necessary. Also, gives us specifics--not ticking clock, but twenty-four hours, three days, etc. What I'd also like to see in here is what switches them from friends to not. Did something specific happen? For being partners for so long, and Luke keeping her at a distance, I'm curious what changed.

      As for the genre, I'll agree that this doesn't sound like paranormal. I'd switch this to Fantasy and call it a day.

      250: Cut everything before the #. It's an interesting blurb, but I think it's unnecessary. Plus, I like your use of the three things in the query much better and leaving it here makes it very repetitive.

      "Knocking my sunglasses into my nose,"--aren't the sunglasses already on her nose?

      Consider italicizing his thoughts since initially I thought he said this out loud, then got tripped up when you said "his thoughts seared into my mind." Also, I'm curious why she's pulling his arm hair? Is she just annoyed because he's quiet and not paying attention to her?

      Overall, I see a lot of potential here, especially with a telepathic link. I'm assuming that means Luke is very aware of Ami's feelings? (Maybe toss that into the query too). I think by cutting what I mentioned in the 250, we'll definitely get even more of the wonderful voice here and more information.

      *****

      Best(iary) Western

      First, I have to say that I love your nickname. Great job!

      Genre - you wan't to keep this simple. What you're giving us isn't a real genre, and I have no idea what you mean by Bildungsroman either way.

      Query:
      You definitely need to tell us the age of the character, it will make a huge difference to the material whether the protagonist is thirteen or eighteen. I'd also recommend cutting the first line, it reads as more of a logline and doesn't draw me in. The biggest thing I think this query needs is specifics. Don't say things like "dangerous magical threat." I also have no idea what a "juicer" is. Rather than using the slang you developed, can you tell us what that means to the dad? Overall, the tension seems flat, and the stakes aren't high enough.

      250: A nit-pick, but I'd like to see you state the time (almost like a date at the top) and then start the sentence as, "A man staggers..." I'd also recommend going through and replacing passive sentences, "This guy is lurching..." with active sentences, "This guy lurches..." It will make your already strong writing even stronger. Down a little further, I'd cut, "Still, he's not finished performing." We see this and know this based on it only being half the sign. Other than that, I think this is really strong!

      *****

      This was a really tough one for me. Both of the entries were strong, the storylines intriguing. However, I felt that the stakes were higher and clearer for one, and that same one had more voice infused into their 250. Therefore, VICTORY TO NO SUCH THING AS A COINCIDENCE!

      Delete
    5. No such thing as a coincidence: Wow, great query. Fantastic punchy first line, and the rest is hooky and to the point too. I honestly don’t think I’d change anything, nice work.

      And... ditto the first page. Super punchy, great voice, nice and clear and smooth, the bit about plucking an arm hair out made me laugh, so... well done! Perhaps the only thing I’d try to slip in would be where they are – you say they bump over a crater, so I’m interested to know where they are, what she’s seeing out of the window, it would ground me more and make the scene come alive a tad more.

      Best(iary) Western: ‘ Young Adult Paranormal Fantasy Bildungsroman’ – whoa, that’s a mouthful. Most YAs are basically bildungsromans anyway, so you really don’t need that. Reading your query, I’d stick with YA Fantasy. This story sounds like a lot of fun. The first para does nothing for me, I’d cut it and start with the 2nd. You need to tell us her age for YA. I love the idea of the monster hotel, but you totally lose me talking about her dad. Are you hinting that he’s a drunk? Or has he got some kind of monster disease? You need to clarify this. This part is too vague: ‘Confronted with the rise of a dangerous magical threat, Iris finally learns the truth of her father’s mortality’ – tell us more about this dangerous magical threat, and as I said, clarify what’s going on with her dad. Is he sick and in danger of dying? Is part of her quest to prevent that happening? Because ‘Iris has to make peace with becoming the next Innkeeper, or get out of the secret business for good.’ doesn’t sound like that high stakes to end on to me, so if there’s more to it, tell us.

      First page: very nice. Sets the scene, intrigues me with secret passwords, cleanly written. I’d only suggest a couple of tweaks. With the first line, I wouldn’t bother with precise times unless this is some ticking-bomb thriller. It’d sound more elegant as something like ‘It’s almost dawn when a man staggers in through the automatic, smoked-glass doors.’ Also, why not tell us what magazine she’s reading? It’s a good excuse to tell us something about your MC’s personality. Finally, the last line is a bit repetitive. You’ve already said ‘That’s good. It’s half of the sign.’ And ‘You have to say it or you can’t come in!’ and ‘Bingo.’ So I’d probably just cut it, we get that he’s remembered the code.

      These are both books I'd love to read, but one is just a little further along than the other so VICTORY TO COINCIDENCE.

      Delete
    6. No Such Thing as a Coincidence

      Query:
      Interesting premise. If Luke and Ami can both be invisible, the sentence about Ami not being able to enjoy the locker room is a bit confusing. I gather from the first 250 words it's because she only has eyes for Luke, but it could be more clear. This query gives us an idea of the story, which sounds fun and exciting, but I think it needs a bit of work to root it to something relatable. For example, if they don't like this assignment and it seems out of the ordinary...why do it? I wish we had a better idea of the overall game being played here. In addition, a lot of the content of the query matches the first 250 words, which is a bit odd. You might want to vary it a bit more. Also…how do they become invisible?

      First 250 words:
      What's with the #? I'm a bit confused. You say Luke a lot after the #, why not up top?
      Other than that, I like what you've got here. Though I do also want to know why she's plucking an arm hair!

      Best(iary) Western: Young Adult Paranormal Fantasy

      Query:

      That first sentence is a mouthful. Try reading it aloud. I recommend revising or at least adding some commas. I feel like you could condense her hotel duties to the interesting bits. Also, I think we need a bit more info on this "juicer" bit. The 2nd paragraph starts off with a sentence that is a bit much. I'd revise it. I'm not sure it's really that necessary. I wish we had a stronger sense of the stakes involved in this novel, so I'd focus on that if you revise/rewrite the query.

      250 words
      Excellent writing here. I don't have a lot of pointers.

      Vedict:
      Victory goes to Best(iary) Western: Young Adult Paranormal Fantasy

      Delete
    7. First, I didn’t read the other comments, so I’m sorry if I repeat anything.

      NO SUCH THING AS A COINCIDENCE:

      Query: I like your first line, but it reads like a logline. It might pack more punch if it’s from the MC’s perspective. Since Ami is introduced first, how about this:

      far as Ami is concerned, being invisible is good for three things: bank vaults, men’s locker rooms, and saving the world.

      Do she and Luke have a job title? That would make the second paragraph work better and reduce the repeat of the first sentence. Like:

      As Invisibles, Ami and her partner, Luke are tasked . . .

      If they’re used to toppling empires, why are they uncomfortable stopping a bio-terrorism plot? I’d think that would be more palatable.

      I love the romance you introduce between Ami and Luke. I imagine they have plenty of heated exchanges throughout your MS.

      250: Figure an agent will read your query then jump into your pages. If you recycle the bank vaults, etc. from your query, it could look like you lack creativity; something you don’t want an agent to think when they’ve just started reading. Consider cutting the three perks from either the query or the pages. Frankly, since most people will read your book and not your query, I’d rephrase the query.

      Watch the repeat of look. A pointed look could easily be a glare.

      The arm hair pull is cute. It shows their teasing/taunting relationship quite well in a few short lines.
      The introduction of his thoughts searing into her mind is a little jarring. Prior to that, I assumed they were like everyone else. However, it’s an exciting concept, a nice addition to invisibility. Any way to give us a separate line prior to his thoughts that eases us into this? Maybe she could raise a mental wall before she plucks the hair so he can’t read her mind and know what she’s about to do?

      BESTIARY WESTERN (watch the creative genre)

      Query: I love your query, and your premise is unique and exciting. But I think you could be a little more specific without giving away too much of your plot. Specifics make us care. For example, her father’s change in condition, lies, etc. could add to the draw of your query.

      I’d suggest cutting your first paragraph. It reads like a logline and essentially gives away the plot of your book. You’re telling us she accepts her birthright. If I already know what her choice will be, I have less interest in reading to find out how/why. It essentially negates your stakes.

      I’d love a little more detail about what a “juicer” is, although I really enjoyed the idea of him pooling in his bathtub as a human smoothie. Great voice.

      250:

      I really enjoyed your 250 and don’t have much to suggest.

      You could tighten it up in places, i.e., “is lurching” could be “lurches” “are turning” could be “turn”

      You need a cap for the S of “sir” since it’s a title.

      Tough choice here. Michelle sure knows how to pick excellent entries. Hmmm. I already tried to beg for both entries & know Michelle’s answer, so . . .

      VICTORY to NO SUCH THING AS A COINCIDENCE

      Delete
    8. Coincidence:

      I think you've done a really good job explaining the situation, the world, and the stakes. My one nitpick thing is that the line "But their next job goes way beyond what they’re comfortable with" could be interpreted as them not wanting to stop the attack. Easy fix. The 250 is one where I'm not sure you need the little prologue. Those things can be sprinkled into the opening scene. I like this concept and can see how this would be quite the page turner.

      Western:

      I had to reread the query several times to make sure I knew what was happening and still came away with a lot of questions. There are many instances of vagueness and details about the world that are confusing. I think the concept is excellent and the stakes are clear but as is, I don't think I would read further because I was confused. You don't want an agent to do the same. The 250 is nice though and has good voice.

      VICTORY TO COINCIDENCE

      Delete
    9. VICTORY TO WESTERN

      Here's why: I thought the premise was unique enough to grab an agent. Cut the first sentence of your query, it's not needed. The 250 was intriguing but I had questions like what does it mean to be a "juicer." otherwise the writing was good. Good luck!

      COINCIDENCES

      Although the query seemed interesting, an invisible couple doing jobs, the query got confusing. I don't know why the FBI would be after them if they are trying to stop terrorism. It's tempting to use quotes from your book in your query but it's not necessary. Find a way to reword either the first part of your query or your first page. I would've like to see them on a job at the beginning. The # confused me. I'd look at where you are starting your story to make sure you are starting it in the right place. Someone (an agent or editor) once said to write your book then cut the first chapter because the story more than likely starts in chapter two. Good luck!

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


      NO SUCH THING AS A COINCIDENCE

      Great premise; I love this idea of "creating coincidences"

      There's a few places where the sentences could be tightened up; for instance, "being able to become invisible" could simply be "becoming invisible."

      Also, there are parts of this query that seem... disjointed. You mention the men's locker rooms in the hook, and then bring it up again out of the blue in paragraph 3.


      -vs-


      BEST(IARY)

      Fun idea!

      The hook is okay, but I don't think it packs as much punch as it should -- after all, being an innkeeper for a hotel for supernatural monsters is a really cool idea -- play it up!

      Also, I want more info about the "dangerous magical threat" -- that's a great opportunity to throw in some specific details.



      Victory to... BEST(IARY)!

      Delete
    11. Oh, I would totally read the heck out of both of these! Very hard choice, and you should both be proud.

      I'm not reading the other judges' feedback, so forgive me if any of this is repetitive.

      No Such Thing as Coincidence - Love the concept. I'd suggest cutting the first line of the query, since it repeats in the first 250 and has a cutesy "GIVE ME YOUR ATTENTION" feel which I don't think you need.

      If there's any additional complication or twist you could mention to twist the stakes up even tighter in the latter half of the query, that never hurts, either. The last thing I might want more of is a better sense of the MC... right now all I really know about her is that she likes Luke. Even a few words of more detail about her would be great.

      But this is tight, clear, and fun, with the conflict clearly expressed (both internal & external). Great job!

      Best(iary) Western - I love the details in both your first 250 and query—it definitely makes me think you have a richly imagined world here, which I want to see more of. I’d also cut the first line/paragraph of this one... it’s a dry summary, not a hook, and it doesn’t pull me in.

      I wonder if you could slip in a little detail or two into the query about some of the specific things Iris must deal with when she works the counter? I wouldn’t add many words, but maybe a few flavorful examples instead of vague generalizations about needs and dangers. The “juicer” dad who’s a human smoothie caught my attention much more with its specificity.

      My biggest suggestion is to get more suspicious about the “dangerous magical threat” mentioned at the end—this sounds like it might be a core conflict. I have a great sense from this query of her internal conflict, but almost none of what the external conflict might be. I think you need to get more specific about that so we don’t get the sense the book is just about Iris passively listening to guests’ crazy stories while worrying about her dad.

      These both sound wonderful, and I am rooting for you to find agents and publishers! But I have to pick one, so...

      VICTORY TO NO SUCH THING AS COINCIDENCE! The greater clarity of conflict was the deciding factor for me.

      Delete
    12. Coincidence,

      I like this idea of two invisible people saving the world. Your query is strong and has me wanting to know more about the story. One thing about the query did throw me off: Why would they not be comfortable saving the world? This seems counterintuitive to what they do. You may want to clarify this.

      250: While I like your open, it feels a lot like backstory. I'd recommend cutting and starting with the ride in the car. You can work the first piece into dialogue or inner monologue still conveying what you need to without laying it out there like a prologue.


      Bestiary,

      What an amazing concept. Just reading your query had my mind spinning about this world and what Iris's life must be like. Two issues in the query need to be clarified though:

      1) What are the stakes here? It was not clear in the query what Iris's real problem was with working at the inn.

      2) I was very confused about what was going on with the dad. What is a "juicer"? If you're going to use these terms then they need to be explained to the reader so they can understand the conflict.

      First 250: I like how you get us right into the thick of things with her working at the inn. As a reader I would have liked a more thorough description of the patron as he is supposed to be supernatural. As he's written right now, he feels just like a weary traveler. Really set the scene for me and I will definitely want to read on.

      These are both great entries, but my vote goes to...


      BESTIARY

      Delete
    13. Coming in as a tie breaker, so I'll be briefer here than I might be otherwise.

      NO SUCH THING AS COINCIDENCE

      It's a wonderful entry-- a strong query and a zippy 250. The main problem with it, as I'm sure other judges have told you is that you use the same joke twice, which is a no-no (and even if it weren't, would be an exercise in diminishing returns.) Figure out where you want it. Possibly the query? Also, for my pervy mind, I was a little disappointed that the men's locker rooms were right out. :-) Don't bring it up if you're not going to follow through.

      It's a good entry though, with one mistake. A largish mistake, but even so.

      BESTIARY WESTERN

      Your query isn't as clean as COINCIDENCE, and I wonder if the first line of your 250 isn't possibly a little weak. I'm not sure what a "juicer" means, or what a human smoothie is, which is a little problematic. I'll grant you, though that I'm intrigued by these concepts, but you need to fill it out for me a little more.

      The 250 is very simply written, but it's effective. I like that we don't know exactly what's going on, and you have the confidence to not tell us. It's a strong entry as well.

      Honestly, these are both great, and I'd like to see to them both advance. Sigh. My vote goes to the entry that I most want to continue reading...

      VICTORY TO BEST(IARY) WESTERN

      Delete
  2. No Such Thing -
    I liked the idea of invisible protagonists, but got a little confused by the query when 'stopping a bio terrorism attack' is beyond their comfort zone of 'toppling empires.' Is the bio threat outside their comfort zone because it's planned for their home country -- unlike the toppled empires? Also unclear why the FBI is chasing them -- whether they're being pursued because they're trying to stop the bio attack or if for previous activities? In the first 250, it was unclear why Ami would want to distract Luke by pulling out his arm hair while he's driving along a pitted road -- especially if she's doing it because she's miffed about him hitting a pothole.

    Best(iary)
    This is such an interesting idea. Perhaps start with the second paragraph of the query? Wonderful, fresh prose in the opening 250. I loved the 'skin like a re-used paper bag' description. The protagonist is shown handling her multifaceted job -- waiting for the correct passwords and signs -- so we know she's smart and capable. Looks like a fun read.

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  3. No such thing as a coincidence -

    I really like the hook, it gives us a bit of world building too.

    This line could use a bit more of a punch - " Breaking into illegal laboratories and Federal buildings to figure out who’s behind the outbreak makes bank vaults seem easy."
    This line seems out of place to me - " It doesn’t help that Ami is too in love with Luke to even enjoy the locker rooms." I'm not really sure what that means.

    In the 250 -

    I don't think this needs to be a numbered list, a sentence would work just as well: Three big perks to invisibility:

    1. Bank vaults

    2. Men’s locker rooms

    3. Saving the world.
    The voice toward the end of the last paragraph is awesome.


    Best(iary) Western: Young Adult Paranormal Fantasy

    The hook is great. And I really think the voice comes through in the query. However, this line confused me a bit: but it’s one that's becoming harder now that her “juicer” dad spends so much more time pooled in his bathtub as a human smoothie.

    I love the first 250. The description is perfect, and the writing style is great.

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  4. COINCIDENCE: To reiterate previous comments, I think you can strike the first line of the query. I’d also suggest striking “their next job goes way beyond what they’re comfortable with” and condense what follows a little – the contrast between illegal labs/federal buildings and bank vaults says it all in a much snappier way. (Although previous commenter has an excellent point regarding the similar scale and complexity of a job requiring toppling of empires.)

    Great voice in the first 250. I love the introduction before the #, but you might encounter resistance to it as prologue.


    BEST(IARY): Hee, great nickname! I was also confused by the reference to the “juicer” dad. Need some explanation here for orientation purposes, I think. First 250 is awesome and evocative, you really hit the uncanny valley with your customer!

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  5. COINCIDENCE-Very intriguing premise. From the query, it isn't certain that the invisibility thing is a paranormal activity. It almost seems like their job could include technical wizardry that allows them to do so. The 250 starting with the list of 3 things is maybe too close to what the query starts with-you could start after the break with them in the car and incorporate a little from the beginning (the locker room part and how Luke isn't interested maybe or the fact that both of them can be invisible). Overall I really like the query and how quickly you show their relationship in the 250. The last paragraph has a lot of voice and makes me want to keep reading.

    BEST(IARY)-Intriguing concept. I think your logline kind of reveals her choice by "accepting her birthright" so I wouldn't state it that way. Does Iris think her dad is a drunk when really he's terminally ill? If so, okay; if she just thinks he's a hypochondriac and he's really dying, I might make that more clear. I feel like the "dangerous magical threat" is a teaser to part of the climax that we should get more info about. Are the inn's patrons in danger or only her dad? Why wouldn't it be okay for her to walk away from the inn when her dad dies? Love the 3rd paragraph of your 250 and your first page delivers on what we expect after the query.

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  6. NO SUCH THING: Query - This is a really fun concept but I'd like to know how the duo has invisibility (and reading further along in the 250) or how they have a telepathic link. Or if it's common place, explain 12% of the world now has these kind of powers. Reading as a lowly, regular human, I'd wanna know how to situate this in my brain. Otherwise, it's also a bit cluttered. I think if you removed a few tenses ("he'd had" could be "he had" in some instances for example) it would tighten it up. It feels a little wordy at the moment which took away from the awesome rhythm I saw peppered throughout. This is a great idea and your query is really close to capitalizing on it.
    First 250 - Unless you open each chapter (or every other chapter) or use this opening format consistently, I think a stronger opening would be what you have below your # sign, leading straight with the car ride. The listing comes off as unengaging to me. I think opening with a job they're doing would be even better actually, and if that's what we're reading - they're in the car on the way to a job - why not start them in the action? Since their life is pitched in the query as very exciting. As is, the query and opening 250 appear a bit incongruent. Otherwise, it's clear you have a great voice for your FMC and the stakes are set up nicely. I want them to save SF and fall in love so great job!

    FUGITIVE: Query - I enjoyed the query but I feel like the stakes could be upped slightly. You mention Iris goes to high school so how does this secret Other-filled life affect her regular Clark-Kent façade in hs? Is there some angst there? Does Iris only want to fit in with the other kids or is she only there for the schooling? The query presents the story as being rooted in Iris's dad but I want to know more about what Iris wants, in addition to her fears for her father. Aside from that element I feel is missing, I loved this and was eager to read the 250.
    First 250 - This is awesome. One or two sentences could be removed IMHO for tightening but otherwise I want the next 250 now! Great job!

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  7. No such thing as a coincidence/ Coincidences

    I love this concept. Great hook in the query letter, it did what it was supposed to and hooked me right in. You did a great job highlighting your story's plot with the perfect amount of thrills and mystery that had me wanting to know more. The only thing that stumped me was this sentence:

    It doesn’t help that Ami is too in love with Luke to even enjoy the locker rooms.

    I get that it's a reference to her peeping in men's locker rooms, but it's too vague. If you could find a way to clear this thought up, I think you'd have a perfect query.

    The writing in your 250 is very good. Although, I'm a little on the fence with the first section. I like the content, it's a good piece, but the voice seems younger than the rest of the sample. Plus, a good deal of this information was in your query letter. In fact, that first section (if trimmed down) would make a good opening to a query, it just doesn't feel right for a novel starter IMO.

    Overall, this is a great entry. Strong writing, great concept, and a killer query.

    Good job and good luck!
    Jamie


    Best(iary) Western/ Fugitive Motel

    Now this is an idea I can get behind! I absolutely love this concept, so many possibilities for craziness here. In the query, instead of saying: Teenage Iris, just use her age. Ex. Sixteen-year-old, Iris,

    I don't get the "juicer" dad reference. Does that mean he does drugs, or is it a supernatural thing? I think it might help to be clearer on that issue, since her dad is key to the plot. Also, I don't feel like the stakes are high enough for Iris. I think your query letter would stand stronger if you bumped up the risks and danger element for the MC.

    I enjoyed the writing in your 250. It started off a little rough for me. I was thrown by the description of the smoked-glass doors, the word look was used twice in the second sentence, and the four 'ing' words in the third sentence really slowed my reading. But after that, it seemed to flow much smoother. It kind of feels like you psyched yourself out for the beginning. Maybe try for a more relaxed approached in the opening, just think about what you want to convey and let it flow naturally.

    Overall, I think you have an awesome idea here. Your writing is good and I like the dialog. This is gonna be a really tough choice for the judges.

    Good luck!
    Jamie

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  8. Two very fun entries! I want to read them both!!!

    COINCIDENCE: I love the start of your query. Catchy and fun. I wasn't sure about the query and the 250 being the same at the start, but realize that people reading the book wouldn't see the query, so it really doesn't matter. I love it starting both things. I'm wondering in the 3rd par. if it shouldn't be "weren't" instead of "wasn't" angry FBI agents. And about those FBI agents -- why are they chasing them and invading their homes? We need more info on that, because your protags aren't criminals. 4th par. Does Luke have feelings for Ami? Because you talk about them needing to figure that out, and all we've heard about so far are her feelings. Need a space between coincidence and to. First 250: Very fun!!! In the first big paragraph, you can delete "who" after "one person." Would make it read cleaner. Also, delete "at" in "rubbed AT my forehead." Fun stuff! Good luck.

    WESTERN: What is bildungsroman in the genre? Just curious what that is. In your query, the first paragraph feels like a pitch rather than the start of a query. I would skip it altogether and dive in with your 2nd paragraph. I love the idea of the "juicer" dad. :) Make sure your quotations are on the outside of your punctuation: "condition." We need to know more about the threat mentioned in your last paragraph. What is it? Who is threatening it? This is way too vague. But I do enjoy getting the feeling for her as a compassionate listener, and I love the hotel idea. Very fun. First 250. Wow. These are strong. I really don't have any helpful comments because I was kind of blown away by their strength. If you can make your query stronger this will be a super strong entry. Great job.

    I enjoyed both of these entries so much. It hurts to pick one! Good luck to both of you, but...

    Victory to Best(iary) Western

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  9. Two very cool concepts. I want to read them both!

    Coincidence: I love your opening hook in your query! It made me sit up and take notice and that's exactly what you want your hook to do. Well done! With that being said, I don't think you should repeat the same thing in your 250. You can completely cut that beginning part and maybe weave in some of those thoughts she's having about Luke and how saving the world isn't all it's cracked up to be, in the next few pages of your manuscript. In the third paragraph of your query, I would remove that first line: "It doesn’t help that Ami is too in love with Luke to even enjoy the locker rooms." It's kind of confusing and the next sentence tells us what we need to know anyways—that Ami is in love with Luke and wants more than just a partnership. Lastly, your very last sentence of your query has a typo: "they’re going to need more than a coincidenceto pull it all off." Separate "coincidence" and "to." This is a great entry! I would love to read this someday! Good luck!!

    Western: I'm also wondering what bildungsroman is in your genre? :) I loved your 250, especially the part where the Others have to say a specific line in order to be able to stay at the hotel. So cool. As for your query, I think someone already mentioned this, but I would definitely replace the "teen" in the very first line with her actual age. It will help to identify with her more. I am curious about the whole "juicer dad" thing, but I think that might be something one has to read the book to find out more about...maybe? Overall, this is a great entry! Good luck!!

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  10. No Such Thing as a Coincidence

    QUERY: The first half was perfect for me--clear and concise. I knew the MC. I knew the stakes. I loved the hook, which pulled me right in. I got lost in the 3rd paragraph when you start talking about Ami being in love and not enjoying the locker rooms. The stakes were raised so high before that--i.e stopping a bio-terrorism attack--that this just seemed out of place. A different transition might help. Also, check "If it wasn't for the FBI..." I think it should be *weren't*

    250: The style of your writing is very easy to read. I liked the 'prologue' bit in the beginning. The telepathic link made sense without over complicating things. Overall, very straightforward and engaging. Hope this helps! Good luck!

    Best(iary) Western

    QUERY: I love your premise--it's paranormal but something I've never seen before. It also has a lot of potential for humor which is great. I had some trouble with the first line since it sums up the rest of the query. By using it, the info that follows seems out of sequence. I enjoyed the rest of the query a lot although I wish I could know more about the father--his lies and his condition. I would recommend expanding that with more detail and perhaps some more detail with the rising magical threat. Otherwise it's great!

    250: This is so engaging. Great description and just the right amount. Good voice. You definitively start at the right place and leave us wanting to know what happens next. I have nothing else to say but awesome. I hope this helps. Good luck!

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  11. No Such Thing as a Coincidence

    QUERY: The first half was perfect for me--clear and concise. I knew the MC. I knew the stakes. I loved the hook, which pulled me right in. I got lost in the 3rd paragraph when you start talking about Ami being in love and not enjoying the locker rooms. The stakes were raised so high before that--i.e stopping a bio-terrorism attack--that this just seemed out of place. A different transition might help. Also, check "If it wasn't for the FBI..." I think it should be *weren't*

    250: The style of your writing is very easy to read. I liked the 'prologue' bit in the beginning. The telepathic link made sense without over complicating things. Overall, very straightforward and engaging. Hope this helps! Good luck!

    Best(iary) Western

    QUERY: I love your premise--it's paranormal but something I've never seen before. It also has a lot of potential for humor which is great. I had some trouble with the first line since it sums up the rest of the query. By using it, the info that follows seems out of sequence. I enjoyed the rest of the query a lot although I wish I could know more about the father--his lies and his condition. I would recommend expanding that with more detail and perhaps some more detail with the rising magical threat. Otherwise it's great!

    250: This is so engaging. Great description and just the right amount. Good voice. You definitively start at the right place and leave us wanting to know what happens next. I have nothing else to say but awesome. I hope this helps. Good luck!

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  12. Coincidence- The plot of bio-terrorism attack sounds terrifying and serious, but the voice in the 250 sounds light-hearted. This plays in nicely with the line, "But their next job goes way beyond what they’re comfortable with . . ." I think the first line could be dropped. I think the first line of the second paragraph could be your hook. And you could tighten up the sentence a bit. "For Ami and her partner, Luke, being able to become invisible is part of their job." could be "For Ami and her partner, Luke, invisibility is part of their job." This hooks me!

    250 - The writing is good, and I like the relational setup between the two characters. Just one suggestion. I just finished reading David Mitchell's The Bone Clocks. There are parts where characters "subspeak" which is your "telepathic link". When they "subspeak" the text is in quotes. I loved this because I knew right away that the words were being heard only in the heads of the characters. Just a thought.


    Best(iary) - Query - I love your query, but it doesn't flow well. You could keep most of what you've written, but just do some cut and paste. Keep your first line, but maybe move it down into another paragraph. The second sentence of the second paragraph basically says the same thing as your first sentence. And I would drop the colon in that sentence. The sentence still flows nicely without it. But I would like the query to start with the second paragraph. Also, what does Iris want more than anything in the world? Her father's attention? The truth? Just make it a little more plain to see.

    250 - The writing is really good and I'm curious to see where the story will go. The only suggestion is to tighten up the writing. For example, " . . .his very clean fingernails" could be ". . .his pristine fingernails". "It’s half of the sign." could be "It's half the sign." "He’s now gripping the countertop so tightly that his nail beds are turning whitish gray . . ." could be "Now he's gripping the countertop so tight his nail beds are turning whitish gray." Period, stop the sentence right there. That's a good image.

    Overall, good story. I bet you could do the tightening I suggested through the whole MS.

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  13. Coincidences: Your novel has such a tense, exciting premise and I'd like to see that carried into the first page. I love humor in thrillers, but with the first paragraph, there's no sense of danger yet. I think that you should begin with the story itself instead of that small prologue-like list.

    Bestiary: Awesome premise as well. I especially like the idea of a hotel for supernatural creatures. I'd like to know more about what a 'juicer' is, but I think that can wait until deeper into the book.

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  14. Coincidences - I really liked the query. I found the first part a bit more gripping than the second, but overall I thought it was a fresh concept and I really like the idea of the friendzone dynamic. I thought you did a good job setting up what the stakes and characters were. I'd just recommend making the last few sentences more punchy. As for the 250, I really liked the first few lines, and I even found that the sort of tiny prologue thing worked. But, I found recommend removing the scene break and somehow integrate the two. I just think it would make it flow better.

    Bestiary - What a fun premise. I imagine it'd be like a more mature Hotel Translyvania, which sounds absolutely awesome. I might consider taking out the first line of the query just because you seem to repeat the information in the next paragraph. Also, you might want to consider explaining what a juicer is. With the 250, I found it to be pretty good. It definitely sets up what's going on and shows the uniqueness of the story.

    Great job to you both! :)

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  15. Coincidences - I really liked the query. I found the first part a bit more gripping than the second, but overall I thought it was a fresh concept and I really like the idea of the friendzone dynamic. I thought you did a good job setting up what the stakes and characters were. I'd just recommend making the last few sentences more punchy. As for the 250, I really liked the first few lines, and I even found that the sort of tiny prologue thing worked. But, I found recommend removing the scene break and somehow integrate the two. I just think it would make it flow better.

    Bestiary - What a fun premise. I imagine it'd be like a more mature Hotel Translyvania, which sounds absolutely awesome. I might consider taking out the first line of the query just because you seem to repeat the information in the next paragraph. Also, you might want to consider explaining what a juicer is. With the 250, I found it to be pretty good. It definitely sets up what's going on and shows the uniqueness of the story.

    Great job to you both! :)

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  16. Coincidence: I loved this. I thought that the premise in itself was really intriguing and the tension you build is pretty good too. I also loved the opening; it was probably one of the better hooks I've read. I was a bit confused about the parts with the FBI agents, because my thinking is that if they're invisible, why would FBI agents be after them and not the other people? But I do really like the query.

    Bestiary: I thought this was pretty cool, but I felt a lot more lost than I thought I should have been. I mean, maybe I'm just tired but I didn't really understand a lot of what was going on. Like, I can sense there's a bunch going on underneath the surface, but it was very vague. I don't know the specifics about the magic or the type of guests they have in the inn (besides that they are supernatural creatures) or even anything about her father save he might be dying. This makes me feel a lot less invested in the characters than I could be. I don't have a very clear view of the stakes and characters and that's probably what kills it. I can tell you have something here, but the vagueness is killing it.

    I hope this was helpful.

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  17. Coincidence: I loved this. I thought that the premise in itself was really intriguing and the tension you build is pretty good too. I also loved the opening; it was probably one of the better hooks I've read. I was a bit confused about the parts with the FBI agents, because my thinking is that if they're invisible, why would FBI agents be after them and not the other people? But I do really like the query.

    Bestiary: I thought this was pretty cool, but I felt a lot more lost than I thought I should have been. I mean, maybe I'm just tired but I didn't really understand a lot of what was going on. Like, I can sense there's a bunch going on underneath the surface, but it was very vague. I don't know the specifics about the magic or the type of guests they have in the inn (besides that they are supernatural creatures) or even anything about her father save he might be dying. This makes me feel a lot less invested in the characters than I could be. I don't have a very clear view of the stakes and characters and that's probably what kills it. I can tell you have something here, but the vagueness is killing it.

    I hope this was helpful.

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  18. Coincidences:
    Query: I liked the premise and the query but suggest going into more detail about the mission. The second paragraph is all about her feelings for Luke. If this isn't a paranormal romance I would reduce that to just a sentence or two and add more action -if there is a lot of action.

    250: I was conflicted about it. On one hand, the first part before the hashtag was good but it sounded more like a prologue and on the other hand, I think you could start from the part after the hashtag to give us more information about their abilities and mission rather than just about Luke (again this is if it isn't a paranormal romance).

    Best(iary):
    Query: I thought this was a cool and interesting premise too but I have to wonder, what father subjects his teenage daughter to handling an inn full of supernatural monsters -some who would probably like to eat her. But maybe it has something to do with him being out of it as he becomes "juicier" and a "human smoothie". That line I would try to clarify because it's kind of confusing. Also, I think that her last name should go the first time her name is mentioned. And what kind of magical threat? I would clarify since it makes the sentence seem vague.

    250: I thought the 250 was good. The only thing I was curious about is how she knew he'd been driving all night. Did he tell her? Otherwise, it would make it seem like the narrator told her that piece of information since she wouldn't have known herself. Just a thought.

    Hope this helps you both. Good luck!

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  19. I will try to reply to everyone at some point, but just wanted to say that I am SO grateful for all the amazing feedback and help everyone offered! Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

    Hugs and ice cream,

    -Meradeth (author of Coincidences)

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  20. I second everything Meradeth said. Thank you all for time spent reading, thinking and replying and (most of all) for the concrete, thoughtful advice.

    Thanks to Meradeth too for being kind, funny and a terrifyingly good opponent.

    Kissing you all three times, alternating cheeks, in that complicated slightly akward European way,

    Kate (author of Best(iary))

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