Monday, June 1, 2015


Entry Nickname: Texting Buddies at 8%
Title: We’re Okay
Word Count: 71K
Genre: YA LGBT Contemporary


High school seniors Gabe Brown and Ryan Mitchell are the only ones who walked away from a bus crash that sent twenty students to their deaths. The accident was the largest tragedy the town of Pensilton, Georgia, where apple pies still cool on windowsills, had ever seen.

Six months later, everyone else is ready to move on.

Gabe’s mayoral candidate father expects his son to lead his soccer team to the state championship. Gabe’s girlfriend, who’s also Ryan’s twin sister, is too busy with securing her Yale admission to really take note of Gabe’s changes since the accident. In fact, no one seems to notice. Or they choose not to notice.  Except Ryan.

For both boys, their daily covert text conversations become their way of coping with reality. Between their unabashed honesty and vulnerability, Gabe and Ryan find a strange peace. But when Gabe breaks their rules, and visits Ryan in person, feelings that could be chalked up to digital misinterpretations, come to life.

With their senior year drawing to a close, and their paths about to diverge, their world of stolen glances, late-night texts, and brief touches is about to disappear. Only if they’re brave enough—and honest enough—can both boys make their romance a reality. No matter the consequences.

First 250 Words:

Gabe Brown had been sitting in the hospital waiting room for nearly an hour. An accident on the freeway had leaked into downtown Pensilton. So, instead of getting signed out from his twelve day stint inside the hospital, he sat.

With his right hand still in a cast, colored purple by a young, persistent girl on his hospital floor, Gabe focused on his own iPhone, typing away with swift and accurate poundings. His left hand rested on the arm rest, drumming his fingers to a song from yesteryear. Any other time, the illusive musical memory would have driven him insane; but his focus was drawn to something else.

That ‘something else’ was the screen that held thousands of texts back and forth from the boy sitting next to him, who’s fingers were less than an inch from his own.

If he had a choice, though he’d never admit it, Gabe would have happily stayed like that forever. That thought dissolved the moment the double doors slid open with a hiss. Instinctively, his fingers stopped moving and pocketed the phone. With a casual rise of his head, Gabe stood and walked towards his family, feet in time with Ryan’s movements.

“I’m okay,” Gabe gruffly said, giving a painful one arm handshake and back clasping to his father.  He heard, just barely over Ryan’s mother’s doting, his hospital mate mention he was also fine.

As their families signed them out, Ryan could only think one thing.

Since when did they become liars?


Entry NicknameFed to the Crocodiles
Title: The Second King
Word count: 85K
Genre: YA Contemporary

Prince Alexander spent his childhood planning his future reign the way a little girl might plan her wedding. He never dreamed of a wedding himself; he knew there could never be one. Although twenty first century princes have the luxury of marrying commoners, there’s a catch. Said commoner is expected to lack a Y-chromosome.

Upon receiving a music scholarship to attend the country’s most prestigious boarding school, Declan ‘Nobody-in-Particular’ Blythe expects to spend his days hunched over a piano, a pariah amongst the precious spawn of the upper class. Instead, he meets Alex.

Hopelessly entangled in one another, reality sets in for the pair when Alex’s father gives him an ultimatum: ensure their romance stays secret, or give up the throne. Concealing their relationship from the public eye is easier said than done, however – particularly after a photo of Declan goes viral and he becomes a celebrity in his own right. With cameras recording each glance he and Alex share, and a devoted fan base analyzing their every word, Alex finds himself under increasing pressure from his family to choose responsibility and propriety over love.

When Declan begins to receive anonymous threats, Alex realizes that someone is willing to harm his boyfriend to protect the reputation of the royal family. Alex could never imagine a future where he wasn’t king. But he’s starting to wonder if a future without the freedom to be with Declan is any future at all.

First 250 words:

I have many things to be grateful for. I’m grateful for my status. I’m grateful for my wealth and privilege. I’m grateful for the personal bodyguards that station themselves outside any building I happen to be visiting.

Most of all, I’m grateful for my school friends who are so used to all of the above they don’t notice it anymore.

It was snowing so heavily I felt genuinely sorry for the soldiers standing on the front porch of Zane’s mansion. They were sheltered from the snowfall, at least, but not from the bitter cold. They stood silently, one eyeing me through the window, the other watching the front yard. Their breaths came out in almost opaque puffs of mist.

If Zane’s parents had been home I would’ve insisted one come inside to watch from the warmth of the kitchen, perhaps with a cup of coffee. I’d done it before; it’s what my parents would have wanted. Around them I was ever the hospitable, thoughtful role model. Today was different, though. Today was a gathering of sixty or so Bramppath College students. In addition to us, a select group of girls from our sister school, Ashford Academy, had been invited.

Although the room was filled with, for the most part, the precious offspring of the upper class, none of them needed armed guards to follow them between various appointments. If downplaying that meant not inviting the security inside, well, so be it.

That, and I was a little bit too high to be bothered making anybody coffee.


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

    1. Princess of LlamasJune 2, 2015 at 2:28 AM

      TEXTING BUDDIES: I like this query. The only thing is that if the crux of the relationship begins because Gabe has changed and no one but Ryan notices, I’d mention a few of those changes/how he feels rather than lump it into, “Gabe’s changes.” Also, the last sentence threw me a bit. “No matter the consequences” made me wonder what those consequences are. I think if you include that sentence, you need to give more detail on what those consequences are so that the conflict feels real.

      For the first 250, I admit I was a little confused. Are they in the hospital after their accident? A different accident? But then you say Gabe’s been there only 12 days, and the query said 6 months later everything starts. If this can be explained/made clearer, I think the first page would flow better from the query.

      FED TO THE CROCODILES: I love this query. I have nothing to add. For the first 250, again great job. I had to re-read the Zane parents’ paragraph twice because I didn’t see how his parents being home made a difference when it seems that the critical factor is his not wanting to show security to the other students. Also, I tripped up on the last line. Maybe just “to be making anybody coffee” or “to be bothered to make coffee.” I don’t know—both just read weird to me!

      It’s a shame these entries are against each other, as I liked parts of both. In the end though, one’s query is more polished and the 250 flows better. Victory to FED TO THE CROCODILES.

    2. Texting Buddies at 8%

      There are a lot of good elements to build on here, but I’m not quite seeing how they come together yet. It’s implied that the budding romance between Gabe and Ryan is somehow a problem, but never says exactly why or for whom. Saying things like “No matter the consequences” gives us nothing; we need to know what the actual consequences are in order to care. My first guess is that the problem has to do with them being gay, but there’s nothing in the query to really confirm that. Also, the bus crash is a great foundation, but the rest of the query doesn’t really take advantage of it. What specific “changes” should Gabe’s sister have noticed? Why is the peace they find “strange”? Give the reader concrete details to work with, and make the closing hook specific so that we know what’s on the line. Right now everything is implied. I would suggest cropping the beginning part about the crash down to a line or two and giving us more details about these two characters and what’s going on (and what the real obstacles are).

      “where apple pies still cool on windowsills” — Breaks the flow where it is now.

      First 250 Words:
      Overall a strong 250. My main thought is that the head-hopping could be an issue (generally speaking, an omniscient POV is harder to pull off than limited third; it’s too easy for the reader to forget whose head they’re in). Also, it starts out giving the impression he’s going to be waiting, but then his family immediately shows up.

      “With a casual rise of his head, Gabe stood and walked towards his family, feet in time with Ryan’s movements.” — “casual” seems like the wrong word choice here; and we have no idea who Ryan is at this point, this being the first use of his name (it could be the boy, but it could be one of the people who just walked through the door).

      Fed to the Crocodiles

      Another one with all of the essential elements, but requires further clarity. My main issue is that I’m not sure the setup matches the payoff at the end. Alex having to choose between his boyfriend and responsibility is a great hook, but the opening line/paragraph didn’t give me a sense that he takes this duty all that seriously. I came away with the sense that ruling was more of a childhood dream for him, but now he’s not so interested, especially if it means marrying someone he doesn’t want to. So already there was little tension for me as I read onward. His choice seemed obvious. Also, it keeps flipping as to whether becoming king is a “family responsibility” or he “could never imagine a future where he wasn’t king.” Those two are different things (that is to say, one is external and the other internal; they play very differently as motivations).

      My only other question is what makes this royalty-falls-for-a-commoner story unique? Even in books with an LGBT protagonist, it’s been done before (for example, Leah Peterson’s excellent Physics of Falling trilogy), meaning that element alone won’t make the story stand out (I say that because right now it seems as though that’s meant as the primary hook).

      First 250 Words:
      Very well done. I could perhaps nitpick a word choice or two, but really I have nothing to offer here. Great, confident narrative voice. The last line made me laugh (assuming that by “high” he actually did mean “high” (and not, say, feeling high in terms of his position over everyone); if not, you might want to make it clear).


      Both of these entries have lots going for them and are probably two of the stronger entries I’ve read so far in the contest. Both queries do need a bit of clarifying IMO, but both 250s read very well overall. Tough choice, but I’m giving the edge to the one whose narrative voice I felt was the stronger of the two, and so VICTORY TO FED TO THE CROCODILES!

    3. Texting -

      I have the same issue with your query as your 250 - this is an extremely emotional and difficult situation right off the bat and I get zero emotion from the writing. Both items are nice summaries of what's happening, but there's no punch of sadness or anger like there would be in reality. 3rd person is tricky because there is an automatic distance from the reader, so you'll need to work extra hard to make the connection through what you show us. I do really like this concept and I would totally read it, but I need to feel something when I do.

      Crocodiles -

      Reading the query, my heart ached for Alex and Declan. The stakes are great and I'm already invested in their story. There were some questions though - how did Alex end up at music school? What kind of picture was taken of Declan? Just a few holes worth filling in. Make sure all the plot points you name connect. The 250 I was just lukewarm on - it makes me wonder if this is the right place to begin the story. I like the first few sentences but then I'm confused about what's happening next. I'm sure it becomes obvious further on the page but it needs to be immediate.


    4. Texting Buddies at 8%

      Query: First paragraph-I'd cut the part about the apple pies. It makes the sentence clunky, and trips me up. Maybe just say "small town." With the second sentence I'd like to see a "but" added here. Everyone wants to move on, but what are the MCs still struggling with? In the third paragraph, you reference Gabe's changes--be specific, tell us what's going on with him. Same sentence, you can also cut "with." Still in this paragraph, be careful how many times you use Gabe's name, it appears twice in one sentence, three times in the paragraph. I'd also cut the second "notice" to avoid repetition. The big thing for me here is that I want to know why their relationship is covert. I understand the forbidden romance aspect, but why can't they be friends? I think clarifying this point will clear up a lot of my questions in the query and 250, plus getting into what challenges they're both facing.

      250: I'm confused with where we're starting. In the query you say six months later, but this seems to be right after the accident. Also, if he's waiting to be discharged and signed out, wouldn't he still be in his room? You can cut "own" before "iPhone," we know it's his :). Small quibble, but if he's got feelings for Ryan, I'm not sure sitting next to each other not talking would be exactly the way he'd want to stay forever. I love the closing line here, but like I said above, I'm really curious why the two boys can't even be friends.


      Fed to the Crocodiles

      Query: First paragraph-you say "he knew there could never be one," but that's not entirely accurate, right? There can be one, just not the one he'd want. You're also missing a hyphen for twenty-first. Re-reading this, I almost wonder if you might switch the first and second paragraph, and add a stronger intro for Declan. There isn't a smooth transition from one boy to the other as-is, but flipping it there is. I love the "nobody-in-particular" piece. I do have some questions though: is Alex going to music school, too? Is his dad aware that he's gay? Realistically, would his father be able to take away the throne, and if so, is there someone to take his place? What kind of photo are we talking about here, is Alex in it too? Also, when you say fan base, I'm not sure if you mean Alex's, Declan's, or both of them together. Good closing lines on the query!

      250: Honestly, the 250 isn't drawing me in. It falls flat for me and isn't holding my interest. Consider if this is the best place to start. Also, the very beginning sounds a little bit like bragging, which turned me off. As for the very last sentence, I'm not sure if you mean he's stoned or just too good to make anyone coffee.


      This one was a close call for me, but, to me, I connected with one story more than the other and thought the 250 was better developed. VICTORY TO TEXTING BUDDIES AT 8%!

    5. Texting Buddies at 8%

      Your last 2 paragraphs sing off the page. Your first 3 need work. I adore the detail of "where apple pies still cool on windowsills" but where it is placed now, it hurts the flow of the sentence. The 2nd paragraph is relatively fine, but not sure need to stand alone. The 3rd's a lot to take in. I'm not even sure you need to give all that information. I would reduce the details and combine the 2nd and 3rd paragraph into one. Get to the heart of the matter (Only Ryan notices Gabe's change) and don't distract us with the rest.

      250 words:
      Very good imagery here. I'm usually a "get to the dialogue!" kind of reader, but this really works. I do think it might be nice to get a glimpse of their texts. Strong hook to end on!

      Fed to the Crocodiles

      I like this premise, and honestly, it's VERY marketable. You could pair down the info in the 3rd paragraph, but other than that I like it. That said, I'd LOVE it if felt a bit more passionate. Maybe a little less explanation and a bit more flavor?

      250 words:
      I like the Hamlet reference. Very smart. I do wish we got a bit more interaction with characters rather than this long internal monologue. It makes me worry the whole novel will be a bit too much "in his head."

      I'm a total sucker for both of these! However, "Texting Buddies at 8%" has my heart, so VICTORY goes to Texting Buddies at 8%

      In the event that EITHER authors wish to contact me (once our secret identities are revealed) I'd be happy to review a revised query!

    6. Texting Buddies at 8%: I think you can come up with a more grabby title. We don’t need to know the name of the town (keep out superfluous details, it’ll make your query read more smoothly), I’d tweak to: ‘The accident was the largest tragedy their small Georgia town, where apple pies still cool on windowsills, had ever seen.’ There should be ages in a YA or MG query. Apart from that, I think this query lays out your story pretty well, although it lacks a bit of voice. Could we try to get some of their feelings in there? It also reminds me a bit of Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda, with secret LGBT texting buddies, but hopefully yours is different enough for it not to matter.

      First page: Love the last line, but the rest could do with some polishing. I’m not feeling much voice here. I’m also confused why Gabe is in the hospital, has he been a patient or has he been helping out? I’m also confused about the texts and how Ryan is sitting next to him. Clarify, lead the reader slowly and carefully into your story. Every word is crucial on a first page, so there are some small tweaks: ‘twelve-day’ should be hyphenated; ‘in hospital’ not ‘inside the hospital’ would help clarify that he was a patient; ‘His left hand rested on the arm rest,’ is clumsy; I’d just call him ‘Gabe’ at the start, taking away the unnecessary surname somehow puts us more in his head; I think you mean ‘elusive’ not ‘illusive’.

      Fed to the Crocodiles: Again, YA queries should tell us the age of the MCs. This is a decent query that lays out the plot and stakes, and I like how modern it is – it would be hard to keep such a thing secret these days - but it could do with an injection of voice, it’s all a bit dry right now.

      First page: This is nice and clearly written, but I’m not sure you need the first two paragraphs, they don’t really grab me, they’re rather dryly written. I really warmed to your first page from the third para on, which sets the scene well. You could easily slip in the info in scene, eg ‘I would’ve insisted one of my bodyguards come inside...’ The last line is a nice injection of personality, so it’d be good to get to that sooner.

      These both sound like interesting LGBT YAs, but the first page of the latter is smoother and grabs me a bit more, so VICTORY TO FED TO THE CROCODILES.

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


      Characters, conflict, and stakes all are very clear here. Well done!

      The last sentence of paragraph 1 seems rather lengthy, and the phrase about "where apple pies still cool on windowsills" seems out of place. Could you rework that sentence to put that phrase at the end?

      Also, not sure if this is something to include in the query, but I'm curious: how do they avoid meeting in person if they go to the same school in a small town AND Gabe's dating Ryan's sister?

      Nitpicky little thing: no comma between "rules" and "and" OR "misinterpretations" and "come" in the fourth paragraph.



      Again, characters, conflict, and stakes are all very clear here! Nice job!

      Just a suggestion (take it with a grain of salt) - you might consider including some sort of reason WHY the prince has to marry a girl; is it because of his parents' beliefs/moral stance? Because it'd be unpopular among the people? Because they fear a male spouse would threaten Alex's kingship? Knowing why might help the reader realize the stakes.

      Nitpicky little thing: "twenty-first century" has a hyphen!

      Victory to... FED TO THE CROCODILES!

  2. Texting:

    Query: I get that the apple pie is going for small town America, but I'm not sure it works there. The first two sentences of the 3rd paragraph are a little confusing.

    250: Needs some re-wording in those 1st 2 paragraphs but like the rest.

    Fed to the Crocodiles:

    Query: I get what you're going for in the first paragraph, but I'm not sure it's quite working.

    250: Don't love the first 2 paragraphs but like the rest. Maybe just delete them?

  3. Texting buddies -

    I feel like the apple pies bit isn't needed. Maybe just allude to it being such a 'small town' elsewhere in the query?

    I really like this last line: Since when did they become liars?

    This is really well written. Nice work!

    Fed to the Crocodiles -

    I don't really feel like the 'nobody-in-particular' part is necessary. It's pretty clear from the rest of the query that he isn't part of the upper class or royalty.

    For the 250 -

    The first two paragraphs aren't working for me. I like the way the third paragraph starts out. It sets him up to be a bit more of a sympathetic character, rather than someone who wants you to know the second you meet them how privileged they are.

  4. Texting Buddies: I like the premise of love stolen via texting between these two boys. Sort of a modern day Romeo and Juliet. In general your query is good, but I think there are places you could tighten it up. I don't mind the apple pie reference except that it makes that sentence fairly cumbersome. Another example of a possible tightening: saying "Gabe's girlfriend--Ryan's twin sister--is already...". I'm also confused as to why these boys are avoiding each other in person. It seems strange in such a small town. As for your 250, I like your voice and there are snappy, unexpected turns that keep it exciting. I like that the boy he's madly texting is right next to him and I like the last line about liars. Good job.

    Fed to the Crocodiles: Your query does a good job showing the problems both boys face. I like the ultra-modern twist on the prince's problem. Marrying a commoner is such a 2000s sort of shocker. Wanting to marry a man is a dilemma for 2015. I also like how the paparazzi and public love of juicy gossip are one of the biggest antagonistic forces in the novel. The word "entangled" in the query feels wrong to me. Maybe "enraptured with" or even "romantically entangled". As for your 250, I didn't think badly of your first two paragraphs at first, but after reading the other comments then going back and re-reading your 250, I agree that it would be better starting on paragraph 3. Otherwise, it's really well done.

    Both: I definitely get a good sense of the stakes and dilemmas your characters face.

    Good job you two!

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  6. Texting -
    I like the idea of romance blossoming through texting. While I liked the apple pie reference in the query to describe Pensilton, the sentence as a whole came off too long and lumpy. Perhaps divide into two sentences? The 'six months later' line also didn't work for me. Since those 20 kids had families, friends, I couldn't imagine they would all be 'ready to move on'. Perhaps this refers just to Gabe and Ryan's families? If so, clarifying this would be helpful. To cut repetition of the word 'their' in the query, I suggest something along the lines of: 'For both boys (their) daily covert text conversation become their way of coping with reality. (Between their) Through unabashed honesty... But when Gabe breaks their rules... With (their) senior year...and their paths...(their) a secret world of...' Maybe this is just uncoordinated me, but in the first 250, I had trouble picturing someone holding the phone and texting with one hand while that arm's in a cast. When Gabe stood, it wasn't clear to me that Gabe's and Ryan's families came through the door at the same time. Just a bit of detail would clear that up. I noted a couple typos: missing hyphen in 'twelve-day stint', who's/whose .

    Crocodiles -
    Great hook in the query's first paragraph and great closing paragraph delineating the stakes. I suggest trimming out the 'however' in '...said than done(, however) -- particularly...' I really liked the 'I'm grateful' litany, but suggest removing the passive voice where possible '...building I happen to (be visiting) visit.' I noted one typo - need hyphens in 'twenty-first-century princes'. This promises to be an interesting tale.

  7. Texting:
    I thought you did a great job explaining the premise of the book, and I think the way you end the query indicates that the stakes are rather high. This is great! Like a previous poster, I didn’t mind the “apple pie” reference, but structurally it made the sentence disjointed. Also, whether it be in a small town or a big city, isn’t a tragedy just as painful wherever it occurs? Just something to consider.
    250: I really like your idea, and I love you are using the hidden, faceless vehicle of the text message. I was a little confused as to the timing at the start of the sample. If they were released 12 days after the incident, wouldn’t both sets of parents know that they are OK (referring to when both boys mention they are fine)? It may help to clarify this, as well as how quickly their relationship heats up—either the 12 days here or the six months mentioned in the query. These are all pretty easy fixes, and I really like your story, the voice, and the concept.
    For the Crocodiles:
    I think you do a good job overall setting up the storyline, and I was definitely intrigued by the class conflict in the story. On a sentence structure level, I, too, was not a fan of the “nobody in particular” part. I think this is a place where you can highlight certain aspects of the character himself or of the plot instead of stating it baldly, which makes the sentence clunky. I think the query certainly ends well, however.
    First 250:
    I agree with the previous posters; I think you can jump right into the third paragraph and nothing will be missed. Another reason to cut this is that it seems to contradict the last part of your sample, i.e., if he is grateful for security, then he wouldn’t be so ashamed to have them around. I would also love it if you could clean up the very last sentence. It is an awesome one content-wise, very attention-grabbing, but the “to be bothered making anybody coffee” part takes away some of the punch. Would he really make the coffee anyway? Otherwise, great voice and a solid start.

  8. Texting: I'm intrigued by the bus crash and the "falling for your girlfriend's twin sister" aspect of the story. Like others, I would drop the apple pie comment--the phrasing is awkward. I think it's the way you've spliced the commas. Speaking of, you have some errant, extra commas here: "But when Gabe breaks their rules, and visits Ryan in person, feelings that could be chalked up to digital misinterpretations, come to life." (no comma needed before "and visits Ryan in person" or before "come to life")

    (also is Pensilton, GA a real place? I'm from GA & very curious as to where it is set... pretty sure you've got a made up town XD)

    For me, the conflict/stakes are missing. What are the consequences of their coming out? What's actually at stake for your MC?

    Crocodiles: Excellent conflict/stakes--I have a very clear idea of what your MC stands to lose. I'm not 100% on the first paragraph--it seems at odds to me that Alex can never have a wedding--he can, just not to the person he wants to marry. (sad face) I would also outright state he is expected to marry a girl & nix the Y chromosome thing.

    In your first 250, I do think you could easily cut the first two paragraphs and start with the third and it would make for a very zippy opening that would ground the reader in the voice quickly. I love the last line--I have the feeling Alex is a bit of a bad boy prince! Great voice.

  9. Such heart-wrenching entries! Here's my two cents, for whatever they're worth:

    TEXTING: Oh wow, I loved this. So many feels! I did wonder about the bus crash--is there a reason for it that plays into the story, other than being an inciting incident? It reminded me of the bus crash on Veronica Marrs, which always struck me as more of a plot device than something intrinsic to the story. Though, really, I'd keep reading anyhow? As for your 250, the only thing I found myself wondering about was the fact that they were sitting an inch apart, texting each other. For some reason that image didn't line up for me--why would they sit right next to each other if they were worried about appearances? Unless the room was crowded? Maybe just me, but made me wonder.

    FED: I love this twist on the whole Price and Princess story :) My main hang-up on the query is that I don't get as much of a sense of the feelings behind what's going on. I guess I want to catch a glimpse of Alex and Declan's romance so that I find myself shipping them--if that makes any sense. Also, Declan's viral photo celebrity confused me a bit--at first reading I thought that potentially their secret had been leaked, or hinted at in some way. In your first 250, I like getting a sense of Alex's humanity and lifestyle. I did wonder why one of the bodyguards wasn't inside already. With so many people around, anything could happen, and wouldn't they want to be closer to guard him? Just a thought that crossed my mind while reading.

  10. Texting - I like the concept. The query seemed too long though. I think it would help to tighten it up a bit. Also, I feel there were way too many commas. Some of the sentences didn't flow well and felt a bit disjointed. The 250 words are great, and I especially liked the very last sentence.

    Crocodiles - Another great concept. I'm not really crazy about calling Declan "Nobody-In-Particular". Other than that, I feel your query is very strong. I love the voice in your first 250 words. It gives a bit of backstory without being an info dump, which is great.

    I would love to read both of these books.

  11. TEXTING BUDDIES: I really like this idea and I already feel compassion for the main characters. The query does a good job of getting across their feelings and what is going on here. Some comments: in the 3rd paragraph you can delete the second "notice" for a cleaner sentence. In the 4th paragraph you can delete "their" in front of daily covert messages. Would make a smoother read, and you don't need it. And no comma after misinterpretations. Question here -- why is it is surprise to see him in person? Would Gabe see Ryan already if he's dating his sister? Needs clarification. 5th paragraph - no comma needed after "close." First 250: This is really smooth and enjoyable! Some comments: in the 1st paragraph the sentence about the accident "leaking" into Pensilton is confusing. I had to read it a few times to understand. No comma after "So." 2nd par. you can delete "own" before iPhone. No semi-colon after insane - just a comma. 3rd par. You can delete the "back and forth" for a smoother read. 4th par. How would you feel about the double doors hissed open, or just the double doors slid open - either one or the other? Need "he" before "pocketed the phone." "...rise of his head" is an awkward phrase. Could you word this some other way? Is Ryan's family also there? This was confusing and needs clarification. "hospital mate" is an awkward phrase as well - it's trying a little too hard. LOVE your last sentence. Really love the whole entry. :) Hope this all helps!

    CROCODILES: Wow, this query is really fantastic. Just have a few comments. Where is this taking place? The fact that it's a contemporary that includes royalty is a little confusing (at least for this American). In first paragraph, you need a hyphen in twenty-first. Is there some way to alert us that the 2nd paragraph is no longer about Alex? It's a little confusing until the end of that first sentence. Not a huge issue, but perhaps something that could just help a little! First 250: Really enjoyed this! Just a couple comments again: There is a bit of a disconnect between the 2nd and 3rd paragraphs and I had to kind of reorient myself when I was reading. Is there some way to help the transition? In the 4th paragraph, first sentence, "one" is supposed to be about a guard, but reads like it's one of Zane's parents. Could you add "one of the guards" or something to clarify? Really great entry.

    I loved both of these entries and am really bummed I have to choose one. But if I HAVE to, I will give



    Great first sentence, weighty. I think using dashes instead of commas before and after “where apple pies still cool on windowsills” will give the whole sentence more clarity, though not sure if that bit sits right anyway. I think this sentence is clunky “But when Gabe breaks their rules, and visits Ryan in person, feelings that could be chalked up to digital misinterpretations, come to life.” When I first read it I thought, ‘hang on, surely he visits Ryan in person often seeing as he’s dating his sister?’ The stakes are evident because you mention earlier on that one of their fathers’ is into politics (spits lol), but you don’t end on the stakes or make a big deal out of them. Make sure your stakes are rising, save the biggest as your last sentence, so we are worried for your MCs and are instantly interested in whether they overcome the obstacles. Currently, from what you’ve actually said, it would appear that there are no obstacles to their romance/love. It’s quite a touching query ☺, but I’m not worried at all, in any way for any of the characters, so this needs fixing I think. Either that or I’m just made of stone muhahaha
    Ooh, tantalising! I wasn’t expecting Ryan to be sitting next to Gabe, so it worked really well when you suddenly mentioned Ryan, “who’s fingers were less than an inch from his own.” I did find the opening paragraph a bit confusing! It read as if he was a doctor and he’d just done a 12-day shift looool, but it obviously must just be me! If his right hand is in a cast, how is he typing with it? Because he’s not typing with the left one – that’s resting on the arm-rest and those fingers are busy drumming to a song. From the query I thought they very gradually, very slowly over the course of 6 months, become very close – totally unexpected from either of them. But then you say this only 12 days after the accident, while they’re still in hospital: “If he had a choice, though he’d never admit it, Gabe would have happily stayed like that forever.” So it’s instant attraction for Gabe? I’d got it in my head it was based on a shared tragedy, a trust that builds slowly etc? Apart from my nit picking, I love it. Love the last line.


    Love the first line. As for “Said commoner is expected to lack a Y-chromosome.” I thought it was a sci-fi until I worked it out lol! 3rd paragraph 2nd sentence, lift “however” out and add at beginning of that sentence instead, reads clunky now. Save your biggest stake for last, so we read it and are left wondering what’s going to happen. I enjoyed the query, looks like an interesting story.
    I found the first two paragraphs boring and unnecessary – I’d begin with the 3rd. Liked the voice, enjoyed the writing.

    Good luck to you both; both stories sound like they’ll make great reads! May the best kombatant go forward ☺

    Thank you

    London Skye

  13. TEXTING: The hospital in the beginning gives you a nice setting, especially since Ryan is there, but I think a few minor tweaks would make it stronger. One, "waiting room" implies they are about to go in, when he is about to be discharged. Second, as Peggy noted, "whose fingers," not who's. I stumbled with the sentence "he heard" and would suggest revising to something along the lines as "It was hard to hear over Ryan's mother's incessant doting noises, but Gabe could make out his hospital roommate also murmuring he was okay. When, he wondered, did they become liars?" Also, the title turns me off - I like your nickname, actually, and would give some thought to getting "text" into the title.
    CROCODILES: Another one where I like the nickname more than the current title. That said, I really like both of these characters already. I think what sets this apart is a) the focus on Declan's music and the relationship that plays in the boy's relationship and b) the era of viral images and shrinking of privacy. Also, just throwing this out there, but is Alex an only child? If he has to give up the throne to his horrible homophobic younger brother, or something, that raises the stakes for me, as does the idea that it's not just about being royalty, but an obligation to king and country or making the world better, or whatnot. This is not necessarily something to shove into the query, just wanted to share that I think there may be ways to make the reader more torn about what he/she thinks Alex should choose. Good luck!

  14. TEXTING- I like this premise and I actually like the query. There are things that need tweaking, such as the apple pie line which does indeed break the flow and seems disjointed. It just doesn't seem necessary. Not to mention I'm from GA and we do peaches not apples right? :) In my opinion the query served it's purpose of intriguing me to want to read more. I like the idea that Gabe's girlfriend is Ryan's sister, but is there more to it? I can't imagine if she found out what her reaction would be. The 250 was good but seemed to make me lose interest more than the query did. I like that you set up the secret texting between the two, etc...but I was confused mostly by the opening paragraph about the accident. I might just be misunderstanding what's going on, but it just didn't read very clear. Again, I like the query more than the 250, but overall I think the story is definitely one I'd like to read!

    CROCODILES: This was opposite for me. I like the 250 more than the query. I think you do a good job of explaining the stakes in the query, but I tend to agree that I don't see what makes this story different than several Lifetime movies I've seen. I don't mean that to sound negative. I love me some Lifetime movies, but besides the two characters being gay, the story seems done before. That's not to say I still wouldn't love it. I think what you do well is showing the stakes for Alex. It ends in a place that has me wanting to read more. As for the 250, I think the voice is great. You do a great job of showing his age, but that he also comes from royalty. I also think the last line is hilarious.

    Can't wait to read both when published one day!!

  15. Texting Buddies - I really like this query! I find the concept fresh, with the potential to tell a very poignant story. I think you set up a lot of great dynamics (I'm particularly into the fraternal twins+boyfriend love triangle dynamic). Honestly, nothing to really comment on about the query. With the 250, I felt a bit confused by it all. It wasn't really clear how the scene related to the query. I think someone mentioned it, but you mention that the boys start really getting close after 6 months, but they seem pretty close after 12 days. I would've liked to have seen more dialogue as well, more interaction between the boys. Also, I found the headhopping from Gabe to Ryan to be jarring.

    Crocodiles - This query was great. I really liked the first few paragraphs - the premise is super unique and modern, and all the elements are presented well. The stakes were also set up very clearly, which was nice. If there's anything to take a look at, I thought there could've been more a transition between Declan becoming a sort of celebrity along with Alex and the threats. As for the first 250, there was a nice amount of voice in there t set up Alex's character, but I felt like it was a bit description heavy where it would've been nice to have it be more action/character interaction heavy. But, I did really like the last line, and would keep reading.

  16. Texting: Whoa, good hook. It builds momentum until the bit about the apple pies cooling. I would take that out, and then you'll have a really strong opening. The rest is good, but...something's missing. I'll try to pin it down. Perhaps it's that the stakes don't really seem well defined or consequential enough? But then when I think about two young men trying to have a relationship in a town "where apple pies still cool on windowsills", then it makes sense. Can you perhaps weave it together like that a bit more? It brings Footloose to mind.

    Your 250, I think, isn't quite polished. The first sentence of the second paragraph is a bit long, and you need to replace "illusive" in "the illusive musical memory" with "elusive". The first sentence of the fourth paragraph needs to be rearranged. I'm sorry if this seems picky, but for me, it makes the story difficult to envision and follow.

    Crocodiles: Well done! This is a great query. The characters are well defined, as are the stakes. The information given is just what's needed (if this were my query, I would've written "Prince Alexander of So-and-so", which is unnecessary, so kudos to you!) Already, just reading the query, I'm rooting for Alex and Declan. Great job!

    In contrast, I found the first 250 a bit ponderous. It didn't "grab" me, until the last line.

    Best of luck to both entrants!

  17. Texting - Query: Wow. This query blew me away. I want to read this. now. That last paragraph clinched it for me. The only nitpicky thing I can say is the line, "where apple pies still cool on windowsills" seemed out of place. Love that line though. Maybe find a way to work it in somewhere else.

    First 250: I really liked the voice here. But I wasn't quite sure how it connected to to the query. The query made it sound that the two boys found each other after the accident and THEN fell in love. Here they are already in love and the accident JUST happened. Confusing. Otherwise, a great read. Loved loved that last line.

    Crocs - Query: Overall I liked the query. However, comparing the prince to a little girl was a little strange for me.

    First 250 - Great voice. It was refreshing for a YA MC to start off being grateful. Instantly made me like him. Very nice pace. Loved the last line. Made me LOL.

    Good luck to you both!

  18. Texting

    Query: Great first hook to get us interested in the characters. The third paragraph is a bit wordy. I needed to go back and read twice to figure out the connections. Not that it’s badly written, just that maybe you don’t need to mention it’s Ryan’s twin sister. Fourth paragraph, why is Gabe breaking the rules? Last paragraph is lovely.
    First 250 words: This is very polished writing. I went through and read it and didn’t notice anything out of place the first time. The second time when I had my “critique pants” on I’d say just watch your rhythm. You had a lot of sections where you have (“words, comma, words, comma, sentence. They tend to stretch out your sentence structure. Nothing wrong with it, but if you have a lot of them throughout the novel it could break your rhythm. All in all fantastic.


    Query: Clever writing in the first paragraph, but maybe a little bit of a stronger hook. As a few people said the girl reference is funny and witty, but not maybe as engaging as you want it. Second paragraph conveys the tone of your writing wonderfully. I am having issues discerning how many protagonists you have. You start out talking about Alex, but Declan plays a pretty large part too. I’m going to assume Alex is your main protagonist, but I’m not 100% certain.

    250 Words: The repetition is something you’ll have to decide on for yourself. I really like it, but some people may find that it lacks some zing. There’s a little bit too much narrative in the third paragraph. You get a good sense of where he’s at, but words are precious when you’re sending out your 3 pages to an agent. My only thing that again really bugged me was I have no idea who this guy is. IS it Alex or Declan? If I’m picking the book off a shelf I have no idea. Remember “Call me Ishmael” is a great opening line for a reason.

  19. Texting buddies:

    The line at the end of your first 250 was like a punch to the gut. I always call myself a liar when I'm in the midst of a family, so that really hit me in the feels. I love the concept, but I felt like there were extra words in the query that could have bee taken out to straighten out the sentences. The voice in the first 250 also had a telly sort of feel to it. I loved the concept, and it's clear that some of this is going to be brilliant, I'm concerned that the first page could use some polish.

    this is an interesting twist on the prince falling for the cinderella, and it looks really enjoyable. I'm concerned with the opening, I'm not sure where the thanks part comes from and it's an odd way to introduce a character. Why that of all things? It makes me think that his bodyguards are goign to play a huge role in what's to come, but I don't think that's the case based off the query, so now i'm confused. Still, I loved the idea of this story, and the writing is good, I just feel like for such a great concept, it could have come out swinging with some super strong prose. I suspect, you can spruce it up to make it really zing.