Monday, June 1, 2015


Entry NicknameTRIAC Girl
Title: Prime Vector
Word count: 77,000
Genre: YA Sci-fi


Born into military service, eighteen-year-old Catita believes she’s meant to spend her life protecting her city, its citizens and the system. Like her departed mom, she wants nothing more than to join the Queen’s special operations force of highly trained commandos. 

When the Queen’s secret project files are taken, Catita lands in the middle of a century-old feud to control a virus that gives its host immortality. Against her better judgment, she enlists the help of Tek Dar, an infuriating but sometimes charming renegade from the old planet, Earth. Tek’s job is simple; help Catita thread the desert lands of Mars in search for clues that will lead her back to the stolen files. But Tek has his own agenda, to save his sisters life.

As Catita uncovers the truth about her origin and the queen she so desperately wants to serve, her view of the system she believes in begins to fall apart. Now Catita must race to recover the stolen files before the thief deciphers the encrypted information and Catita becomes the queen’s personal fountain of youth.

First 250 Words:

Tek tugs at the collar of his jacket. Something about wearing a QEC uniform makes him itchy all over. Though, he has to admit the damn thing is comfortable. It fits him like a second skin.

Out of habit, Tek crouches to blend into the shadows in the alley across the narrow street from 47 Trinity. The three-foot sconces, hanging on either side of the steel double doors, make the entrance glow in the dimming afternoon light.

“Are you sure you want to do this?” Carlo asks, his deep voice resonates around them.

“There’s no going back now,” Tek responds, taking a deep breath. Then another, as the synthetic atmosphere of Mars leaves him breathless for a moment, like he just swam five kilometers back on Earth. The gentle gravitational pull makes up for the low levels of oxygen. Every step, every movement is effortless. “Wait, here. I’ll be back in twenty minutes.”

“And if you don’t?” Carlo shoots a glance over his shoulder to make sure they’re still alone.

“Head back to Resolana. Make sure you leave the city before dark,” Tek warns.

“You got it. Que no? I don’t care to find out what curfew drones think of this getup,” Carlo says. He flexes his biceps, pulling at the leathery fabric near the waist. Then adds: “Hurry, we still have to see about your dad’s payment.”

“Yeah. I just hope all this was worth the risk,” Tek sighs.

“I trust your dad,” Carlo shrugs.



Entry Nickname: Stellar Twins Kickin it Cosmic-Style
Title: Emergence
Word Count: 66k
Genre: YA Space Opera


The year is 2088. Solar flares have turned Earth to a dusty red planet, and mankind has terraformed Mars into utopia. So far, only the lucky have gone–or so it would seem.

Sixteen-year-old Joey Westen never thought she’d go to Mars. Her life of painting the walls in her lead-lined home was good enough for her, until a golden letter arrived in the mail. She and her twinbrother, Jesse, won a spot in the Emergence Program. They’ll be jetting off on the next flight to humanity’s new home, a lush paradise, and the shuttle leaves tomorrow.  

Joey knows her life will never be the same, but she doesn’t know a psycho-killer is hidden onboard her Spacebus. A group of extremists has targeted the Emergence Program. They’ve managed to sabotage every shuttle to Mars thus far, a truth kept from the general public, and their sights are set on the next mission. It only took minutes in space for Joey and Jesse to realize something’s wrong, as a total ship lockdown was not in the brochure. After meeting their roommates, the Matsuda twins(notorious hackers and shady secret-keepers), they discover everybody’s lives are in danger. They didn’t travel to the deepest pits of space just to die in a high-tech tin can. These two sets of siblings will throw everything in their arsenal to survive the attacks. Sacrifice anything just to make it to their promised land.

First 250:

Of all the chores, she hated this one the most. Joey pulled a helmet over her head and fastened the latch to her anti-radiation suit. So much work, every Monday, just to get the weekly post.

After flipping on her oxygen tank, she hit a red button on the wall. A buzzer sounded and the solid outer door of her home crept opened, sucking the air from the room. Almost instantly, a glare of blinding light stung her eyes. The sun’s flare raged today, no different from yesterday, and the same forecast as tomorrow.

Joey slid down her visor. A deep crimson sky reflected in the tinted lens of her old spacesuit, which still bore the tag from Goodwill. She trudged across dusty earth, a cloud of scarlet haze kicking up as she stopped. While peering through shaded glass, she imagined the land as her mother described it. The reddish tint, which covered the parched countryside before her, transformed to crisp green meadows and pools of turquoise shaded water. Heavy layers of gray smog gave way to puffy white clouds.

Her fantasy ended when a ray of sunlight beamed through her visor. She lifted her arm to block its shimmer, cast by the monstrous glass dome a mile away. A-Sector, safe from the scorched world. A few steps closer and she glimpsed people. No suits, flowing clothes, strolling along neon-lit streets people.

A beep sounded in her helmet and she looked at the O² gauge on her wrist. “Five-percent. Jesse’s gonna be salty.”


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

    1. Triac Girl

      You've got some intriguing stuff in your query, but I really feel like I need to know more about this virus and how Catita finds herself embroiled in a fight for it. The connection between the actual virus and the stolen files isn't clear (and I'm only guessing that Catita somehow gets infected). Also, I'd like to see a bit more of Catita's voice in the query letter.

      The entire query is about Catita, but the first page opens inside Tek's head, which means I'm confused right away. I don't know if this is a prologue, or if the story is multiple POV, or what. If it's dual-POV, then your query should make that clear (usually by giving one paragraph from each character's POV). But the bigger issue is that I've got a letter telling me that the book is about Catita, and a first page about Tek, so I don't know if Catita is someone I want to spend several hours of my life with. I need to see her voice to connect with her. In a query, agents never ask for just one page, so it's less of a big deal (although still disorienting). In a contest, I really need your first page to match your query.

      Stellar Twins:

      Twin brother should be two words, not one. You're also missing a space after twins. That's my primary comment on the query. Also, I'm wondering why the Emergence Program is still recruiting if extremists have sabotaged every single spaceship. You'd think maybe the government would stake some precautions. Also, if you could give a hint of how the twins are going to fight back, that's a detail that would make the query more powerful.

      I love showing the ordeal Joey has to endure just to do something so basic as check the mail. You've done some excellent world-building on the first page. The one thing I can suggest is that you give us more of Joey's emotions. You tell us she hates getting the mail, but that's telling, not showing. That line could be more powerful if we could see how Joey felt. And I'd like a little more of what she's thinking, if possible. Help me connect with Joey personally instead of just thinking "What a cool world!" That's how you'll get me to keep reading. Also, I'm wondering how monstrous exactly a glass dome has to be to send sunlight shimmering for a mile, but maybe you'll show me.

      Both stories sound like great concepts, but VICTORY TO STELLAR TWINS KICKING IT COSMIC-STYLE.

    2. Princess of LlamasJune 2, 2015 at 11:03 PM

      TRIAC GIRL: I like the general concept, but the query has a lot going on, and I think it would be better if simplified. In the second paragraph, you state Caitla must recover the files. Then, in paragraph 3, you raise the origin issue, and state . . . Caitla must recover the files. So to me, this hasn’t changed at all, right? Her conflict is still recovering the files to control the virus? It gets lost with all the discussion of Tek and the queen’s fountain of youth. If there’s more going on here, it needs to be clarified. However, I think overall the query could be great if you focus on this single issue. You can mention that she enlists Tek, a renegade she’s not sure she can trust, but I’m not sure I’d add the other sub-plots. (Also, if you say she enlisted him against her better judgment, you need to explain why she did it anyway).

      As for the first 250, you start with Tek, which I’m sure someone has said by now is not the best idea. In a dual POV, the first chapter should be the MC you focus on in the query. If chapter one is Tek, I think Tek has to be the central figure in the query. If you can’t revise to put Caitla first, you probably should redo the query.

      And the good thing is that, if you lead with Tek, you’ll be able to explain quicker that this doesn’t take place on Earth. “Now living on planet _____, former Earthling Tek has one goal – save his sister from _______. Problem is, he has no idea how to do it. His sister is currently trapped . . . . blah blah. blah. Then Caitla, a new commando, enlists Tek’s help in recovering the Queen’s stolen files. Tek agrees, knowing this assignment will give him access/whatever to secure his sister’s safety. But working with Caitla has its own issues. She . . .” Granted, it’s hard to write when I don’t know the details, but I can see it working this way.

      As for the rest of the 250, I like the imagery in the paragraph explaining Mars. Some of this could be tightened. Carlo’s voice should be resonating instead of resonates, but also you can omit “around them” as it doesn’t add anything. Also, “taking a deep breath. Then another” should be, “taking a deep breath, then another, as the synthetic . . .” And Carlo’s response of “And if you don’t” should be “And if you’re not” because the last thing Tek said was, “Wait here. I’ll be back in twenty minutes.” Overall though, I like the voice and I think this starts in a good spot.

      STELLAR TWINS: You have a typo: twinbrother should be twin brother. Also, get rid of “for her” and go straight to next clause, “was good enough, until a golden . . .” I’d reorder and tighten the third paragraph:

      It takes only minutes in space for Joey and Jesse to realize something’s wrong, as a total ship lockdown was not in the brochure. After meeting their roommates, the Matsuda twins (notorious hackers and shady secret-keepers), they discover a group of extremists plan to blow up the spacebus. Joey and Jesse didn’t travel to the deepest pits of space just to die in a high-tech tin can. With the Matsuda twins by their side, they . . .

      And this is the other issue I had with the query. “Throw everything in their arsenal to survive the attacks” isn’t specific enough. Give details on what they need to do—find the killer? Stop a bomb from going off? This part needs to be more detailed, and the query will shine!

      As for the first 250, I think it’s great. My only hang-ups were toward the end. “No suits, flowing clothes, strolling along neon-lit streets people” doesn’t make sense. Even if “people” is cut, this sentence needs to be clearer. Then, I tripped up on the last line because it introduces Jesse, and we don’t know who he/she is. Of course, the next sentence probably clears this up, and if it does, great. For the purposes of this contest though, that part just kind of ended in a thud.

      Two space stories—it’s a shame only one can survive. I like both these concepts, and I think with a revision both entries would be that much better. Judging on this query and 250 though, I think one is farther along. Victory to STELLAR TWINS!

    3. TRIAC Girl

      This is pretty strong already. It’s provides some great details without overwhelming or confusing the reader. Just a couple of comments: 1) if Catita has been bred to contribute to the queen’s immortality (that’s how I read it), I’d play that element less coy and come right out with it. make it central to the query. It’s an intriguing premise, but right now is only partly implied and thus slightly confusing/unclear; 2) if the files will uncover what they queen has been up to, then wouldn’t Catiti want someone to decrypt them (that is, why is she so desperate to get them back)? It sounds now like she wants to recover them so as to keep them private.

      her departed mom — Somewhat vague since “departed” could means either “deceased” or simply gone off on assignment or something (given the military setting).

      thread the desert lands — Not exactly sure what “thread” means in this context.

      the truth about her origin — Also vague, and sort of appears out of nowhere (that is, nowhere have her origins played a role up to this point).

      First 250 Words:
      The writing here is solid. Not taken with the present tense, but that’s just an individual thing. My big concern is that the query is all about Catita, but the story starts off with Tek. It’s not that you can’t do that, just be aware that it will throw some readers off.

      “And if you don’t?” — This isn’t really a follow-on to the dialogue before it. “And if you’re not?” would make more sense.

      Stellar Twins Kickin it Cosmic-Style

      [word count feels low for YA science fiction; typically 80+K these days]

      A strong query. Really the only item I would pick on is that the third paragraph is so long. Would be great to either shift some of that into the second paragraph or else (or perhaps, and also) cut some unnecessary detail (for example, not sure we need the specifics on the Matsuda twins in the query; keep the focus on your main characters). Perhaps the only thing I really bumped on is that the general premise is treading fairly well-worn ground.

      First 250 Words:
      A solid opening. It provides some wonderful world building as well as character development all in a very short span. As I’ve mention on several other entries, the one thing I would suggest here is to inject it with a bit more personality. She has this momentary vision of what Earth used to be like; how does she feel about that? How does she feel when the daydream is interrupted? or when she sees people I the dome who are obviously a lot better off than she is? Right now we’re getting the narrative (that is, the events), but not nearly enough of the “voice.”

      Of all the chores, she hated this one the most. — Too vague for an opening. Give us the details up front, as in: “Of all the chores, she hated getting the post the most.” it gives the reader something to grab a hold of and also makes them wonder what could possibly be so bad about getting the post that she hates it.

      No suits, flowing clothes, strolling along neon-lit streets people. — Couldn’t quite wrap my head around this sentence.


      Argh! This one is brutal. Both are equally well done IMO (with just a few needed tweaks here and there). I’m slightly more intrigued by the premise of TRIAC Girl, but I’m having trouble getting over where it starts (which is odd, because I don’t have a problem with prologues or varying POVS in general). I think the voice for Stellar Twins is good, but for some reason a terrorist plot involving settlers on Mars isn’t quite grabbing me (it’s been done a lot).

      Not quite a role of the dice, but based on which I’d pick up first right at this very moment I’m declaring VICTORY TO TRIAC GIRL!

    4. TRIAC Girl

      Query: First paragraph-I'm an Oxford comma girl myself, so I'll point out that you're missing one in the first sentence ;). When you say "departed," is she traveling or dead? This is a nit-pick, but I'm not loving the word "commandos." Is there something else that's more specific to what they do? I'm not going to go as deep on the rest of the query because here's the thing. Your 250 opens with Tek, and I'm getting the sense this is dual POV, yes? If so, I really think you need a paragraph about Catita, one about Tek, and then a closing paragraph with probably both of them. Also, here's what confused me in your query: why is it against her better judgment to enlist Tek? What/Who is Tek saving his sister from? What does Catita's origin have to do with any of this? Why wouldn't Catita wan't the information deciphered if she's losing faith in the queen? Also, I'm not sure how she's going to become the queen's personal fountain of youth. One tiny thing, I'm not really understanding your use of the word "thread" in the second paragraph.

      250: Overall, I really like this 250, but it's jarring to get Tek when I was expecting Catita. I think we're getting a good sense of the main character. I love that you throw in the piece about his dad. Some nit-picks: "His deep voice resonates.." I'd recommend changing this to "resonating." Next paragraph, I think "taking a deep breath. Then another..." should be combined with a comma. Another recommendation would be to limit the dialogue tags and actions. Let the dialogue breathe. The last two pieces of conversation, "Yeah. I just..." and "I trust..." should end with periods rather than commas since they're followed by actions. There are some really great details here, and I would definitely read more.

      Stellar Twins Kickin it Cosmic-Style

      Query: Overall, I think this query is well-written. So these are my super critical comments for you. First paragraph: "Only the lucky have gone..." This seems vague to me. I think you could use something stronger than "gone" to makes this clearer. I think you can be more specific about "painting the walls." You mean she's an artist? There's a space missing in twinbrother, and then against before "(notorious brothers...)." Last sentence in the second paragraph, I'd condense it so it reads, "the next flight to humanity's new lush paradise,..." What I'm really struggling with here is that I'm not sure I'm buying the premise. Why would they still be sending people up if they're blowing up all the shuttles? What do Joey and Jesse bring that makes them qualified to hunt down this attacker? How exactly do they plan to do it? "Everything in their arsenal" is vague, can you give us more specifics? What makes them even think there are terrorists on board?

      250: This is a really good 250 for the most part. However, for me, this does seem to drag on a tad too long. I love the Goodwill reference. What I'd really love to see here is more the main character. I'm not getting enough emotion, or personality from Joey. Most of the details are mainly about the world, which are fantastic, but I want more Joey. In the second paragraph, it should be "crept open." Next sentence, I think you can cut, "a glare of." The second half of the third paragraph, starting with, "While peering through..." I think you can use an em dash to make this more effective. Fourth paragraph, the way you use "beamed" reads awkwardly, maybe use "pierced" instead. Last sentence of the same paragraph is confusing, consider rephrasing. And I'm not really sure I understand the very last sentence and why Jesse would be salty.

      This one was *really* tough and I went back and forth on it several times. So, after much debate, VICTORY TO TRIAC GIRL!!

    5. TRIAC Girl

      You've got some good stuff here, but the premise of the novel seems to be about Catita's change in views thanks to her relationship with Tek. I think I'd rather see more of that layed out in the query. As it is now, you do a decent job of explaining it, but I think it could be more organized so that the flow is more natural. As a side note: "thread" is an odd verb in the context of Tek's Job.

      250 words:
      You do a lot of describing between each line of dialogue, almost like your directing a play. You need to let your characters talk a bit, so we can get to know them. You have so much description going on that sometimes it's hard to remember who is talking or what they said. I like books in present tense, but be aware 3rd person present tense is a bit alienating to readers so you really need to make your first impression very strong. This is still in need of work. Also... why are we starting with Tek if Catita is the protagonist?

      Stellar Twins Kickin it Cosmic-Style

      This is a pretty good query. You could possibly reduce the plot synopsis for a bit more of character, but as it is now, it is pretty good shape. Take a few passes through it. Read it aloud, and look for places to consolidate.

      250 words:
      This is a good start. I do kind of wonder what they live on, but I trust the writing and therefore assume it is explained later. Good work!


    6. TRIAC Girl: This is a pretty good query, although it’s rather dry, try to get some voice in there. You can clarify and enlarge here and there, too: What does ‘thread’ mean? Which planet does the MC live on? This should be a colon, not a comma: ‘But Tek has his own agenda: to save his sister’s life.’ I know you don’t want to give a way too much, but I’d like just a little more info, just put an adjective or bit of detail here: ‘As Catita uncovers the truth about her [description] origin...’ then tie that into the final part about her being the fountain of youth, so it’s clearer.

      First page: Wait what now we’re in Tek’s POV? If you’re going to start with him and this is dual pov, tell us that in the query and maybe even write the query from his pov, or both. This should be: ‘“Are you sure you want to do this?” Carlo asks. His deep voice resonates around them.’ This is an interesting first page, but there’s a lot of unknown information here, which leaves me a little lost. It’s a hard line to walk in SFF to introduce the world but not overwhelm the reader with too much information at once. Here we are meeting two new characters, in a city on Mars, with mention of QEC, Resolana, curfew drones, and his dad’s payment. Plus we don’t know what they’re doing yet. I think it’s all too much. It’s definitely well-written though, so I’d just suggest taking things a little bit slower and introducing us to your setting and the scene more gently.

      Stellar Twins: (Both of these entries could do with more grabby titles imo.) This is a pretty gripping premise. Some tweaks: ‘twin brother’ needs a space between the words. ‘psycho-killer’ is kind of cheesy, killer would be enough. I’d clarify: every ship has been sabotaged – does that mean no one has made it to Mars? There’s no one living there at all, and no utopia? Or...? Mind your tenses: ‘It only took minutes in space for Joey and Jesse to realize something’s wrong, as a total ship lockdown was not in the brochure.’ (takes minutes)

      First page: This is nicely written, and a very good introduction to your world, well done. Tweaks: Use Joey’s name in the very first line for clarity and to introduce us to her straight away, because for a moment (since it’s a boy’s name) I thought her brother was helping her put on her helmet. It should be ‘crept open’. The only part I don’t understand is ‘Jesse’s gonna be salty.’ But am guessing you’ll explain that in the next lines, and for how much worldbuilding you’ve introduced, the fact that I don’t get only one part is really good. The only thing I’d add is this could do with a little more voice, what are her reactions to what she’s seeing and feeling?

      Yet again, this is close, with a little work I think these could both be great, but VICTORY TO STELLAR TWINS.

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


      A lot of neat stuff going on here -- espionage, secret task forces, immortality viruses! Very cool!

      I'll admit, though, I'm a bit confused. There's almost TOO much going on here, without enough grounding in the first place for us to figure out what's going on. The details you add later just make me question my perceptions about earlier parts of the query - for instance, if they don't live on Earth, where are they from? Why are they looking for the files on Mars? What's Tek saving his sister from? Why is the information decrypted? How does she find out these things about her past? So many questions! My advice would be to simplify: stick with the main conflict and cut the part about subplots and ulterior motives.

      Minor nitpicky thing: oxford comma!



      Really love this premise. It definitely sounds like something I'd read.

      Clarification question: I'm not sure what significance it has that she paints the walls of her home -- is she an artist? Or just likes home improvements? How is this important to the story?

      You might also want to try to find a way to get rid of the cliche "her life will never be the same" & tweak the last sentence so it's not a fragment.


    8. All you judges are awesome! Wait. What’s beyond awesome? Well whatever it is, that’s what you guys are. Just the fact that you donated your time and energy to usher us along is amazing.

      YoSaffBridg- Thank you for your compliment on my world building, and I definitely will include some more of my MC's personality in my opening.

      Princess of Llamas- I like the way you simplified the third paragraph of my query, it still holds suspense while cutting out the parts that irked most of the judges. Thank you so much!

      Scott Pilgrim- I'm so glad you found my world building and character development solid. I will try to show more of my character's voice in this sample, and throughout the manuscript. Thanks a bunch!

      Regina Phalange- I really do appreciate you pointing out all the vague spots in my query, it can be hard to see the cracks when you're so close to a project. I'll be sure to show more of my character's flare as suggested.

      MoulinMystery- Thank you so much for the vote, in the competition and of confidence. With all this wonderful feedback, I'm sure that I can tighten up my query letter like you advised.

      Thursday Next- I'm so happy you caught that slipup on the tenses in my query *head desk* Thank you. Adding more emotion to my character is my number one priority, thanks for the helpful suggestions.

      Sally Sparrow- I've been reading all of the judge’s comments, on every entry (for maximum learnage), and you left feedback on every single one. Color me impressed! Whoever you are, dang, go you :) But thank you for your suggestions. I will clear up my query and expand on the vague parts.

      And just a FYI- Salty is a word my son and his friends use instead of pissed-off. I thought it was cool and wanted to see if it would fly, but it didn't so it's gone :)

      Thank you all so very much,

  2. Two fun entries! Congrats to both of you. Here are some thoughts.

    STELLAR TWINS: Great stuff! I like the idea of the twins being chosen to head to Mars to get off the dusty earth. It's hard to judge if space opera is the correct genre or not -- it depends how much of the book is on a dystopian earth, and how much is in space. Not sure if agents will question that or not. Some thoughts on the query: The lead-lined home is intriguing, but I'm not sure why she would be painting the walls all the time -- as an artist or as a house painter? "twinbrother" needs a space between the words. The term "psycho-killer" struck me as kind of generic. Does this need to be stated? What if you merged the two sentences like this: "Joey knows her life will never be the same, but she doesn’t realize a group of extremists has targeted the Emergence Program." You explain in the next sentences that something is wrong on the spacebus, so I think that's covered. Technically, it should be "took only minutes" instead of "only took minutes." Finally, the sentence about them throwing everything in their arsenal seems to be missing a target. Do you mean they'll use everything in their arsenal? Or throw it at something? Sorry to be so nit-picky, but I think you've got a good thing going that could be really super! As for the 250, I think they're very strong. The one question I had was about the sentence with the reflection. It should probably be that the sky WAS reflected in the visor, or else you could change it all up and say "A reflection of the deep crimson sky tinted the lens of her old spacesuit." (and I LOVE the Goodwill reference) Other than that, the only other thing was the "No suits" sentence, which took me a bit to realize what you were doing there. Perhaps some ... in-between those two sentences, or a -- would help us to know you're describing the people in that fun way. Super job, and I can't wait to see what you do with this book!!

    TRIAC GIRL - I like the premise of this! It's always fun to read about girls who are determined to fulfill a noble mission. However, I felt like I was getting to know Catita and then found out she's not on earth. Up until mid-2nd-paragraph, this feels like a dystopian novel. Where is this book taking place? I think that needs to be spelled out immediately. Some other questions from the query make me feel like I'm missing a lot. What is Tek saving his sister from? What's this with discovering Catita's origin, and do the missing files have something to do with that? I think some of these things need to be answered to make the query feel complete, and like we're getting the story. In the first 250, you do a great job with sense of place and of the two guys. However, I was a bit disconcerted that Catita is the protagonist, but the book begins with someone else. I was wishing to hear about her. Nit-picky things: Carlo's voice should be "resonating," not resonates. Also, I think these two sentences might read better as "Tek responds, taking one deep breath, then another, as the synthetic atmosphere..." What do you think? I really like how you end the section with not trusting his dad. Helps us to get to know him!

    Both entries have interesting premises, and I wish both authors much luck!

    Victory to Stellar Twins Kickin' it Cosmic Style

    1. Mrs. Pollifax, thank you so much for choosing my entry- Stellar Twins Kickin' it Cosmic Style! I'm truly in awe at how much you judges dedicate, out of the kindness of your own hearts, to help us along in this crazy world of publishing. I'm definitely going to clear up the vague spots that you pointed out in my query, and the typos. I'm so glad you considered my 250 strong, and I love how you rearranged that sentence about the reflection in her lens. The other judges didn't like the flow of my "no suits" sentence either, but I like your suggestion of add a little detail in between to support the delivery.

      Thank you again, so very much. I've never met a more supportive group of people than those in the Twitter writing community, and I'm extremely appreciative for this opportunity.

      Best wishes,

  3. TRIAC: In the query, the second line of the first paragraph seems unclear to me. Did her mom join the force or want nothing more than to join it? Does “departed” mean dead, or just gone? You could add a few words to get specific, I think.

    For the 250: “Itchy all over” seems to directly contradict the uniform being “comfortable.” Nice detail regarding the air and gravity.

    STELLAR TWINS: For the query, try an em dash between the last two sentences instead of a period, which makes for an odd sentence fragment at the end.

    For the 250: the red landscape is striking! The only part of the 250 that seemed a little off to me was her imagining the way the landscape used to be. For some reason describing it like it’s actually changing in front of her struck me as awkward. Maybe rephrase? Also, how much would you be able to see through glass a mile away?

  4. TRIAC: In the query, the second line of the first paragraph seems unclear to me. Did her mom join the force or want nothing more than to join it? Does “departed” mean dead, or just gone? You could add a few words to get specific, I think.

    For the 250: “Itchy all over” seems to directly contradict the uniform being “comfortable.” Nice detail regarding the air and gravity.

    STELLAR TWINS: For the query, try an em dash between the last two sentences instead of a period, which makes for an odd sentence fragment at the end.

    For the 250: the red landscape is striking! The only part of the 250 that seemed a little off to me was her imagining the way the landscape used to be. For some reason describing it like it’s actually changing in front of her struck me as awkward. Maybe rephrase? Also, how much would you be able to see through glass a mile away?

  5. Triac Girl

    Query: Okay, I’m a little confused. She’s born into military service, but she wants to be a part of the special guard, but then she helps. So did she try to get into the special guard and fail, or is she not old enough, or is she in it? Is her mom being dead relevant? Does she have a dad or is she an orphan? I feel like the first half of the query doesn’t really mesh with the 2nd half, but there’s definitely something interesting in there.

    250: Is this dual POV? If it is, there should be more Tek in the query. If not, then why are we starting with Tek? I like the 250, I’m just not sure about the POV stuff.

    Stellar Twins

    Query: Personally, I’d like an ellipses there “lucky have gone…or so it would seem.” And twin brother needs a space. That third paragraph can be tightened up.

    250: Think you can condense the first two sentences in the second paragraph. Not sure about salty either, but otherwise I like it.

  6. TRIAC Girl
    Query: There seems to be cool stuff happening here, but I feel like the ideas need to flow into each other better. There are a bunch of things I don't quite understand the connection between. Like--Catita wants to be in the special guard. Then when the queen's files are taken, she's the one to find them. Does she volunteer because she wants to be in the special guard? Or is she just assigned? (if she's just assigned to it, why do I need to know that she wants to be in the special guard?) What's the connection here? And how will the queen's files save Tek's sister?

    Finally, I felt that the third paragraph got a bit vague, and I didn't really understand the final stakes. Mostly, I don't understand how the thief's decryption of the files will make Catita become the queen's fountain of youth. Is the thief working for the queen? If so, then why would the queen also send Catita after the files (or did Catita take this mission upon herself?)

    So that was a lot of questions from me/a sort of rambling set of comments. TL;DR: I would've liked to have a better sense of cause and effect and connections between events, and the final stakes were very fuzzy for me.

    250: I was good with these. It did throw me that we were starting with Tek when the query was all about Catita. Is this dual POV or a prologue (if it's a prologue--is it really necessary?). (I'm biased because I really generally dislike prologues. I can probably count the ones I enjoyed on one hand).

    Cosmic Twins
    Query: I really liked how clearly you laid the stakes out at the end of this. I kinda wish I had a more specific idea of how exactly they plan to take on this psycho-killer, though.

    Biggest thing that threw me off in this query was all the tense changes. At the end of paragraph 2, we use future (they'll be jetting) but then paragraph 3 we're back to past tense after they're on the ship (it took). I think you should try to stick with present/future tense--that's the standard for queries.

    First 250:
    Only thing that tripped me up here was how she could see inside the glass dome so far away. Her helmet is tinted. Isn't the sun painfully bright? Shouldn't that glass be tinted, too? And even if it's not, if it's a mile away, how can she see the people inside so clearly?

    The description of the landscape is awesomely atmospheric, though.

  7. TRIAC Girl,

    For your query, I agree with what Sarah and Ellie had to say above. Great concepts, you just need a little bit of explanation as to how the pieces fit together. That last line in your query is a kicker, in both a good and bad way. Good, because I go, "Wait, what? How is she connected to the fountain? IS she the virus somehow?" Which is great, but at the same time I go, "Wait... how is that possible?" Is there any way to slightly foreshadow how/if your MC is somehow the virus or if this is more like Pirates of the Caribbean 4 where the virus gives the holder the life of another? Otherwise, I love the world you're creating here--especially that nod to the "old Earth" and how Tek is a renegade from Earth. It automatically makes me like him.

    As for your 250, you do have that slight "itchy/comfy" inconsistency in the beginning, but otherwise I like the world we glimpse. The writing is strong, and interesting. The only real problem (as everyone else has already mentioned) is the whiplash of reading about your MC and starting with someone else. I'm guessing you're starting with a prologue where Tek sees the papers get stolen, but that's the only guess I have, based off your query. If that's the case, than I'm interested, but it's still whiplash. Is there a way to instead start with your MC, and then tuck this interesting information somewhere deeper in your story, like when she meets Tek, or hears about the incident?

    Stellar Twins,

    I don't usually do the space ship thing, but I think you've set up the story really well in your query. I do question the wisdom of giving your MC twins both names that belong to either gender (after reading enough of these queries, everyone sort of starts to blur, and it was a little hard for me to keep them straight). But so far, that looks like it's just a quirk for me, so take that critique with a grain of salt. In other news, your query is strong, but I think you could build up that last line just a little. Getting a hint of what they are willing to sacrifice (lives? morals?) increases your stakes.

    Your 250 is beautiful. I didn't have a problem with your MC contrasting what she is currently seeing with her imaginations of how it once was, and actually felt like it was quite clever. And I love the snarky hint of voice we get in that first paragraph and again with the Goodwill nod. Like those who have come before me, my only real problem was with the glass dome at the end. What's going on there?

    Good luck to you both!

  8. PRIME VECTOR: First 250 - Fantastic! Great opening chapter, all the way around. The problem?
    Query - Your query seems out of line with your first 250. If Tek opens the book, it seems like he's a bigger player than what you discussed in the query letter. If your FMC and MMC are equal parts important to your plot/narrative, then I would devote more time to your MMC's stakes or motivations in the query. What does he think of the FMC, for example? Also, in your query, he can just be a renegade, not necessarily charming. The contrast between the two MCs and them being thrown together might make for a more intriguing pitch.

    EMERGENCE: Query - This is good! Very interesting and you paint a great image of what to expect. I'm definitely intrigued. My question for you is, does everyone have a twin nowadays? Are twins the only ones selected for moving to Mars? If yes, it should be intimated or implied at least. Otherwise it seems odd to me. (Exactly - what are the odds of that happening? Two sets of twins on the same mission? Or is the shuttle full of hundreds of people? Or is it a craft of 10 people, in which case the oddity of two sets of twins would be even greater?) Also: "Joey knows her life will never be the same, but she doesn’t know a psycho-killer is hidden onboard her Spacebus. A group of extremists has targeted the Emergence Program." I think you could take out "but she doesn't know...her Spacebus." - I think you've included it there for voice but cutting to "a group of extremists" I think would tighten up your query and make it stronger.
    First 250: Great imagery, great stakes, great voice. The voice is very relatable despite you painting a very surreal setting. One suggestion: I wasn't sure if the computer/suit or Joey was speaking the last phrase. Maybe clarify somehow. Great job!

  9. TRIAC

    Awesome opening to your query. Right off the bat, I feel connected with the MC and what she wants. The conflict paragraph too, is extremely clear. I’m loving the mashup of sci-fi and monarchy!

    In the last paragraph, I think you could do away with the line “the truth about her origin” because up until now, I didn’t know that was a secret. Maybe it is in the story, but it’s impossible to nurse every subplot in a query. Just “As Catita uncovers the truth about the queen she so desperately wants to serve, her views of the system begin to fall apart.”

    That’s pretty much my only suggestion. I love this query, and even if you don’t change a thing, I’m sure you’ll find success with it. I want to read now!

    For the 250...

    I’m trying to do these crits without reading the other comments first, but from the first word I can already hear cries of “why you no begin with Catita?” in my head. If Tek is the MC, the query should revolve around him. If the MC is indeed Catita, start with her POV.

    I have to admit, I can’t remember the last 3rd person, present tense book I read. It took me a few sentences to get into it, but you do it really well. It feels close and deep.


    Love this query too. I get an immediate sense of the world, which helps ground me in the story. Nitpicky line edit...”She and her twin brother (<<two words), Jesse, won spots (<<plural) in the Emergence Program.” Unless their fighting for the same spot :/

    Voice really shines in the “high-tech tin can line.” The conflict and stakes are clear and make me want to pick up the book.

    Love the subtle world building in the first 250. It all feels natural, none of it confusing. A blend of familiar and unfamiliar. Love the spacesuit from Goodwill :D

    This line tripped me up a bit: “The sun’s flare raged today, no different from yesterday, and the same forecast as tomorrow.”

    When the appositive is removed the sentence reads: “The sun’s flare raged today, and the same forecast as tomorrow.” Which feels a little off. Do you mean, “The sun’s flare raged today, no different than yesterday, and the same was forecast for tomorrow.”

    This line also I would take an extra look at: “A few steps closer and she glimpsed people. No suits, flowing clothes, strolling along neon-lit streets people.”

    I’d offer a way to rephrase it, but I’m not sure what you mean by it.

    Other than those two nit-picky things, great job!


    Both of these are sound so cool. I haven't read too much sci-fi, but I would definitely pick these up.

  10. Triac - Query - This is good writing. I love knowing what Catita and Tek Dar want and what stands in their way. I REALLY want to know what's at stake for Tek Dar, though. The only thing I noticed was this: "Tek’s job is simple;" I don't know if this was in you original (I had a couple typos transfer into the blog that aren't in my original) but this should be a colon. Also, I would like to have more clarity on Catita becoming the queen's fountain of youth. This confused me.

    250 - I, too, start my 250 with a character who isn't the center of attention in the query. And trust me, I'm being blasted for it. But I do see why. So I've been doing a lot of thinking. It seems the best way to handle this (if you don't want to rewrite your book) is to give each character their own paragraph or two in the query. Start the query with a paragraph about Tek Dar and then move into Catita. Then when the readers' eyes move down to the 250, it won't be so abrupt.

    The first two paragraphs don't flow together, but I like the "meat" of them. I would start with the second paragraph, and tighten up the writing a bit. Is Tek in the alley? By the doors? But I do like the scene. And, you've created great dialogue!

    Stellar - Query - When I was reading your query, I kept thinking, where have I heard this before. Ah, this sounds like Elysium! But different, of course. Great query!

    250 - Great writing! On this, "The sun’s flare raged today" I would take out "today". The sentence flows better and still makes sense. Congratulations, this piece is amazing. I would love to read this book.

  11. Such interesting and fun entries! Here are my two cents, for whatever they're worth:

    TRIAC: I love a good sci-fi! And a fountain of youth? Definitely has me interested. Your query is pretty solid to me, though a few small things stood out: I want to know a bit more about Tek's sister and how she plays into this whole thing. And a hint about what's so wrong with the "system" would help make me more curious. As for your first 250, there were several small things: why is the atmosphere making him feel winded? Wouldn't it do that all the time, and not just right then? And if it's that low, how is there enough oxygen for them? Even if movement doesn't take effort, they'd still need air and to not be lightheaded all the time. Also, the bit of Spanish tossed in isn't quite right.

    STELLAR: My first thoughts while reading this were "It's Willy Wonka in Space", which I mean as a very high compliment :) Anyhow, here's my thoughts: why scorched red earth? The whole earth? Where's all that iron ore coming from? I could see some parts being scorched red, but blasting the part of the country I'm in wouldn't turn the soil red. This is probably totally inconsequential, but I couldn't help wondering. The query itself holds up well and kept my interest until the last couple of lines. There needs to be something more concrete there--perhaps what the terrorists are fighting about? As for your 250, why is there still Goodwill in this kind of world? I mean, if everyone's so poor on earth, why would something like that exist? And would it still be called that? And if this glass done is a mile away, how can she see the people within it? And what does "salty" refer to? Okay, obviously, just lots of questions here, but really I just wanted to read on and see what the answers are :)

  12. To my extremely talented and totally cool opponent,

    I'm pretty positive that if you had one more paragraph (on Tek) in your query letter, I'd be bowing out gracefully right now. Your entry had me quaking in my boots. I love your writing style, very strong, probably stronger than mine. There is no doubt in my mind that you will be published soon. If you need a list of agents who rep our genre or fresh eyes on your submission packet, DM me on Twitter anytime. Seriously.

    I love your story so keep in touch,

  13. Jamie,

    You are so sweet. Thank you for your kind words. This contest has been an incredible experience. I'm still going through all the amazing feedback (five pages, single space!) and making changes. But as soon as I'm done, I'll definitely take you up on your offer. I've never been one to turn down a free critique ;-).

    I read your latest revision and it's solid! You did a great job. I'm so excited for you. I still would like to return the favor, so if you need help with anything else (beta reader, CP for your next novel), let me know.

    Emergence is a great concept and it's so well written. Can't wait to see it in print.