Wednesday, June 14, 2017

QK Round 2: Mother of All Custody Battles vs. Three Men and an Actuary

Title: FINDING SETH
Entry Nickname: Mother of All Custody Battles
Word count: 73K
Genre: Women’s Fiction


Query:

Lola Bishop has been to the end of her rope so many times she’s not sure she has enough antidepressants to keep her from tying it into a noose and slipping it around her neck. All she wants is to have a baby and raise a family with her husband, Paul. But their premature son doesn’t make it, and an emergency hysterectomy kills any future dreams of motherhood. More dark days follow in the form of depression and divorce papers. Then she discovers not only has Paul moved in with his young girlfriend, Iris, they’re also expecting a baby – a little boy they name Seth.

But Lola’s got to pull her act together when a car crash kills Paul and Iris and orphans Seth – now a toddler. Iris’s will has some glaring holes, but Paul’s will clearly names Lola as Seth’s guardian. At the same time Iris’s dad, who’s been caring for Seth since the accident, starts building his legal case to contest Paul’s will, Lola ponders whether she’s strong enough to raise the child her ex-husband had with his girlfriend. Steeling her heart, Lola jumps into the legal ring as she and Isaac try to outmaneuver each other in the mother of all custody battles.

First 250:

It was the receptionist at my gynecologist’s office who clued me in that something major was afoot. Not that she said anything in particular – of course she can’t say anything. Medical privacy laws and all. But there’s no privacy law that prohibits a weird, high-pitched tone when calling my name, or an uncomfortable shiftiness palpable across the sliding glass divider.

No, there was no one in the office who said anything during my checkup. But my nurse gave me several odd, sideways glances. And Dr. Marta, the obstetrician who’d walked me through days darker than death, made a telling comment on my way out of the office. As she put her cool, clinical hand on my shoulder, she held it a beat longer than normal and asked: “How’s your friend Brenda these days?”

Brenda Gillis – one of my dearest friends on earth, despite all the crap I’ve put her through – has an uncanny knack for knowing exactly what’s going on in the lives of everyone in Glenhaven without being a busybody. While she flirts with the line of being a gossip, there’s no malice in her methods. Less paparazzi, more society columnist.

I called her immediately from my car. “Where are you?” I asked. “I just left Dr. Marta’s. Her whole staff was acting weird.”

Brenda sighed on the other end. “I’m taking the kiddos to Noodles before their piano lessons,” she said. “Do you want to meet me there? We need to talk.”


VERSUS



Title: Drowning in Perfect
Entry Nickname: Three Men and an Actuary
Word Count: 93K
Genre: Women’s Commercial Fiction

Query:

Brooke Holt, a twenty-seven-year-old actuary, began her quest for perfection the day her mother walked out of her life. She had been ten, incorrigible, and as far away from perfect as she has ever been.  

After her safe, lackluster boyfriend dumps her via a company-wide email, Brooke is unable to cope with the humiliation and flees to Minneapolis for a fresh start. Pressured by an overly helpful coworker, Brooke agrees to rent a basement apartment sight unseen. The three younger, immature men living upstairs are determined to disrupt Brooke’s meticulously crafted life with their teasing, partying, and carefree attitudes.

When her estranged mother reaches out with a wedding invitation after seventeen years of no contact, Brooke views it as the long-awaited opportunity to show her mother she isn’t the stupid, careless child she once was. The only problem is she would rather get a thousand breakup emails than face her mother. Desperate for courage, Brooke turns to the last people she would ever think to ask for help—her rowdy roommates.

The guys rally to help her in their own unique way, which puts her through outlandish challenges such as delivering pickup lines like a pirate, singing in public, and even falling in love. This gauntlet forces her to relinquish control and live in the moment. While their efforts increase her confidence to be herself, she struggles with the vulnerability that comes with letting down her guard.

In the end, she can abandon who she has become to maintain a perfect façade for her mother or embrace the real Brooke and risk losing her mother all over again.

  
First 250:

And to Brooke Hott, while I enjoyed our time together over the past year, there comes a point when you know a person isn’t THE person, but I wish you all the best.

That gem of a sentence landed in my inbox two weeks earlier, on the Friday before the Christmas holidays, from my boyfriend, Ira.  It was the last sentiment in the mass farewell email he sent to the entire company. He even spelled my last name wrong. It’s Holt, not Hott. Was his error a slight against me, a careless typo, or did he sincerely not know my damn name?

My decision to quit my job was rash, but if I stayed then I would forever be known as the woman dumped over email. Despite obsessively planning my exit, I still felt panicky as I handed my resignation letter to my boss. After shaking his hand, I strode down the quiet hallway to the bathroom where, after verifying I was alone, I vomited.

Had I just made a massive mistake? Should my farewell email mention that Ira had once thought a spreadsheet macro was a bigger spreadsheet? Should I even send one?

Back at my desk, I wiped my clammy hands on my pants. I needed to stick to my to-do list. Unfinished business needled me like the constant clicking of a pen. I popped a piece of gum in my mouth, chewed for thirty seconds, and spit it into the trash can. Good as new, kind of.

14 comments:

  1. Judges please respond with your feedback and vote here.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Finding Seth
      Query:
      While this is well written, the premise seems episodic. One bad thing happens after another, leading Lola to the end of her rope, which I’d reword since it’s cliché. So, Lola has to decide if she wants to raise this baby, she decides to do it and it gets ugly. I think I’m missing something. What does she have to lose? I mean, sure, she’s going to be stressed and taxed beyond what she thinks she’s capable of but what about this story makes it compelling, different? What does she have to lose or gain from raising the baby?

      250:
      I’m not really pulled in by this opening. The introduction of a new character seems abrupt as does the fact that Lola leaves the OB/GYN without knowing what is wrong. It’s like you have two unfinished scenes in quick succession and the reader isn’t able to get to know anyone yet. I’d find a scene to start with that you can really make us feel for your MC to pull us in right away.

      Three Men
      Query:
      I think the brilliance of your story lies in the 4th paragraph, but it’s buried. First of all, we need to know more about what made her so horrible at 10 that her mother would leave (or that she thinks that’s why her mother left?). That part of the premise is not clear and, as is, I don’t buy it. I do like the thought of a fun story where these three quirky guys try to get her to come out of her shell. But I don’t know what she has to lose since I don’t see how it would make her mother leave her again. I don’t see the connection there.

      250:
      I don’t feel the emotion in the opening that I think you’re wanting to elicit for someone who quits their job and vomits. My guess is that you’re not starting in the right place in your story. The reader needs to connect at an emotional level with your character and getting dumped by email but some guy she clearly isn’t fond of, doesn’t seem like something to quit a job over. Maybe if you could show a scene before this where she was getting her hopes up for this guy, it would let the reader invest in her present situation before this big announcement.

      VICTORY: THREE MEN AND AN ACTUARY

      Delete
    2. Creature of the SeaJune 15, 2017 at 7:21 PM

      MOTHER OF ALL CUSTODY BATTLES:

      Solid, solid query. It's fairly concise, and yet I feel like I know Lola and her struggles already. Plus I have a good picture of the emotional landscape of the book. My one point of confusion is the why of the custody battle. If Lola doesn't even know if she has the strength for raising her ex's child, why would she jump into what promises to be an epic custody battle...and then what does she stand to lose (or gain) if she loses (or wins) the battle? I feel like that's an important piece that's missing from this query.

      The first 250 left me feeling a little frustrated though. I feel like I'm being told about the tension at the gynecologist's office rather than experiencing it firsthand with Lola, and I think that's a missed opportunity. I'm also left confused by why her gynecologist would drop a cryptic little hint about talking to her friend. Reading your query, I'm guessing this all leads up to a reveal of the news that her ex and his new girlfriend are having a baby, but unless the doctor has a personal relationship with Lola it seems highly unprofessional that she would get involved in this at all unless Lola herself brought it up. Either way, I think you need to stay in the moment with Lola to let us feel what she's feeling: the unease at the doctor's office, the sense that something is off. That may just mean a little more grounding so that we, the readers, know where we're at, so we're not floating.

      THREE MEN AND AN ACTUARY

      I love the concept of this. It's quirky and promises to be a fun (and maybe slightly wacky) read. The query, however, needs to be boiled down. You have some great details throughout, details that give the query character, but there's so much going on that it's hard to find the bones of the story (which seems to be whether or not she can prove herself to her mom).

      The first 250...I can't help but feel like maybe you're starting at the wrong place. Getting broken up with via a company-wide email by someone you've been dating for a year is horrible...but she's talking about it two weeks later, after the holiday break (and presumably some time back at the office since most people don't get two weeks off at Christmas), so it feels pretty distant. Why put in her notice now? Wouldn't the worst of the humiliation be over at this point? Even if not, I think we, the readers, need to see what's driving her to quit now. Are people whispering about her constantly? Do coworkers clam up every time she turns a corner? Did she hate the job to begin with? As it stands now, I feel like she's telling us her reaction rather than us being able to experience it alongside her. I want to cringe with her at this indignity.

      ------------------------

      Both of these have so much potential, and I love the premise for both. But ultimately, victory to...MOTHER OF ALL CUSTODY BATTLES.

      Delete
    3. MOTHER:
      Query: I think you’ve got a solid query already, but also think you could up your stakes by increasing the conflict. Your first paragraph could be tightened. All we need to know is that she can’t have children, and that her ex had a child with another woman, they were killed, and she’s been named guardian. Then focus on her meeting/interacting with the child (which I assume she does) so you can show us why she wants to raise this child. Show us how much she cares for him. Then bring in the child’s grandfather suing for custody, and wrap that into your stakes (because someone trying to take the child she loves from her is excellent stakes).

      First 250: Since I work in the medical profession, I’m put off by a doctor hinting at confidential information, let alone sharing it with a receptionist. But your writing is good, and I think you’ve got a good story here. I just wonder if you’d do better starting in a different place, perhaps meeting up with her friend and discovering the information that way?

      THREE MEN:
      Query: You’ve got a lot going on in your query, and I wonder if you could condense the beginning so we can focus on what I saw as your hook: the guys challenging her to pirate pick-up lines, etc. (!LOL). Something like:
      After Brooke Holt’s lackluster bf dumps her via company-wide email, she spontaneously quits her job and flees to Minneapolis for a fresh start. She rents a basement apartment with three guys upstairs, etc. (Then jump into something about: when her mother—who abandoned Brooke when she was ten invites Brooke to her wedding, she’s determined to … what does she hope to do? Impress her mother? Show her she’s perfect? I’m not completely sure.)
      Desperate, Brooke turns to her rowdy roommates. (Then focus on the guys and all the fun things they encourage her to do to help her ?exactly what are they helping do?)
      And then, wrap your query up with stakes: what happens if she doesn’t impress her mother, find herself, etc. I’m not 100% sure what her goal is, so I can’t identify the stakes.

      First 250: I wonder if you’d do well starting this in real time. Introduce us to Brooke, show us who she is at work/interacting with others, then show her receiving the email, the shock, horror, embarrassment she goes through, followed by her spontaneously quitting and moving away.

      OR, if your story truly starts in Minneapolis, consider starting there, with her moving into her basement apartment. Introduce us to her, show her personality, and then hint at sadness in her past, then slowly feed in the ex, etc. when it’s needed.

      And, another tough one. I'd love to read either of these stories. Hmm. How to choose?

      Grr. Since I have to pick, I say:

      Victory to MOTHER!

      Delete
    4. MOTHER OF ALL CUSTODY BATTLES
      I like your hook (so grim!), but I think maybe at the end it could be condensed a little, or maybe tweak it so you can add a comma? As it is it reads a little long to me. Should be “Then she discovers not only that Paul has…, but that they’re also…” Yikes—poor Lola. I’m practically crying for her already.

      You’re missing “that” in the sentence “At the same time that Iris’s dad…” And then it should be “starts to build.” I might just simply the end of that sentence to “ex’s child.”

      I think the query reads well. I might add a sentence at the end making the stakes clearer for her.

      250

      I love this. No feedback. I think it’s great. You weave a lot into a the scene, and it’s clear that Brenda is going to drop the bomb on us that she also drops on Lola. Well done.

      THREE MEN AND AN ACTUARY
      Query
      Not sure about the second sentence. It reads a little awkwardly to me, maybe because I have a hard time thinking of ten-year-olds in relation to being perfect. I think the fourth paragraph reads a little confusingly to me. So I take it that the guys think that all these outlandish challenges will help her face her mother, but at first that isn’t super clear.

      So. Okay, I really like the concept for the rowdy guys upstairs, the challenges, your MC falling in love and stepping outside of her comfort zone. The only thing that isn’t sitting well with me is that your MC at 27 seems to still put 100% of the blame about her mother leaving on herself and none on her mother, or at least this is how it reads in your query, and I’m just not sure that’s realistic. I’d like to see at least a hint of anger, rather than trying to impress her mother like it’s a mother/daughter non-romantic version of The Bachelorette, which is how this comes across. (Also mother abandonment is #ownvoices for me! Woot woot!) Obviously write it how you want, but I feel like typically there’s at least some anger there, and that kids cycle through the stages of grief too.

      250
      I have a feeling judges are going to tell you to start this earlier, on the day she actually receives the email, since as it is this feels a little Prologue-y. I still really like this, but I also think you’d probably do well to do it then. Have us in the office, give us some dialogue, action, and exposition that establish your MC’s character, and then drop this bomb. I tweeted about jumping a little too quickly into action/conflict. While I still really like your 250 as is, I think it could shine even more if you try this. Overall, though, fab voice, and I love the idea of your MC going through this journey of self-discovery! Well done!

      BOTH
      Grrr, another super hard one! Both these entries feel fresh, have great voice, and are well-written. I think you’re both very talented and that you’ll go far. I think one query and 250 is the slightest bit closer to polished and complete than the other, though, so I must award…

      VICTORY TO MOTHER OF ALL CUSTODY BATTLES!
      -Molly Millions

      Delete
    5. Professor McGonagallJune 16, 2017 at 3:22 PM

      MOTHER OF ALL CUSTODY BATTLES: Congrats on getting to round 2! This story has a very interesting – and heartbreaking – premise. QUERY: The query has good character details and information. A couple of thoughts. It reads a little bit too much like sentence fragments. One or two are all right, but it would be good to try to make more of the sentences actually complete. On the other hand, there are a couple of sentences, like the last one in the first paragraph, that feels too long and needs to be simplified. In the second paragraph, the sentence that starts with Iris’s dad is convoluted. It would also be better to focus on her rather than Iris’s dad at the start of the sentence. FIRST 250: I can feel the anxiety here, and the discomfort. Good. As with the query there are several sentences that start with And or But. How can you write this without falling back on those?

      THREE MEN AND AN ACTUARY: Congrats on round 2! QUERY: A strong query with good conflict and a good sense of what’s happening in the story. FIRST 250: Good writing! I do wonder if you could simplify the first sentence of the second paragraph a bit, maybe stop after Christmas holidays, then put the boyfriend part in the next sentence? I just felt it was a little too convoluted. I also wonder – do people have time to verify they’re alone in a bathroom before puking? This sentence was bothering me and I wasn’t sure why… But really, great job and congrats!

      Good job to both of you, and best of luck!

      Because I feel just a little more pull toward it,

      Victory to MOTHER OF ALL CUSTODY BATTLES

      Delete
    6. Okay, comments first, then the vote.

      Mother of All Custody Battles:
      The query has me until the second sentence of the second paragraph, where I find myself tripping as I parse. You might be better served with fewer subordinate clauses and slipping that baby up into two sentences. Also, let's talk about how to sharpen the expression of stakes at the end. Right now, it sounds like what's at stake is custody of Seth (which is true) . . . and that's all. But clearly that CAN'T be all, right? Remind us of your MC's longing to be a mother. Signal how little Seth is worming his specific, individual way into her heart, becoming more than just some placeholder fantasy of a kid she's never been able to have. I want to know that it's not just winning or losing custody that's at stake; I want to know just how much of her heart is on the line, too.

      The first page has some snazzy moments -- the high-pitched nervousness of the nurse's voice read as a signal certainly among them. But since I'm assuming that the thing everyone seems to know that she doesn't is that her ex has died, and wondering how that could be, if there's a child on the line whose disposition has been specifically declared in his will. Perhaps it's something else, then, and we're at a different place in her timeline altogether. Regardless, I would keep reading.

      Three Men and an Actuary:
      I'm excited by this gender-swapped Manic Pixie Dream Girl narrative of self-improvement. Instead of some oddball girl bailing a mediocre dude out of his own staid mediocrity, we get a posse of affable dudebros and this buttoned-up lady. I have high hopes for that concept!

      However, the major issue in the query is that I can't piece together how the MC's perfectionism and her mother's abandonment are directly linked. You say that one followed the other, which makes it seem like a causal relationship, but why should it? Does the MC have reason to believe her actions as a child drove her mother away? If so, just how bad was she? And does she have reason to believe that the mother inviting her back into her life now, sight unseen, would still be a person ready to reject for not meeting her standards? Since it's the possibility of repairing that relationship that hangs in the balance, I feel I need a better understanding of why this is a rational fear on her part.

      The first page has me once I get past the paragraph following the blurb from Ira's email. The back-and-forth of time there is a lot to ask as a reader tries to orient themselves to the narrative. If you want to address her situation as a narrative reflection or flashback, you'll need to rephrase a bit to minimize the convolutions. I do really like the several details to reinforce her anal retentiveness: 30 second gum chewing; micro-management of the resignation anxiety; immediate return to routine as a comfort.

      These are interesting entries, and each have their problems, but Mother of All Custody Battles pulls ahead by a nose, for me.

      Good luck!

      Delete
  2. FINDING SETH:

    This is a tough one. After reading the first paragraph, I was ready to get my own noose. Can this be any more depressing? And the thought of reading a whole book with a woman dealing with these problems--well that is totally not for me! But then the second paragraph starts, and I'm like, "Ohhhhhhhh!" And I LOVE the first 250. So, I'm wondering if there is a way to reverse the order. Like, start the query with the line about getting the info on her being named custodian, and then working backward to sprinkle in all the horrendous details of her past that you currently have in the first paragraph throughout the rest of the query. That way, the agent knows the book is about the custody battle and the additional info about the MC's difficulties just add some flavor to how this custody battle and MC's story is different from other custody battle books.

    DROWNING IN PERFECT

    This is another good query and GREAT 250. The only advice I have for the query is that I'm unsure as to what kind of help she's actually asking the dudes for. How would they be able to help her face her mother? I guess I'm a little lost on that point. I don't get she's short on confidence or courage--she quit her job and moved! So I think a little more detail on what she needs help with and what the dudes do (like give an example as to what the challenges are and their purpose) would help.

    This is tough. The 250s on both are really strong, and I'm kinda surprised I'm leaning this way, but . . .

    VICTORY TO FINDING SETH!

    ReplyDelete
  3. No One Of ConsequenceJune 14, 2017 at 3:31 PM

    MOTHER OF ALL CUSTODY BATTLES
    I get everything I need to from your query. It sets up the story nicely. In the second paragraph, take a look at the sentence that starts with ‘at the same time.’ Kind of a run-on, I think. I’d look to revise that, maybe break it in two.
    Love the voice on the first page. And you do a great job with the receptionist. In the 4th paragraph, you don’t need to put in the dialogue tag (I asked) because you have an action beat (I called her immediately from my car). I mention this only because it’s a common flaw. Try to avoid that throughout, and only use the dialogue tag when it’s required to let us know who is speaking. Same thing in the final paragraph.

    But these are small issues. This is a strong entry.

    THREE MEN AND AN ACTUARY

    Love the voice in this one, too. The semi-absurdity of the situation works as a great opening. I don’t really have much in the way of help to offer.

    This could go either way. I like both entries. In the end, I’m voting based on premise alone, which is a bad way to vote, but it’s the only thing I’ve got that sets one ahead of the other (even though it’s pretty much just personal preference.) Victory to THREE MEN AND AN ACTUARY.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Mother of All Custody Battles

    Query

    Deeeepreeesssing, and I love it. I commented in round 1 that this query broke my heart, and it still does. Now it's worse because I know more than I did before. Worse in the best way. Nice revision.

    1st 250

    Same comments as round 1. Great voice. Complex, yet I can follow without a problem.

    Three Men and an Actuary

    Query

    Great opening paragraph, with plenty of voice. My only question is: why Minneapolis? Is that where she grew up? Did she get a new job there? This story sounds like a lot of fun.

    1st 250

    Wonderful voice. Serious person in ridiculous circumstances, doing only what she can. Love the last name detail so much. Love the gum = good as new after vomiting. I don't get the 'clicking of a pen' analogy.

    Two entries so different yet I'd read them both. Women's Fiction nothing. Gimme! :)

    Thx.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Fellow Kombatant here!
    FINDING SETH

    Overall, this query sets up the characters and stakes very well! Some nitpicks in brackets.

    Lola Bishop has been to the end of her rope so many times she’s not sure she has enough antidepressants to keep her from tying it into a noose and slipping it around her neck. [This makes me deeply uncomfortable…maybe that’s the point? As long as this isn’t a joke, I think it’s okay, but if it’s supposed to be funny/off-hand…I just personally am upset by jokes about suicide.] All she wants is to have a baby and raise a family with her husband, Paul. But their premature son doesn’t make it, and an emergency hysterectomy kills any future dreams of motherhood. More dark days follow in the form of [maybe “filled with” instead?] depression and divorce papers. Then she discovers not only has Paul moved in with his young girlfriend, Iris, they’re also expecting a baby – a little boy they name Seth. [Ouch, daggers!]


    But Lola’s got to pull her act together when a car crash kills Paul and Iris and orphans Seth – now a toddler. [There are a lot of names here, and I wonder if you need to name both Iris and Seth in the query instead of just saying “Paul’s girlfriend” or “the child.”] Iris’s will has some glaring holes, but Paul’s will clearly names Lola as Seth’s guardian. At the same time Iris’s dad, [this is a bit awkward…it’s technically correct but I expect a comma after “at the same time,” since that’s how it’s normally used. Maybe reword?] who’s been caring for Seth since the accident, starts building his legal case to contest Paul’s will, Lola ponders whether she’s strong enough to raise the child her ex-husband had with his girlfriend. Steeling her heart, Lola jumps into the legal ring as she and Isaac [Uh, who’s Isaac—you forget to say his name! I would avoid naming him. Maybe just “Lola jumps into the ring to try to win the mother of all custody battles” (love the pun)] try to outmaneuver each other in the mother of all custody battles.


    First 250:
    Overall, it feels like we’re working our way backwards, through negatives, into this first page. I’m a fan of a more straightforward style, so that could just be me. The details and description are great! Some nitpicks in brackets!

    It was the receptionist at my gynecologist’s office who clued me in that something major was afoot. [I’m sad that this first line starts with “it was.” It seems a little awkward and passive and like a missed opportunity!] Not that she said anything in particular – of course she can’t say anything. Medical privacy laws and all. But there’s no privacy law that prohibits a weird, high-pitched tone when calling my name, or an uncomfortable shiftiness palpable across the sliding glass divider.

    No, there was no one in the office who said anything during my checkup. But my nurse gave me several odd, sideways glances. And Dr. Marta, the obstetrician who’d walked me through days darker than death, made a telling comment on my way out of the office. As she put her cool, clinical hand on my shoulder, she held it a beat longer than normal and asked: “How’s your friend Brenda these days?”

    Brenda Gillis – one of my dearest friends on earth, despite all the crap I’ve put her through – has an uncanny knack for knowing exactly what’s going on in the lives of everyone in Glenhaven without being a busybody. While she flirts with the line of [maybe cut “with the line of”?] being a gossip, there’s no malice in her methods. Less paparazzi, more society columnist. [Society columnists don’t have malice?]

    I called her immediately [You don’t need the adverb or the “I asked” dialogue tag.] from my car. “Where are you?” I asked. “I just left Dr. Marta’s. Her whole staff was acting weird.”

    Brenda sighed on the other end. “I’m taking the kiddos to Noodles before their piano lessons,” she said. [You don’t need this dialogue tag. The action tag does the trick.] “Do you want to meet me there? We need to talk.”

    ReplyDelete
  6. Title: Drowning in Perfect

    This sounds like a really funny set up, but I do have some questions! It seems like the heart of the book is this series of adventures, and it might be great to get the query to focus more on that. Nitpicks in brackets.

    Query:

    Brooke Holt, a twenty-seven-year-old actuary, began her quest for perfection the day her mother walked out of her life. She had been ten, incorrigible, and as far away from perfect as she has ever been.  [Is this sentence necessary? It’s about her when she was ten and not 27?]

    After her safe, lackluster boyfriend dumps her via a company-wide email, [Lol!!!] Brooke is unable to cope with the humiliation [is there a funnier way to say “unable to cope with the humiliation”?] and flees to Minneapolis for a fresh start. Pressured by an overly helpful coworker, Brooke agrees to rent a basement apartment sight unseen. The three younger, immature men living upstairs are determined to disrupt Brooke’s meticulously crafted life with their teasing, partying, and carefree attitudes.

    When her estranged mother reaches out with a wedding invitation after seventeen years of no contact, Brooke views it as the long-awaited opportunity to show her mother she isn’t the stupid, careless child she once was. [Did Brooke also have a father in her life? Who raised her?] The only problem is she would rather get a thousand breakup emails than face her mother. Desperate for courage, Brooke turns to the last people she would ever think to ask for help—her rowdy roommates. [If they’re the last people, why is she asking them? Maybe reword?]

    The guys rally to help her in their own unique way, [maybe spell out that it’s a series of challenges to help her increase her confidence here before going into the details, otherwise all of those challenges seem a little random] which puts her through outlandish challenges such as delivering pickup lines like a pirate, singing in public, and even falling in love. This gauntlet [Not sure if “gauntlet” is the best word here?] forces her to relinquish control and live in the moment. While their efforts increase her confidence to be herself, she struggles with the vulnerability that comes with letting down her guard. [Is there something specific that shows this?]

    In the end, she can abandon who she has become to maintain a perfect façade for her mother or embrace the real Brooke and risk losing her mother all over again. [I’m confused about the meaning of this last sentence, and would love something more specific here! What do you mean “who she has become”? I thought she had worked her whole life to become perfect? Or do you mean who she has become after the challenges? And why would embracing the real Brooke mean losing her mother?]

      

    ReplyDelete

  7. First 250:

    There are some funny gems in here, but I’m not quite sure if starting with an explanation of what happened two weeks ago is the best way to draw readers in. Nitpicks in brackets.

    And to Brooke Hott, while I enjoyed our time together over the past year, there comes a point when you know a person isn’t THE person, but I wish you all the best.

    That gem of a sentence landed in my inbox two weeks earlier, [I’m confused why we are getting this now. Is she looking at it now? Why aren’t we starting when she gets the email?] on the Friday before the Christmas holidays, from my boyfriend, Ira. [Is he the ex-boyfriend now?] It was the last sentiment in the mass farewell email he sent to the entire company. He even spelled my last name wrong. It’s Holt, not Hott. Was his error a slight against me, a careless typo, or did he sincerely not know my damn name? [Ha!]

    My decision to quit my job was rash, [This was kind of abrupt since we were just hearing about Ira’s decision and not hers?] but if I stayed then I would forever be known as the woman dumped over email. Despite obsessively planning my exit, I still felt panicky [How so? Were her palms sweaty?] as I handed my resignation letter to my boss. After shaking his hand, I strode down the quiet hallway to the bathroom where, after verifying I was alone, I vomited. [There we go! The details! I love what it shows about her character that she can control her own urge to vomit enough to wait until after “verifying” she was alone! Great voice!]

    Had I just made a massive mistake? Should my farewell email mention that Ira had once thought a spreadsheet macro was a bigger spreadsheet? Should I even send one? [These questions/thoughts just seem a bit awkward since readers know we’re two weeks later?]

    Back at my desk, I wiped my clammy hands on my pants. I needed to stick to my to-do list. Unfinished business needled me like the constant clicking of a pen. I popped a piece of gum in my mouth, chewed for thirty seconds, and spit it into the trash can. Good as new, kind of. [Is this still two weeks ago or is this “now” on the last day of her two week notice?]

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  8. Finding Seth- the query is clear. Like a previous poster, I'm also uncomfortable with the suicide imagery in the query.

    I was a bit confused by the first 250. What did she learn at the gynecologist? Also, could you cut down on the description of the friend? Some details about her not being a gossip feel a bit redundant.

    Perfect- I like the query. I agree with previous posters to slightly reword it so the tasks the men give her don't seem random.

    The 250 are great. My only notpick was that in the first paragraph, you could cut the questions after she says he mispells her last name. Ending the paragraph on that note might pack a bigger punch, and the questions she asks are implied by the misspelling.

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