Friday, June 1, 2018

QK1 Match 1: Fake Invisibility T-Shirt vs Einstein Stinks

Title: The Mostly Invisible Boy
Entry Nickname: Fake Invisibility T-Shirt
Word count: 60K
Genre: MG Contemporary Fantasy

Query:
Eleven-year-old Casey Grimes lives where he doesn’t belong and belongs where he’s not quite living. Despite his stubborn friendliness, kids at Vintage Woods Middle School look right through him. Slowly, he realizes they’re not faking. Casey doesn’t know why he’s mostly-invisible—then he climbs a colossal oak, all the way to a forgotten fortress, and realizes he’s been living on the safe, ordinary side of an unseen border.

Eager to investigate, Casey infiltrates Sylvan Woods, a secret forest society devoted to old and wild things. Shockingly, people here can actually see him. Posing as a Sylvan girl’s cousin, he sneaks into Trickery School—a dangerous academy where classes are life-threatening, teachers are treacherous, and battles are as common as breakfast. For the first time in his life, he makes friends. But kids at Trickery have forgotten their roots. Magic is so last century, and Civilians like Casey are despised. If anyone finds out he’s an illegal, he’ll be blacklisted and sent back across the border for life. 

Keeping his identity hidden is hard enough, but the clock is ticking. A vicious breed of monster swarms Trickery. Casey and his new friends decipher a cryptic message and discover the truth: Sylvan Woods will be wiped off the map and he’ll return to a life of being see-through…unless he can use his climbing knack to wake the magical Sentry Trees.

First 250:

Casey Grimes was invisible—at least most of the time.


He stood on the corner under a stop sign, jogging in place as his school bus sped down the street. It slowed to roll through the intersection and Casey sprinted alongside, smacking the door as his backpack bumped his spine. Sound and movement gave him a fighting chance to be seen. For a few seconds, anyway. 

“Open up!” he yelled. 

The driver squinted through the smudged glass, and Casey banged harder, until the brakes squealed and the accordion doors whooshed open.

“Where’d you come from?” the driver asked. 

“Same place I always come from.” Casey jumped into the bus. The driver shrugged and floored the accelerator. 

The other two kids on Casey’s route always sat together in the back. He waved, but they didn’t notice, so he took his usual seat by the window, pressing the vinyl with sweaty palms. Don’t give up on the day yet, he told himself. Things might still change.

But they reached Vintage Woods Middle School and nothing was different. 

Nothing at all. 

“You new here?” A girl asked as Casey opened his locker. 

“Of course not,” Casey said. “You’re Lydia, we sit next to each other in—”

But she’d already started talking to someone else. 

Manuel walked past—they’d had a five second conversation once—and Casey whirled. 

“Hey Manuel,” he said. 

The boy’s gaze paused for a millisecond and slid away like it was magnetized.


VERSUS


Title: Gravity and Monsters
Entry Nickname: Einstein Stinks
Word count: 52K
Genre: Middle Grade Science Fiction

Query: 

Twelve-year-old Kate seeks refuge in the woods saving trapped animals. She's been stuck in small-town Minnesota with her mad scientist uncle ever since her dad's unexpected death. She can't relate to the gun-toting locals or the pesky boy who follows her around—not that she needs friends—and she definitely can't relate to Uncle. He's too busy punching holes in the universe to notice when she's around.

Then a hulking, color-changing creature comes through one of those holes, into her woods. It cares for them—and Kate—almost as much as Dad did, and Kate grows to love it in return. But even the woods aren't big enough to hide a giant. When a local farmer mistakes the creature for a dangerous bear, he aims to put it down. And if Uncle catches it, he'll dissect it—all in the name of science. To protect the creature Kate must send it back through Uncle's rift. Except then she'll lose her friend forever.

And Kate isn't ready to let go.

This book will appeal to fans of Leila Sales' Once Was a Time and Peter Brown's The Wild Robot.


First 250:

The rabbit screamed.

Kate gripped it around its torso. Who would believe a creature this small could make such a horrific noise? Like a child torn from its mother—or father.

Bam. Crash. Thud.

She sucked in a breath. Thinking about Dad's accident wouldn't help the rabbit.

Kate sat cross-legged in the dirt and cradled the animal in her lap. The snare, meant for a wolf, cut into the rabbit's leg and blood oozed into its brown-grey fur. She grabbed its hind ankles.

It kicked.

"Watch it!" She rubbed the fresh scratches on her arm. "I'm just trying to help, OK?"

She turned the rabbit to point its legs in a safer direction and pressed her forearm against its chest. The beat of the animal's tiny heart fluttered against her wrist. When she slid a finger under the wire of the snare, the rabbit screamed again.

"Shhh." Kate hummed a few notes of something, something someone had once sung to her probably.

The rabbit grunted and jerked.

She covered its eyes and stroked its forehead with her thumb. If it kicked too much, it would hurt itself more.

Did it think she was a wolf?

Right, because a lot of wolves have knowledge of basic first aid.

Dad taught her how to tend to animals back in Saint Paul—before Uncle, before the accident—the first time she heard a rabbit scream. A dog caught it. She chased the dog away, but the rabbit was too far gone. Dad helped her bury it.

22 comments:

  1. Judges, please respond with your feedback and vote here! Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Fake Invisibility T-Shirt: This premise is a mash up of some of my favorite themes in middle grade, but I wish it had a more distinct title. Your query has not one, but two stakes sentences that build the tension nicely. However, I think the query overall can be tightened quite a bit by being weary of repeated words and distilling certain elements of the story. Lastly, I really want you to explain the importance of the Sentry Trees sooner in the query to make them more relevant at the end of it. I really enjoyed the first 250 words. The first sentence is a great hook. Your dialog is believable and fits the age of your mc and audience well. Again, it could be tightened up a bit by using active voice and a tad more showing then telling. (I.E. “but they didn’t notice” could become “but they kept right on talking.”) I really wanted to keep reading this story!

      Einstein Stinks: The middle grade category needs science fiction and I’m so excited about your premise! The first line of your query really speaks about Kate’s character, which is a great way to draw in the editor/agent. The sentence “But even the woods aren’t big enough to hide a giant” isn’t necessary. It’s redundant and passive, and the next sentence allows the reader to assume that. I’m a little unsure who “them” is that the creature cares about. Obviously, Kate, but is it also talking about the animals? Kate’s uncle? Humankind? Though the sentence “And Kate isn’t ready to let go” packs a last-minute punch, I feel like it could be incorporated with the previous sentence and be as effective. I love, love, love the immediate reference to losing her father in this first scene. I think it would be important to note the rabbit was injured in the initial sentence. At first, I thought Kate was hurting it, which was an immediate turn off. We don’t realize that its hurt and Kate is tending it until the “Kate sat cross-legged…” sentence. Over all, a fantastic start to what sounds like a wonderful story.

      VICTORY TO FAKE INVISIBILITY T-SHIRT!

      ~Red Ink Slinger

      Delete
    2. Love and SqualorJune 1, 2018 at 12:26 PM

      And we're off! Two really strong MG entries to get us started.

      For FAKE INVISIBILITY T-SHIRT, I would cut the first line in the query - it's a little too vague to really hook the reader. You can start with the second sentence, revised slightly to add Casey's full name and age at the end. Also, don't hyphenate 'mostly invisible' in the first paragraph. And at the end of the first paragraph, the 'unseen border' makes me wonder what it is the border of... ours and another world? If so, make this more clear. I really love the first 250, but again, I'd delete that first sentence and start with the second sentence (replacing 'he' with 'Casey'). The first sentence is all telling, and the second paragraph gets us there by showing, so it's much stronger.

      For EINSTEIN STINKS (great nickname!), the query is strong, though I was a little confused about who the 'them' was the giant cares for (I think it's referring to the woods, but it could also mean Kate and her uncle, or the trapped animals Kate saves). You can add some specifics there. You've got clear stakes for Kate in the query, and we get a sense of her character and the trauma she's suffered since the death of her father. Well done! For the first 250, I'm not sure this is starting in the right place. I could see readers being put off by the description of animal suffering, even though it becomes clear quickly that Kate is helping the rabbit, not hurting it. I think it's a good scene, and one that belongs a little later in the book once the reader is established in the world.

      Overall, based on the strength of the first 250, I'm awarding VICTORY to FAKE INVISIBILITY T-SHIRT!

      Delete
    3. Thaddeus SpinsterJune 1, 2018 at 1:35 PM

      Fake Invisibility T-Shirt: The Query is strong. I’m not a fan of the first sentence. It doesn’t hook me and as clever as the wording is, it doesn’t add to the story and takes up valuable real estate in a query that has limited space. That said; I like him being mostly invisible. At first, reading the Query I wasn’t sure if he was really invisible or just often overlooked but you address it in the first 250 words. You mention two stakes, first Casey returning to a life of being unnoticed, and the monsters wiping out the school. In my opinion, I would say mention the having to return to a world where he’s ignored in passing and focus more on Casey having to save the school from the swarm of monsters. The first 250 is great and I am kind of bummed I couldn’t read on (Okay very bummed). I was with Casey from the start when he had to chase the bus. This is a very strong entry both query and first 250. It is the kind of book I would definitely read. Good Job.

      Einstein Stinks: I like the first paragraph in the query, especially the part but adjusting to small town life full of gun-toting locals and pesky boys, (I think pesky is the best way to describe middle school boys.) I’m a little lost with Uncle punching holes in the universe. Maybe a sentence more about it would ground me more. The query is short and you have room to add a little more detail. Also I would like to get a little more sense in the creature other than it is giant and colorful. To me the creature is as important as Kate and I would like to get a feel for it and care about it’s safety, by telling me it’s giant, colorful and caring doesn’t give me much to connect to. Maybe an interaction mentioned in the query would ground me a bit, also could you give the creature a name? To me you too have two stakes, the safety of the creature and having to be friendless if she returns the creature. If it were me, I’d focus more on the saving the creature. The first 250 are strong and very descriptive. I like how you start with action but quickly reference Dad’s accident. I am intrigued about the accident and I really want to know more, especially when you reference Dad again at the bottom of the query. I like the humor of a wolf knowing basic first aid; it made me chuckle. Strong entry and Good Job. You should be proud of such a powerful entry.

      I hate to have to pick one over the other. It’s like picking a favorite child. It is easy for me to imagine either of these entries as a book I would pick off the shelf at a bookstore. I like both entry for completely separate reasons. Reluctantly I have to pick one so I choose VICTORY TO FAKE INVISIBILITY T-SHIRT.

      Delete
    4. Eleven-year-old Casey Grimes lives where he doesn’t belong and belongs where he’s not quite living. Despite his stubborn friendliness, kids at Vintage Woods Middle School look right through him. Casey doesn’t know why he’s mostly-invisible—UNTIL he climbs a colossal oak, all the way to a forgotten fortress, and realizes he’s been living on the safe, ordinary side of an unseen border.

      Eager to investigate, Casey infiltrates Sylvan Woods, a secret forest society devoted to old and wild things. IN SYLVAN WOODS, PEOPLE CAN SEE HIM. Posing as a Sylvan girl’s cousin, he sneaks into Trickery School—a dangerous academy where classes are life-threatening, teachers are treacherous, and battles are as common as breakfast. For the first time in his life, he makes friends. But kids at Trickery have forgotten their roots. If anyone finds out he’s an illegal, (Use a term other than illegal, I know what you're getting at, but I had a sensitivity reader recently remind me it can be triggering) he’ll be blacklisted and sent back across the border for life.

      Keeping his identity hidden is hard enough, but the clock is ticking. A vicious breed of monster swarms Trickery. Casey and his new friends decipher a cryptic message and discover the truth: Sylvan Woods will be wiped off the map and he’ll return to a life of being see-through…unless he can use his climbing knack to wake the magical Sentry Trees.


      FAKE INVISIBILITY T-SHIRT – Your query needs a little more work. I'd really love to get in there with you and shake it up. I feel like there's TOO much information thrown at me. My first thought was: Time for a MS edit! How important is the invisibility plot to the story? (Sorry, sorry, I know, you're now gritting your teeth.) The Sylvan woods plotline seems solid and engrossing on its own, especially for MG. You don't want to throw too much into the mix.

      That being said, your 250 are fantastic. Pulled me right in, enticing and MG appropriate. My heart broke for Casey. You're a natural storyteller. Good work.

      ***

      Twelve-year-old Kate seeks refuge in the woods saving trapped animals. She's been stuck in small-town Minnesota with her mad scientist uncle ever since her dad's unexpected death. She can't relate to the gun-toting locals or the pesky boy who follows her around—not that she needs friends—and she definitely can't relate to Uncle. He's too busy punching holes in the universe to notice when she's around.

      Then a GIGANTIC, color-changing creature comes through one of those holes INTO HER WORLD. It cares for THE WOODS—and Kate—almost as much as Dad did, and Kate grows to love it in return. But even the woods aren't big enough to hide a giant. When a local farmer mistakes the creature for a dangerous bear, he aims to put it down. And if Uncle catches it, he'll dissect it—all in the name of science. To protect the creature Kate must send it back through Uncle's rift. Except then she'll lose her friend forever.

      And Kate isn't ready to let go.

      EINSTEIN STINKS – Your query is almost perfect. Great job. I've got a couple of small suggestions but really, you're good to go. The stakes are clear, and Kate's voice is strong. Nicely done.

      Your first 250: This is a scary opening for MG. I worry that it may be off-putting before we learn to love Kate and her woods. I think I would either soften the impact of the suffering animal or begin differently. That being said, I really enjoyed Kate's gentleness and capability. We immediately understand that she is empathetic and also brave – she's dealing with blood and trauma and still manages to comfort the rabbit. Good job.

      VICTORY TO FAKE INVISIBILITY T-SHIRT. For both of you, after the contest, if you want more hands-on advice, hit me up. I'll make time.

      Delete
    5. Fake Invisibility T-Shirt: This is such an intriguing premise! I love the idea of a parallel world, and Casey sounds like a fun character to follow. I do think you could tighten your query overall to get Casey to the other side sooner, so that you have time to explain the new world and the conflict. This would also give you more words to enhance his tree-climbing skills to make your stakes stronger. As for your first page, it’s well written and entertaining. Excellent hook, and this reads authentic MG to me. You do a great job creating questions in the reader’s mind. Kids will be curious to find out why some friends don’t seem to remember him.

      Einstein Stinks: This is such a creative idea! I’d love to see more sci-fi in MG, and this sounds like something kids would really enjoy. I think your query is solid already. My only suggestion is to make it clearer that she truly does want a friend, because the first paragraph implies she doesn’t. Thus, your stakes loose the impact they might otherwise deliver. As for your first 250, I’m not sure "Bam, Crash, Thud" works for me. I initially thought these sounds were happening in the present, not a memory of something that happened in the past. But I do love the subtle reference to her losing her father – well done. I particularly enjoyed the visual in the following sentence: “The beat of the animal's tiny heart fluttered against her wrist.”


      This is a tough choice. Michelle, Mike & Kara always choose excellent entries for this contest. But I have to choose, so …
      Victory to FAKE INVISIBILITY T-SHIRT!

      Delete
    6. Fake Invisibility T-Shirt

      Query:
      You have a lot of great lines in this query. The writing is witty and snappy. Sometimes, though, I think the meaning gets lost in a witty line. For example, I loved the first line, but then I had to go back and read it several times to try and discern the meaning. I’m still not sure what “he belongs where he’s not quite living” means.

      I really like the concept—that he’s living in this world where he maybe doesn’t belong. The second paragraph is good. I also like the way you introduce him into the new world, especially the line “magic is so last century”. But I don’t understand why civilians like Casey are despised if magic is so last century and nobody cares about it. If nobody cares about magic, then it seems nobody would care that Casey doesn’t have it.

      Regarding the end of the query, I don’t feel it packs enough punch. You set up the stakes nicely in the second paragraph. But in the third paragraph, he has to climb some trees in order to save the world? That falls a little flat for me—it doesn’t seem hard enough, and you’ve told the reader exactly how the mc is going to get himself out of his pickle which kills the tension in the query.

      First 250:
      You introduce us to the character and his predicament very quickly, which is good. That’s hard to do. The line “sound and movement gave him a fighting chance to be seen” is a little clunky. It’s important for us to know, so definitely keep it in early in the passage. But play around with different ways to phrase that. Bonus points if you can phrase it like a middle schooler would.

      And on that note, I’d like a little more sense of voice. This passage feels a too stiff for a middle grade book. Make sure your characters words, thoughts, and actions are all consistent with the mc’s age and maturity level. Make the reader see the world the same way the character does. A 12 year old boy (or however old your mc is) will see the world differently, notice different things around him, and phrase his thoughts and words differently than an adult. Right now I feel like it’s clear this 250 was written by an adult. See if you can infuse the passage with a more youthful tone and that will go a long way to hooking a reader quickly and pulling them into the story.

      Einstein Stinks

      Query: Ooh, I really like this. I love the line “he’s too busy punching holes in the universe...” It’s so off from what I’d been expecting the line to say, that it grabbed my attention as soon as I got to the word “universe.”

      You need a comma after the word “creature” in “to protect the creature…”

      Also, the ending is rather abrupt. One more line or so on what Kate is going to have to do to protect the creature, or decisions she is going to have to make, or obstacles that will be standing in her way, will go a long way.

      First 250:
      I enjoyed this 250. I’d cut the words “Bam, Crash, Thud” near the beginning. I don’t feel they are adding anything to the passage, and it takes away from the info about her father in a jarring way. I’d also cut when she says “watch it” to the rabbit. Just go straight to her rubbing the fresh scratches.

      Make sure you have a comma after “… cut into the rabbit’s leg,”.
      I like that Kate is humming and trying to soothe the rabbit as she helps him. Tells us a lot about her in a short space. Good job.

      VICTORY TO EINSTEIN STINKS!

      Delete
    7. Two well-matched MG entries here... kudos to the organizers. And congratulations to both entrants for making the cut.

      FAKE INVISIBILITY T-SHIRT
      I like the unique premise here, and think the metaphor of a mostly-invisible boy will appeal to the MG readership. I have a lot of questions about the feasibility of a kid knowing so little about the other world but managing to infiltrate it. Hopefully those will be answered in the book itself. Good writing in the opening, so I'm back to the query and wondering if the second and third paragraphs present too many conflicts in too many directions. We have Casey trying to blend in and avoid discovery, the dangerous classes, the battles, a school that has lost its way, and then the invasion. Of all of those, I'd cut the part about magic being so last century. To me, that diminishes the appeal of the school. We want it to be a place that, while dangerous, holds enormous escape appeal. Other than that, great entry.

      EINSTEIN STINKS
      Here we have a more identifiable story trope of girl who falls in love with a magical creature in the woods but the grown-ups want to kill it. I like that the query quickly builds Kate's character as an animal lover who's also starved for love/attention. A mad scientist caregiver is a bit of an over-used trope. I need to know more of Uncle's motivations. The opening scene seems fitting, but I think the remark about Dad's accident comes way too early and is a distraction. Overall, though, a great job establishing Kate's character.

      These both are interesting stories, but I feel that one provides a more nuanced and unique premise. VICTORY TO FAKE INVISIBILITY T-SHIRT!

      Delete
    8. FAKE INVISIBLITY T-SHIRT FEEDBACK:

      QUERY:
      I’m definitely intrigued about Casey and why in the world he’s invisible! Here are some places to consider editing: The first paragraph of your query is a lot of great information, but the sentences left me scratching my head trying to figure out who Casey is (he’s invisible, but not all the time), how does this invisibility impact Casey (which isn’t clear—other than the fact he seems to be without friends? Poor kiddo! And for point of clarification, “stubborn friendliness” seems contradictory for some reason?), and how in the world he ended up in the tree (also not clear)? And not to mention—what does he want (it’s not clear. Friends? To figure out why he’s invisible some of the time)?

      If you rework that first paragraph answering the questions as outlined above, readers will understand who he is and why they should care about him.

      The second and third paragraphs are stronger, but there are repetitive ideas. Tell us what is getting in the way of what he wants and how he plans to over come it. You’ve got a great voice in your query—we just need to do some rearrangement to make it really pop.

      FIRST 250:
      So, I love this idea of him being invisible and how the invisibility comes and goes. But here’s what I don’t get: If he is visible sometimes and invisible others, are the kids talking? Whispering? In awe? Mean to him? And I’m confused if the bus driver could see his backpack or not? My point with this is give us some of that feeling Casey is experiencing…does he worry that someone will sit on him while on the bus? Give us an emotional cue when Lydia gives him hope that someone is talking to him and then isn’t.


      EINSTEIN STINKS FEEDBACK:
      QUERY:
      Shout out to Minnesota! Whoop whoop! I thought the first paragraph was great! Strong opening, clear understanding of Kate and what’s happening with her. The second paragraph there are a few things I noticed that could be cleaned up for a smooth transition into what Kate is going to face. The hulking-color-changing-creature feels a little too generic—is there any way to name the creature? I also think it would be helpful to know a small nugget of why the hulky creature has arrived.

      250 WORDS:
      Oh man…I feel for that little rabbit! Poor thing! Few things to note: The “bam…crash…thud…” line is a little confusing. I get that it’s linking back to her dad’s accident but it comes from out of nowhere. A suggestion? Have the scream of the rabbit be the link back to her dad’s accident (either the scream reminds her of her own…or someone on the scene of the accident….or at the funeral…you get the idea…). I’d like to see a little emotion from Kate. You’ve got a nice balance in this opening between description and action (meaning, you didn’t go overboard with “purple prose”…). But I’d like to feel a little bit of what Kate is feeling. Is she peeved that a rabbit tripped her snare? Obviously she’s caring because she wants to save the little guy but is she sad? Frustrated? Worried? Give us an emotional beat to help drive home what she’s feeling.


      VERDICT: Man alive. This one is tough. Both entries have some thing to work on, but that work is pretty evenly split. VICTORY TO FAKE INVISIBILITY T-SHIRT

      Delete
  2. Gravity and Monsters is a great MG title! Your query has a lot of interesting elements! To make it stronger, may I suggest that you reword it so you present the events with the this-causes-that approach. For example: Dad dies therefore Kate must go and live with uncle. Uncle puts holes in the fabric of space and doesn't notice her. Therefore, she spends her time in the woods. Therefore, she discovers animals that need help. Therefore, she helps them and cares for them. Therefore, when a creature appears out of her uncle's holes, she is ready to battle for them. With that approach, your plot/synopsis will be easier to follow.

    Best wishes with your writing!

    ReplyDelete
  3. The Mostly Invisible Boy
    As a kid who felt invisible in middle school, I LOVE this premise.
    Your first page really has me hooked. I want to keep reading to find out if he really is invisible or not and I want to keep reading to see if this day really will be different. (I suspect that it will.) Good work!

    ReplyDelete
  4. The Mostly Invisible Boy
    You’ve done a great job editing this query! I remember reading it when it had too many details that didn’t actually tell the reader what the story was about. You’ve really streamlined it to present who the MC is and what he’ll face. If I’m being nit-picky, the last paragraph of the query doesn’t flow as well as the rest. The second sentence is awkwardly short, and seems like it’s missing something. To me, it read like it should have been connected to the sentence that followed it. “Magic is so last century” didn’t add anything for me, since I’m not sure how magic connects to anything else and it’s not mentioned again. I’d avoid the urge to use too many em dashes. I do like them, but since they’re unique punctuation they tend to stand out when they’re used for anything other than interrupted dialogue. Good pages though!

    ReplyDelete
  5. The Mostly Invisible Boy
    Query: It’s interesting and takes unexpected turns. A few questions I had while reading: How did people react initially when Casey was mostly invisible? Is it a new problem? And what are the Sentry Trees? Knowing more about these things would clear up a lot for me. Besides that, I was able to follow the plot.
    First 250: Really mysterious opening, in a good way. One thing I’m not sure about—which may be cleared up later past the 250—is whether Casey is actually see-through (which I think would get people’s attention) or if he’s being ignored due to some magical force, or both.

    Gravity and Monsters
    Query: This gives me a strong sense of what Kate is like. I’d like to learn another detail or two about the creature—what it looks like and what it does exactly to be a father figure.
    First 250: It’s a sad opening on multiple levels, but it works—I think it will resonate with a lot of readers.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Mostly Invisible Boy—I love a good middle grade fantasy-based academy story! I think the query starts off strong with a clear problem and stakes and I think the first line is clever. I did get a little confused in the third paragraph. Lots of things are happening in several short sentences, and then we have Sentry Trees (which is a concept that sounds awesome.) Maybe don’t include them if they are the solution he has to discover, or if they aren’t a big spoiler, maybe mention them when you first say the kids there have forgotten their roots or when the monsters swarm? Good job and best wishes!

    Gravity and Monsters-- The first thing that jumped out at me is comp to The Wild Robot. That book is quite popular with my students, so I love that comparison and it definitely makes me intrigued. I think the storyline is very compelling, saving a wild creature who becomes a friend. One thing to consider is that I hadn’t realized until after I read the whole query that this giant came through the hole in the universe created by the uncle. I thought the giant was just part of a magical realism version of Earth until you mention having to send it back through the hole. A little more description of the creature might be helpful because “creature” is fairly vague—but when you write, “the woods aren’t big enough to hide a giant” I was able to develop a better mental image. The first scene is pretty dark, but I could tell she wasn’t trying to hurt the poor rabbit—you said she was cradling it in her lap, which is a very gentle description and helped set her character for me. For your target audience, though, if you want to reach tender-hearted animal loving kids, that opening might be a bit too intense. I think it works, but it’s so easy for readers to put down a book on the first page. Either add a line up front about wanting to help the rabbit, so we know right away what's happening, or maybe this moment could go slightly later, but whatever you choose, I'd keep reading. Great job, and I wish you the best of luck!

    ReplyDelete
  7. The Mostly Invisible Boy: I loved the opening line of your query, although I must admit, I had to read it a couple of times to let it sink in. What a cool premise! Also, you jump right from Casey not knowing why he’s mostly-invisible, to him climbing a giant tree. What connects those two things? Is it a Sentry tree? You mention them at the end of the query, perhaps consider expanding on them a bit. As far as your first 250, I thought you did a great job of describing Casey’s condition and frustration, and I loved your last line. GOOD JOB!

    Gravity and Monsters: Cool title! That’s a book I’d pick up and check out based on title alone. As far as your query, I’d consider expanding a bit right off the bat. Your opening line could perhaps include a bit about why saving animals in the woods is her refuge. Something like ‘Twelve year old Kate has been stuck in small town Minnesota as long as she can remember, but at least she has the outskirt woods, and the joy she gets from saving trapped animals’. In the second paragraph you mention the monster cares for ‘them’, but who is them? As far as your first 250, I loved the description. I felt like I was there in the woods with Kate and the rabbit. GOOD JOB!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Okay! I read through everything, but my feedback [in parentheses] will be mostly first impressions, plus some general feedback at the end. One per comment because I talk a lot :p

    The Mostly Invisible Boy:

    Eleven-year-old Casey Grimes lives where he doesn’t belong and belongs where he’s not quite living. [While I like the turn of phrase, I don't really know what it means or what to expect from it.] Despite his stubborn friendliness, kids at Vintage Woods Middle School look right through him. Slowly, he realizes they’re not faking. [Okay, this is getting interesting. I'd like a bit of rewording to show us some of that stubborn friendliness, so we can really feel for the MC] Casey doesn’t know why he’s mostly-invisible—then he climbs a colossal oak [huh?], all the way to a forgotten fortress, and realizes he’s been living on the safe, ordinary side of an unseen border. [The logical progression here is lost on me. I assume climbing the oak is a choice that comes from somewhere, but it kind of reads like an unrelated event that just so happens to kick off the story. Connect it to the first part.]

    Eager to investigate [Why? What does he see that makes him want to know more about it?], Casey infiltrates Sylvan Woods, a secret forest society devoted to old and wild things [like? I'm not sure if to take this literally, and imagine monsters and beings and stuff, or if it refers to ancient magic knowledge or some such—or both]. Shockingly, people here can actually see him. Posing as a Sylvan girl’s cousin, he sneaks [I think maybe knowing why he has to sneak in first would be better. What's he risking by this?] into Trickery School—a dangerous academy where classes are life-threatening, teachers are treacherous, and battles are as common as breakfast [oh this place sounds fun]. For the first time in his life, he makes friends. But kids at Trickery have forgotten their roots. Magic is so last century, and Civilians like Casey are despised. [huh? Now I'm even more confused about the "old and wild things", and what kind of a world I'm supposed to be imagining here] If anyone finds out he’s an illegal, he’ll be blacklisted and sent back across the border for life.

    Keeping his identity hidden is hard enough, but the clock is ticking. A vicious breed of monster swarms Trickery. Casey and his new friends decipher a cryptic message and discover the truth: Sylvan Woods will be wiped off the map [Oh, so this is the main plot... I feel like a lot of the stuff before this point feels like backstory now. Do we need to know all the details about the school and the world, if the main thread is "the world where he feels like he's seen and he belongs is threatened"? I wonder if we could start with him already at Trickery, and weave in the details of how much it means to him.] and he’ll return to a life of being see-through…unless he can use his climbing knack [huh] to wake the magical Sentry Trees. [What stands in the way of him using his climbing knack, and how does that connect to all the other things? Also... how exactly does the invisibility thing tie in? We started off with it being a Big Thing, so much so the novel is titled after it, but it kind of got lost as the query went along.]


    I really like the invisibility spin, especially in the 250. It read like some sort of illusion magic or glamour, more delicate than just, well, not being visible. So I hope it does play a big part in the story, and that the MC figures out how to use it to his advantage—and that you can work that into the query as well. I can also think of many kids I know who'd enjoy reading this, so you seem to be on the right track :)

    Good luck!

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  9. Gravity and Monsters:

    Twelve-year-old Kate seeks refuge in the woods saving trapped animals. She's been stuck in small-town Minnesota with her mad scientist uncle ever since her dad's unexpected death. She can't relate to the gun-toting locals or the pesky boy who follows her around—not that she needs friends—and she definitely can't relate to Uncle. He's too busy punching holes in the universe to notice when she's around. [Okay, this is a pretty strong first paragraph! I get everything I need to know about the MC and her situation.]

    Then a hulking, color-changing creature comes through one of those holes, into her woods. It cares for them—and Kate—almost as much as Dad did, and Kate grows to love it in return [I like this twist. I would like a little mention of how the two of them connect/how she finds it, though, especially if no one else even notices it's there—and more importantly, what exactly makes her care. The creature cares, and that's adorable, but I want some heartwarming specifics here]. But even the woods aren't big enough to hide a giant. When a local farmer mistakes the creature for a dangerous bear, he aims to put it down. And if Uncle catches it, he'll dissect it—all in the name of science.[so Uncle knows it's there? Or does he guess based on the farmer's description?] To protect the creature Kate must send it back through Uncle's rift. Except then she'll lose her friend forever. [Well yes, but she'll also lose it forever if it gets killed and/or dissected, so what's really her choice here? Other than letting it happen, if she doesn't want to send it back home, what can she do?]

    And Kate isn't ready to let go. [Other than the couple of things I mentioned, my main thought was that the main conflict felt... younger than 12? I'm not a MG expert, though, and I know kids read up, so maybe it's fine—it was just my first impression, and I did a double take when I re-read the query and realised the MC is older than 10]


    In contrast to what I just said, the first 250 read older to me, and out of sync in tone. They seem pretty dark for a MG. I like how it shows the MC is caring and capable, but to a reader who's never seen the query (especially a 10-or-so-year-old one) it may give the wrong impression.
    I really, really like that she makes friends with the creature, and the found family sort of relationship she has with the animals and the woods. I'm also hoping the science gets to be used for good as well, at some point, because the MC sounds like someone who could figure it out.

    *

    I'm pretty glad I don't have to pick a winner, haha. Good luck to both!

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  10. Fake Invisibility T-Shirt:

    The premise is interesting, but I find myself wanting to know more: how does climbing an oak grant him access to this forest realm? Why is it so easy for him to infiltrate the wood? And does everything that's going on relate to his quasi-invisibility. I think it would help to clarify a bit more in the query so that I'm left with fewer questions by the end.

    The 250 words does a good job of explaining the concept of the MCs invisibility to others. It's interesting to read and makes me want to continue so that I can see how it develops.

    Einstein Stinks:
    The query is interesting, and you make the stakes very clear, but I'm not sure they feel urgent enough. I can see how the creature being mistaken for a bear a killed would be tragic, but I feel like there's a bit more that could be said about the Uncle other than he'd dissect the creature.

    The 250 words doesn't feel like it really matches with the tone of the query. You did mention that this is what your MC does in the forest, but I was hoping for a little bit more punch at the beginning of a novel that deals with rifts in space and a giant creature that comes through one of them. I think the biggest issue with the first 250 is that there's no indication of the inciting incident and I'm left wondering when I'd find out about the rest of the stuff in the query. I don't know if there's any way to tighten up the beginning or add a bit of the MC thinking about the uncle and his wacky experiments?

    I hope these comments help!

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  11. The Mostly Invisible Boy:

    What a fun premise! You do a great job with world building in this query, which is not easy to do. Because it's MG, I'm wondering where the parents are or what the family presence is...I also wondered about the new friends--in what way are they tied to this other world? Loved the line about "so last century", which served to give the query voice.

    First 250:

    You crunch a ton into this--well done! It helps set the stage for the book. The only addition might be emotion, as I imagine at that age it would be tough to feel invisible.

    Good luck! :)

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  12. FAKE INVISIBILITY T-SHIRT
    Query:
    Very engaging tone, and what an intriguing concept. I was a bit confused by the notion that the kids at Trickery have forgotten their roots—because wouldn’t a fortress at the top of a tree have to by definition be magic? Also not clear what makes Casey a civilian. It would be helpful to have some idea of how/why he ended up OUT of this place where he belongs.

    First 250:
    Fun, engaging voice, and an experience so many kids will relate to – that sense of being not noticed, of being essentially visible. Very poignant. It did occur to me, though, that if he is sometimes invisible – would it be the case that someone wouldn’t recognize him? Or would she be more likely to ask – where have you been/why have you been gone for so long, etc.

    Great job!

    EINSTEIN STINKS
    Query
    Very original concept! Not sure you need to mention the pesky boy, since he doesn’t appear again in the query. In the second paragraph, would be good to make it more clear who the “them” is the monster cares for. I thought it was her Uncle and her, but then her Uncle wants to dissect it. Storyline of a kid having to give up a best friend is a poignant one.

    First 250:
    Definitely an opening that gets your attention! I think it might be better, though, to not have it go on so long and get to the next scene/action sooner. Also, probably too early for the backstory about Dad and the other rabbit. Certainly gives us an impression of Kate as a kind-hearted caring kid, to be rescuing animals from traps.

    Nicely done!

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  13. Gravity and Monsters:

    I really like the title! I also like the theme of caring for animals and the dichotomy of having to keep her new friend from her own caretaker for fear of what he might do. I would like to see the uncle's name instead of just Uncle. I think using his name will give more import to the character, especially since he is a main character. I'm curious about the pesky boy who follows her around, since he's not mentioned again. Is he part of her journey? If so, give us those details! I'm also curious about the line about her not needing friends. Is this a defense mechanism because she feels like an outcast? Or does she prefer to be alone? This line runs the risk of making her appear standoffish--a word or two could give the reader a better idea about her personality and/or hint at what led to her feeling that way.

    Good luck! :)

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  14. THE MOSTLY INVISIBLE BOY
    Very strong in the beginning, but I want more info on what this mysterious border is that he’s living on and why it is important. Next paragraph starts out all right, but I start to get confused when you talk about magic being so last century since everything before that seems to be hinting that they’ve been using magic in this school. Also, I don’t know what a “Civilian” is and why your MC is one. I thought everyone in this new school was one? Then the end of the query really throws me by introducing a completely new concept right at the end (the Sentry Trees)

    First 250:
    I love this! It’s so clear, and I can completely imagine everything as it happens. I love the concept of him being kind of invisible. Very clever and unique!

    GRAVITY AND MONSTERS
    This one also starts out strong, but I get lost with the uncle punching holes in the universe. What does that mean? Also, I’d like more information about this creature. It seems like it’s very important, but I don’t even know how to picture it. Is it human-like? Why is it so great? Why does she want to keep it safe? What is its goal?

    First 250:
    This is good. You have a good grasp of writing mechanics, and I can definitely visualize everything. However, I was under the impression that she was hurting the rabbit at first and it wasn’t until halfway through that I realized she was actually trying to help it. So some edits there would help.

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