Friday, June 1, 2018

QK1 Match 4: #HackTheVoid vs. The Jo and Empty Show

Title: GHOSTS OF THE VOID
Entry Nickname: #HackTheVoid
Word Count: 99K
Genre: YA Science Fiction - #OwnVoices

Query:

In the year 3023, the Void—a virtual reality world created by SALVADOR ORTIZ—has been in lock-down mode for a thousand years. Millions of people, known as Residents, are trapped inside. Unbeknownst to them, they repeat the year 2023 in an eternal loop. Since there is no known way to disconnect Residents from the Void without killing them, they have been placed in cryosleep by the U.S. Government, which has spent billions trying to reverse the lock-down unsuccessfully. Only a handful of hackers can enter the Void and come back. The most famous of these, the GHOSTS OF THE VOID, are a collective who support themselves by doing odd-jobs within the Void for scientists, government officials, and anyone else with enough coin interested in exploiting the virtual past to make a name for themselves in 3023.

18-year-old SUZANNA JIMÉNEZ, the leader of the Ghosts, lost the last of her family when her sister was kidnapped. After years of searching for her, Suz is now convinced her sister is dead, and escapes the real world by spending more time within the Void than outside of it. She is known for being a ruthless leader, who values the lives of her crew above all else. 

However, when Suzanna discovers her sister is alive, her loyalty to the Ghosts is put to the test. She is hired by the government to find Salvador Ortiz in order to shut the Void down. A job that upon fulfillment comes with information on the location of her sister—and a one-billion-dollar payday. Enough money to get them both out of harm’s way. Now, Suzanna must decide if getting her sister back is worth risking the lives of her crew; if she’s really going to kidnap the daughter of Salvador Ortiz to get the job done; and if she and her team are good enough to hack through the virtual world before getting wiped out by Salvador Ortiz’s security system.

If the Ghosts manage to pull off their hardest job to date, they’ll succeed in freeing the millions of people who have been stuck inside of the Void for centuries. But failure may destroy the home and family they’ve created in 3023.  

GHOSTS OF THE VOID is told through multiple—and mostly #OwnVoices Latinx—points of view. And will appeal to readers of Want, Warcross, Renegades, and Otherworld—fans of futuristic tales, complicated love stories, and virtual reality.


First 250:

Akari Nakamura stared at the annoying blinking lights above the cafeteria exit, signaling a Code Black. Someone cut the electricity, killing the security system inside of California’s State Capitol building. She looked down at the granola breakfast she was eating for a second, and took a last bite before dashing out. She followed the winding corridors to the office of Representative Edna Rodgers. Once in, she pushed the heavy door into the wall until it closed, and darted next to her boss, who’d remained seated calmly at her desk, waiting for her with a stoic face.

“Don’t worry. I’ve got you,” Akari said. She took hold of the state-of-the-art Cobra stunner resting snuggly on the utility belt at her waist. Her slender fingers found their usual place of comfort. The familiar coolness of the steel in her hand steadied her galloping heartbeat, cleared her hurried thoughts.

She stood in front of the desk, focused on the closed door, its useless electric lock.

The back-up lights cast the carpet, ceiling, furniture, and their solemn faces in an eerie red glow. As if blood was coating the room.

Was it a sign of what was to come?        

Akari felt determined to make sure it wouldn’t be her own blood spilled today.

Or the representative’s.

The door banged into the wall as someone forced it open, letting in the shrill noise of the alarms blaring through the hallways of the building.

A young man strolled in. Akari’s breath caught in her throat.

VERSUS

Title: Internal Traitors
Entry Nickname: The Jo & Empty Show
Word count: 80K
Genre: YA Sci-Fi

Query:
 

As the granddaughter of a senator and a self-made billionaire, seventeen-year-old Jordyn Hendricks has what many would consider a great life. She has a good group of friends, a mutual crush on a cute boy, and enjoys partying with her classmates. But her life starts to crumble once she’s announced as the new CEO of Wellington Corp—her grandfather’s corporation.

Control transfers to Jordyn in three months—on her eighteenth birthday—but there’s a problem: she doesn’t want the job. She always pictured herself developing weapons, not running a corporation and she knows she isn’t ready. Until Jordyn turns eighteen, her aunt, Zalia, will serve as Interim CEO. Jordyn discovers Zalia has a plan that involves using people with cloudy eyes called “Empties” to do her bidding. Their first task? Bring Jordyn to her.

But Jordyn doesn't know Zalia is using Redisol to control the Empties, which acts like a psychiatric medication and changes the chemical makeup of the brain and nervous system. As she searches for answers, Jordyn must find a way to stop Zalia and protect her loved ones from becoming Empties.



First 250: 

It was official. In less than three months, I would be the new CEO of Wellington Corp whether I liked it or not. Grandpa Zac broke the news last night but reading it in the reports made it more real. How could the board members think I was a better choice than my aunt? She had a PhD and I was a seventeen-year-old mess with zero experience. I had no business running a multi-billion-dollar corporation. I didn't even own any business clothes. Most of my wardrobe consisted of crop tops and flannels. Neither were appropriate for my new job.

Mitch nudged me after I finished reading the report. “You okay?”
“I’m considering going into hiding, so that’s a solid hell nope.”

We were in Weapon Studies class waiting for our instructor to arrive. There were twenty students in class and we sat in pairs. Of those twenty, only two weren’t training to become a soldier—me and a boy named Will.

I wasn’t worried about whether I could hide the whirlwind of emotions brewing inside of me. My mom made sure I was a pro before she left. She was great at pretending she didn’t have feelings and terrible at being a mother. Well, not to my brother, Julian. He was always her favorite.

“Count me in.” Mitch slicked his sandy brown hair to the side.

“What?” I asked.

“You wouldn’t last two minutes without your partner in—well, not crime but something equally cool,” he said.

18 comments:

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

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. #HackTheVoid: Wowzer! What a premise. This query letter is really long, and though I can understand to some degree why you chose to disclose what the void is, I think you went overboard here. I think you need to focus on your character’s problem and try to explain the void through that to make this query letter more concise. Also, the last line in your stakes paragraph at the end needs a little oomph. What does failure mean specifically to Suzanna? The tone of the first 250 match Akari’s character, however, the character isn’t Suzanna, which is confusing? Unless it’s a code name or alias? Also, Akari isn’t a teen even though this is a young adult novel. Lastly, there is one spot I saw a way to write more actively: “As if blood COATED the room.” Be sure that your rewrite has as little passive as possible. Overall, I can see why the #QueryKombat hosts chose this as a Kontestant.

      The Jo and Empty Show: Right off the bat, I could tell that this query letter needs more words. This is good news because it means that you have space to add more voice and details to this very simple query letter. It seems unlikely that a teenage would suddenly be made CEO of a company. We don’t even know if her grandfather died or what until we read the first 250 words. I’d encourage you to make that clearer. We also don’t know why her aunt wasn’t chosen, which does seem like a realistic option. Even in the actual text, the character stating “How could the board members think I was a better choice than my aunt?” echoes a question anyone reading the query letter would wonder. I think the key here is to unveil a little more of the big plan Aunt Zalia has, such as destroying all of her competition in the family or destroying everything important to Jordyn to make her comply with signing over the company, and then give us the stakes for Jordyn, such as Jordyn must find the antidote for the psychiatric poison creating Empties to protect herself and her loved ones OR find the lab where the medication is kept and destroy it. Give us specifics so we can root for Jordyn’s success. As for your words, I appreciate the voice and realistic dialog. I’d encourage you to write out the passive verbs in the non-dialog to make it more vivid. You might start with Jordyn reading the report and grounding us in the setting before throwing Jordyn’s thoughts and emotion at us. Or find a way to balance it within the first 100 words or so.

      VICTORY to #HacktheVoid!
      ~Red Ink Slinger

      Delete
    2. Thaddeus SpinsterJune 1, 2018 at 6:11 PM

      #HackTheVoid: You start the query and the first long, full paragraph and the only person mentioned is Salvador Ortiz, leading me to think he is the protagonist. Then the second paragraph mentions Suzanna Jimenez so I assume she is the protagonist but when I get to the first 250 there is no mention of Suzanna or Salvador, you talk about Akari. I admit that Sci-Fi is not my strong suit, but it confuses me that we have four characters mentioned between the query and first 250 and I don’t know really who the protagonist is. The writing it good but the world in 3023 seems a lot like the world in 2018. I would assume in 1005 years things would change. Perhaps there is no more United States or California. Maybe there is an alternative to electricity. It could be they don’t eat granola for breakfast. My question in a thousand years, considering inflation, is a Billion Dollars still a godawful amount of money. I guess my long-windedness is trying to tell you I would like to see a more futurist world. Now you have great writing and the even greater premise so I think that you will get a lot of interest in this story. I am just hoping my lack of sci-fi knowledge isn’t giving you bad advice.

      The Jo and Empty Show: Your query is 184 words, it left me wanting more; more detail, more of the plot, more of the characters. You have the real estate to add more detail to your query, and my suggestion would be to do so. How does her life crash when she’s announced the new CEO of her grandfather’s corporation? At first I thought the stakes were that Jordyn didn’t want to be the CEO and instead develop weapons, but reading further it is about saving her loved ones from becoming Empties. Either way, you might want to ramp up the stakes a bit. They both seem a little weak. So what if she becomes CEO and doesn’t get to develop weapons? Or If her loved ones becomes Empties, then what? Can it be reversed? Will she lose them forever? Ramp up the stakes and add more detail and I think you will do just fine. You did a good job in the 250 but I can’t get past the question why is Jordyn more qualified to be the CEO over her Aunt who happens to have a PhD? Does the board know of her evil ways? Let us know in the text or the query.

      VICTORY TO #HACKTHEVOID

      Delete
    3. Love and SqualorJune 1, 2018 at 10:20 PM

      #HACKTHEVOID: This query is quite long. I would revise the first paragraph quite a bit (to 1-2 sentences) to set the backdrop to the world and get right to Suzanna and her stakes. Otherwise, though, it's a neat concept and well-written. The first 250 threw me off a little: after reading the query, I assumed the story was about Suzanna, and the book opens with Akari, who we know nothing about from the query. It feels like a really exciting scene and it drew me in, but I had no idea who Akari was. That should either be specified in the query or consider starting the book with Suzanna.

      THE JO & EMPTY SHOW: I like the query, but I couldn't help wondering if the stakes are all about Jordyn, or if she's also focused on trying to help the Empties because she's empathetic and/or knows it's the right thing to do. And then at the end, her goal is stated as preventing other people from becoming empties. That isn't referenced earlier in the query, so I'm left a little confused about what her actual goal is. Give it some thought and consider revising to make it clear. The first 250 sounds very YA, but the first paragraph is really tell-y, and I don't think you need it at all. I suggest starting with the second paragraph and weaving in some of the other information as you're immersing us in Jordyn's head.

      VICTORY to #HACKTHEVOID!

      Delete
    4. #HackTheVoid: This is a very cool idea!
      Query: Your query is long; consider tightening to get it below 250 words. The first paragraph is great set-up, but I prefer to start with a character, rather than backstory. Could you work that part into the rest of the query, showing the impact of this backstory on the main character? I love the added stakes of saving her sister, but your stakes loose momentum. Consider incorporating the sister (the original goal) into the last line to make it more personal to the main character.
      Fist page: I was confused, because the query is from Suzanna’s perspective, yet the first page is from Akari’s. This suggests multi-pov to me. If that’s the case, you might want to work Akari into the query. Or, start the first page with Suzanna. Otherwise, I enjoyed your start. I get a good sense that something's about to happen, and I’m eager to read further.

      The Jo and Empty Show:
      Query: This sounds like a fun book! Since your query is short, you could expand it to show a strong connection between the set up and the stakes. Consider bringing the villain, Zalia, in sooner, as well as the psychiatric medication, because her using this on people really adds tension. I like that Zalia is using the empties to bring Jordyn to her, but it’s unclear to me why Jordyn wouldn’t go to her all on her own. Her aunt is running the company, and one would assume, since Jordyn doesn’t want the new position, that she’d approach her aunt and offer her the job. Your stakes could be stronger if you show how much Jordyn cares for her loved ones earlier in the query. Then, when they’re threatened, we’ll be rooting for Jordyn to protect them.
      First 250: I really enjoyed the voice in your start. It pulled me in and made me eager to read more. However, I’m not sure why she’s reading a report about her being the new CEO during a Weapon Studies class. Maybe add the CEO information more organically during later pages of the first chapter. I’d love to be with the main character when she finds out.

      Another tough decision. Michelle! Can’t I pick them both? I can hear her saying no already. So,

      VICTORY to THE JO AND THE EMPTY SHOW!

      Delete
    5. Okay...I just COULDN'T CHOP this reply to Blogger limits, so it'll be in two parts. There's so much here to unpack.

      1/2:

      In the year 3023, the Void—a virtual reality world created by SALVADOR ORTIZ—has been in lock-down mode for a thousand years. Millions of people, known as Residents, are trapped inside, UNKNOWINGLY REPEATING 3023 IN AN ETERNAL LOOP. Since there is no known way to disconnect Residents from the Void without killing them, they have been placed in cryosleep by the U.S. Government, which has spent billions trying to reverse the lock-down unsuccessfully.

      18-year-old SUZANNA JIMÉNEZ, the RUTHLESS leader of the GHOSTS OF THE VOID - a collective who support themselves by doing odd-jobs within the Void for scientists, government officials, and anyone else with enough coin interested in exploiting the virtual past to make a name for themselves in 3023 - lost the last of her family when her sister was kidnapped. After years of searching, Suz is convinced her sister is dead, and escapes the real world by spending more time within the Void than outside of it.

      WHEN SUZ discovers her sister is alive, her loyalty to the Ghosts is put to the test. She is hired by the government to find Salvador Ortiz in order to shut the Void down. A job that upon fulfillment comes with information on the location of her sister—and a one-billion-dollar payday. Now, SUZ must decide if getting her sister back is worth risking the lives of her crew; if she’s really going to kidnap the daughter of Salvador Ortiz to get the job done; and if she and her team are good enough to hack through the virtual world before getting wiped out by Salvador Ortiz’s security system.

      If the Ghosts manage to pull off their hardest job to date, they’ll succeed in freeing the millions of people who have been stuck inside of the Void for centuries. But failure (Do you really mean failure here? Don't you mean success?) may destroy the home and family they’ve created in 3023.

      #HACKTHEVOID – Pretty good query. A little long. I'm not sure how to trim it further without reading the MS and knowing the story. You've got a lot going on. I think you've got Suz and the Void encapsulated nicely. I'm worried the Ghosts are a little confusing. How exactly are their odd jobs in the Void worth money to those…outside the Void? I'd clarify or cut. Your stakes are clear. I think a second or third pass through the query will easily get you where you want to be. Good job.

      Your 250: I went in looking for Suz (with whom you hooked me in the query) and she's not there! Especially in YA I want to be in the MC's head as early as possible. I'm going to assume she makes an appearance quickly thereafter. If not, you may need to rethink. Your writing is very solid. I like Akari's determination. I do think she prob wouldn't linger over a granola bar during an emergency. :) She seems too skilled to waste that time.

      Delete
    6. 2/2:

      As the granddaughter of a senator and a self-made billionaire, seventeen-year-old Jordyn Hendricks has a great life. She has a good group of friends, a mutual crush on a cute boy, and PLENTY OF TIME TO PARTY with her classmates. But her life starts to crumble once she’s announced as the new CEO of Wellington Corp—her grandfather’s corporation.

      Control transfers to Jordyn in three months—on her eighteenth birthday—but there’s a problem: she doesn’t want the job. She always pictured herself developing weapons, not running a corporation and she knows she isn’t ready. Until Jordyn turns eighteen, her aunt, Zalia, will serve as Interim CEO. Jordyn discovers Zalia has a plan that involves using people with cloudy eyes called “Empties” to do her bidding. Their first task? Bring Jordyn to her. (Okay, why? Where's the obstacle? Why use Empties instead of a phone call?)

      ZALIA is using Redisol - a psychiatric medication THAT changes the chemical makeup of the brain and nervous system – TO CONTROL THE EMPTIES. ..?

      THE JO & EMPTY SHOW – You're missing two important things in this query: Zalia's motivation (WHAT does she plan to do with her Empties? What's her dastardly plot?) and Jo's stakes. She needs to stop Zalia and keep her fam and friends from becoming Empties, obviously. But we come around again to what is Zalia planning? Add that into your query so we can worry for Jo and you'll be good.

      Your 250 are great. I feel like we could get a little more emotion from Jo. She can hide her feeling from Mitch, but maybe not from the readers. Is she scared? Angry? Secretly flattered? Let us know. I can tell she's got good YA attitude; I hope we see more of it later on. A few of your sentences could be tightened up, but that's easily fixed. Good job all around.

      This is a really tough one to decide. VICTORY TO THE JO & EMPTY SHOW. For both of you, after the contest, if you want more hands-on advice, hit me up. I'll make time.




      Delete
    7. #HACKTHEVOID FEEDBACK
      QUERY:
      Neat concept and premise! Here is some feedback about your query: I’m seeing a trend with sci-fi entries—the queries are massive. Standard count for a query’s “book blurb” is 225-250, with the possibility of extending it to about 280. The kicker is? That first paragraph of your query—while providing great back story—could be scrubbed the the most essential specifics and woven into the remaining paragraphs. THEN you’d have yourself a kick ass query! Other item to note: character names don’t have to be capitalized (save that for a synopsis).

      First 250:
      Kudos for jumping right into the action. That always makes for a great start to an action packed story! My interest is piqued for sure, curious as to who cut the power and who is barging into the room she’s working in! Few things to note: the opening paragraph could use some emotional cues because while she’s about to get tossed into a situation, there’s a mixed cue here—is this alarm something that happens a lot or is it rare? Because I’m getting the impression that it’s not an everyday thing, but sister is more concerned with eating her granola than getting her butt in gear to do her job. That’s why an emotional cue would help us set the tone as to what she’s feeling. Also, be careful with the over-describing. Here’s an example: Her SLENDER FINGERS found their usual place of comfort. The familiar COOLNESS of the steel in her hand steadied her GALLOPING HEARTBEAT, cleared her HURRIED thoughts. I like that you’re showing us rather than telling us, but keep in mind that showing vs. telling isn’t just the senses—it’s emotional and internal thoughts, too.


      THE JO AND EMPTY SHOW FEEDBACK
      QUERY:
      Holy pajamas! A soon to be teenage CEO!? That’s a neat twist and the premise of the book really has me curious what’s in store for Jordyn! Here’s some feedback on your query: This line, “Until Jordyn turns eighteen, her aunt, Zalia, will serve as Interim CEO “ isn’t needed. Instead, I’d add to the preceeding sentence something like, “Control transfer to her from her Aunt Zalla on her eighteenth birthday—just three short months from now.” In the second paragraph you note that she’s always wanted to design weapons. Is this important to the story? Because in the third paragraph where we should be circling back to Jordyn’s goal, it’s not mentioned, therefore seeming out of place.

      First 250:
      Here’s some feedback on the first 250: When you say Jordyn reads the news in “the reports”—is that the newspaper? Or a company report? If it’s a newspaper, for ease of understanding, I’d change it. In that first paragraph, Jordyn calls herself “a mess”—but the query doesn’t allude to her being a mess. Rather, it sounds like she’s a normal, well balanced 17-year-old. So which is it? I’d add a space between the lines of dialogue she’s having with Mitch (may’ve been a formatting issue with the blog—but double check, just in case).

      VERDICT
      Two really fun entries with some exciting plot points that I know would be enjoyed by many readers. When it comes down to it, though, I think THE JO AND EMPTY SHOW have a stronger entry

      Delete
    8. #HACKTHEVOID
      This query starts with world-building, which can sometimes be a mistake. I like to meet the character and then learn about the world from their perspective. I like the cyberpunk-y premise, though part of me wonders if over 100 years in the future is too far ahead to realistically guess at what technology will be like. I'm a bit confused by Suzanna's introduction: ruthless leader and valuing every crew member's life seem a bit incompatible. Also, it seems like a false dilemma: of course she's going to try to get back her sister. I want there to be a better reason to say no.

      The writing sample feels slightly overwritten, heavy with unnecessary adjectives and adverbs. Also, who is Akari? Cool name, but not the MC of the query.


      THE JO & EMPTY SHOW
      All right, I'm going to suspend my strong belief in the fundamental premise (it's hard to imagine someone would pick a teenager to run a major corporation). This looks like a good old-fashioned family rivalry. My main issue with the story as presented here is that I have no reason to feel empathy or root for Jordyn. Everything you've told us about her makes her unsympathetic. Also, I don't know what her goal is, other than *not* wanting to be CEO. Give us a reason to get behind her.

      Congratulations to both entrants! Victory to #HACKTHEVOID

      Delete
    9. Oh no, I posted my judge comment in the wrong spot. Please find it below!

      Delete
  2. #HackTheVoid
    The query raised a question for me: Why hasn’t the government implemented this plan before? Are these hackers new, or are they all criminals who avoid the government? Aside from that question, I found the query unique and enticing. Though, when the story started without the POV of the character in the query, I was confused. I have no idea who the POV person is, or how they fit into the story. Of course, it’s only 250 words, so the query character could possibly appear soon. A picky point—In the third sentence of the first paragraph in the pages, I’d delete the phrase “for a second.” It doesn’t fit the sentence.

    The Jo & Empty Show
    I had trouble swallowing the first paragraph—I’m not sure why anyone would make a seventeen-year-old the CEO of anything. That sounds implausible. Did the grandfather pass away and leave it to her? Were there no other competent adults to take over? Also, why can’t she just say no? If there’s some insidious, or clever, reason behind making her CEO, I’d make it clearer. Otherwise, it just seems unrealistic. The stakes aren’t very high and a little confusing. I don’t understand what “Empties” are, or why they’re important/unique, other than having cloudy eyes. Their first task doesn’t come across as particularly crucial, unless they have to travel millions and miles to get the MC. I don’t really understand why the “Redisol” thing is crucial either. It changes the Empties into what, exactly? The last sentence makes it sound like the aunt is using the Redisol to turn regular people into Empties, and the MC needs to save her family from becoming them. I’m guessing at this, because there aren’t enough details, but that is the implication. Overall, I think you could add more details to this query to paint a clearer picture of the plot point and the stakes.
    I like the pages. The idea of a party girl who wants to design weapons is fun and different, suggests an interesting MC right off the bat. You manage to say a lot about her background and her family without actually devoting too many words to backstory. I’m glad she’s as confused about her new position as the reader is, though I’m still not sure why she can’t just turn them down.

    ReplyDelete
  3. #HACK THE VOID
    The query seemed long to me. As a fantasy writer I adored the worldbuilding in paragraph one, but I had trouble figuring out exactly what role Salvador would play in the story. Later we learn he is a fugitive? So Suzanna needs to find him. Maybe instead of focusing on the backstory of the void, you can take the reader into the present by saying the Government spent money trying to fix the problem,but no use, they have to find Salvador in order to shut it down. For that reason, they need Suzanna.
    Personally I would put all information about the Ghosts of the Void with her and get it out of the first paragraph. I think it goes better with a character to ground me as a reader.
    Very curious as to how a reality game from the past is altering the future. Too cool!

    In the opening 250 I was expecting Suzanna,and having a POV character that wasn't from the query letter threw me a little bit.
    Overall, I like it, just wanted the world more grounded with the characters. Wonderful job!

    ReplyDelete
  4. #HackTheVoid

    You only have to all-caps names in summaries, not the query. Only all-caps the title in the query.

    Start with the main character and scatter worldbuilding among the MC’s actions and how the world affects those. Only use the worldbuilding necessary too. It’s hard to believe that it’s been 1000 years, these people are still being kept on support by the government, and no one’s searched for Ortiz yet. It probably makes sense in the story with all the details, but in the query, it doesn’t work for me.

    First 250, I don’t have any problem with. It was a little jarring to have someone different from the query, but with multiPOV stories, that’s expected. You went with the person with the stronger story for the query, I’m assuming, who wasn’t the POV you started with. That’s normal. Nothing jumps out at me with the text that doesn’t work. Good job.

    *********

    The Jo and Empty Show

    The stakes feel a little weak for how built up the query is. “Hero must stop the villain and save her friends” is pretty much the most generic way to describe stakes possible. It also doesn’t really explain why it’s a bad thing other than her aunt being able to control Empties. You described them as having cloudy eyes, but not what makes them special. Come up with a more unique way to describe the stakes and describe what, exactly, Empties are and why becoming them is a fate that people must be saved from.

    First 250, the page is fine, but I do have the same questions the MC does: why her? Making an inexperienced teenager the CEO of your company doesn’t seem like a wise business decision, and one that the board would and should override immediately. If Grandpa had been training her, even subtly (“Hey, Jordyn, what would you do in [X business situation]? *meanwhile recording answer to convince board she’s a good leader*). I just need a really good logical reason for her to have been chosen over anyone else. I think her interest in weapons is interesting and different and I’m curious where it’s going to go.

    ReplyDelete
  5. #HackTheVoid: Okay, so I really like the world building of this one. The premise is really cool, and I also like the OWNVOICES you have in there, but like others have said, you really should start the story off with your protagonist. You mention that many of the characters are "Latinx" (Which I'm not really sure what that is), but you start your story off with presumably a Japanese character. So I'm not really sure where your story is heading. The stuff that follows is relatively exciting, but again, who is this character, and why should I care what their fate is if they're not the main character?

    The Jo & Empty Show: I like that this seems pretty character driven, but the premise doesn't really excite me. Why this character in particular, and why should the reader be invested? The first 250 are a little better though since the voice again is so prominent and strong. I just wish I got a better sense of the world and the plot itself.

    Good luck to the both of you.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Ghosts of the Void:

    [My comment was getting way too long, so I'm just including the note here: the entire first paragraph of the query needs to go. It's all backstory and worldbuilding, and as interesting as it may be, it's too much. What I need is a character to connect to, a set of motivations and goals, and only some of these details weaved in. Just enough to understand the kind of a reality the MC is living—and leave the rest for the novel itself.]

    18-year-old SUZANNA JIMÉNEZ, the leader of the Ghosts [you can insert a short mention of what they are/what their main goal is here], lost the last of her family when her sister was kidnapped. After years of searching for her, Suz is now convinced her sister is dead, and escapes the real world by spending more time within the Void than outside of it. She is known for being a ruthless leader, who values the lives of her crew above all else. [that last line feels like it should come in sooner. "She's the leader and known as ruthless, but really she's just trying to escape the world that took her sister's life"—except worded with a bit more specifics and proper voice.]

    However, when Suzanna discovers her sister is alive, her loyalty to the Ghosts is put to the test. She is hired by the government to find Salvador Ortiz in order to shut the Void down. A job that upon fulfillment comes with information on the location of her sister—and a one-billion-dollar payday. Enough money to get them both out of harm’s way. [Can be tightened for stronger impact, especially with aforementioned changes to the opening paragraph. "But Suzanna's sister is alive—and the [government official/method/organisation] that broke the news to Suzanna knows where she is. They'd give Suzanna the information on where to find her, along with enough money to get them both out of harms way, in exchange for Suzanna shutting down the Void." If you establish how both her sister and the Void matter to Suzanna in the first paragraph, this is all the info you need and more.] Now, Suzanna must decide if getting her sister back is worth risking the lives of her crew; if she’s really going to kidnap the daughter [huh?] of Salvador Ortiz to get the job done; and if she and her team are good enough to hack through the virtual world before getting wiped out by Salvador Ortiz’s security system. [too many people, and too many threads, IMO. I like complex stories, but we're losing track of what matters to the MC and what exactly is at stake—so less step-by-step details, but more specifics]

    If the Ghosts manage to pull off their hardest job to date, they’ll succeed in freeing the millions of people who have been stuck inside of the Void for centuries. But failure may destroy the home and family they’ve created in 3023. [this is a whole new set of stakes, and one widening the scope a lot. Big stakes are good, but personal stakes are better, and you already had that. Focus on what's close and personal to the MC, show us her motivations and goals, and make us care first.]


    The first 250 are interesting, but I'm left wondering who this person is and where's the MC. If it's alternating POV, and Akari is a MC as well, I suggest redoing the query from her POV—or if that wouldn't work, perhaps finding a way to work her into the query as-is. It's more of a suggestion than anything, though. What you have can work, and it's not necessarily a dealbreaker at all: we just grow to care about a MC in the query and want to read THEIR story, so starting with someone else is always a bit of a hit-and-miss.

    Good luck!

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  7. Internal Traitors:

    As the granddaughter of a senator and a self-made billionaire, seventeen-year-old Jordyn Hendricks has what many would consider a great life. She has a good group of friends, a mutual crush on a cute boy, and enjoys partying with her classmates. But her life starts to crumble once she’s announced as the new CEO of Wellington Corp—her grandfather’s corporation. [just one comment here: does SHE think she has a great life? If so, tell us that instead of "what many consider"—and if not, then I want to know why she doesn't consider it great, before I see it crumbling into something worse.]

    Control transfers to Jordyn in three months—on her eighteenth birthday—but there’s a problem: she doesn’t want the job. She always pictured herself developing weapons, not running a corporation and she knows she isn’t ready [cut the last bit, I think. Not wanting it is strong, especially paired with what she DOES want instead—saying she's not ready kind of undermines that and changes my expectations for her arc. But also—what stops her from just refusing? Or transferring it to someone else?]. Until Jordyn turns eighteen, her aunt, Zalia, [it's just go with "her aunt, no name] will serve as Interim CEO. Jordyn discovers Zalia has a plan that involves using people with cloudy eyes called “Empties” to do her bidding. Their first task? Bring Jordyn to her. [This is a lot of setup and not enough of the strong stuff, IMO. I need to see more Jordyn, more of what she wants/needs and why, and how these things inconvenience her. The good thing is that you have most things here already, it's just about playing around with the order of information and some tightening to skip the unnecessary details]

    But Jordyn doesn't know Zalia is using Redisol to control the Empties, which acts like a psychiatric medication and changes the chemical makeup of the brain and nervous system. [Find a way to hint at this without telling us what she doesn't know. Show us how the whole situation affects Jordyn, and show us how she's figuring out clues that give us just enough of an impression of Something Is Wrong and She's In Danger] As she searches for answers, Jordyn must find a way to stop Zalia and protect her loved ones from becoming Empties. [What loved ones? And why would her aunt turn them into Empties? There's a lot of stuff here, a lot of it interesting, and I love intrigue of this sort... but the query needs to be much closer. By this point, I need to see the MC faced with a difficult choices with stakes on both sides, and I need to really care about her and what she has to do.]

    The first 250: I'd suggest another editing pass here. There are telly bits that could be weaved in more subtly, and I get no sense of setting the characters are in. Yes, we get those lines in the middle telling us about it, but there's no interaction or any kind of sensory input to really put us in the scene with them.

    Good luck!

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  8. #Hackthevoid

    Query:

    You don't need the MC's full name, and you don’t want the names in capital letter in a query.
    I am a bit confused about the state of the residents of the Void. They are said to be repeating the year 2023, but later in the query you say they are place in cryosleep. This (the cryosleep) made me wonder why Suzanna spend so much time in the Void.
    I would have liked to see a connection between Suzanna’s sister and the Void.

    250 words:

    It is a bit confusing that you start with a POV different from the one in the query. I have done this myself, and I do understand now why other people have mentioned it in their critiques.
    I would find different words to describe the MC’s movements. When she dashes and darts it makes her seem more merry than on the alert. I didn’t perceive her as nervous before you say “the familiar coolness of the steel in her hand steadied her galloping heartbeat”.

    Hope some of this help!
    Good luck!

    The Jo & Empty Show

    Query:

    You don’t need the MC’s full name.
    I would take out the sentence about most people considering Jordyn’s life great. Jordyn seems to agree with this till the inciting incident happen.
    The second paragraph is a little confusing, because it states the problem is Jordyn doesn’t want to be CEO. Then the real problem follows: her aunt Zalia’s sinister plan.
    I think you should focus more on Zalia’s plans.
    Instead of describing the Empties (their cloudy eyes), you should explain what becoming an Empty involves.

    250 words:

    You don’t need: after I finished reading the report.
    I would rewrite: I wasn’t worried about whether I could hide the whirlwind of emotions brewing inside of me. Show us how she hides it instead.
    Other than that the writing is solid.

    Hope some of this help!
    Good luck!

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  9. HACK THE VOID

    Query:
    Ooh, interesting concept here. I like the set up and conflict. My first comment is that the query is a tad too long. There is a lot of information in the first paragraph—see if you can trim it down a bit. I’d also combine the third and fourth paragraphs and try to cut that in half. One spot I think you can cut is when you list exactly what Suzanna will have to do to get the job done. It’s usually good to be specific in a query letter, but you also don’t want to give away too much of the plot. In this instance, I think it’s okay to go with something more concise, like: “…decide if getting her sister back is worth the risks she’ll have to take in order to get the job done.” I’d also cut the line “enough money to get them both out of harms way” since it’s pretty clear that a one-billion dollar payday is a good thing without stating exactly why.
    In the sentence where you state who will enjoy your book, don’t start that sentence with “and”. Use “It” instead.
    250:
    I like how the character looks at the emergency lights and thinks they make the room look like it’s bathed in blood. Great way to set the tone and get us into this character.
    Something to consider: your query focuses on Suzanna and now we start the 250 with a completely different character, which is jarring. I’m assuming this is another member of the Ghosts, but why start with one who’s not the mc? Also, why would the mc find the blinking lights annoying or stare at her breakfast and take a bite before running to help, if she knows the person she’s supposed to be protecting is in danger and if she actually wants this person to survive? That doesn’t ring true to me.

    THE JO AND EMPTY SHOW
    Query: The first two paragraphs are great, but they set things up as if this is a YA contemporary. When you first mention the Empties at the end of paragraph two, it’s very jarring, as what you’ve set up to this point gives no indication that this is a futuristic or sci-fi world we’re dealing with. Make sure it’s clear from the beginning, by the words you use and the tone you set, what genre we are in. One way to do this might be to change the name of the corporation to something more futuristic and less normal sounding than Wellington Corp. Another great way would be to show her normal activities as less-normal than what teens in our current reality would consider normal. Like “she has a great group of friends, a mutual crush on a boy, and the newest hover model.” Or “she enjoys monthly walks on the moon” or “eating cloud candy”. Those are dumb examples, but you get the idea. Really use that picture you paint of her fabulous normal life to do the heavy lifting of your world building, killing two birds with one stone.
    I like the twist that the third paragraph takes, but I’m not sure it’s packing the punch you really need in a closing paragraph. Why would Jordyn knowing about the Redisol change how she approached the situation? She needs to get away from these Empties either way, right? Why does it matter how her aunt is controlling them?
    Also, the very last line of the query needs to be expanded and include some specifics. Where is she searching for answers and what questions is she trying to answer? Why are her loved ones in danger of becoming Empties? You haven’t hinted at that at all yet in the query.
    250:
    I like the voice in this opening, especially the closing lines of the first paragraph, although I would cut the line “neither were appropriate for my new job”. That goes without saying. Also, it’s good that we get a sense for the sci-fi/futuristic aspect of the story pretty early on when she mentions being in weapons studies class. And I like the hints at the trouble with her mother, too.

    This is a tough choice, but I am awarding victory to HACK THE VOID.

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