Wednesday, June 15, 2016

QUERY KOMBAT ROUND 2: CRYPTOPOLIS vs. CEMENT GARGLING 101

Title: Catacomb Saints
Entry Nickname: Cryptopolis 
Word count: 80,000
Genre: YA Fantasy

Query: 

For sixteen-year-old Davi, the darkness has never mattered. A petty pickpocket by night and a worthless burden on society by day, she has only ever wanted to be left alone to live what little life society affords castoffs like her. Trouble is, this time out, Davi's stolen something that isn’t supposed to exist, from a man who isn’t supposed to be alive. The Bone Key might be a treasure worth a thousand kingdoms with power enough to raise the dead, but as far as Davi is concerned, the only two things the eerie metal relic is worth is getting the bounty off her head and saving her own life. 

Thrust into the heart of a bitter centuries-old civil war between the two great kingdoms of Thessaly and Rhone, Davi must navigate the unfamiliar world of hired royal assassins, deadly artifacts, political intrigue, and nebulous legend if she has even a prayer of not only returning the Key, but making it out alive. But the longer she has the Key, the more she learns about it—and herself—the more she understands that returning the relic is the very last thing she could ever do. If she is to survive, Davi must not only uncover the truth behind the Bone Key’s past, but her own.

First 250:

It wasn’t much, home. If you could even call it that. But it had three walls, a rough concrete ledge for sleeping, and it was all I had. For someone who could count on the tip of her newly missing little finger the number of possessions she could lawfully lay claim to, that actually meant something. Around here, people had lost more trying to hold on to far less.

“Davi?

I had neither the time nor the patience for the kid right now. I ignored her and shuffled backwards, my arm just brushing the soft leather of my newly acquired prize. 

I weighed the purse in my hand. I sure as hell hoped what was inside was worth it. Of course, like most things I managed to steal off the spoiled brats up in the Night Market, it probably wasn’t. Besides, losing the red-cloaked idiots of the City Guard, unlike my pinky, had taken far longer than expected. Now all I wanted was to sleep. Well, to eat and sleep. And yet only one of those was likely to happen tonight.

Like a roach to a crumb, the enquiry came again and I exhaled, tossing the pouch aside.

“What is it, Serri?” I demanded.

Below the fractured lip of my concrete ledge the familiar tangle of dirty blonde hair fidgeted. Like a pixie-sized plague, no matter what I said or did, Serri always came back.

“Davi?” Serri said, her voice as narrow as a shaft of distant sunlight.

~ VERSUS ~

Title: The Siren Episode
Entry Nickname: Cement Gargling 101
Word Count: 82,000
Genre: YA Fantasy

Revised Query: 

Arlen’s parents kill monsters—sirens, gorgons, and even leprechauns—then broadcast the murders on their TV show, Myth Slayers. And killing is a family business.

Ever since mythological creatures destroyed San Francisco twelve years ago, Myth Slayers has been number one in the ratings. Now the show’s stars want to retire and force the reins upon their son. But at seventeen, Arlen doesn’t want to slaughter monsters on primetime TV—he just wants to survive high school, where a quirk in his Myth Slayer blood makes life unbearable. 

Arlen’s blood gives him power, but repels members of the opposite sex. He can’t even approach girls without making them physically ill. So when he finds a girl who’s not getting sick, he finally sees a chance at a normal life. Problem is, she’s a siren. And she hides a secret: the location of a safe filled with evidence that Arlen’s parents destroyed San Francisco instead of the monsters. Arlen’s parents would kill to keep this secret buried, leaving Arlen with an impossible choice: murder the siren to protect his family, or seize this opportunity at freedom, journey with the siren to the safe, and expose the truth to the world. 

First 250: 

Arlen Boggs hopped his neighbor’s fence and sneaked past the protestors. They’d camped in front of his house again, picket signs raised. He tried to keep his footsteps light, but the deep rain puddles didn’t help his cause.

Trees rustled on either side of him. He looked up at the sycamores and saw nothing but windblown leaves.

Two more blocks, he thought. You can do two blocks.

The morning air gave him a chill, and he buttoned up his father's trench coat, too big for his lanky frame. He wore it to keep himself hidden, though it never helped. Arlen stood out wherever he went. 

Head down, he followed the dotted yellow lines along the center of the street. Another rustle. He stopped and stared into one of the trees. Still nothing.

A woman’s voice came from behind him: “There he is.”

Arlen turned to look at the protestors, five houses back. “Great,” he said.

Two of their poster boards read, “GO AWAY, MYTH SLAYERS!” and “MYTHS HAVE RIGHTS, TOO!” Despite the wet September morning, the crazy zealots wandered onto the road and shouted at him.

A few months shy of his eighteenth birthday, Arlen still didn't have his driver's license. His parents didn't have time to teach him, always out filming their TV show. Otherwise, he would have driven himself to school and avoided the morning hate-fest.

Another tree rustled and a branch snapped. 

Could be a monster.


The protestors sped up, chasing after him with their hand-painted signs. 

14 comments:

  1. Judges, please REPLY to this comment to cast your votes by awarding VICTORY TO one of the Kontestants.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. CRYPTOPOLIS:

      Wow, this has improved so much since the first round! The first 250 feel MUCH more polished this time. I don't have a lot in the way of suggestions... I'm curious as to who Serri is... a kid, sure, but is she Davi's child? (Probably not?) Davi's sister? Just another homeless girl? That doesn't necessarily need to be addressed within in first 250 words, but I'd hope to have that information fairly soon.

      My feelings are a little more mixed about the query. I still don't feel that there are quite enough details here... what do you mean by "a burden to society" or "a castoff"? Abandoned by her parents? Living in an orphanage or some kind of charitable home? I'd like to have a little more there so we know exactly HOW serious Davi's situation is.

      I'm also curious as to WHY she can't get rid of the Bone Key? I get that this is probably a spoiler, but could you be a LITTLE more specific? Does it offer some kind of hint about her past? The query as a whole still feels a little like you're keeping TOO much information from us. It's very tough to find a balance between too much information and not enough, though, and other judges may disagree!

      ***

      CEMENT GARGLING 101

      Wow, this concept sounds amazing! I always tell authors they don't HAVE to follow the logline-pitch format for queries, but this idea lends itself to it really well, and the query is extremely well-structured. I LOVE the twist at the end too... this leaves me dying to find out what happens! ONE tiny suggestion... would it be at all possible to work in the siren's name? Especially since she's the love interest here, it might be nice to know her as something other than "the siren."

      I don't have a lot to suggest for the first 250 either. This opening is well-polished, flows well, and has a good mix of action and introspection that I'd hope would continue throughout the book.

      The query and first 250 have me wondering if MAYBE the voice and/or concept are a little young for YA... I had to keep reminding myself that this wasn't MG, and that Arlen is 18... I think I'd have to read more before I knew for sure how I felt there, though... as of now, I'd love to keep reading, and I think agents will be excited to take a look, too!

      ***

      Another tough matchup, but the concept and voice that blew me away were...

      VICTORY TO CEMENT GARGLING 101!

      Delete
    2. Cryptopolis

      Query:

      Your query is excellent as is, but I think you can tweak a few lines and really wow the reader. For example, I’d love to know why she thinks she’s a worthless burden on society and what she’d prefer to be doing instead of stealing at night. Does she spend the day waiting in line for free food at the local shelter? If she’s left alone, would she be sneaking into the library where she’s teaching herself to read? These are suggestions that probably have no bearing on your story, but showing us what being a burden and being left alone means gives us a better picture of who Davi is.

      250:

      No comments on your 250. I really enjoyed it.


      Cement Gargling 101

      Query:

      I love your query, but I think you give away too much of your book's ending in your stakes.

      I’m confident he won’t kill the siren, so I know he’s going to instead journey with her to the safe and expose the truth to the world.

      Consider backing off a little and rephrasing this so it's more a he must do this or this will happen.

      250:

      I enjoyed your 250 and would definitely read more. My only question is why he’s walking down the center of the road if he wants to remain hidden.

      Such a tough decision, because both of these entries are SO GOOD! As a YA PitchWars mentor, I’d be thrilled to see either in my inbox.

      But, we have to choose (Thanks, Laura.).

      So, based solely on the unique premise,

      VICTORY TO Cement Gargling 101!

      Delete
    3. CRYPTOPOLIS: This is a really tight query. It's cleanly laid out with an intriguing relic and a great mystery. For me, the only thing that was lacking was something to make me care about the protagonist. Words like "petty" and "worthless" make me wonder if this is going to be a character I'll be able to care about. I'd like to know at least a little bit about who she is beyond this, something to make me at least interested in her plight if not to like her.

      The first 250 are beautifully written. You have some great similes in there, too. I definitely wanted to keep reading.

      CEMENT GARGLING 101: I love this concept. This just has the potential to be an epic conflict. And you have a killer first line for your query.

      The first 250 is well-paced and engaging. I have a few questions such as what makes Arlen stand out. Is it just his fame? Or is there something physical? The latter was the impression I got, but I think I may have gotten the wrong impression. Also, if he's trying to sneak away from the house, why is he walking down the center of the road?



      DECISION:

      These are both amazing entries. I wish I could choose both. This might be the hardest match-up for me yet. But I have to make a decision, so...

      VICTORY TO CEMENT GARGLING 101 (but just barely. These were both great, really)

      Delete
    4. Cryptopolis

      Query

      Davi sounds like a survivor, but I don’t know too much about her because this query runs entirely too short. It’s at 214 words I believe. At minimum (with the exception of PB’s) you want your query to be 250 words. You’re leaving a lot unsaid and that leaves the query bare boned. As I read it, I felt an Indiana Jones vibe, but I’m wondering what makes this different than that, other than the setting? Why is Davi’s past so mysterious? Who’s this guy that’s not supposed to be alive? Is he the one chasing her? Is it someone else? There’s just not enough information to tell me why your story is different than so many others like it. You have space. Between 250-350 words. Make them count. Tell me why your story is different.

      First 250

      This is well written, and lets me feel Davi’s exhaustion and annoyance. I’m intrigued what happened to her little finger. I definitely want to keep reading based on this. Just a note it’s ‘inquire’. You’ve got some great description. All in all, I think you did a great job here.

      VS.

      Cement Gargling 101

      I love the first line—but…. ‘And killing is the family business’ weakens it for me. I don’t think you need it. It’s obvious from the first line that killing is the family business. Don’t make redundant what you just told us in such a great way.

      Wow. This query is really good. A reality show about monster slaying? Very fun! I love the quirk in his blood, love the fact that he falls for a siren. You did a great job making me want to read more. My only suggest would be to put the siren’s name in the query. Let us feel their connection a little bit more.

      Otherwise, great job.

      First 250

      Another great job on the first 250. I think you started in a good spot, instantly drawing in the reader. The only suggestion for the first line, is use ‘snuck’ instead of ‘sneaked’. It’ll take away that little bit of awkward syntax going on. I wish I could offer more, but overall I think this is very strong.

      Cryptopolis: While the query needs to be fleshed out to give more details, you did a great job with the first 250. It’s a great balance of setting and something happening so that I want to read more.

      Cement Gargling 101: I had few suggestions, because over all, I think that is a really strong entry. It’s something I would definitely request more of.

      GO GO GADGET VICTORY: CEMENT GARGLING 101

      Delete
    5. Two wonderful entries!
      Cryptopolis
      Query: The first line throws me a bit. What darkness? Night? And why is she a worthless burden? Is that her own assessment or her society's? Can you give a bit more details? I LOVE the line that she's stolen something that doesn't exist from a man who isn't supposed to be alive. Very powerful and attention grabbing.
      the only two things the eerie metal relic is worth is--change this second is to are, because it refers to two things so its plural.
      Why must she return the Key? To get the price off her head? And why mustn't she return the key. Give us a little bit more and you will have a truly riveting query.
      First 250: I like the feel of this opening page. Intriguing opening and I'd definitely read on. Nice wordplay, too.

      Cement Gargling
      Query: Ha, a reality show about monster killers. Love love love it. Unique premise, immediately attention grabbing. I'd love to see you up the stakes a bit at the end. Are you hinting Arlen's parents would kill HIM to keep their secret? Why would he even consider betraying them? It needs a tiny bit of clarification to be a whole lot stronger.
      One last thing: is it considered murder to kill monsters? Because if its murder, why aren't they arrested?
      First 250: Love the whole idea of it, but a few things jarred me. Why is he saying "two more blocks?" Makes it sound like he's weak, crippled, why can't he go two more blocks?
      Why is he in the center of the road if he's trying to hide from the protesters? Why does he stand out wherever he went? And why isn't he wearing a hat or a hood, if he's really trying to hide. It's getting all these little details in order that really allow a reader to suspend disbelief and sink into a story, or throw them right out of it.
      The voice feels a bit off for an eighteen year old, as well. Reads a bit MG to me.

      Two intriguing entries! Gargling is a more unique idea, but Cryptopolis has much more polish to the writing and perhaps more pathos.

      Victory to Cryptopolis

      Delete
    6. SCOWLING DISCONTENTED JUDGEJune 17, 2016 at 4:57 PM

      CRYPTOPOLIS

      First, great nickname.

      The query a zippy first sentence, a classic “end of the query’ closer, and several strong sentences in between, and yet, for me, doesn’t really hold together. I feel like we are still zipping through a lot of ideas very quickly. Can we simply this at all?

      For example: “A petty pickpocket by night and a worthless burden on society by day, she has only ever wanted to be left alone to live what little life society affords castoffs like her. “ is

      an overly long sentence
      contradictory to the proceeding idea (the Darkness has never mattered to Davi, but she has different careers depending upon whether it’s day or night)
      has some internal problems (pickpockets don’t want to be left alone, or else how will they pick pockets?)

      The third sentence, “Trouble is, this time out, Davi has stolen something that isn’t supposed to exist, from a man who isn’t supposed to be alive,” which is a quite a great sentence on its own, doesn’t interact well with the second sentence. (Davi wants to be left alone, stealing things. But now she’s stolen something bad!) It feels to me almost like this was written with the first and third sentences next to each other, and sentence two got shoved in there to give Davi some definition? Because sentence #1 and #3 would be great next to each other.

      The fourth sentence tells us the the Bone Key, which is, one hopes, the thing Davi stole, might be powerful, but Davi just needs it to get the bounty off her idea. What bounty? What, wait? There’s a bounty on Davi’s head? Too many ideas!

      ——-

      The 250 is confident, but I find myself wondering if I wouldn’t rather read about this theft than hear about it’s aftermath. And I like being able to feel Davi’s world-weary voice, but I’m not always sold on the word choice.

      Take:

      “Below the fractured lip of my concrete ledge the familiar tangle of dirty blonde hair fidgeted.”

      It’s a slightly odd construction, but on top of that, consider: this is how a sixteen-year-old fingerless pickpocket is describing a kid coming to visit her.

      Weird, right? It feels fussy, and really at odds with the character you’ve laid out. Watch that throughout the 250, because it becomes a problem in a few places. You oscillate between Noir and Rococo. I’d veer toward Noir voice, myself, but it needs to be consistent, regardless.

      CEMENT GARGLING 101

      This is clearly a well constructed query. I was frankly disappointed when the girl in question was a siren, and not some sort of intersex or transgendered person, which was my first thought. But I guess siren works, too.

      My main issue with the query is how “DEATH OR CAKE?” the closing choice is. Should Arlen:

      Potentially start a love affair with siren (who happens to be the only girl he’s ever met who doesn’t start retching at the sight of him?)
      Murder a woman. Also, stay with your parents, who are mass murderers. Of people. Hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people. Also some mythological monsters.

      Which do you choose, Arlen? DEATH OR CAKE?

      You’ve got to give his parents some redeeming factors in the query if you want that closer to stick.

      I like the 250, but it doesn’t feel urgent to me, and I also don’t get a strong sense of Arlen. I’m not rooting for anyone yet in the story. It’s not bad writing, but maybe this is not the right place to begin. You want to grab me, and in this 250, I am not yet grabbed.

      ——

      For as much as I picked at it, VICTORY to CRYPTOPOLIS. It’s still evolving, but it feels like there's something there that I want to see more of. Siren is strong too, but somehow Davi’s story is the one I’d like to see another iteration of.

      Delete
    7. Cryptopolis

      I like the opening line of the query about Davi and the darkness – I suspect her comfort there will come around again at some point in the story. This is an intriguing story idea, but I think the query would benefit from paring back – cutting filler words, etc., to emphasize the story. e.g. ‘Trouble is (this time out,) Davi’s stolen…’ and ‘…but as far as Davi is concerned, the only (two) thing(s) the eerie metal relic’s (is) worth is getting the bounty off her head (and saving her own life).’ And ‘…(if she has) to have (even) a prayer of (not only) returning the key(, but) and making it out alive.’ And ‘...-and herself. (the more she understands that) Returning the relic (is) may be the (very) last thing she (could maybe ever do) does. (If she is) To survive, Davi…’ Suggest avoiding stacked adjectives: ‘a (bitter) centuries-old civil war.’ Love the idea of ‘the Bone Key.’

      Good infusion of voice in the first 250. Suggest reordering the opening to ground the reader: ‘Home (it) wasn’t much(, home).’ Suggest trimming back repeating words where possible: ‘(It) Home wasn’t much. If you could even call it that. But (it had) there were three walls(,) and a concrete ledge for sleeping. (and) It was all I had. For someone who could count …(the) her possessions (she could lawfully lay claim to), that…’ Missing end quote after ‘“Davi?’. To avoid starting two paragraphs with ‘I’, perhaps: ‘(I had) Having neither the time nor (the) patience for the kid (right now), I (ignored her and) shuffled…’ Rather than ‘I weighted the purse in my hand’ why not let us know its heft? e.g., ‘The purse weighed heavy in my hand.’ This bit wasn’t clear to me – I got that she lost the red-cloaks quickly, but the pairing with her lost pinky was a mite confusing. It made it sound like she’d been expecting to lose her picky long before she did. If this is the case – if this is some sort of standard punishment for a cutpurse – you might want to fold this in/set it up beforehand OR reorder the sentence so the pinky’s the primary point of reference: ‘(Besides losing…guard) Unlike my pinky, losing the red-cloaked idiots of the City Guard(, unlike my pinky,) had taken longer than expected.’


      Cement Gargling 101

      Wow! Super-intriguing opening line for the query, and then ‘…a quirk in his myth slayer blood’ ups the ante. Love the voice-iness, too. Suggest rephrasing the following for greater clarity to something like: ‘…the location of a safe filled with evidence that it was Arlen’s parents, not the monster who destroyed San Francisco.’ For greater immediacy, suggest ‘Arlen’s parents (would) will kill him’. The final choice needs to be streamlined, i.e., ‘..leaving Arlen with an impossible choice: Murder the siren to protect his family or seize this opportunity at freedom (journey with the siren…world) and expose the truth.’

      The opening of the first 250 makes it clear Arlen wants to avoid the protestors, but I’d also like to know how this makes him feel. Is this such a common occurrence he’s grown numb to it? Or does it embarrass him? Prick his conscience? Nice folding in of details that build the setting, but I’d like to know what type of fence he climbs over – wood, brick or ? and how high? This would tell us so much about his neighborhood – and how successful his parents have been with their Myth Slayer show. Until the end of the section, I thought Arlen was sneaking out in the middle of the night. There’s a strong, sense of place, but I needed a better sense of time of day. Also suggest cutting filler words where possible: ‘…he buttoned (up) his father’s trench coat.’ The line ‘Arlen stood out wherever he went’ begged the question of ‘Why?’ Perhaps give us a clue? Suggest ‘He stopped and stared (into) at one of the trees.’ Also suggest revising to avoid the repetition of ‘didn’t’. ‘…Arlen still didn’t have his driver’s license. Too busy to teach him, is parents (didn’t have time to teach him) were always…’

      Winner: Cryptopolis

      Delete
  2. Cryptopolis

    Query: This is an excellent query. My only issue is with the first sentence. It’s attention-grabbing for sure, but then it doesn’t really go anywhere. What darkness? Because she is a thief at night? I don’t really get what “the darkness never mattered” means, and why it’s important. Other than that, well done.

    Opening: This is great. I’ve already got a good sense of Davi’s voice, and it’s quite unique. I would definitely read on.

    Cement Gargling 101

    Query: Another solid query. I love mythology with a modern spin. My main critique here is the last sentence. I would take out the portion that says, “journey with the siren to the safe.” It breaks up a powerful close, and can be inferred from what you’ve already laid out as stakes.

    Opening: I really have no comments here. This is a solid opening.

    You guys. Why are you doing this to me? Do I have to pick??? Okay…

    VICTORY TO CEMENT GARGLING 101

    ReplyDelete
  3. Wow this would be a tough match-up to judge. I'm so glad I don't have to choose between them!

    Cryptopolis

    Great query that leaves me with a lot of questions, some that make me want to read the book, and others that confuse me a little. I guess that's the trick when it comes to queries, and one I struggle with, achieving that balance of what to share and what to hold back. The details that tease me to read the book: the relic that isn't supposed to exist and the man who isn't supposed to be alive. The bounty. that returning the key would be bad. Details that trip me up: why is she on the street? how did she get to this dark place in her life where she wants to be alone? maybe just a tiny detail about her background and how she got here. Otherwise very strong query and 250. Well done!

    Cement Gargling

    Love the voice and the premise! Such a fun, creative idea. The query is really strong, my only suggestion for the 250 is that he's not being very stealthy walking in plain sight. Have him go at a run-crouch from house to house, hiding behind trees to really up the tension. Also, you could add some physical reactions such as sweat breaking out on his body when he sees he's been caught. or his heart speeding up as he prepares to run. Something beyond just his thought of Great. Overall, great job with this! I hope to read it someday!



    ReplyDelete
  4. Cryptopolis: I love this query and want to read this book. The one hiccup I had was about the bounty on her head. From the sentence, I wasn’t sure if she already had a bounty on her head before she found the bone key, or if finding the bone key caused the bounty. I also wonder about the phrasing of the first line. “Darkness has never mattered” makes me expect that darkness is going to start bothering her soon. And a tiny comma thing: no comma before the word “from” in paragraph 1.

    First 250:
    I love the world building on this first page. There are a couple of tiny read-ability/grammar things: I would change the word “that” in the phrase “that actually meant something” to home or having a roof or whatever “that” actually is. And similarly: I would say “unlike losing my pinky” instead of just “unlike my pinky.” Otherwise you are comparing a finger to losing the guards.


    Cement Gargling 101: Another great entry! I want to read this one, too. I didn’t know Arlen was a guy until the middle of the second paragraph—not sure if that is a problem, but I wanted to let you know, and if you care about that, maybe add a pronoun somewhere? I also stumbled over “journey with the siren to the safe.” I don’t think you need it/it might be snappier as just “seize this opportunity at freedom and expose the truth to the world.”

    First 250:
    I like this scene, but I did wonder why the protesters are fixating on Arlen. From the query it seemed like his parents were doing all the monster hunting. Is he a monster hunter, too? Is he just guilty by association? Could a protestor yell something like “Your parents are murders!” instead of “there he is!” Because “there he is!” feels very accusatory if Arlen truly isn’t participating in the monster killing. I also think your 250 would be even stronger if you edit out some of those filter verbs. Instead of "The morning air gave him a chill," why not describe the experience more viscerally/with Arlen's body as the subject?

    ReplyDelete
  5. Whew! Another difficult match-up. I'm with the others--I'm glad I don't have to judge these!

    Cryptopolis

    I'm a bit confused on your query. Why does Davi need to bring the key back in the first place? When you say that, it makes me think she had to return it to the person from whom she stole it, but he's not supposed to exist. Where is the key supposed to be going? If you clarify that and tighten the stakes a little, I feel like the query will really sing. Your writing in the 250 is gorgeous--and if you can clarify the role of the key a bit more, the query will match the writing of your 250. :)

    Cement Gargling

    It's really hard to come up with a critique for this one! I really like the concept, and the first page gives me a good idea of what the book is going to be like. The only comment I have is something someone else had mentioned, too--they way you have your query worded, the "impossible" choice doesn't seem that difficult; I really get the feeling that Arlen will expose the truth. If you flesh out the stakes of both decisions a little more, it might not seem as clear-cut.

    Both of these entries are fabulous, and I wish you both the best of luck! :)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Cryptopolis:
    Your query, while intriguing, left me with some questions. The Bone Key's power isn't clear and I still want to know more about the stakes in the last paragraph, more specifics. However, I LOVE the new version of the first 250. This hooked me and I would totally keep reading.

    Cement Gargling
    I read your entry in round 1, but didn't critique it. I have to say, the query is so much clearer now! Your conflict and stakes are present and clear. The first 250 is great. I would continue to read more. (Sorry I don't have more critique to give you.)

    ReplyDelete
  7. CRYPTOPOLIS
    I love YA fantasy, and there’s lots that sounds interesting here. My sticking point is that there’s no one thing here in terms of either the main character or the plot that really makes this stand out and sound different to everything else in the genre. I’d try to be a little more detailed and specific and really bring out the interesting, unique or quirky characteristics of your book. I also feel that a lot of your sentences are a little too long, making them quite hard to take in. finally, I’d suggest switching the final and penultimate sentences in the first paragraph – so we’re introduced to the key as simply something valuable that can help her lose the bounty, and then learn it’s priceless and can raise the dead.

    In the 250, I liked the throwaway reference to her missing fingertip, which instantly raises questions and sets a dark tone. I also liked the balance between her being dismissive but ultimately caring towards her companion, and the grim description of her living quarters. Assuming the key from the query is in the bag she’s stolen, it sounds like this is going to launch straight into the action, which is great.

    CEMENT GARGLING

    Firstly, can I suggest you call this Myth Slayers? I think it’d be a catchier name than either the official title or the nickname. This sounds like a really unusual premise and a nice merging of the fantastical and the modern. The forbidden love, the family secrets and the parents vs girlfriend aspects all sound fantastic. There’s very little I’d change about this query, other than possibly explaining a little more about what sirens are/what this siren is like.
    Title: The Siren Episode
    Entry Nickname: Cement Gargling 101
    Word Count: 82,000
    Genre: YA Fantasy

    Revised Query:

    Arlen’s parents kill monsters—sirens, gorgons, and even leprechauns—then broadcast the murders on their TV show, Myth Slayers. And killing is a family business.

    Ever since mythological creatures destroyed San Francisco twelve years ago, Myth Slayers has been number one in the ratings. Now the show’s stars want to retire and force the reins upon their son. But at seventeen, Arlen doesn’t want to slaughter monsters on primetime TV—he just wants to survive high school, where a quirk in his Myth Slayer blood makes life unbearable.

    Arlen’s blood gives him power, but repels members of the opposite sex. He can’t even approach girls without making them physically ill. So when he finds a girl who’s not getting sick, he finally sees a chance at a normal life. Problem is, she’s a siren. And she hides a secret: the location of a safe filled with evidence that Arlen’s parents destroyed San Francisco instead of the monsters. Arlen’s parents would kill to keep this secret buried, leaving Arlen with an impossible choice: murder the siren to protect his family, or seize this opportunity at freedom, journey with the siren to the safe, and expose the truth to the world.

    I enjoyed the first 250, but they didn’t grab me quite as much as the great query – not sure there’s anything that drastically needs changing though.

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