Friday, June 2, 2017

Query Kombat Round 1: MOTHER OF ALL CUSTODY BATTLES vs. MUSLIM GIRL TO THE RESCUE

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


Query:
All that Lola Bishop wants is to have a baby and raise a family with her husband and college sweetheart, Paul, but she swears the fertility deck is stacked against her. She’s pretty sure she’s hit rock bottom when her premature son doesn’t survive and an emergency hysterectomy kills any future dreams of motherhood, but there are more dark days to come. Like when Lola, lost in grief, kicks Paul out of their house and contemplates divorce. Or when she hopes to reconcile but Paul tells her he’s moving in with Iris – a 20-something paralegal from his lawyer’s office. The kicker? Before the ink is dry on the divorce papers, Lola finds out that Paul and Iris are expecting a baby.

Lola has been at the end of her rope so many times she’s not sure she has enough antidepressants to keep herself from tying it into a noose and slipping it around her neck. But she’s got to pull her act together when Paul and Iris are killed in an icy car crash, and she learns Paul named her as guardian of his son. Lola is then forced to decide whether to take on Iris’s family in the mother of all custody battles for one last shot at raising Paul’s child.

First 250:
It was the receptionist at my OB’s office who told me something major was afoot. Not that she said anything in particular – of course she can’t say anything. Medical privacy laws and all. She can’t shout out, “Hey, did you know? Your husband’s girlfriend got knocked up!” But there’s no privacy law that prohibits a weird, high-pitched tone when calling my name, or an uncomfortable shiftiness palpable across the sliding glass divider.

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

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

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

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

~ VERSUS ~

Title: The Doll Market
Entry nickname: Muslim girl to the rescue
Word Count: 64,600
Genre: YA contemporary (#ownvoices)

Query:
Nayla Salim lives a quiet life with her father, entertaining and entertained by the tourists that converge to the vibrant city of Istanbul. However, her quiet life is shattered when she overhears two men plotting the kidnapping of an American girl. Nayla is determined to put a stop to this terrible plan. Unfortunately, when the police demand proof she does not have, Nayla is left alone to navigate the underground pathways of the Byzantine cistern to warn the girl on time.

Miles away, in the war ravaged country of Syria, Husna and her husband are forced to flee.  Their perilous journey takes on an ugly turn when their boat sinks. Stranded on the Mediterranean Sea, they struggle to survive. Finally, they are rewarded with the sight of a nearby ship. The sailors rescue Husna but to her anguish, leave her husband behind. As she mourns the loss of her husband, Husna realizes that the much awaited saviours are in fact, pirates. 

Her determination to escape is further fuelled by her desire to protect her unborn child.
The two story lines interconnect in a battle for survival and freedom. 

First 250:

PART ONE
Nayla
Prologue

The day starts slowly in Istanbul. With a great yawn, the city chases away the stupor with a cup of Turkish coffee. The early bird tourists stroll lazily in Sultanahmet square, enjoying the quiet that will very soon dissipate. Street vendors are just now setting up and the delicious aroma of the fresh round shaped bread, simit, tickles the nose.

Ahmed Salim stands at the edge of the Bosphorus strait. Chewing vigorously on the last bit of simit he had purchased on the way, he sticks his nose in the air. Today will be another perfect day in a chain of perfect summer days so far. The sun was climbing higher in the clear sky, lighting up the sprawling buildings, glinting off the colorful minarets. He glances over at his boat, bobbing gently in the pristine blue water. If he takes her out on two hour cruises, he should be able to entertain six tourists before it got dark and hopefully snag a couple for a sunset cruise. Ahmed rubs his hands in anticipation as he spots a couple. They have their arms around their teenage daughter who is peering at a travel guide.

“Private Bosphorus cruise!”
They look up at Ahmed, startled as his voice shatters the quiet morning. Ahmed is just about to approach them, intent on the interested look in the daughter’s eyes, when two men block his way.

“You, is that your boat?” the man asks in Turkish. The man was pointing to the modest cuddy boat Ahmed had bought a few years back.

21 comments:

  1. Judges, please post your votes and feedback as a reply to this comment.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mother of all Custody Battles

      Query: Oh, poor Lola. I really hope she finds love and gets the baby. The query is really clear with some great voice. My one question is whether we need more info about Iris’s family and the custody battle. If Lola was named guardian, I wouldn’t think that Iris’s family could do anything about it, hence not as much of a conflict.

      250: Great set up! It’s perfectly cringe worthy and really puts us on the side of the main character, which is terrific.

      Muslim Girl to the Rescue

      Query: I love the premise of this. One question, if one of the narrators is an adult, I’m not sure it would be a YA novel. I don’t know how old Husna is. However, it really sounds like it would do well in literary fiction based on the themes and plot details you shared, plus the quality of the writing thus far. I could see it having real cross-over appeal like the work of Jumpa Lahiri or Khaled Hosseini which are read in high schools and by many adults.

      250: I adore the image of the city yawning and waking up with Turkish coffee. It’s perfectly done and absolutely made me want to keep reading.

      I like the set up as well. You paint a nice local scene which, based on the query, is about to get ugly, fast. It’s a nice contrast.

      These are both very strong entries. I would read them both, for sure.

      VICTORY TO MUSLIM GIRL TO THE RESCUE

      Delete
    2. Mother of All Custody Battles

      Query: Gosh, I can’t help but feel terrible for Lola after reading this. The first paragraph gives us a lot of information, and I’m wondering if you might be able to streamline it. There was a bit of a disconnect between the first two sentences, I got confused when the fertility deck was stacked against her and then right after she has a premature son. I also felt as though there was a bit too much of a summary here, and would love to see the description be a bit more active. I’m also a tiny bit confused on the conflict. If she’s been named guardian, then why would there be a custody battle at all? And after everything her ex did, would she really want his son? Even though she can’t have children of her own there are other options for having a family that are open to her.

      250: I like the premise here in the opening, but, again, I wish it was more active. Can you show us her experiencing the awkward tension here? Maybe just having her doctor make weird comments to her while she’s getting an exam rather than recapping it? I think this has the possibility of being a stellar opening but right now it’s not drawing me in the way I want it to.

      Muslim Girl to the Rescue

      Query: Overall I have a really good sense of these two separate storylines. However, what I’d really like to see is how these stories will intersect. Since these are two wildly different stories I think that’s going to be very important. I’m also questioning whether this would be considered YA since the second protagonist appears to be an adult, at least she appears to be. I think you can also streamline some of the information here. Try, “plotting to kidnap” instead of “plotting the kidnapping”. I think you can skip “Nayla is determined…” since her going to the police and looking for the girl shows that instead. The same thing with, “as she mours…” since we can assume her rescuers are some form of evil-doers. I’d add in her being pregnant to this paragraph too and then have one final paragraph showing how these two stories connect and what the big stakes are.

      250: While I like the writing here, it’s a bit jarring that the book opens with neither of the characters we’ve heard about in the query. Are one of the protagonists here? Can we observe this from their POV instead? In general I find third person present a bit of a difficult read, so make sure you keep with the active tense—the sun climbs vs. the sun was climbing.

      Two very different but strong entries here on difficult subjects. For me, VICTORY GOES TO MUSLIM GIRL TO THE RESCUE!

      Delete
    3. From CatAttack

      MOTHER OF ALL CUSTODY BATTLES
      Query: Cool premise. The one thing I’d say here is you’ve got a lot of long sentences. You might want to consider breaking up a few to enhance the rhythm. That said, the situation and stakes are clear.

      250: Prose if crisp with great descriptions. I like the way the MC describes how no one says anything, but still let her know something’s amiss. My one picky point is to suggest substituting ‘the’ for ‘my’ in: ‘…(my) the obstetrician who’d walked me…’

      MUSLIM GIRL TO THE RESCUE
      Query: There were a few places I’d suggest rephrasing/rewording – like ‘converge on’ rather than converge to’ and ‘tourist who’ rather than ‘tourist that’. Also suggest rephrasing to avoid using ‘quiet life’ two sentences in a row. I was unclear why she must ‘navigate the underground pathways of the Byzantine cistern’ – though this sounds like a great setting, there’s no set-up for this. Is there some reason why she can’t travel by road? In Husna’s portion of the query, it was unclear to me when she and her husband are ‘stranded on the Mediterranean Sea’ – are they in the water clinging to their sunken boat? Or on some small island? Adding in a couple details would clarify. I'd also like an idea about how these two stories intertwine.

      250: Lovely prose but you may want to look at cutting filler words such as ‘that’, ‘just’, and ‘over’ where possible. I think you can trim down the following: ‘Chewing vigorously on (the) his last bit of simit (he had … on the way), he sticks…’ Suggest trimming: ‘Today will be another perfect day in a chain of perfect summer days (so far).’ Great word choices, i.e., tickles, shatters, ‘chain’ of days. Suggest rephrasing the following to avoid using ‘the man’ twice in close proximity: ‘…the man asked in Turkish. He (The man)…’

      Two strong entries.

      VICTORY TO MOTHER OF ALL CUSTODY BATTLES

      Delete
    4. FINDING SETH
      Query: Wow. Lola has it coming at her from all sides, doesn’t she? As I read your query, I feel like it’s a bit like a synopsis, which can be the hard part about a query because there are so many “good bits” that we want to add in, right? I think there is a way to narrow down your query’s sentences in the first paragraph in a summary sentence or two, giving you some additional words to play with. Right now, it’s a bit short (212 words--you can have up to 300). Not saying you HAVE to use all 300ish you’re allotted, but you have some room to expand. My suggestion would be to take the 1st sentence from your 2nd paragraph and use that as your query’s opening line.

      FIRST 250: Great voice, though I have an observation: does Lola KNOW her ex-husband’s girlfriend is pregnant at the OB’s office, or not? Because if she technically DOESN’T…I wouldn’t spoil it. I’d, instead, play up the emotional stuff here. What is the staff doing that is making it weird? What’s their body language? Are there whispers, side glances? You could play it up as Lola brushing it off as them being concerned because she lost her baby--not because her ex’s girlfriend is pregnant.


      THE DOLL MARKET
      Query: I love multi-POV stories where they run parallel and intersect. My only feedback for the query is that the last two lines end the query very abrubptly. Is there a better way to transition this? Suggestion (this is SUPER rough, but it may give you something to play with): Nayla and Husna’s don’t know each other but their paths will cross in a way neither expect in a battle for survival and freedom.

      First 250: While this is beautifully written and had me drawn in--I'm going to be that judge that asks you honestly--do you need this prologue? Why am I asking? Because 99.9% of the time prologues aren’t needed because what is discussed in a prologue is often either (a) rehashed again in the story, or (b) is just a giant spoiler alert. I only have the first 250 of your story and the end decision is 100% up to you if you keep it or not. What you have here is well written and intriguing, but is this discussed again later in the book? Is it spoiling anything that we'd learn later? Good questions to ask yourself to determine if you want to keep it or ditch it.


      VICTORY GOES TO: THE DOLL MARKET (aka MUSLIIM GIRL TO THE RESCUE).

      Delete
    5. MOTHER OF ALL CUSTODY BATTLES

      Query: Very clear and succinct with a dash of voice (end of her rope to noose line is particularly good). Excellent work!

      250: This jumps into the heart of the story, and the narrator’s voice really pops. I’m sorry I don’t have more feedback, but this is just great.



      MUSLIM GIRL TO THE RESCUE

      Query: You do a great job setting up the dual POV, but I need more about how these two stories interconnect (I’m very intrigued!) and what that battle looks like exactly. The penultimate line should be included with paragraph two if it’s part of Husna’s story.

      250: I love how you incorporate all the senses. But if this is Nayla’s prologue, I’m surprised we don’t see her in the opening (yet).


      VICTORY TO MOTHER OF ALL CUSTODY BATTLES

      Delete
    6. Moonstone DragonJune 4, 2017 at 5:15 PM

      FINDING SETH

      Query:

      You have an intriguing premise, for sure! It shows some voice and gives us a good sense of who the MC is. However, I did find it took you a bit long to get to the heart of the conflict. I know you're trying to show all the odds stacked against poor Lola, but I wonder if you could pare the first paragraph down a little, so we know about her infertility woes and their consequences, yes, but also get to the part where Paul, despite everything, still has named her guardian of his kid. That might give you a little wiggle room to introduce Iris's family as potential antagonists--as it is, I felt they (the family) came in out of nowhere.

      First 250:

      I like the pacing and voice here, and love how you use the doctor to hint that the MC should check in with her friend who happens to know everything worth knowing. One thing I found a bit conflicting was that you say the receptionist "told" Lola something was afoot, but then she didn't actually "tell" her anything (the hint came from the doctor). Easy fix, though: instead of saying the receptionist was acting shifty, you could have her tell Lola something out of character, like the doctor herself does later. Just a thought!

      THE DOLL MARKET

      Query:

      Both paragraphs are well-written, voice-y and intriguing, but I found the transition between them a little jarring. I was all into Nayla's story, wanted to know where you'd be going with it, and then, bam! you switched POVs right away and I felt a little cheated. I think we need to see more of a connection between the two stories way earlier, so we don't feel like we're reading two separate queries. I'm also curious how the second story line can be considered YA--I'm sure it makes sense in your book, but these are the questions that might be going through an agent's mind as they read. I remember reading some advice that while dual POV queries can work, sometimes it's better to stick to a single POV if at all possible. In your case, maybe it's just a matter of showing the connection between the two stories a lot earlier? Something to think about.

      First 250:

      I love everything about this. The descriptions, the sense of who Ahmed is, the pacing. Normally, I'd say something about wondering where the protagonist is here, but from the query, I already know this is probably her dad, so it doesn't bother me at all because I assume we'll get to meet Nayla soon.

      Now, for the hard part... Choosing one victor...

      VICTORY TO... MUSLIM GIRL TO THE RESCUE!

      Delete
    7. MOTHER OF ALL CUSTODY BATTLES

      The Query:

      Wow, tug at my heart strings. I like that you make such personal stakes to this that you sell as big enough to carry a whole book. I think it could be tightened up a bit. The sentence “Like when Lola, lost in grief…” Maybe just tell her what she does. We already know she’s lost in grief and the sentence about being at the end of her rope is good and shouldn’t be lost in the shuffle.

      One major question:

      Why would Paul designate his ex-wife as his son’s guardian? Is there more to this story, or is this a question that she has herself. It doesn’t feel like a common thing someone would do.

      The First 250:

      This really sold the story for me. I like the subtle voice and it seems like a less orthodox, but great place to start the story. I don’t have much feedback. Maybe describe the scene a bit more, and tie the location into her feelings. I imagine she doesn’t much care for this doctor’s office.

      But otherwise, great work.

      MUSLIM GIRL TO THE RESCUE

      The Query:

      Dang, another great query. This one sounds like two great books in one.
      I would maybe change “entertaining and entertained” to something more specific. Also, I’m curious how these two stories are more closely related. Is there a way you can say it?
      I’d love to read this. Both Nayla and Husna’s stories sound thrilling.

      The first 250:

      I love that you make Istanbul a character. The writing here fleshes out the city. I’m sure you’re aware prologues aren’t everyone’s favorite thing, depending on how related it is to the main story. I can’t quite tell where this is going, but really ask yourself if it’s necessary if you haven’t already.

      But I don’t have any other notes beside maybe tighten it up a bit by looking for extra words.

      Both really strong entries. Both strong voices and engaging stories. Pains me to have to choose.

      VICTORY:
      MOTHER OF ALL CUSTODY BATTLES

      -Outer Space Potato Man

      Delete
    8. MOTHER OF ALL CUSTODY BATTLES
      Query: The query sums up your story well, however, I would cut some of the long sentences down. Like the first sentence, you can make that two sentences and the next one after that. Also, in the first sentence, cut "that", and it makes it a bit stronger. I also want to know what grounds Iris' family even have to contest guardianship? Overall, very good!

      First 250: Love this opening! It plops the reader into Lola's life right off the bat. I would enjoy reading this.

      MUSLIM GIRL TO THE RESCUE
      Query: Whoa, this sounds amazing! You did a great job conveying both story lines. Sort of like the movie, Crash. Very intrigued. Though, is there a way to say how these two story lines will interconnect? And also, maybe even a sentence between the two story lines would help with the transition. I would also insert the age of both characters.

      First 250: What a beautiful opening, however, this may be better suited for Chapter 1. Prologues are usually not needed. It threw me off because we were in someone else's POV entirely. Watch out for filter words, "that" and "just". This will help tighten your prose. Your story sounds amazing!

      I really enjoyed both of these!

      Victory to: MOTHER OF ALL CUSTODY BATTLES

      Delete
    9. Congratulations to both Kombatants... these are two of my favorite entries so far!

      FINDING SETH
      Query: Very nicely done. There's just enough detail here to tell us the significance of her dilemma. I'd make two very minor suggestions: first, maybe do something about the first two super-long sentences. In the laste sentence of the query, remove the passive voice ("is then forced").

      First 250: In the last line, you don't need the dialogue tag (said Brenda). Overall, a wonderful opening with a strong voice. Well done.

      THE DOLL MARKET
      The query is well-written, but should perhaps focus on one character instead of two. Otherwise, these sound like two disparate stories and we don't know how they'll connect. Although Husna's situation has more excitement (for me), Nayla should be the main POV character if this is indeed a YA novel.
      Minor note: "converge to" should be "converge on"

      First 250: Cut the prologue. Start with Nayla.

      Victory to FINDING SETH!

      Delete
  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Mother of All Custody Battles

    Query - Your query piles terrible thing on top of terrible thing. It broke my heart. I love it. I'd try to find more balance between the paragraphs, though. P1 s long, and P2 much shorter, making P2 feel a little rushed.

    1st 250 - Wonderful writing. I get a sense of the MC, and LOVE when character's make intuitive jumps. Brenda's intro feels abrupt, but I forgave it because I think I'm in good hands (writer's).

    Muslim Girl to the Rescue

    Query - Each paragraph is good, but I want something that ties them together more than "The two story lines interconnect in a battle for survival and freedom.". I'd read them both as separate stories, and want to know how they interconnect, even if it's only a couple of words. Story sounds very timely.

    1st 250 - Tight first sentence that doesn't tell me a lot, but the second sentence gives me some voice. Wonderful scene. I can see everyone and everything. I've forgotten what I didn't like about the query and am strapped in for the read.

    Both of these are strong. I'd read each of them :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Mother of All Custody Battles:

    My heart strings!! Immediately from this query I'm drawn in. Suggestions in first paragraph- I'm not sure about starting a sentence with "Like". At the end, why is there a custody battle if Paul named her guardian? I'm assuming it's a legal document? What are their chances of winning vs hers?

    First 250: Start with the action. I would start with Dr Marta putting her hand the MC's shoulder, then have an actual dialogue with the receptionist so we can hear the oddness in her voice, instead of you telling us about it. Otherwise- very strong. I can tell this one will require a box of tissues at my side!

    The Doll Market

    Wow - exciting! I would love to know more in the query about how their lives are going to interconnect and what it has to do with the stakes. In the first sentence I would find a different word for either entertain or entertaining.

    250: Present tense threw me off at first, but some of my favorite books are done in present and I get used to it quickly. I've also seen it just in the prologue (which may be what you're doing?) Your descriptions are truly beautiful. I feel like I'm there and can't wait to read more.

    Two great entries- congratulations to you both!

    ReplyDelete
  5. FINDING SETH:

    The query definitely hooked me. I didn't see Paul being killed coming at all! And, as a mother, I can imagine the heartbreak of being stuck in that sort of predicament. While I don't have a lot that I think needs to be fixed on this one because it's pretty straightforward and includes wonderful voice, I would also like to hear more about Lola's family. What about Paul's family? Are they interested in custody? Why did Paul name her as guardian? It sounded like they were on pretty shaky terms, but maybe not if Paul trusted her with his son. Maybe just some simple clarification might help. Really nice job!

    I love your first 250, too. Everything flows very seamlessly, with the gradual release of information without it sounding info-dumpy. Love the voice. I'd definitely read this!

    THE DOLL MARKET:

    Interesting premise. I'd like to hear more about how the two stories connect, though. What is it that pulls them together? A couple of other little things I wondered about: what proof do the police want that Nayla can't provide? Also, you used the phrase "quiet life" twice at the opening of your query, so you might think about changing one of them. Very nice job!

    First 250: Lovely description of the setting. I can see a great picture in my mind. Something that threw me off is that you switch tense a couple of times. It starts off present, but then past gets mixed in there a bit. For example, words like "was" and "got." Also, is the prologue really necessary? I know sometimes they're frowned upon, so it's just something to think about.

    Both of these sound like great books! Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
  6. From LisaR: Mother of All Custody Battles. While I love the premise, for more than half of the query I was thinking, oh, there is no hope for this character, just one terrible thing on top of another. If I'd read that on the back cover I wouldn't buy the book...but then you brought in the twist, the chance to raise her husband's child and now we have a horserace! My suggestion would be to balance the query out with more about that, the custody battle, the chance at motherhood. Your writing is great and your voice is coming through in the query as well as the first page. Well done!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Finding Seth

    Query

    Was loosing interest until you hit me with the holy-cow moment—Lola raising their child! Wow. That is a powerful hook. The list of miseries from the first paragraph suddenly matters as the mountain of things she has to overcome to achieve the stability she needs to raise a child. And all sorts of interesting questions about her relationship with her ex, and the mother (who must have played some role in deciding who’s name went down in the will).

    I had a couple of problems with the query that might be fixable. Suffering and misery don’t make for great, compelling, query points. What people do in the face of suffering can be interesting, but the suffering itself doesn’t automatically make me want to read something. You need to make a reader care about the character before their suffering becomes compelling, and that’s terribly difficult to do in a query. Worse, without context, Lola kicking Paul out makes her unsympathetic, particularly when she’s upset that he moved on. In the novel, we can get the whole story. Perhaps we’ll understand, and be on her side in the fight, but without context this action makes her less sympathetic.

    The second issue is the statement of conflict you end the query with. The stakes feel false. If she decides not to try to raise this child, my guess is you don’t have a novel.

    First 250

    The tone here felt a tad off to me, at least from what the query made me anticipate. I think I just struggle with the idea that an odd vibe in the OB’s office would lead to the revelation in the way you’ve had it play out. Their behavior struck me as unprofessional, particularly as (according to your query) the divorce papers were already signed. And, unless this is an incredibly small town, the idea that her doctor would know both that Lola was friends with the town gossip, and that this gossip would have the knowledge in question, feels forced. Plus, wouldn’t her friend have told her anyway? So why do you need her OB/GYN to prompt it? I think this whole problem not only goes away, but the office scene becomes more a commentary on human nature (discomfort with knowledge you can’t share but feel you should) if you just eliminate the doctor’s direct revelation, and show us Lola wondering why they are acting so weird, only to figure it out later.

    Eliminate the doctor telling her, and show us Lola sensing everyone’s discomfort, but not understanding it. Have the reader come to realize it’s significance with Lola later, when she’s conversing with Brenda. Giving us a piece (or more) of that conversation would be great.

    ReplyDelete
  8. The Doll Market

    Query

    The idea of these two plotlines somehow coming together is fascinating.

    I definitely need more info about Nayla’s story thread, but details specific to the plot. The first sentence doesn’t give me any information that feels vital, then the next two feel too barebones. I like the detail about the Byzantine Cistern though!

    The more important issue, in my estimation, is the vagueness of the stakes. I understand that they are both in unenviable positions, but have almost no understanding of what their “battle for survival and freedom” will look like.

    Husna’s story is compelling, but you are leaving too much for us to fill in: what does being stranded on the sea mean? Are they on a life raft? Are they floating in the open ocean with vests? What does it mean that they leave her husband behind? Did they just not pull him from the water? Is he dead?

    There are also places where I wonder about your word choice. “Takes an ugly turn” implies things weren’t already ugly for Husna, and “rewarded” just feels unnecessary, and a bit off. What did they do to earn the reward?

    First 250

    I like the setting, and the immediate tension you’ve built up.

    The start with a character that was not mentioned in your query is a bit frustrating. I’m guessing the man is Nayla’s father, but I would prefer that we witness this interaction through her eyes, since she is the MC of the novel.


    The premise is an excellent one, and I’d be interested in seeing how you make it work.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Though very different in terms of setting, I found these stories equally compelling.

    Mother of All Custody Battles

    Query
    You've done a good job showing us how Lola ended up in this place and laying out the conflict for her. I can really feel her dilemma - she finally gets her chance to be a mother but it comes with such baggage about the child's biological parents. I like the voice here also, especially the line about not enough antidepressants to keep herself from tying the noose.

    250
    The way Lola discovers Iris's pregnancy provides a unique and interesting twist. It increases the tension that she knows something is up but she has to work at filling in the blanks. I also like the nuances of Brenda. She's the go-to person for the inside scoop but she's not a busybody. That's a tough line to walk so I'm intrigued and want to see more of her interaction with Lola.

    Muslim Girl to the Rescue

    Query
    Great atmosphere and setting. Nayla sounds like a very brave and plucky girl. How old is she? It would be a nice little addition to know her age, given the seriousness of what she's about to undertake. This is a small thing but I wondered if, in the last sentence of the first paragraph, it should be "to warn the girl in time" instead of "on time."

    I also felt the urgency and fear for Husna and am immediately worried for her. I am very intrigued by how these two stories are going to interconnect but I have a feeling Nayla is going to be in way over her head!

    250
    Loved the description at the beginning, using multiple senses. I felt like I was on vacation in Turkey just by reading the beginning! You do a great job creating atmosphere. I'm not 100% sure but I think you had a couple of tense changes in the second paragraph. "If he takes her out on two hour cruises, he should be able to entertain six tourists before it got dark.." Shouldn't it be "before it gets dark?" Also, the very last sentence - since everything is present tense should the last sentence be "The man is pointing" instead of "the man was pointing?" Again, for some reason I'm not 100% sure - tenses can kind of screw me up sometimes, but I thought I'd ask because it stuck out to me.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Mother of All Custody Battles
    Query: Great voice, the emotion of the book comes through in the query.

    250: I would look at replacing the told in'told me something' with 'hinted ' only because for me told implies the words, but it wasn't words that gave the impression something was off. In the last two lines I'd remove 'I asked' and 'said Brenda', I don't think they are needed as you make it clear already who owns the dialogue. great entry

    Muslim Girl to the Rescue
    Query:Each section is well written, but I'm struggling to see the weaving of the two stories.

    250: Well written but for me it is missing that early hook to draw in the reader. Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. From JB Harris
      Mother of All Custody Battles

      Query: I like the voice of your query, but I found I had to read the first paragraph over twice. It feels like a lot of information stuffed into a few sentences. I wondered if you could make it more succinct, somehow condense the kicking out, divorce, reconcile and moving in with a 20 something, maybe it's enough to say something like, after their short separation, Lola, hoping to reconcile, learns Paul is moving in with Iris, a woman from his office. I didn't like the phrase "the kicker" and would cut it. I think it reads more smoothly without it. The second paragraph seemed much stronger to me. That said, overall, I really like the premise and can see myself buying this book.

      250: I would actually start with Brenda Gillis-one of my dearest friends on earth as your first sentence. You can add that you called her immediately after leaving the OB and get in some of that information there. I don't think you need two full paragraphs about how weird everyone in the office was acting.

      Muslim Girl to the rescue

      Query: The story is intriguing, I was hooked by the first paragraph, but felt the second could use some tightening up. Specifically I would cut the line "Finally, they are rewarded with the sight of a nearby ship" You can tweak the next one by starting it with something like, "when a near by ship of sailors rescues Husana" and accomplish the same thing. It's just something about that sentence felt awkward to me. Also, I would like to see more about how the two plot lines intertwine as I can't bridge that gap on my own right now. The last two lines feel tacked on. Take this space to create a third paragraph which explains to the reader how we can expect these two plot lines to come together and inform each other.

      250:
      I liked the opening paragraph it was beautifully written and put me right in scene, but I read the whole thing over twice looking for any one of the main characters you mentioned in your query and I didn't see one. I would expect the book to begin with at least on of the main characters. Also, I am not sure I got a sense of what the inciting incident might be. I think you need to introduce the plot and MC quicker.

      Delete
  11. Mother of All Custody Battles: Great job of generating sympathy for the character from the get-go. There are a few filter words in the query that can be deleted for better flow— no need to say ‘she swears’… it’s obvious the deck is stacked against her. Also, can get rid if ‘pretty sure’ about hitting rock bottom. Just stating she’s hit rock bottom would be stronger. In the second paragraph, you can get rid of ‘she learns’ and just say Paul named her as guardian. First 250: I like the voice here, and already feel the tension rising. One thing, in the first paragraph she’s telling us that the husbands girlfriend is pregnant, but she hasn’t learned that yet. I would avoid the urge to break down the fourth wall and tell readers things the MC doesn’t know yet, to increase suspense. Overall good job, though. I’d read this.

    Muslim girl to the rescue: Love that you set the story in Istanbul. Such a vibrant place! I like that you have two characters with diverse backgrounds and stories. And I love that you are telling stories about two very different Muslim countries. We need stories that tell the world about the diversity within the religion. First 250: LOVE your first paragraph. I felt like I was there in Sultaanhamat square. And now I want Turkish coffee. Your descriptions in the second paragraph are beautiful. I am wondering where Nayla is though. As a fellow Muslim writer, congratulations, and good luck. Well done, I’d read this in a heartbeat.

    ReplyDelete