Jun 1, 2014

QK Round 1: Attempting Average vs Cold War Grunge

Entry Nickname: Attempting Average
Title: Love and Fat-Free Cheese
Word Count: 68,000
Genre: Contemporary Women's Fiction
Query:

With her love of ice cream and hatred of yoga, Juliet Easton seems like an average twenty-three-year-old woman. Average, because she’s worked hard to hide her involvement in the disappearance of her sister’s fiancé two years ago.

Now, with a job at the largest corporation in town, the attention of two good-looking men, and a jealous, diamond-covered rival, it seems as if life will finally begin to feel a bit more normal. However, she quickly discovers that nothing is as it seems.

The man she’s falling for has a more ambiguous past than her own and the company where she works has plenty of skeletons in the closet. While her seemingly normal world begins to unravel around her, she must rely on a man whom she isn’t sure she should trust. As she focuses on the bonds of family and protecting those she loves, she learns that happiness is found when caution is lost.

First 250 words

My sweaty palms start to slide out from under me while my arms shake uncontrollably. I’m not sure if I’m quivering with anxiety about this afternoon or if it’s the flailing I’m doing trying to balance in the name of yoga. I thought yoga was supposed to make me feel tranquil, peaceful, and sculpt my legs into those of a Greek goddess. However, as I strain every muscle in my body in an effort to do this Downward-Facing Dog pose, I feel anything but calm or goddess-like. I guess it is clearing my mind. For the last three minutes, I’ve been too focused on the intense physical pain that this relaxing exercise is causing me to think about how nervous I am to step foot inside The Bradley Corporation.

“Breathe. Remember to Breathe,” the instructor sporting head-to-toe spandex sings out as she demonstrates a One-Legged King Pigeon. Where do the names of these poses come from? I already feel ridiculous as I try these positions. I am turning purple, gasping for breath, shaking profusely, and have sweat pouring down my face, but to top it off, I’m being referred to as a boat, camel, cow-face, plow, and now a one-legged king pigeon.

I flop down on my sweat-covered mat, ignoring the angry look from the woman next to me. Closing my eyes, I picture myself inside The Bradley Corporation meeting a man whom I know nothing about. I do have his name and office number on a paper in my purse, Owen Denny, 9B.


VERSUS

 
Entry Nickname: Cold War Grunge
Title: CASSIA
Word Count: 80,000
Genre: Upmarket Women’s Fiction

Query:

As an arts reporter living in Deep Ellum, Tanya Falgoust is accepted as part of the underground arts district, but living among free thinkers and musicians doesn’t make her one of them. Then she meets the sensual, rebellious Cassia, a performance artist who struts onto the stage and into Tanya’s bed.

No one knows who Cassia is, but her beauty and talents as an actress and dancer captivate the local scene. Tanya is mesmerized, and they quickly form a relationship. A close friend warns Tanya about Cassia, but she brushes him off. But when Cassia refuses to divulge anything about herself, where she lives, or even her real name, Tanya starts to realize her friend was right. And the secrets her lover is hiding are deeper and more damaging than Tanya could imagine.

As their relationship becomes more volatile, Tanya must decide whether or not to break from her desire before she loses the one thing she wants most—connection to the musicians who have accepted her into their community.

First 250:

My life had become a series of baseball games, conferences, and fancy dinners with lobbyists and lawmakers. It wasn’t the exciting life I’d wanted for myself, but it rescued me from the less than satisfactory situation I’d chosen as a young idealist. Still, there were times when living in Jeffrey’s world made me feel like a dessert spoon at a dieter’s convention.

“Go! Get out of here.” Jeffrey leaned forward in his seat as the batter hit a long fly ball just to the right of the left foul line. The ball landed midway up the stands. The ballpark erupted into cheers and fireworks as everyone jumped to their feet. Jeffrey kissed me before turning to the congressman on the other side of him for a high-five.

Forgetting the game and the congressman Jeffrey entertained, I checked my phone to see what art shows and related social events would be happening over the weekend. There was an awards ceremony for local sculptors. At one time, as an art and theater reporter, I would have covered that. I flipped through the events section. Two plays opened this weekend. Was she in one?

So much time had gone since I last heard anything about her. I tried not to think about her, not to remember her at all. Most of the time she wasn’t even a memory, but there were times, like now, when the thought of her knocked the air out of me.

I opened the link to the first play.

21 comments :

  1. This space reserved for judge feedback and votes.

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    Replies
    1. Allusion AssassinJune 1, 2014 at 12:33 PM

      ATTEMPTING AVERAGE

      Strong opening hook. Didn’t see the punch coming behind all that yoga and ice cream. But then in paragraph two, you hit us with a cliché – “Nothing is as it seems.” Sigh. You can do better! Show us don’t tell us.

      You tell us she’s got two good looking men in the 2nd paragraph and then in the 3rd only refer to 1. That was confusing. Then another cliché – what kind of skeletons? Again, show us.

      I feel like this whole last paragraph needs scrapped. It doesn’t give any specifics. What specifically happens in this book? How do things unravel? What’s at stake and how does it connect to her sister’s fiancé?

      Also, after reading the query and opening, this feels more romance novel than women’s fiction. Either adjust your genre or the query to reflect which is truer.

      The voice in the opening page is strong. I like the set up. I feel like it needs one more round of editing though, more tightening. Some of the sentences are awkward or feel like extras like “I guess it’s clearing my mind” You could easily incorporate that into the next sentence and move the pace faster.

      In the end though, I am left wanting to know who Owen Denny is. Good job!

      COLD WAR
      Your hook starts off okay and then fizzles. So what about Cassia, what’s the struggle? Where’s the punch that keeps me wanting to read?

      I found your next paragraph really confusing. You say no one knows anything about her but Tanya hops into bed with her anyway but then you say it’s a problem that Tanya doesn’t know anything about her. Also, I don’t get why not knowing her name or anything about her would sound warning bells – what does Cassia do specifically that alarms Tanya? Simply being a mystery doesn’t seem to be enough. And why does the friend warn her, about what? Why does Tanya ignore him?

      The last paragraph needs more fleshing out. Why would Tanya lose the musicians? Why is that what she wants more than anything? How does the relationship become volatile? Show us don’t tell us.

      Overall, I’m left not understanding what the plot here is. What’s the stakes for Tanya and why should the reader care? You’ve spent the whole query focusing on someone other than Tanya while telling us that Tanya is the MC.

      For me your opening page was just kind of okay. I’d probably read the next two fifty, but it would have to start drawing me more. The ballgame and Jeffery seem like a distraction. From the query I’m expecting this hot art scene and steamy, mysterious love affair.

      I think you have some good stuff here, but you need some work on the query plot and your opening page.

      In the end, I’m left wanting to know how Juliet helped off her sister's fiancé and what trouble Owen Denny will bring and find myself not really interested in Tanya and Cassia’s story.

      The victory goes to – Attempting Average.

      Delete
    2. Attempting Average: Wait, what now? ‘her involvement in the disappearance of her sister’s fiancé two years ago’?? So either she or her sister murdered him? Contemporary Women's Fiction tends to be a euphemism for Chick Lit, so I was a bit surprised by this, and a bit confused as to what your genre really is. I’d clarify the bit about the disappearing fiancé, I think. Other than that, this query is clear enough, but still a bit too vague throughout. I’d like more voice and more specifics (eg, what is her job, what are the secrets – or at least give us a hint – that the company and her new bf are hiding) to really grab me.

      Your opening page: The second para made me laugh, and the last para moves onto intrigue nicely, so well done. The first para I think could be tightened up a bit, you want to start your book off as punchily as possible, and at the moment I can’t quite tell what your tone wants to be, as the second para is funny, but the rest is quite straightforward. If this book is going to fairly amusing, I’d start off immediately with that kind of voice in the first lines, and also edit down a bit so the sentences are shorter and more to the point, which works better for humour. Overall, while this is pretty good, I wonder whether there isn’t perhaps a more compelling place to start than in a yoga class.

      Cold War Grunge: What’s in your query is fine – although I’d like more voice to get a better feel for your MC – but you just don’t tell us enough. I think you need to at least hint at Cassia’s secrets – are they dangerous? Could they get Tanya in trouble with the law? At the moment the stakes seem pretty low.

      Your opening page is fine, and sets the scene, but I found it a little dry. I’d try to recreate the sounds and smells and sights of the baseball game a bit more to really make it come alive. And your opening lines are rather clunky exposition. Not that you need to drop them completely, but if you wove them in as something she thinks as she talks to her bf and he bores her, for example, they’d come across more smoothly and subtly. The end of the page is nice and opens up some intrigue.

      Victory to Attempting Average.

      Delete
    3. Attempting Average:

      Wow, loved the first paragraph of your query. I wasn't expecting the 'disappearance of her sister's fiance' part, and that alone makes me want to read more.

      Things started to unravel in the second paragraph, though. What's special about these two men besides their looks? Without showing us why they matter, the 'good-looking men' part feels cliche. Even more cliche is the 'nothing is as it seems' phrase--show us this by at least hinting at what's going to happen instead of being totally vague.

      When you say 'the man she's falling for' in the third paragraph, it made me wonder what happened to the two good-looking men. Did she choose one of them? And then the 'man she isn't sure she should trust' again read as very vague to me since I didn't know which man, or what he was doing that might seem untrustworthy.

      Last, what's at stake here? And how does everything tie back to the disappearance of her sister's fiance? Be sure to clarify your genre, because this seems like a blend between romance and thriller or mystery with the disappearance angle, so an agent might be confused about where it fits in the marketplace.

      Your opening page has great voice! As others have suggested, review the page for places where you can tighten the prose. Otherwise, though, I thought this was a fun introduction to your main character! Great job.

      Cold War Grunge: Your query had me wondering what Deep Ellum is--a big city? A small, backwoods town? Someplace exotic? I felt like I was supposed to know what it was from the way you set the query up, yet I had no idea.

      My main nitpick with your query is the ever-vague, "secrets her lover is hiding." What sort of secrets? You need to give readers something more to get them interested in the story. Show them why they should care. I also wasn't sure about the "volatile relationship" part--even that felt too vague to me. Show us what about it is volatile.

      Last, see if you can set up some higher stakes at the end of your query. Right now, it sounds like the worst thing that could befall your MC if she makes wrong choices is being kicked out of the music community. Why is this so terrible for her? Help me understand, so that I care more about the outcome. I think the issue is that Cassia is the focus of your query, but your MC is supposedly Tanya. Can you perhaps rewrite the query with Tanya's POV in mind?

      In your first 250, I see some great writing, but I suggest removing the first paragraph altogether. It took me out of the story, made me feel as though I was being kept at a distance, when what I wanted was to be drawn immediately into some action or emotion.

      Now for the voting! Despite not being sure of the genre in Attempting Average, I keep thinking about the disappearence of Juliet's sister's fiance. And ultimately, Juliet's voice was much stronger and stuck with me. That said...

      Victory to Attempting Average!

      Delete
    4. Some very cool distinctive stories here!

      Attempting Average: While I like your open (and the voice), I feel like you're burying your lead. To me the real hook here is this: "hard to hide her involvement in the disappearance of her sister's fiancé." And to this point, you mention this but it is never addressed anywhere else in the query. This makes me wonder what is really going on with the plot.

      I would also say be careful of using phrases like "discovers that nothing is as it seems" because it is cliché.

      So overall, I would suggest honing in on what is the heart of this story. Is it that Juliet is trying to hide her involvement in the disappearance? Or is it the romantic tie with a man she's not sure she can trust?

      First 250: Your open does not draw me in until you start building voice with, "I thought yoga was supposed to make me feel tranquil, peaceful and sculpt my legs..." I suggest thinking about starting here. I also wonder what we are supposed to learn? Is it that she doesn't like yoga or that her focus is pulled because of the note in her purse? I'd recommend making this a bit more clear so the reader gets more sense of the conflict going on within her.


      Cold War Grunge: I like your opening paragraph, but I had the same question as many others about Deep Ellum. I would suggest adding the word Texas after the city so the reader, who may not know the town, understands the setting.

      I think overall you have a straightforward and interesting query, but I find myself wondering what the stakes are? Are Cassia's secrets a threat to Tanya?

      Also in you sinker, I'm not sure that losing her connection to the music community is compelling enough to encourage a reader to want more. I'd think about sharing what it is that Tanya wants, and how her connection to Cassia threatens everything she holds dear.

      First 250: Is this a prologue? Based on the query, I'm guessing it is. This leaves me wondering if I had not read the query would I know who the "her" is? I understand the set-up, and showing the dichotomy between her life before and after Cassia, but I question if this is where your story really should begin?

      Victory to: Cold War Grunge

      Delete
    5. LOVE AND FAT-FREE CHEESE
      Wait, what? The opening paragraph throws me for a loop, mostly b/c I don't see the connection between the first two lines. Third line goes off in a third direction, and I'm still not sure what the story is supposed to be ABOUT. From the rest of it, I get secrets, lies, trust, family... all that seem like "buzzwords" that don't really tell me anything about this specific story. At the end, I'm still not really sure what Juliet's conflict is.

      CASSIA
      I'd love more details about this story. Can we have a hint of Cassia's "damaging" secrets? How is the relationship "volatile"? And the final line confuses me -- the first line had told us that she *WASN'T* accepted as one of them.


      Victory to Cold War Grunge

      Delete
    6. ghostbuster_extraordinaireJune 4, 2014 at 11:08 AM

      Attempting Average:

      Nice way of weaving in her motivation in the first paragraph. The disappearance of her sister's fiance hooked me. Paragraph two could be stronger. Go deeper to show us her problems.

      Her description of yoga cracked me up. I can totally relate. I felt a connection with the protagonist right away. Sometimes the wording felt stiff though, don't be afraid to use contractions.


      Cold War Grunge:

      I'm slightly confused by the underground arts district. What is that? Is it important? I think it is, but it doesn't seem to be explained. Love the mystery behind Cassia. Maybe be a little more specific about what secrets she's hiding. The conflict is clear, but by the end I'm not as hooked as I was in the beginning of the query.

      Nice visual with the 'dessert spoon at a dieter's convention.' The 250 flowed nicely and intrigued me. I like the mystery of 'she' and the fact that Tanya couldn't resist checking to see if she was in the play.


      Victory to Cold War Grunge

      Delete
    7. Girl with the Golden PenJune 4, 2014 at 1:58 PM

      ATTEMPTING AVERAGE

      Query- A character looking for or running toward something always has a stronger motivation and conflict than one running away from something. This is what you're query brought to my mind, and it seems like there is an overabundance of MCs who 'just want to be normal'. You have some cute details about her, like her hatred of yoga but the overall conflict is very vague. I also fail to see how gaining the attention of two attractive men is the normal day-to-day. Put more emphasis on the disappearance of the sister's fiance. THAT'S what is interesting. Gives us a few more hints at her involvement and you'll intrigue us more. Right now its too vague to be very original

      First 250- This is a cute opening and definitely funny, especially for a fellow hater of yoga. I will say, usually yoga instructors give you levels of difficulty in poses. You're not supposed to do yoga if it hurts. You might give a hint that your MC just doesn't know when to quit because she's competitive or something. Otherwise it seems like she's putting herself through needless pain. Your second sentence was a little bulky and I think you could easily clean it up. It was funny though

      COLD WAR GRUNGE

      The query- Great, interesting setting and I love the idea of the underground art's district. This sounds like a very interesting conflict and romance. It's well written, gives me a sense of the characters and makes me want to know more, just as it should.

      The first 250- A few fun lines (Like the dessert spoon) and I feel her interest in this mysterious someone. It does feel a little dry and I think you could inject a little more voice but I did want to know more.

      This is a little tough but the conflict in COLD WAR GRUNGE is clearer and also appeals to me a bit more.

      I have to give victory to COLD WAR GRUNGE

      Delete
    8. Because I'm slow, and my replies refused to cooperate, re-posting here.

      Attempting Average:
      I’m absolutely hooked after the first paragraph of the query, but as it goes on I wind up not entirely sure what the story it about. Involvement in a disappearance, mysterious lover, corrupt company, there are lots of subplots in this story, which is fine. The problem is, in a query, there’s little time or word space to form a thread to tie them together in an overall arch. I don’t know what the main conflict once each of these threads is mentioned because none of them come up again. That and things are a little vague after the first paragraph. “Nothing is as it seems” is cliché, her world unraveling tells the reader nothing, give a brief example or two of what this could mean for her. The end of the query doesn’t hook me as much as the beginning does.

      The voice in the first 250 positively sings. Queries suck, and rarely do the pages justice. This is a case of where the writing definitely outshines the pitch.

      Cold War Grudge:
      The only thing in the beginning of the query that throws me is I have no idea where Deep Ellum is, and the point of mentioning a setting in something as short as a query is so the reader can make an instant connection for grounding. That’s why it’s suggested to use as little slang and language unique to certain worlds as possible. If Deep Ellum is a city, toss in the state.

      Other than that, the only thing I’d question is the stakes. Aside from losing her lover, what’s up for grabs is her connection to the musician community. In the first paragraph, that’s sort of written off with the sentence “living among (them) doesn’t make her one of them.” I don’t get deep connection worth fighting/giving something up for from this. If said connection is what she’s gonna be giving her all for, it needs to be presented as something she’d do almost anything to maintain. Overall, I’m pulled into the drama and eager to see what comes of life with Cassia.

      The first 250, it’s difficult to form a connection with the MC because she’s describing things going on around her without any insight into how she feels about any of it. Aside from the dessert spoon quip. I snickered. I get that bored is the mood we might be going for, but boredom comes with other emotions like irritation, annoyance, restlessness, the urge to spoon one’s own eyes out. This comes across as more detached.

      Each entry was strong for different reasons. Both stories sound intriguing, and it’s easy to see why either was chosen. While the query in one entry stood out as more informed and straightforward, the voice in the other refuses to be ignored. I have to give it to ATTEMPTING AVERAGE.

      Delete
    9. I won't reiterate what's already been stated above, but this came down to the first page for me.

      Attempting Average, the voice in your first page in magnificent, and it won me over instantly. You did a magnificent job of connecting with the reader in so few words.

      Cold War Grudge, your opening could be tighter, and I would love to hear more of your MC's voice coming through. I agree with other when they say you should cut your first paragraph. That being said, the line about feeling like a dessert spoon at a dieter's convention is gold.

      For the tie breaker, victory to Attempting Average.

      Delete
  2. ATTEMPTING AVERAGE:
    I find myself questioning the word "hatred" in the first sentence when you then open with her doing yoga. If she truly hates it, why is she there? Maybe rephrase it to show a begrudging participation or call it clumsy efforts at yoga or something. I also might phrase the last sentence as less of an absolute, like "She must decide whether to abandon caution...." That's really a personal preference, though. I like the query to leave the ending more ambiguous.

    The word count seems a little low for WF - I've heard agents say they want 80k, and that anything below 70k may be too short.

    I love the voice in the first 250. This MC sounds like someone I want to hang out with, and I've been that person in yoga. You've pulled me in, and I'd keep reading.

    COLD WAR GRUNGE:
    From the query, I'm expecting the story to be set when the characters are younger. When I get to the 250 and it starts with adult Tanya, it throws me a little. It might help to include a note in the query that the story is told primarily through flashback or note if there are different timelines. Other than that, the query is great - it tells me about the story, the characters, and what's at stake. If I were an agent, I'd be requesting pages.

    In the 250, I find myself wondering why she's looking at arts listings while at a baseball game. Is she bored? Does she like the theater? But that's really a minor issue. I'm not sure how I feel about the hint of the unsatisfactory situation in the first paragraph - especially if she's still looking for Cassia. Does she regret it or not? But those are really minor nitpicks. I've seen this before, and I still love it. I can't wait to read the whole book.

    Who decided that there should be match-ups and that people would have to choose? Because I'm very glad I don't have to.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi. Fellow Kombatant here.

    Attempting Average: I was a bit thrown by the first paragraph of the query. I think I would have grasped it better if the emphasis were on "seemed" instead of "average"--in other words, she only *seems* to be average because she has this secret. However, I enjoyed the 250. I've never tried yoga, but I think this would be my reaction, too. I found that entertaining.

    Cold War Grunge: I wonder if there's a way to avoid using the word "arts" twice in the first line of the query. Otherwise, I found the query compelling. As L.H. said, I was a bit thrown by the fact that the first page opens seemingly *after* the relationship with Cassia, but I can roll with it.

    Good job, both of you!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Attempting Average - I can totally relate to your MC, so well done on drawing me in. I found the 250 more successful in this than the query and had a few points to raise in critique.

    In your query you say "Average, because she’s worked hard to hide her involvement in the disappearance of her sister’s fiancé two years ago." and I'm a little lost as to what you mean by that. Should I read the "seems average" from the preceding sentence into this? As in, she "seems average" because she's managed to fool everyone? As it is, it almost reads like it's average to hide your involvement in a crime.

    Then in the second and third paragraphs, there are a couple of vague statements that need to be replaced for specifics - "nothing is as it seems", "skeletons in its closet" for instance.

    I love the visual of "diamond-covered rival."

    In the 250, I enjoyed reading the page, but wasn't sure where it was going until it hit the last paragraph. As I said, it really made me relate to your protagonist and that's a huge plus. I would only suggest, in terms of a 250 word sample, to spend fewer words describing the difficulties of the yoga class and get to presenting the conflict sooner. Paragraph 3 seems to be where it's at. If you could spend some words expanding on that, it might give a better sense of the stakes.

    Cold War Grunge - In your 250, I really wanted to flip the first 2 paragraphs. Start with some action and context of where we are, then hit the interior dialogue. I think the whole thing actually reads fine without the first paragraph altogether, but maybe it would be a little less jarring to weave it into the rest. I personally thought the ballgame set up felt strong - I could picture the whole scene. And mentioning the Congressman was enough of a detail to place her in her current world. When she flipped open her phone and started looking for *her*, I could totally relate. Love the phrase "knocked the air out of me."

    If you could work some of that into back into the query so I could really feel the draw that Cassia has on Tanya, I think it would increase the tension and give it some more voice.

    Both of these queries are excellent. I wish you both good luck with the judging and with your books in the future. I would definitely like to continue reading these to find out what happens.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Attempting Average
    I like your query but I think it could be tightened a little bit. Why not - With her love of ice cream and hatred of yoga, Juliet Easton is the average twenty-three-year-old woman. Agree that 'nothing is as it seems' is cliche. The last line of your query seems too generic. I would focus on setting up specific stakes here.
    Your first 250 made me smile. A few of the adjectives/adverbs could be removed to make them cleaner, but overall, I really liked them.

    Cold War Grunge,
    I loved your query. It was so simple, easily understandable and very clear in setting out the stakes. The only thing I'd change is the phrase 'break from her desire' because that's a bit awkward and confusing.
    Your first 250 really perks up towards the end, but the first two paras, especially the first one feels a bit like filler and doesn't really entice me to read on.

    Good luck to both amazing entries!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Attempting Average:

    Your query has a great hook, with the line about the death involvement. Otherwise, you should take a look at the cliches. "Largest corporation," "two good-looking men" and "diamond-covered rival."

    Your 250 has a great voice, and a very relatable heroine, but you have a tendency to overuse adjectives and adverbs rather than choosing strong verbs, or trusting the strong ones you use. "Shaking profusely" - profusely is not necessary. Your book sounds great, though.

    Cold War:

    Your query is really good. My only quibble would be your stakes. Losing a relationship to the arts community doesn't seem important enough. Stakes are hard for books in which life and death are not at stake, but maybe her stakes are that she will lose her sense of self, or something of that kind.

    Your 250 is beautifully written. This is absolutely a book I hope gets published soon.

    Both of these are great, and good luck to you both!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Attempting Average:

    Strong query, great job! Your book looks yummy, like something I'd take to the beach and devour while ignorning my sunscreen. Juliet is rocking a "Bridget Jones" vibe for sure. :)

    Cold War:

    Query is intriguing and I personally think the stakes are high enough to be compelling. I can't wait to meet Cassia, so mysterious!

    I also love the 250. My only complaint is that I can't read more!

    Great job both of you! Good luck!!

    ReplyDelete
  8. ATTEMPTING AVERAGE
    Ooh, the disappearnce of Juliet's sister's fiancé immediately grabbed my attention, but you lost me when the rest of the query went on to discuss other parts of Juliet's life. From the title and genre, I expected some humor in the query. And this reads more like a thriller. There is also a great mention of secrets, skeletons and "ambiguous past", making the query a bit vague and leaving much to be desired. But I very much like the mystery implied and would love to learn more.

    The 250 is written well and w/ lots of voice (great job!). I'm just a bit torn on whether describing how much she hates yoga is such a good place to start. Definitely don't get rid of the words, but perhaps considering starting at a different point in your MS.

    CASSIA
    Just like ATTEMPTING AVERAGE, I'm much intrigued by the mystery here and the secrets lives your characters may lead. I think we need a hint as to Cassia's dark secrets. Maybe Tanya sees her trashing blooding clothes or sneaking away every morning at 2:43 and returning exactly at 4:15. (Bad examples, I know.) Just add something to show us why Cassia maybe be toxic or even deadly to Tanya. As for stakes, I'm in the minority here. Your story seems character driven, and the stakes aren't always physical and concrete. Considering the last line, perhaps include more about Tanya's relationship to the musicians to show why their acceptance is important to her.

    I actually love your 250 and how it's written. I can't stand a bunch of dialogue at the beginning. I need to feel an instant connection to the MC, whether I like them or not. Some may not like the baseball scene, but I see the significance and it seems to be a popular pastime for people of a...certain status. One more thing - I like the subtle hint of the narrator (whom we know is Tanya) hoping to see "her"...and the emotion she felt.

    But I must say, very good job to both of you!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Attempting Average
    Interesting premise. I’m really curious about what part she played in the disappearance of her sister’s fiancé. I did trip over the second sentence though, I think mostly because starting with “Average” didn’t quite segue from the previous sentence in the way it is intended. To me it feels like “seems like” is the phrase that belongs there. It also seemed odd that everything in the second paragraph would constitute her life being more “normal.”

    I got a good laugh in the 250 from her description of yoga class. I do think, however, that “I thought yoga was supposed to make me feel tranquil, peaceful, and sculpt my legs into those of a Greek goddess” and the sentence following it would make for a stronger opening. It’s snappier. Everything else worked for me pretty much as is.

    Cold War Grunge
    The query worked really well for me until the end. It says: “Tanya must decide whether or not to break from her desire before she loses the one thing she wants most.…” To me this says that if she breaks from this bad relationship, she’ll keep her connection to the music community, and so why wouldn’t she do it? For the stakes to be high though, it seems to me that breaking from the relationship would end up in her being shunned from the community (i.e., since from the rest of the query I infer that Cassia was her ticket into this group, breaking up with her might get her kicked out again). I could totally be reading this wrong, of course, but that’s my impression as it stands.

    The 250 was okay, but having read the query (which could well have been the blurb on the back cover), I immediately get the sense that this scene is just bookending the real story. I’m not up on what’s trending in Women’s fiction, so perhaps this is common. It’s not really my thing, but if the author knows it’ll fly then no problem. Otherwise I think I’d just tackle the real story head on.

    Best of luck to both!

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  10. Attempting Average:
    I’m absolutely hooked after the first paragraph of the query, but as it goes on I wind up not entirely sure what the story it about. Involvement in a disappearance, mysterious lover, corrupt company, there are lots of subplots in this story, which is fine. The problem is, in a query, there’s little time or word space to form a thread to tie them together in an overall arch. I don’t know what the main conflict once each of these threads is mentioned because none of them come up again. That and things are a little vague after the first paragraph. “Nothing is as it seems” is cliché, her world unraveling tells the reader nothing, give a brief example or two of what this could mean for her. The end of the query doesn’t hook me as much as the beginning does.

    The voice in the first 250 positively sings. Queries suck, and rarely do the pages justice. This is a case of where the writing definitely outshines the pitch.

    Cold War Grudge:
    The only thing in the beginning of the query that throws me is I have no idea where Deep Ellum is, and the point of mentioning a setting in something as short as a query is so the reader can make an instant connection for grounding. That’s why it’s suggested to use as little slang and language unique to certain worlds as possible. If Deep Ellum is a city, toss in the state.

    Other than that, the only thing I’d question is the stakes. Aside from losing her lover, what’s up for grabs is her connection to the musician community. In the first paragraph, that’s sort of written off with the sentence “living among (them) doesn’t make her one of them.” I don’t get deep connection worth fighting/giving something up for from this. If said connection is what she’s gonna be giving her all for, it needs to be presented as something she’d do almost anything to maintain. Overall, I’m pulled into the drama and eager to see what comes of life with Cassia.

    The first 250, it’s difficult to form a connection with the MC because she’s describing things going on around her without any insight into how she feels about any of it. Aside from the dessert spoon quip. I snickered. I get that bored is the mood we might be going for, but boredom comes with other emotions like irritation, annoyance, restlessness, the urge to spoon one’s own eyes out. This comes across as more detached.

    Each entry was strong for different reasons. Both stories sound intriguing, and it’s easy to see why either was chosen. While the query in one entry stood out as more informed and straightforward, the voice in the other refuses to be ignored. I have to give it to ATTEMPTING AVERAGE.

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  11. Thank you all for your comments and suggestions. Some of you had confusion over Deep Ellum, but considering that I did give an explanation of what it is in the first sentence, I'm afraid if I said anything more it would be repetitious. For example: "As a reporter living in Deep Ellum, an underground arts district in Dallas, TX, all Tanya Falgoust wants is to be accepted as part of the underground arts district." If I were to describe it as something else, there wouldn't be anything to clearly tie Deep Ellum to being the underground arts district. For example: "As a reporter living in Deep Ellum, an industrial neighborhood in Dallas, all Tanya Falgoust wants is to be accepted as part of the underground arts district."

    I have hammered out this query in a face-to-face meeting with a well-respected literary agent, which makes me reluctant to change much, but I took your suggestions about the stakes. However, instead of changing the stakes, I've tweaked the query to reflect how important being accepted by the artists and musicians are to Tanya. Understanding its importance to her should have an impact on the stakes.

    Once again, thank you all for your valuable feedback.

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  12. Thank you all SO much for your feedback. I knew my query needed a lot of help, but just couldn't figure out exactly what I wanted. Your critiques have helped so much. Thank you for taking the time to leave such detailed feedback!

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