Jun 1, 2014

QK Round 1: In the Black Room, with White Shadows vs Mini Mutant

Entry Nickname: In the Black Room, with White Shadows
Title: The Crystal Bearer
Word count: 97K
Genre: YA Fantasy


All that remains of the most powerful people on T’orre is Ghuli, and with a metal army destroying everything in its path to get to her, she feels powerless.

Ghuli’s parents sent her away from their land before the army destroyed it. With the ever-present threat in the back of her mind, she grows up trying to live life, mainly by swinging from willow trees and aggravating her watchmen. She reads fairytales of safer lands to occupy her dreams, but the closer danger comes, the more those dreams turn to dark, abandoned castles, to ghosts and faces Ghuli’s never seen. At least, she doesn’t remember seeing them.

Once separated by shipwreck and alone in the world she has come to fear, Ghuli discovers her dreams are more real than she desires. They are glimpses of a time that she has reversed. The price: her consciousness, the part of her that contains her memory and the control of her erratic powers, has separated from her body. Ghuli’s consciousness guides her body towards a rune called the Great Scroll, the key to piecing her back together and becoming more than just a lost, scared little girl. She will gain the power to stop the metal army, but another price comes with regaining her full potential. She must discover whether or not she is the reason her people were destroyed.

First 250:

A long, dark corridor, decayed and coated in dust. Blurry, fair faces with large, dark eyes hung along the wall. In the distance echoed a faint, otherwise indescribable clanking. Despite the makings of a nightmare, Ghuli had dreamed of running along the tattered, white carpet with a racing heart and mischievous smile. Periodically, a small laugh escaped her.
Halfway down the corridor, she looked over her shoulder. Then, she crashed into someone in front of her. That was when she woke up. Ghuli replayed this dream many times in her mind that day. No story she had ever read provoked such an eerie place, and to think that she wasn’t scared in the midst of it confused her.

But for now, she needed to focus her thoughts elsewhere. If things went how Ghuli desired, she would be swinging through the air in the next few minutes. Otherwise, she would have to explain to her watchmen why breaking her arms and legs was a good use of her time. 

She sat on a high, steady, blue willow tree branch deep in the forest, tying a cluster of its switches together as the sun heated her skin. The northern winds always felt warmest at dusk. With the Island Continent so far west, Ghuli liked to imagine the sun gazed longingly at the Isle on its way back towards the eastern skies, a last goodbye to daytime, and in these trees in the Forest of Weeping Willows, she felt nothing could ever harm her.


Entry Nickname: Mini Mutants
Title: Hunted Souls
Word Count: 64k
Genre: YA high fantasy with sci-fi elements


Cancer patient Bixby awakens in Centerra, where giants hunt children for magic. Giants harvest it from children's blood, selling it for a profit. If anyone gets rescued, giants retaliate by killing an imprisoned child in return. They call it "insurance."

Dionté adopts Bixby into his band, provided Bixby follows his rules. Despite butting heads with the temperamental leader, Bixby obeys. Yet he struggles to wrap his head around rule number 1: don't rescue your friends. As he watches the giants pick them off, Bixby fights back to save his friends, only to get banished from the protection of underground forts.

Bixby's two friends, Otsu and Asra, share a common bond with him, as they have yet to discover their powers.  The girls follow him into the unknown, unable to stick to the sidelines while their friends get taken away. With no magic and no home, they sneak into the giants' castle in search of a way to rescue all the prisoners from the dungeons. However, giants seek not only magic, but four kids destined to destroy their race. By entering their territory, Bixby risks giving the giants the key to their survival.

First 250:

Bixby stares at the world through a fish tank. His body clenches in pain while delirium hazes his senses. The bed shakes passing over an elevator crack, flooding his throat with nausea. Doctors press his abdomen.

"What's your pain score?"

What do you think?! I'm gravy. He groans. At eighteen, he refuses to forfeit his battle against cancer.

A chill runs through his right forearm, and he watches white bubbles form beneath the skin. Perfect timing for you to blow, IV. I don't need drugs. A nurse digs a needle in his left wrist, seeking, but not finding, a good vein. Please, take your time, lady. He mentally tells her off with a slew of words that would send his mother running for soap. He sinks deeper into the aquarium, pain clogging his ears and eyes. His mother kisses his cheek, rubbing her hand on his bare head, tears spilling over his face. Don't leave her. Damn it, fight! The deep sucks him under, evaporating Bixby's will. He allows the darkness to escort him to freedom.


Bixby’s eyes fluttered open, his brain struggling through the fog of deep sea dreaming. A forest of maroon oaks swathed in purple mist blurred into view. The scent of fresh soil filled his nose. Something tapped his forehead. His clearing vision revealed a small creature with spiky, black hair and velvet moth wings hovering before his nose. Her fingers poked at his skull.

“Wake up! Giants aren't far!"

Alarmed, he sat up.


  1. This space reserved for judge feedback and votes.

    1. In the Black Room, with White Shadows: I confess I was a bit put off by the names in the first line of your query. Using apostrophes in place names is a bit of a fantasy cliché, and I don’t know how to pronounce your MC’s name (Ghouly or Julie?). Also we need to know her age. Anyway those are small things, but then I found the rest of the query a bit vague and rambling. Who or what exactly are the metal army, or who are they headed by? I don’t quite understand how her body and consciousness are separated. And Ghuli is the only one left with special powers, but what are those powers? Be more specific. And the shipwreck seems to come out of nowhere – where was she going? With whom? And ‘glimpses of a time she has reversed’ doesn’t make sense to me at this point. I’d try rewriting this query and clarifying the story and stakes.

      Your opening page: First, we need some paragraphs (unless this is just a formatting error). Second, I’d really recommend not starting with a dream, it rarely ever works – you need to ground the reader in your MC’s reality and world at the beginning of a book, and a dream doesn’t achieve that. Third, I’m confused by the timeline: she’s dreaming, or remembering her dream, then she says she’ll be swinging her legs through the air soon, but then there she is, in the tree. Remember the reader doesn’t know your story world yet – so make extra sure to make things very clear in the opening pages.

      Mini Mutants: Your query is pretty good, although the ‘cancer patient’ part is rather dissonant with the rest, and makes me wonder if the whole story is going to just turn out to be a dream he had in a coma or something. The rest is fine and interesting, although the mention of the kids’ powers pops up out of nowhere a bit and I’d like some more explanation of that. And again, please tell us your MC’s age, especially as this tale sounds more MG than YA to me.

      The content of your opening page is good, (although the switch from hospital to fantasy world happens a bit too quickly for me) but I found the prose rather purple. Don’t use longer or more obscure words just for the sake of it – eg ‘evaporating Bixby's will. He allows the darkness to escort him to freedom.’ – instead of coming across as lyrical, I’m afraid it makes it sound like you’re trying too hard, as well as slowing the pace and sometimes meaning I had to reread a line a couple of times. I also don’t know what ‘I’m gravy’ means, but that might just be me.

      Victory to Mini Mutants.

    2. Black Room, White Shadows: The first thing I noticed in your query (and this is a small nitpick, really) is you're missing the character's age. I also couldn't get a sense for your character's voice here, which is important. Try to find ways to infuse her voice- I know it's tough, in such a limited space- and your query will be much stronger. Additionally, I was left with too many questions after reading your query. Where does the metal army come from/what's their motive? I also didn't understand the part about her consciousness separating from her body. The shipwreck also seemed to come from out of left field, and I'm wondering, when and how did she reverse time?

      In your first 250, I was a tad overwhelmed because everything was lumped into one huge paragraph. (Unless this is a formatting error, in which case, please ignore this!). Otherwise though, consider breaking up this long paragraph into several smaller ones, which are easier for the average reader to take in/comprehend. You do have some beautiful descriptions here, but I was really confused as to whether or not Ghuli was dreaming for the entire paragraph. I'd suggest not opening with a dream, which has become rather cliche over the years. Instead, consider where your story truly starts--what's the inciting event? Start there, and you'll have readers hooked.

      Mini Mutants: I think you've got a fairly well-written query here, but I wonder if you could add some of Bixby's voice to it. I'd like to feel like I know him at least a bit; it would help compel me to read on. Your concept of giants harvesting children's blood for magic is dark and awesome, but I wonder because of your first line about cancer--is this all your MC's dream? Stories that end with, "Surprise! It was a dream!" always frustrate me. Also, what are the children's' powers? Definitely elaborate on that, as I felt thrown by that detail. As the judge before me mentioned, this sounds more like an MG tale overall than a YA one, so again, including your character's age somewhere in here is important.

      In your first 250, I suggest using an expression other than 'I'm gravy.' It sounds young, and also in general didn't sit well with me. I also wasn't really on board with the switch from present tense in the real world to past tense in the fantasy one. Consider making that first segment past tense as well. I thought it was interesting how you got us into the fantasy world so quickly, but I worry that you didn't spend enough time letting readers get to know Bixby in the real world.

      Victory to Mini Mutants!

    3. Allusion AssassinJune 2, 2014 at 12:30 PM

      Is Ghuli’s big hook worth issue that she feels powerless? I’m thinking not, but that’s what’s in your hook. Consider revising to better capture her real dilemma.

      It’s a nit, but I’m not a big fan of your character names, even for Sci fi. Also, YA MUST include the MC’s age in the query opening.

      I’m not sure I get the point of your second paragraph. It seems like a lot of words to say she grew up in boring exile. So? What’s next? In the third paragraph, the time frame gets confused. She gets shipwrecked after exile? Or is this the original shipwreck that exiled her?

      Is the big lump of text your fault or the blogs fault? If you, please fix. You need paragraphs. If the blog – bummer for you. Agree with the other judges that you shouldn’t start with a dream. This opening is confusing. I'm not sure what's going on, other than she is trying to fashion some kind of swig maybe?

      As I said to IN THE BLACK ROOM – YA MUST include the MC’s age in the query opening.

      Loved the hook and the premise here, but after that, I get a little lost in your query.

      How does Bixby get to Dionte and is it even important (I’m thinking not, as Dionte is never mentioned again) I feel like this whole paragraph could be summed up in a single sentence – “In fear for his life, Bixby takes refuge with an underground rebel group, but finds following their rules of “No Rescuing the Children” impossible to live with, ending in his expulsion” Not that, but you get the idea.

      The not having powers thing in the last paragraph seems to come out of the blue. If it’s important, move it up. You also add more characters who don’t seem relevant to the query. Axe their names. Less to distract from Bixby. Also, you mention the Giants are hunting four kids, but Bixby and his 2 friends only make 3. Where’s #4 or am I missing something?

      Finally, I feel like I don’t get the stakes here. Why would cancer patient Bixby be the one to take on these Giants? What’s in it for him? You have to give a motive. What are the stakes for Bixby – what bad things happen if he fails? I get that Bixby wants the Giants to stop killing kids (and agree with the other judges that this feels more MG) but why is that HIS problem? If he doesn’t stop them how is he PERSONALLY affected, why is he the chosen one and what would happen if he failed? They are already killing kids, so nothing extra happens so that leaves us back at Bixby might die doing it, which leads us full circle - so why would he?

      There isn’t enough voice here for us to believe that Bixby is that kind of kid, so you have to do something to explain the motive.

      I agree with Omar that the prose here seems to try too hard. Consider revising, especially if this is more upper middle grade, which I suspect it is.

      I feel like both of these stories and queries have challenges and was torn about who to give victory to. Although I like IN THE BLACK ROOM is more of a YA Sci Fi, I felt the premise of MINI MUTANTS and the opening page were stronger.


    4. Both very interesting premises here.

      In the Black Room with White Shadows:

      I understand where you are trying to go with this query, but it reads as very disjointed. I found myself having many questions and confused by some parts of the query. Who is Ghuli and why is a metal army after her? Is she a princess or some sort of revered royalty? This was not clear.

      In the second paragraph she is suddenly shipwrecked and you say she is separated, but from whom? And why is she trying to escape her guard?

      Overall, I am not clear as to who Ghuli is, why she needs to fight this army, and what the stakes are.

      The most intriguing part of your query is about her escaping her guard by swinging through the trees. I wish you would have started your first 250 with this image. For me it would have given a platform to describe setting, as well as begin to build Ghuli's character and motivation for wanting to escape her guard.

      Mini Mutant: This is an interesting premise but your entire query reads Middle Grade to me. Perhaps it's all the references to children and magic. And I agree with the other comments that you need to place the age of your character in your query.

      Your first 250, while building great imagery, does not really tell us anything compelling about the character. It's great to begin with action, but it's hard to feel anything for a protagonist in peril if we don't know who he is first.

      Victory to: Mini Mutant

    5. Girl with the Golden PenJune 4, 2014 at 2:01 AM


      The query- The first part of this query is not difficult to understand but it is rife with a lot of fantasy cliches. The apostrophe in the name and weird spelling of names to make them appear more exotic. The fact that your MC is the only survivor of a race with awesome powers. The fact that she has amnesia. This is stuff that has been done a lot so it doesn't offer much surprise. The powers themselves are vague. What was this race like? What could they do that was so great? Keeping your stakes vague pushes your fantasy into generic territory. You can use details to give your story a unique spin.

      Halfway through the query, the shipwreck does come out of nowhere and we get to another problem. The MC comes across as passive. She is guided by her destiny and doesn't seem to take a lot of initiative. Everything is set in place because of her birth. With so many fantasies out there, its important to think of what makes your world unique and stress those details.

      The pages- It starts with your MC having a dream and then waking up. Do not start your story with waking up. It has been done so many times and this is an immediate turn off for a lot of agents. I used to do it too, because it seems like a basic way to build tension but now that its been done so many times, you need to get more creative. The writing also feels a little flat. I do love the idea of her swinging through the trees. It gives Ghuli and the setting some good texture. Same with the query: focus on the unique and grab us.

      Mini Mutant

      The query- Hooked me in immediately. I love the idea of these giants and their system. It feels kind of like a much darker BFG to me, with children's blood instead of dreams and nightmares. It is well written for the most part. I do think you can clarify the reason why the kids have magic powers and what those magic powers look like. You say magic but I don't have a visual of what kind. That's an important detail. I also think you might be able to leave out the part about four kids being able to destroy the giants. Its a cliche destiny thing and I think the query is strong enough without it. You don't want to give agents a reason to pass up your story because of a cliche.

      First 250- This starts a bit cliche. Killing the protagonist at the very beginning and immediately transporting them to the world feels 1) like a prologue and 2) rushed because we don't know anything about the character yet and why we should care. Its possible for you just start in the giant world and have him think back about how the last thing he remembered was the hospital and the pain etc. Or you can give more of an introduction to his normal life before making the jump like in the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe.

      Overall, I think Mini Mutant had a lot more originality in the query from the start that allowed me to overlook the cliches in the first 250 words whereas Black Room did not provide me with enough originality in the query to help with this. Victory to MINI MUTANT

    6. ghostbuster_extraordinaireJune 4, 2014 at 9:39 AM

      In the Black Room, with White Shadows:

      It's difficult show us what your story is about in so few words, but this query 'told' us snippets. There was a disconnect for me in that I didn't really know how she got to the new world. When is the shipwreck? Where is it? Was she trying to leave her new world? I do like the idea of her dreams turning dangerous and that she may be the reason her people were destroyed. The first line definitely didn't hook me. Leading with her ability would though. Maybe leading with a line like: Ghuli discovers her nightmares are real. Something like that to grab the agents attention. This is a large story, so summing up the query was difficult I'm sure. Just make sure to leave out unnecessary details like 'swinging from willow trees'…although 'her watchmen' is intriguing, but it isn't mentioned again in the query. Be sure the stakes/conflict are highlighted. Right now they seem to be buried.

      The 250 words confused me. She's dreaming, but she's in a tree? Also starting the story out with a dream is a quick way to get a pass from an agent. Sometimes it works, but most of the time you want to make sure your reader is connected enough with the MC before slipping out of the story and into dreams/backstory.

      Mini Mutants

      Love the title. Nice hook in the opening, this definitely captured my attention. I started to not follow when you brought up 'underground forts.' What are those? Is that the Centerra? Try to keep the query simple/focused. That definitely drew me out. Also, how do they no longer have magic? If the giants take the magic from their blood then they would be dead if they took all their blood, right? I do see the stakes/conflict though. I'm still a little confused though. Is the Centerra a human hospital or a Giant operation?

      I like Bixby's personality. He's a fighter and that comes across nicely. I'm not sure what the aquarium is. Is he underwater during treatment? I would definitely end the 250 words at 'Wake up! Giants aren't far!' And for even more of a hook, I'd suggest 'Wake up! Giants are here!'

      Victory to Mini Mutants

      Is T'orre a planet? Island? Spaceship? I need more context! And who is Ghuli? Male? Female? Young? Old?
      "she grows up trying to live life" - what does this even mean?
      I think you can cut a lot of the details -- about swinging from trees and aggravating the watchmen and reading fairytales -- in favor of more of the plot details: HOW were the people destroyed? How does she know the danger is coming closer? Why was she on a ship? Who was she separated from?

      Was Bixby a cancer patient in the real world? Is Centerra a planet? Country? City? Research center? Whom would they "get rescued" by? Who is Dionte? And what's all this about discovering powers? - that seemed to come out of nowhere, with little explanation. The premise sounds neat -- a world of giants where children are targeted for magic in their blood -- but you might want to focus on the main conflict (Bixby going to rescue those captured in the castle?) and prune some of the plot points that happen along the way.

      Victory to Mini Mutants

  2. In the Black Room, with White Shadows: Your premise has the potential for some wonderful action scenes and evocative world building, but I found the query quite confusing, especially the third paragraph. Why has she come to be scared of the world (her dreams, the shipwreck, and encounter with the metal army). Why does it matter if she's reversed time somewhere? What does it mean for her body and consciousness to be separated, if her consciousness is still capable of guiding her body? What is Ghuli's incentive to face the metal army? Re the first 250, I wanted to connect more with the MC. The prose felt a little distant to me. Have you thought of trying this in first person (even just a small bit as an exercise)? It might help it feel more immediate. Also watch out for overuse of adjectives.

    Mini Mutants: I love the concept here (slightly reminiscent of The Doomspell), but it did feel more MG to me. The query sets out the stakes well. I did wonder whether the blood of all children was magic or if this is only the case for those with "powers" since you mention that Otsu & Asra haven't discovered their powers yet. This also raises the question of whether they or Bixby discover personal powers in the course of the story. Also, some indication of why Bixby has been transported to this world and how that relates to his cancer might be in order. Re the 250, I found the switch from present to past jarring and the prose felt just a little overwrought. Simplify it and I'm sure it will shine.

  3. In the Black Room: Oooo, the last line of your query is awesome! The idea that she might be the one responsible all along was a really nice twist. The third para of your query gets a little confusing. I wasn't sure what was meant by the time she had reversed - how did she do that and why? Also, the sentence after that about the price could be clearer eg "The price she paid for doing blah blah blah was the loss of blah blah"
    Mini Mutants: Great first 250 words! You give such a strong sense of being in Bixby's situation, being that sick and miserable, that it made my throat hurt imagining a kid going through that. And then the jump straight into the Giant's world is really going straight into the action.
    I agree with Rebecca that the query does make it feel more like MG than YA, especially with the reference to 'children' and 'kids'. I'm not a YA/MG writer but it did give the query a much younger feel.

  4. IN THE BLACK ROOM: You've got a lot of interesting ideas in your query and I think if you streamlined them it would feel more cohesive. If you introduced your MC, the conflict, and then the stakes - you'd have a killer query. You've got some great imagery in your 250, but like other commenters said, starting with a dream is risky

    MINI MUTANTS: First, I love the premise of your story, but I thought it was a MG story until I read Bixby was eighteen. I actually scrolled up to the info lines to double check. For YA, maybe make it edgier, with more of a dangerous essence. Giants don't sound necessarily threatening for an 18 yo protag - unless you give more detail to make them cunning and scarier. Your 250 was pretty solid. Great description of him in the hospital.

    Good luck to both of you!!

  5. Black Room, White Shadows

    Query: As others have already suggested, I think you’ll benefit a lot by being more specific and focused. I get a sense that there’s some time travel (or alternate universe?) going on here, in that Ghuli is having dreams/flashbacks of a life that she hasn’t really “lived,” or had once lived but due to the reversal of time, her entire world (or fate) has since changed. This in itself is really complex, as is anything that has to do with time travel or alternate universes / histories / futures. So you might want to focus a lot more on that, since it seems that’s a major theme or plot of the novel: this concept of present Ghuli and dream Ghuli. Then I would expand outward, bring in the “metal army” and explain a bit about who they are / what they are, as well as the state of the world (which will link you to the stakes).

    The concept itself is pretty awesome. I love how unique it is, and it’s something that’ll really make a reader have to think and put effort into to piece together (like a worthwhile, challenging puzzle). Plus it’s interesting how this is put in the fantasy genre, and yet there’s a lot of emphasis on a metal army. Of course, metal doesn’t automatically mean “sci-fi” because metal has been used for a long time, but an army made of animate metal is another thing. It is really interesting and piqued my interest. Plus I think it lays out the stakes and shows us the state of Ghuli’s world. I’m picturing an army of robots controlled by magic or something along those lines.

    First 250: I think you can eliminate a lot of these adjectives to make the opening not feel so cluttered. For example, “A long, dark corridor, decayed and coated in dust” could be shortened to “A dark corridor, decayed and coated in dust.” (Corridors are usually already long, plus “long” is a pretty subjective word.) However, the word “decayed” is a bit vague. How is a corridor decayed? Is the paint chipped? You touch on “decay” with dust, but you can go even further with some more specific imagery. I was also a little confused about what’s happening because I feel like there’s a scene change or setting shift in the middle of the opening paragraph, where she goes from running down the hallway to sitting on a tree branch. I think by splitting this paragraph up you’ll help alleviate confusion.

  6. Mini Mutants

    Query: You hint at some really intriguing ideas, such as Bixby and his friends “discovering their powers.” I also think your concept is really interesting, that a sick person wakes up in a fantasy world ripe for exploration…though it also seems like a dangerous world. The giants add a fresh new concept to this as well, and you clearly define the stakes / plot. I almost get a sense of “Jack and the Magic Bean Stalk” from this, which is really cool.

    I’m wondering if telling us why the giants harvest children’s blood might give us a better sense of the overall world. That was my first question when I reached the end of the first paragraph: why blood? Who would buy it? I think answering that question can potentially set up a lot of the setting in just one sentence. Also, I’m guessing when you say “Cancer patient Bixby awakens in Centerra” you’re implying that Bixby falls asleep in the “real world” (where he has cancer) to awaken in this fantasy one? More clarity there might be helpful. The last line I’m a little iffy about since it implies that going into the Giants’ territory means Bixby is taking a great risk (or might “give them the key to their survival”). But in order to fulfill the prophecy, isn’t he going to have to face the giants anyway? Or is Bixby not one of the “four destined kids”?

    First 250: I really love your opening line. It makes me think “What?” in a good way. Plus it’s a pretty cool description, which implies a lot…like the world feels distant from him, and everything he sees comes up murky. The way you follow through with it throughout the hospital scene works really well, too. The intensity of the hospital scene is nice as well, because I found myself instantly pulled into the story and following along with Bixby, wondering what’s going to happen to him.

    I do worry that you might have jumped to the fantasy world too quickly. Unless he takes jumps back and forth between “real” and “fantasy” throughout the novel, you might want to stay in the “real world” a bit longer so we get a sense of who he is in the real world. That way we can compare it to his fantasy persona.

    I hope you both find my comments helpful. Good luck to both entries! I really enjoyed reading them. :)

  7. Black Room/White Shadows - I'm totally with this query, wondering why the powerful is powerless, wondering about these encroaching dreams… "Trying to live life" is vague, but pretty much I'm with you in these first two paragraphs. Then you loose me. Separated from whom - her watchman? Does the separation bring on the change? (And what is this change exactly?) I don't understand, "a time that she has reversed" or exactly what's going on with the consciousness/memory/body separation and who (she, herself?) is going to do the piecing back together! But the last line is strong - raises the intrigue for sure.

    1st 250 - Normally I'd be hesitant to start with a dream, but I know that G's dreams and how they are darkening is significant so I'm okay with a dream beginning but - first fragment of a sentence, not strong, and I don't love saying something is indescribable, (No! describe it vividly as well as G's emotions in the place) Also your verbs are slowed down with unnecessary use of "was". Not - she had dreamed of running - just she ran! Not - that was when she woke up - but - she woke up. (And what caused the wake-up?)

    I want to be in her head more. I want to see things more vividly.

    Cancer patient Bixby awakens in Centerra, where giants hunt children for magic. Giants harvest it from children's blood… You can condense this to: Cancer patient Bixby awakens in Centerra, where giants hunt children to harvest their magical blood for profit.

    "If anyone gets rescued" Who's doing this rescuing? Centerran townspeople? This bit doesn't work for me. I want more energy to describe this drama… something like: If Centerrans attempt to rescue a captive their efforts are quickly met with a retaliatory kill.

    Re: the 1st 250 - I'm worried about this set-up I don't want Centerra to be a dreamland. I need it to be an alternate reality a la Narnia or Fillory (The Magicians) and in these type set-ups both worlds are important and affect one another. I can't tell which you have planned from what I'm seeing so far, so I just needed to express that worry/hope!

    Best of luck to both of you! I don't write fantasy - so you have my full respect!

  8. In the Black Room, with White Shadows

    Query: I sense a cool story in here, but it's confusing as is. I think the problem is that you're trying to cram a synopsis of a complex story into a query, and you can't possibly cover everything in such a short number of words. I would suggest that you pare this way down to the most essential storyline and then make sure that everything you mention is clear and the connections from one point to the next are very easy to follow.

    250: I think starting inside a dream is tricky in the best of circumstances, but especially so when you're world building at the same time. It might work better to start in a "normal" place for Ghuli. When you get to the third paragraph and mention that she has watchmen and is goign to intentionally break her arms and legs, I sat up and was like "wha?" But then in your next paragraph, she's just sitting. What is she about to do? I'm left wondering this but not in the best possible way. More because I wish you had ended your query with some kind of punch. I am imagining that she's about to jump and that very small action might have been enough to give the reader a forward motion to want to turn the page. My impression is that maybe your first actual page is longer than this and maybe where it should have ended is beyond the 250 limit. Maybe culling some unnecessary words - adjectives and adverbs as a start - might pull the start of the action into the 250.

    Mini Mutants

    Query - I've read this one before so I'm trying to re-read it objectively. Can't remember what I might have said about it before. Your plot is fairly clear, but I think it could still be made more plain just because I have to stop as I'm reading it to process and read back again. I like your last line a lot - that what he is doing may actually be the very thing that jeopardizes his quest. The stakes are nicely laid out there.

    250 - I think your query needs to explicitly state that this is a portal fantasy. It's implied with the cancer patient, but the first 250 make it plain. Reminds me a lot of Thomas the Unbeliever, with his trip into a fantasy land through his leprosy. I really loved your 250 - it's delivers on showing us exactly who your character is with such a great voice. And I like that you were able to get us right into the land of Centerra before the end of the page. Well done. Get that voice into your query.

    Good job to both of you and good luck!

  9. Hi! :) I have to say that both of these stories have really unique, interesting premises. Best of luck to both of you!! Some thoughts:

    In the Black Room: Again - very cool premise. I like the idea of her being split apart from a piece of herself and trying to work with that missing part of her to set herself and her world straight. Although - why did her parents send her away? Did they know what she was capable of? Why isn't she more concerned about the metal army? The query almost made her sound a little too care-free, considering her history. For the 250 - I thought it was very atmospheric with some lovely images. Although, I'll echo what others have said about opening with a dream. I think it could work just as well if she's already up in the tree, reflecting back on the dream and how it differs from her 'now'.

    Mini Mutants - I like the idea of giants hunting kids for their blood/magic. I think it sets up a cool adventure and want to know how the kids could possibly defeat them. But, I had a bit of a disconnect reading your query. Why/how does the fact that he's a cancer patient really figure into it? And why would a giant allow a sickly teenager into his band? Why would Bixby accept, knowing he'll be hunting down his friends? I'd love some reasoning behind both. Same with your 250 - bit of a disconnect. There's such a small taste of his real world before you jump to the magical world. I found myself wanting a bit more grounding. But, you do have some cool concepts working for you. Best of luck with this!

  10. In the Black Room, with White Shadows
    This is another query where there a lot of cool, intriguing elements, but it doesn’t quite all come together. First of all, if Ghuli is the only one left, then who are these watchmen guarding her? Second, if dreams are becoming dark and foreboding, why would she “desire” them? Finally, much of the detail in the third paragraph lost me. I kind of get where it’s trying to go, but the flow isn’t quite there yet. I think the problem is mostly that it’s being too vague. I’d suggest trying a version where the query just spells things out in straightforward fashion and see if it doesn’t present a little stronger.

    There’s some nice writing in the 250, some intriguing turns of phrase (I especially enjoyed the final paragraph), but again it feels unfocused to me. We go from dream to waking, and then to a comment on how she thinks about this all day, but then we’re suddenly back to the moment of her waking again (I think). I would suggest some revising to make the narrative flow more logical from one element to the next, and to make the transitions from dream to waking more natural.

    Mini Mutant
    I like the 250. Bixby’s voice is distinct and I think this is a narrative I could follow. A couple of items though: 1) if this is the transition from this world to the other one, then I think we need to spend a little more time getting grounded in this one. We need to know who Bixby is in the real world to fully appreciate how this new world will affect him.

    I would same the same for this query as I did it’s opponent above. Lots of neat elements, but it’s not flowing together just yet IMO. For example, in the line “Dionté adopts Bixby into his band…” I took Dionté at first to be a giant, just because of the way he’s introduced in relation to the first paragraph. Maybe rework that? Also, it mentions Bixby fighting to save his friends, but only mentions that he has two friends (Otsu and Asra) and they don’t appear to have been captured. And the reference to “powers” kind of comes out of nowhere and never really gets explained (the opening mentions magic, but doesn’t really expand much on what exactly that concept means in this setting). Which again is all to say I think the query needs to be reworked to become sharper and more focused and present the elements in a clear, concise, logical fashion.

    Also, it could just be me, but the query sounds much more like the presentation of a Middle Grade story than YA. The voice doesn’t feel like that of an 18 year old.

    Best wishes to both!