Jun 15, 2014

QK Round 2: Make a Baby With Socks On VS Reality Star

Entry Nickname: Make A Baby With Socks On
Title: You Can Still Make A Baby With Your Socks On
Word count: 60,000
Genre: Women's Fiction

Query:

When her husband announces to their entire New Year’s Eve party that having sex with her feels hollow and empty, Aida realizes that she just might be the kind of person who makes truly terrible decisions. Especially about men. What’s even worse is that her divorce therapist believes Aida’s over-involved, hilarious eighty-year-old Italian grandmother might be the key to turning her life around. To prove her point, she challenges Aida to follow one piece of advice from each of her grandmother’s letters.

From telling her to go out on a date before her breasts droop from old age, to having sex without taking her socks off, Aida learns that good things come when she follows her grandmother’s advice. Especially when it comes to men. It’s because of her that Aida finds love again in the most unlikely of places, and realizes that her grandmother knows more about life than just how to make meatballs and go to confession. But after that love leads to a proposal and wedding, tragedy strikes. Aida finds out she’s pregnant with a baby that will most likely die at birth and she’s faced with the hardest decision she’s ever had to make – to keep the baby or end the pregnancy. Her gut tells her one thing, but her grandmother says another. Now she’s left doubting the one person who has helped her the most. A wrong decision could spiral her back into a deep depression and potentially end her new marriage, but the alternative jeopardizes a relationship that has transcended every obstacle in her life.

You Can Still Make A Baby With Your Socks On is a work of women’s fiction and is complete at 60,000 words.

First 250:

Dear Aida,

I hope you got the socks I sent you. When I first mailed them, they were in a regular-sized envelope with one of those return address labels from the Easter Seals. I always feel bad using those since I only donated $5 back in 1992, and since then they've sent me enough labels to cover the Great Wall of China. Of course, I would never actually use those labels on the Great Wall because I wouldn’t want that many people knowing where I live, but it doesn’t matter because two days later the letter I wrote to you was returned for not having enough postage and I had to switch the tube socks out for trouser socks so I wouldn't have to pay more.

How is the new apartment feeling? I know it will take a while to feel like home, but you will heal from this, Aida. You will.

I never liked him. I know you thought it was because he wasn’t Italian but that’s not true. I didn’t like him because he drank too much. It would be different if he was Italian and enjoyed a few glasses of wine at night, but he liked all that beer and I heard that beer is the drink that turns most people into alcoholics. I think that’s why you don’t see any Italian alcoholics.

You’re too young to be sad. Wear one of those bodysuits you used to wear in college, the one that snaps down in the crotch (it’s really amazing you never got an infection down there with how tight those things are). You’re beautiful. Go have some fun before your breasts droop.

Loving you always,
Grandma


VERSUS

Entry Nickname: Reality Star
Title: I Was a Summer Reality Star
Word Count: 79,000
Genre: Women's fiction


Query:

Jen is a bit disillusioned with life after college. She works long hours at an uninspiring job, and she’s suffocating under overdue emergency room bills. When she finds an ad seeking intelligent, puzzle-loving twenty-somethings for a competitive reality show with a cash prize, Jen grasps at a solution to her problems.

Any uncertainties about the wisdom of pinning her future to a TV show evaporate when Jen finds herself unemployed, single, and homeless. She moves into an all-glass, fishbowl-shaped house in Los Angeles with eleven strangers. Jen dives into the competition: solving puzzles, exploring mazes, and having the time of her life. She clicks instantly with fellow contestant Justin, but can't tell whether his interest is real or fabricated for the viewers. When she finds herself battling competitor Ariana for Justin’s attention, Jen discovers that some of her housemates aren’t above backstabbing, lying, and cheating.

Over the course of the summer, she struggles to win challenges— and viewer votes—while trying to figure out how Justin really feels. It’s a tricky balancing act, especially if she isn’t willing to sink to Ariana’s level. When Jen finds out she’s about to be eliminated, she must decide whether to sacrifice her values, the money, or her chance at love.

First 250:

I huddled at my desk, wrapping a blanket over my hoodie. Maybe one day management would trust employees to turn the heat above sixty degrees. I held my caffeine molecule mug close to my body, futilely trying to gain warmth from the steam drifting off the top. The coffee tasted horrible; drinking it wasn’t an option.

With my right hand, I scrolled through my Facebook newsfeed, scanning jokes, cartoons, and idle chatter. It wasn’t allowed, but everyone did it. “Marketing assistant” apparently was advertising jargon for “lots of sitting around.” The irony wasn't lost on me. Anyway, after working insane hours all week to include last-minute changes on a major project, I appreciated the break while my boss reviewed it. I turned up the volume on my computer to project my music over the howling November storm. My toes danced on the linoleum floor.

What was that? A post from my old Beginner’s Drama professor caught my eye.

"Do you want to win $250,000? Are you outgoing, vivacious, engaging? Do you always have to be right? Do you love puzzles and trivia? Do you usually find yourself surrounded by less intelligent people? We’re looking for smart, spunky 21- to 25-year-olds for an exciting new reality competition! Email Stephanie your name, age, 2-4 pics, and a little about yourself for more information."

A reality show for smart people? Before I could investigate, a new email popped up at the corner of my screen.

It was Seattle General Hospital’s billing department.

15 comments :

  1. Judges, reply here with your comment and vote.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. MAKE A BABY WITH SOCKS ON

      Query: The first line hooked my interest right off the bat. The title is great, and the query was easy to follow. To make the first paragraph smoother, I would suggest changing the description of the grandmother to mention her letter writing one line sooner. Something like “What’s worse is her therapist believes Aida’s over-involved, letter-obsessed, eight-year-old…” (Just so when you mention the letters in the next line, it’s not out of nowhere.) The query is on the long side, and I think you could probably trim some from the second paragraph. I would cut the “Especially when it comes to men” line in the second paragraph because you only mention the advice her grandmother gives about men. Alternatively, you could give us a non-man related piece of advice from grandmother here instead of the “go on a date” line and keep the "especially when it comes to men" line.

      250: Loved it! I admit I was skeptical when I saw it started with a letter, but you pulled it off so well that I knew my doubts were unnecessary within the first paragraph. I hope your MC’s voice holds up to grandma’s, because it’s spectacular.

      REALITY STAR

      Query: Fun premise and easy to follow query. However, I think you can add more punch to the opening by cutting out much of first paragraph – the first line in particular is a bit bland. Perhaps something like,: “After college, Jen finds herself unemployed, homeless, and pinning her future to an appearance on a reality TV show…” I would really try to rephrase that opening to grab our attention with something unique right away. I also think you could be a little more specific at the end so we have a better picture of what, exactly, is at stake.

      250: I would suggest a new opening line. You want a first line that presents at least a hint of a story question. You also want to give us a sense of voice. This one doesn’t quite do those, IMO. I think I would be more intrigued if you lead with the hospital bills – maybe give us a glimpse into how many there are, does she ignore them, etc. I don’t get a great sense of the voice in this page, but I think you could fix it by looking for generic words and replacing a few with something that pops. For example, “The coffee tasted horrible” isn’t very specific or voicey. “The coffee tasted like burnt toast and envelope glue” gives me a better idea of who the character is and what she sounds like.

      Overall, both stories sound lovely, and I hate to choose only one. But since I'm being forced to make a choice, victory to MAKE A BABY WITH SOCKS ON.

      Delete
    2. YOU CAN STILL MAKE A BABY WITH YOUR SOCKS ON --
      Query:
      This query has voice and presents a fun, unique premise. I think it's a little wordy, though, especially for a book that (seems) a little more breezy and sarcastic. The first line is a run-on sentence that I believe could be crafted into something more punchy, especially if you can find a more unique way to describe "hollow and empty" (that is not as descriptive as say, "like making love to a sock puppet" -- I mean, I'm sure you can find better words, but I hope you see my point. Some words that tell us about the husband's character as well as Aida's sense of humor). I think you can look at the entire query and perhaps tweak it to bring out more of the quality of your first passage -- I understand that the story has a dramatic side to it as well, so you don't want to have the query be too humorous -- but I would like more voice.
      First 250 Words:
      This is great! Lots of voice here. I really don't mind the opening with a letter part, because I've read several epistolary books that work quite well. You do draw the reader in with humor, but also create intrigue (why is Aida in a new apt. and why does she need to be strong, etc.) and that's very deft technique.
      I WAS A SUMMER REALITY STAR --
      Query:
      Honestly, I feel as if you could cut the entire first paragraph and blend in some of the necessary info. from that para. into the rest of the query. It was the second paragraph that grabbed my interest -- it presented something unique (otherwise, I think I'm reading another story about a 20-something "finding herself") Consider something like -- "Any uncertainties about pinning her future to a TV show -- even one that promises a cash prize to one intelligent, puzzle-loving twenty-something --evaporate when Jen LAST NAME finds herself unemployed, single, and homeless. Drowning in medical bills, she doesn't hesitate to move into an all-glass, fishbowl-shaped house in Los Angeles with eleven strangers..." Okay, you can probably word that better, but I hope it does show you can get to the real meat of the query faster without sacrificing needed information. The rest of the query is clearer and engaging than the first paragraph, so I'd consider revising that a bit.
      First 250 Words:
      I would suggest revising this as well. The beginning feels generic and just doesn't draw me in. I think your writing is fine, so it isn't a question of writing style or technique, it's more about starting the story in the right place. Maybe start with a bill collector showing up at the workplace and Jen scrambling to hide this from co-workers? Or something to do with her being broke and hounded by bill collectors, anyway, so that we see her dilemma right up front. I also think bringing in someone else (co-worker or whoever) to start the discussion of ways for her to raise money and the whole reality thing comes up... I don't know, I just don't feel this beginning is working. (Especially since I can't see what follows, of course -- maybe you already have a place to start a few paragraphs on, but I can't see that here). Something to consider. As I said -- well-written, so you probably can just tweak that beginning and you'll be fine.
      Choices are hard! But I must make one, so -- mainly based on the first 250 words and the "voice" drawing me in I give
      VICTORY to YOU CAN STILL MAKE A BABY WITH YOUR SOCKS ON

      Delete
    3. Make A Baby With Socks On: Your query is better than your first effort, but you still tell us way too much and start to turn it into a synopsis. I'd cut everything after 'But after that love...' and just leave it open-ended along the lines of 'But the course of true love never did run smooth...'

      Your first page is fun and voice-filled as before.

      Reality Star: Your query is fine, and explains everything well, but it just doesn't grab me much. I think more voice would help, perhaps a touch of humour, and maybe some details about the wacky things she has to do on the show. I'd also like to know who the medical bills are for - her or someone else? That would help me empathise more with your MC.

      Your opening page is well-written and sets up the story, but there's not that much voice coming across. I'd like more of Jen's personality in there. At the moment it's a pretty mundane scene of an unhappy office worker - what about Jen makes her special? Make me root from her from the off.

      VICTORY TO MAKE A BABY WITH SOCKS ON.

      Delete
    4. Allusion AssassinJune 16, 2014 at 12:46 PM

      Making a Baby -

      Nice job with your query rewrite! You took that big mountain of feedback and really worked some magic. Now, I'm clear on your stakes. Plus you made me want to root for the Aida.

      The only thing I think still needs addressed is the why the shrink thinks Granny is the key - it still seems like implausible advice for a shrink to give. Also - recommend a paragraph break at "But after that love leads to a proposal" - make that paragraph, the stakes, stand alone.

      Your first 250 still rock.

      REALITY STAR -
      To me this query still feels flat. You have a great premise, but voice sells queries and stories. I think by developing some of the humor you hint at in your opening page more in both the query and the page you can really sell this terrific premise.

      By the end of this, the reader still doesn't have much clue about your MC - is she serious, quirky, spunky, overwhelmed, sophisticated... Like the previous judge, I agree that you should rework your first paragraph to get to the point sooner. The first sentence in the second paragraph is redundant and can be incorporated into your new, more direct open.

      Additionally, this query does a lot of telling about the main part of your story - you tell us she solves puzzles, you tell us she's having the time of her life, you tell us she falls for some guy, tell us she struggles to stay in the competition. What kind of puzzles - show us something specific - "Between trying to figure out how to use snake skin to collect rain water and deciphering ancient Indian hieroglyphics to beat rival Ariana to the finish line..." Show us the connection with Justin - "Everyone knows that fire is life in a survival situation, but Jen didn't expect a simple touch from Justin, with his sloppy looks and nonchalant attitude, to ignite hers..." Show us the struggle - "Jen knew cutting it in the outback without the comforts of starbucks and her L.L Bean wouldn't be a cakewalk, but this city girl hadn't expected near starvation and surviving on slugs, while still having to smile for the camera to win the viewer's heart...and votes."

      It almost feels like your trying to pack in so much information about the plot, that you lose you MC in the process. Maybe pair back some of the general detail in favor for less more specific information. The mechanics of a reality show are fairly well known these days, so you don't need to spend much time on them.

      I really like both of these entries (and voted for both in the last round) but based on voice and the better query Victory to MAKE A BABY WITH SOCKS ON

      Delete
    5. NOTE: Since I focused on queries in round 1, this time I'm focusing on the first 250 words.


      MAKE A BABY WITH SOCKS ON
      I like how it opens with the socks, and the somewhat-rambly voice gives a great picture of Aida's grandmother already after only a few lines.

      Love the Great Wall comment, the Italian alcoholics wisdom, the body suit TMI.

      I think that this short section gives a really clear picture of what the reader is in for with the rest of the book, and I know I'd read on.


      I WAS A SUMMER REALITY STAR
      The opening sentences don't draw me in as much as I'd like them to... checking FB/email at work seems like such a mundane activity, and shivering in a cold office isn't anything unusual either (unfortunately!). I do like the detail about the caffeine molecule mug, and how she won't actually drink the awful coffee.

      "Do you want to win..." - The ad itself doesn't seem as attention-grabbing as an ad should be. I think that at this point, it might be more effective to just have a line or two, like it was the subject of an email or link, instead of posting all the details right away. At this point, I don't know enough about your MC to even know if she'd be interested in being on a reality show, so the details about what info to send in seems unnecessary.


      Victory to MAKE A BABY WITH SOCKS ON

      Delete
    6. Make a Baby With Socks on
      Query: Interesting hook! I love the crazy Italian grandma and her advice. However, I wish we could've gotten to the conflict and stakes (keep the baby or abort the pregnancy) sooner--I originally thought that finding a new love would be the focus of the book, but the query makes it sound like that (and the wedding, and the baby) happen pretty quickly in the story. I'm left uncertain as to whether the baby choice is the focus of the story, or just the climax. Also, I don't know how "go on a date before your breasts droop of old age" counts as crazy-old-grandma advice--isn't she just saying she should go on a date while she's young? How is that unique advice?
      First 250: HAHAHAHA! Oh man, I adore this old lady already. What a killer voice! I do wish I would've had a chance to get to know your MC as well, but you don't have room for that in just 250 words, and this batty old lady is so awesome that I don't even care you're not starting with the main character.

      Reality Star
      Query: The first two sentences are very "down," and don't really give me anything exciting to hang on to. I love the hook, though (the puzzle show for twentysomethings), so I wish you could start with that instead of telling us how bad Jen's life is currently (which is backstory). We only need a brief glimpse into her motivations for joining the show, and we don't need it before we can understand the hook. The rest of the query feels a little wordy, so I think you could clean that up some. Great conflict and stakes, though! I love this premise.
      First 250: Nice voice here, and you ground us in your character and the scene very well. This is subjective, but I think you could give us a little more of the conflict of her life before you introduce the game show.

      My decision: WHYYYYY do you do this to me?! Both of these sound so great in completely different ways. For me, a game-show romance book has always been one of my "please somebody write this so I can read it!" weak spots. Also, I have no idea of the voice of the MC in Make a Baby with Socks On, because we didn't get a chance to be introduced to her in the first 250--and although I adore the grandma, I assume we'll only be seeing her in scattered letters, so I have no idea if I'll even like the character I'd be spending the majority of the book with. That being said... If I was voting for which book I personally want to read more, it would be Reality Star. But I think that Make a Baby is more polished and will garner more agent/editor interest (and I can't say it enough: I adore Grandma), so my vote is VICTORY TO MAKE A BABY WITH SOCKS ON!

      Delete
    7. Make A Baby With Socks On

      QUERY: Whoa, what an intense opening sentence. I think you can cut this down bit and still keep the power in it: When her husband announces to their entire New Year’s Eve party that having sex with her feels hollow and empty, Aida realizes that she just might be the kind of person who makes truly terrible decisions. Especially about men.

      Uh, I think the rest of the query could use some tightening as well.

      First 250: Love the grandmother’s voice. There is an echo: How is the new apartment (delete-feeling)? I know it will take a while to feel like home, but you will heal from this, Aida. You will.

      The last paragraph had me snort-laughing. Awesome!

      REALITY STAR

      QUERY: This is a fun premise.

      First 250: There isn’t a lot of the character’s personality shining in this opening. It’s well-written, but I don’t really empathize with her at the moment.

      Good luck to you both.

      VICTORY to MAKE BABY WITH SOCKS ON.

      Delete
    8. DivaDeconstructedJune 17, 2014 at 8:28 PM

      MAKE A BABY WITH SOCKS ON

      Query: This is a really cute story. My only concern is, if the central conflict is the baby issue, how far along in the novel does it happen? It feels like the first 1\2 of the book would be Aida following her grandmother's advice and it all working out well in cute ways. So I'd be worried about maintaining reader's attention.

      First 250 words: It's a bold move to start with a letter, but I like it. I'm also prety sure my concerns about the keeping the attention of the reader could be easily overcome if I read one more of these! They are great!

      ---------------------------------------

      REALITY STAR:

      Query: A really fun query, with an exciting premise! There is something off to me about "Jen grasps at a solution to her problems." I feel like you need to refer back to the advertisement or something. While it's pretty obvious that's what you're referring to, the flow of the sentence is off somehow. As you can tell I'm not a grammar goddess so I can't be as helpful as I want to be in this regard! My only other moment of confusion/concern is that how is she "unemployed" and "homeless" if she's on the show. I'm assuming they live on the "set" and are probably paid something? So explaining that part would be helpful, or you could delete it entirely, and I'm not sure it'd change much.


      First 250 words: Your first 2 paragraphs could use a little work. I recommend trying to read them aloud, as there flow of the sentences is a bit odd. There are also some details that do more harm than good. For example, I felt it was odd to say "with my right hand." I'm guessing this is because she's holding her coffee cup in her left? It'd been easier to say "with my other hand" but even that seems unnecessary. You can trust the reader to make some leaps in logic. You also have the opposite problem in areas. You say "a major project" but the lack of specificity here makes me wonder what it was. I know she quits this job, so it's not super important, but knowing what she did might help us later accept that she'd good at something necessary for the reality show.


      =======================================

      Verdict: While I like the concepts of both of these stories, I think MAKE A BABY WITH SOCKS ON is just slightly more polished than REALITY STAR. I think the plot of REALITY STAR sounds intriguing, and I think the author has a great story there, but for me:
      VICTORY goes to MAKE A BABY WITH SOCKS ON.

      Delete

  2. Make a Baby With Socks On
    This might be completely personal preference but I think you'd be better off getting to the point quicker. Is the line about her soon-to-be ex's comment necessary? I didn't read the last round so maybe adding in a specific was part of your revisions, I just think it ends up muddling the concept in the beginning. It might also be because the example is kind of long and kinda sad (remember this is our very first intro to this character.) Is there something else, or a simpler way to say it? Just her marriage ending fairly quickly might be enough for her to decide she doesn't make good decisions.I also wondered why her therapist thinks grandma holds the keys to her happiness.
    Other than that, I love this concept. Sounds super cute.
    I do wish the first page had more of your character in it, gave us more of an idea of your writing but I love the grandma voice in it.

    Reality Star
    I have a bit of the same advice for you. Get to the point quicker. Those first two sentences not only don't tell me much about the story, they don't tell me anything really unique. I think you can make that whole first paragraph ONE sentence...or maybe two, just make it quick. I think the concept behind this is super cute, but there's just too much fluff surrounding it, for me at least. You may even be able to cut that first paragraph all together and start with Jen finding herself homeless and throwing herself into a her only hope to get out-- a game show. However you want to do it is fine, I just think the sooner you get a reader/agent/editor to the part that makes your novel special/different the better.
    Other than boredom, you don't really show us any conflict in the first page. I actually think you'd do better to have the hospital bill pop up first that way we'd know there was some kind of problem she was facing. And I think the showing of the game show would be better for a story if it came up in dialog. One of her co-workers pop over the wall of the cubical and starts making fun of it or jokingly telling her she should join it. That way its a scene that can jump off the page instead of sitting silently at her desk and reading.


    These both have very interesting concepts! I think this mostly comes down to preference and which one hooked me more.
    Victory goes to Make a Baby With Socks On. This one just spoke to me more.

    ReplyDelete
  3. MAKE A BABY WITH SOCKS ON

    Query: Well, you did it. You wrote a query for women's fiction that I actually want to read. I, fantasy lover, who normally cannot love a book unless someone's nose gets broken in the first chapter. Hang on a minute while I book a ski trip to Hell.

    *ducks a low-flying pig*

    I do have two points where I got hung up. One was the name-check in paragraph 2 (keeping her socks on). I fail to see the advantage in keeping her socks on. Socks are, themselves, kind of gross, so dropping them in here out of context doesn't seem like particularly good advice at all. If I were you, I'd use a different piece of advice there.

    My second issue was with the structure of the final sentence. It makes it sound like the alternatives are "lose my marriage and be depressed" versus "jeopardize my relationship with Grandma", and you specifically present option A as "a wrong decision", which leads me to believe she's going to ignore Grandma's advice in order to preserve her marriage and sanity. That seems like a no-brainer to begin with, and the "wrong decision" line reinforces that, so I'm left feeling like I already know the ending. It would be more enticing if I felt less sure.

    250: You nailed the Grandma voice. I love how she gave her different socks rather than pay more postage, and how she thinks anyone at the Great Wall would care where she lives. No suggestions. I'm filled with an inexplicable urge to call my Gramma.

    REALITY STAR:

    Query: I want to second the advice given above about trimming the first paragraph. I think you can take the vital info (med bills and reality show) and integrate it into the second paragraph without losing anything, and the final result will be stronger. As it stands, I find the jump from paragraph 1 to 2 quite jarring.

    I like the description of the contest, and of Justin. But when I got to the bit about some contestants not being above cheating, I said "Duh!" out loud. If she didn't know that going in, then she was very innocent AND has not watched many reality shows. If that's the case, let us know. Otherwise, I'd say it's better to show, not tell, and instead of dropping the water-is-wet revelation that some people cheat, show us a specific (but brief) obstacle Ariana throws in her way. I think you have space for this since it's already a nice short query and if you do trim the first P it will be even shorter.

    250: I love how you gave us the feeling of trapped, bored mundanity that is the modern office. Its cold was a nice touch, too. I so hate cold offices. The effectiveness of this mood/setting made me perk up along with her when she found something that might be a way out. I like it, I want more.

    I have a couple points where I got confused:

    "Caffeine molecule mug" confused me because I thought it was a mug made of caffeine molecules, or a mug HOLDING caffeine molecules, and it wasn't until I remembered ThinkGeek sells a mug with a PICTURE of a caffeine molecule on it that I figured out that's what you meant.

    After telling us her job meant lots of sitting around, you then say she worked her butt off for a week. The juxtaposition made me unsure of my initial impression that her job didn't give her enough to do.

    Those are minor points, though. And, to respond to earlier advice given to turn this into a dialog scene, I disagree. I think the flat, lonely, static mood is important. It contrasts with the world of the reality show. I think losing that in favor of dynamism would weaken the book as a whole.

    Good luck to both of you guys! You did a great job.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Make a Baby: Your query is so much better! I really feel Aida's stakes now and want to hear her story. Great job taking the advice you were given and making it work for you. Any little nitpicky stuff I noticed was already mentioned so I won't repeat it. I still love the voice of grandma in her letter.

    Reality Star: Your first 250 really make me feel like I'm freezing my butt off in that office with Jen. I can totally relate to her siting there, wishing for something more. I will say, though, that the caffeine molecule mug confused me too. I don't get out much though, so maybe I just miss some worldly references.

    I love how you wrap up the end of your query. The stakes are very clearly laid out and I know exactly what Jen has to lose. Great job!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Make a Baby With Socks On

    Query: Very nice query! I know when something is awesome when it’s able to make me excited for the story even though it’s a genre that doesn’t normally appeal to me, and this query does just that. I have nothing to critique. I really love how you’re able to keep this query vague, yet also specific where it matters, like the details about her grandmother’s advice. That really made me want to read this, because her grandmother sounds like such an interesting and funny person. Plus you spell out the stakes very clearly, and this novel definitely seems like it deals with some heavy issues. I’d love to see how you tackle them. Overall, the query is extremely intriguing and sets a great tone.

    First 250: I think I got a little lost in the opening talk about stamps and the Great Wall, but that’s fine. I think it shows how the Grandmother is a bit rambly, and the things she mentions in the letter say a lot about her. I think my favorite line was in the last paragraph where she mentions she can’t believe Aida hasn’t gotten an infection from wearing that suit. That made me laugh. I also think you do a great job developing the plot through the letter with mention of Aida’s divorce, and you make it sound very organic to the letter. Like, I don’t once feel like any of this information is being delivered for my (the reader’s) benefit. Well done!


    Reality Star

    Query: Oooooh, this sounds really interesting! I’ve never been a big reality TV fan (aside from those cooking shows…I love food), but this sounds really fun. Also, the potential for romance adds another layer of plot. I’m also intrigued by this mention of puzzles, and it makes me wonder what type of puzzles they have to do…like brain teasing puzzles? Or more physical stuff, like on Survivor? (I don’t expect you to answer that in the query, but these are some of the questions the query makes me think, which also makes me want to read to find out).

    First 250: The opening isn’t too engaging for me. I’m wondering if opening with the hospital bill email might be better…maybe she’s worrying about that, decides to try and ignore it, then notices the email from the contest. I feel like giving us the problem (hospital bills) and then hinting at the solution (contest prize money) will be more engaging than the other way around. By the time we get to the hospital bills, we already know how she’s going to overcome that obstacle: by participating in the contest. Other than that, I really like the voice and the writing. I just think rearranging some events will help a lot.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Reality Star: The query is so much clearer. Great job on the revisions! I also get a real sense of her job and the stakes in the first 250. I do think her reference to her drama teacher sounds a bit stilted and formal. I would also like, as other posters have said, a little more struggle before introducing the contest. It seems to easy as of now. Have her maybe delete the first email and then have another friend follow up, or the producer contact her directly and urge her to enter, or something like that.

    Make a Baby with Socks On: Another great job with revisions. The story is very clear. However, I don't understand the stakes in this sentence: "A wrong decision could spiral her back into a deep depression and potentially end her new marriage, but the alternative jeopardizes a relationship that has transcended every obstacle in her life."

    Why would the wrong decision end her marriage? What does her husband want her to do? I would think they would decide together. I'm not getting a sense of the new husband at all.

    In terms of the 250, I love the letter from the grandmother, but I'd also like the main character's voice up front, too. Maybe she searches through her mail, by passes bills from the lawyer, mail being forwarded by her ex-husband's secretary, etc. then she comes across the letter and has feelings about her grandmother's crazy advice.

    I love the voice and would absolutely want to read more. I think it's probably a big challenge to keep such a light tone when you are dealing with such heavy circumstances.

    Good luck to you both!

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  7. MAKE A BABY: I'm still madly in love with this grandmother and am pretty much sold from the first paragraph of this. As for the query, I also struggled to understand what her two choices were with the baby. Other than that, great job revising the query!

    REALITY STAR: Your query rocks. It's clean, easy to follow, the plot builds at a great pace, and then we're left wondering how she's going to figure it all out. Awesome. Your first 250 also did a great job of introducing your character, and I like the way you introduced the hospital thing in a non-awkward way. A couple of parts were really funny, like the fact that she gets coffee only to warm herself, not drink it, and the bit about lots of sitting around. Love her sense of humor.

    Good luck, guys!

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