Jun 1, 2015

QK Round 1: Life Sucks—I’m stuck in Podunk v. Learning to Love Tofu

Entry Nickname: Life Sucks—I’m Stuck in Podunk
Title: Middle of Knowhere
Word count: 70K
Genre: YA Contemporary

Query:

What could a seventeen-year-old girl from Chicago possibly have in common with truck-driving, tobacco-chewing rednecks?

When Hailey Nelson’s father decides to up and relocate their family from vibrant city life to the middle of God only knows where, it’s the final straw for Hailey. She plans to hate this small, rural three-stoplight town. But what she doesn’t anticipate is falling in love with a pepto-bismol colored vintage antiques store and the quirky woman who runs it. A woman who shows her more love and affection than Hailey's always absent, news-reporter mother.

But misery loves company, and when Hailey finds out her parents are getting divorced, anti-social Ryker Evans—the local outcast and bearer of hideous posture—is surprisingly supportive and understanding. Probably because his family is even more messed up than hers. When Hailey gets a glimpse of what Ryker could look like with a little TLC, Project Ryker is on. But she doesn’t expect Ryker to be hot with a capital “H.” Or sweet and fun, writing her songs and taking her dumpster diving for donuts. Now she has more to worry about than her parents divorce and her mother’s abandonment. She has her own stupid feelings for Ryker to work through too.

But what she doesn’t know about Ryker’s past and the secrets he’s been keeping could tear them apart. For good.

First 250:

This is what hell looks like, I think as I stare out the window of Dad’s Ford Explorer. Along the curvy road, dilapidated double-wide trailers that look like they belong in some independent film version of a horror flick, litter the sparse lawns. An old couch, unused tires, and even a rust-stained toilet lay strewn next to one particularly neglected trailer.

“Please tell me no one lives there,” I mutter under my breath.

Dad casts a quick glance in my direction, his mouth set in a firm, disapproving line. “Now, Hailey, try to remember that these people work hard. They aren’t as fortunate as you and I have been.” His eyes grind into me, like a pestle trying to turn me into bits of shame. “They do the best they can.”

I sigh and turn back to the window as another trailer comes into view, this one even more unkempt. Amazingly enough, one of the occupants is sitting on the sagging porch steps blowing a cloud of smoke into the humid summer air. The man is grease personified. Like if someone wrung him out, they’d have an entire vat of frying oil. I wrinkle my nose and look down when I make eye contact with him. Suddenly, my nails are desperate for attention.

“How long until Mom joins us?” I ask, digging at one particularly bothersome cuticle.

Mom’s been gone for weeks now. As a broadcast journalist, she jet sets around the world while Dad acts as homemaker extraordinaire.

V.

Entry Nickname: Learning to Love Tofu.
Title: Perfectly Imperfect
Word Count: 67K
Genre: YA contemporary

Query:

Seventeen-year-old Brody Jacobs is a freak show. At least that’s what he’s been called for the past two years since an accident left burns over sixty percent of his body. When Brody moves next door to Maris McKormick, he’s convinced his new neighbor is just like every person who ridicules him on a daily basis. He’ll soon discover that Maris may be the one who can break down the bitterness he’s locked inside -- but only if he’ll let her. Doing so may mean getting hurt all over again.

Maris McKormick is at the top of the pyramid when it comes to the social hierarchy of high school. She has the perfect family, perfect friends, and the perfect boyfriend. But perfect girls don’t get pregnant at seventeen. Now Maris must make an impossible decision that will shatter her perfect image and destroy her reputation. Feeling isolated, she seeks comfort from the only person who could possibly understand what that’s like.

Each of them carries scars, but together they discover they just might have the power to heal each other.

Perfectly Imperfect is written in alternating POV.

First 250:

Most people would be pissed if their parents moved to another state during high school. I don’t really give a shit. A new school doesn’t mean I have to make new friends and start over. I’ve already started over, and I lost most of my friends two years ago. Was I particularly thrilled about moving from California to Georgia? No. I’ve lived the past almost eighteen years in Southern California and the thought of living in the South amidst Dixie-loving, sweet tea-drinking, grit-eating, “the South will rise again” slogan-sputtering rednecks was not ideal. I know this isn’t the most flattering description, but like I said, I’ve never been to the South so what do I know? The heat sucks and the ocean is too far away, but there are more trees and less smog, so at least I feel like I can breathe. I’m not angry we came here. I know it was necessary for my dad’s job and everything he’s ever done has been to benefit me and my brothers, so I’ll give him this.

Our new house is ten times bigger than our old one. The neighborhood even has a gate at the entrance with a grumpy-looking guy standing guard. I’m not sure why a nice neighborhood like this needs a gate surrounding it. If you want to keep questionable people out, these gates might be better suited in L.A., not Stepford row.

24 comments :

  1. Judges, reply here with your comments and votes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow. I want to read both of these books. Displacement from a familiar environment is a great topic for a book. And these two first pages are very similar -- the trip in the car to the new Southern place.

      Stuck in Podunk: Your query is an excellent roadmap. I know what this book is about, and you've made me want to read it. Watch the sentences that start with "But." You have a couple of those. I will say that "dumpster diving for donuts" sounds truly disgusting and I hope it is cuter and more romantic than it sounds. I'm with you until the stakes sentence at the end. It's a little cliche: I get where you're going with it, but you can do better. Be more specific. "Secrets he's been keeping" and "tear them apart" are phrases that appear commonly in query letters. Make yours different. Love the 250. You've put me in the car with you and painted a picture. Beware, though, that you're starting us out with a person who is whining and very negative, and that you're invoking a lot of stereotypes about the South. Agents can have issues with that (less the Southern stereotypes than the negativity). As much as I wish "likability" weren't a thing, it is.

      Learning to Love Tofu:
      I love the query. You set up the alternating POV well. I'm intrigued by the concept of the burned Brody and the pregnant Maris. It really doesn't need a lot of work. One place to be more specific and less cliche: "must make an impossible decision." Try to tell us what that is, unless you absolutely can't because it gives away the ending. If it does give away the ending, then use a less common phrase.

      Your 250 has a great voice, but also presents us with a negative MC right out of the gate - be aware of this for all the reasons I stated for Podunk. Your beginning is kind of telling. You start out with a description of why MC doesn't want to move. It's a recap of what has happened up to the point where your story starts. I don't need that on the first page. I don't feel like I'm standing next to the MC. I expect you get to that shortly after this beginning, but remember that in bookstores, people will open to the first page and start with paragraph one. Let me see where you are. See what he sees. Hear him (or somebody) talk.

      Because of the strength of the 250,
      VICTORY TO STUCK IN PODUNK

      Delete
    2. Life sucks:

      Most of the way through the query, you've got me desperately reading to find out more. But then it falls a bit flat at the end—what are the stakes? What happens if Hailey fails to change Ryker? Does he stay the same and she accepts him because she's come to love him for who he is? I think it might be easier for people to connect with the main character if the query presented some reason for Hailey to want to help Ryker other than that she thinks he needs a makeover. Personally, I'm not a fan of the "changing someone into who you want them to be trope." And if that's not what the book is about, then the query needs to be tweaked so Hailey's motivations are clearer.

      You've got really great description in the beginning of the 250, but then it goes into Dad being a little too preachy about accepting others. It comes a bit too soon in the story for me. If you cut that so he's not laying it on quite so thick, you can get to the line where Dad says that Mom's not joining them, and THAT is what I'd want to read in order to be desperate to read Page 2. Try to end on a hook.

      Learning to Love Tofu:

      You have to be really, really, really, really careful about using language that's offensive to people with disabilities. The phrase "freak show" could turn off some readers. But I do love the voice in this query. This query also needs to beef up the stakes a bit - they might have the power to heal each other, but what happens if they fail? What you have is good, but it's also only 187 words. You've got about 75 words worth of space to add a few details about the plot, like where's the father? What do you mean by "what that's like" - Brody didn't make a choice that ruined his reputation. Clarify what gives them a connection, then beef up the stakes. Your last line shouldn't be a movie tag line. It's more of a "Character must do X, or Y (bad thing) happens."

      You've got a great, voicey first page. However, it's 100% inside the main character's head, and most of it is a giant wall of text of backstory. Cut that to a couple of sentences, and let me see what's happening. Why is the story starting here? What is the inciting incident? That's what I want to see on a first page.

      VICTORY TO LIFE SUCKS - I'M STUCK IN PODUNK.

      Delete
    3. VICTORY TO LIFE SUCKS-I'M STUCK IN PODUNK

      This query and 250 grabbed me with VOICE. This is what I mean. I could see the trailers and the greasy man (love the line about wringing him out) and feel her despair about moving. It makes me want to read more. I'm in the head of the main character right away and I know what she's thinking and feeling. Watch the cliques, misery loves company is one. Also agree that "secrets that tears them apart"should be more specific. Don't be vague in a query. Good luck!

      Learning to Love Tofu is well-written but it needs more because I feel like your stakes aren't quite there. As another judge mentioned, it does feel like backstory and is it only the move that is the incident that motivates the main character? You need to be specific in your query, stick to one plot point and the two main characters. What is her impossible decision? Some dual POV books also include the second POV in the query but it isn't necessary but you could play with it and see if it shows the stakes more. Good luck!

      Delete
    4. Podunk:

      In the query, it took me until you say Ryker gets a make-over to realize how old he is. It's not obvious that he's a peer of Hailey's until then, so I would clarify that right off the bat. You also touch on the stakes, but they're not super clear. What's really keeping them apart? Hailey's preconceived notions? The vague secrets? Otherwise, I feel like I really get a sense of who Hailey is and how she hopefully grows. I love your opening. For me it was very atmospheric and I can really feel how much Hailey doesn't want to live this new life.

      Tofu:

      As others have mentioned, the bullying of a burn victim feels particularly cruel and somewhat unrealistic. I wonder if there's more to it that you haven't mentioned? If yes, I'd find a way to hint at that in the query. I'm always a fan of friends/romance between neighbors, so I'm curious how they save each other in the end. The 250 was a little too much on the telling side and for me personally, more snarky than I was expecting. Possible to flash to why they moved? Maybe dialogue with the parent?

      VICTORY TO PODUNK

      Delete
    5. Life Sucks—I’m Stuck in Podunk:

      First of all, I love the image of a “Pepto-Bismol colored” antique store—great description. Your query sets up the story well, but I’d like to know more about Ryker’s past. The ‘secrets he’s been keeping’ doesn’t give me enough to really understand the conflict. Perhaps another line would help, something specific to help solidify the stakes.

      The first 250 were solid and you had a lot of unique lines, like “His eyes grind into me like a pestle trying to turn me into bits of shame.” And the greasy man? What a fantastic image!


      Learning to Love Tofu:

      I really enjoyed this query—the stakes are clear and I want to know what happens. It oozes with conflict!

      The MC’s unhappiness is very clear in the first 250, but it could turn off readers before they get a chance to connect and like your character. I think it would benefit you to allow the reader to feel the unhappiness through his experiences. Also, there’s a lot of explaining in this first section. Consider finding a new starting point, a setting where we can get in the MC’s head more and understand the surroundings and his history organically.

      Victory goes to: LIFE SUCKS—I’M STUCK IN PONDUNK

      Delete
    6. Query Matchup:

      I'm gonna level with you, Life Sucks: if I were a real agent looking at your query, I might well have stopped after the first line, for one (if not both) of two reasons. First, your use of a rhetorical question is off-putting. It's a gesture intended to create interest and engage the reader, but (as with all rhetorical questions), it actually just creates the risky opportunity for the reader to say, "Huh. I dunno. Don't care, either. Bye." Don't put the reader in that position. Lead strong, which means leading with what is currently the first full paragraph, about the last straw. THAT works well, is voicey, and tells us everything we need to know about Hailey's narrowminded, judge-y ways without making them seem like YOUR narrow-minded, judge-y ways. That brings me back to the second reason the first line seems like a bad ploy: when I read that question, I read it as the voice of the author in the metatext, the author commenting on people, NOT a glimpse into Hailey-brain. Ergo, I believe YOU are the one who is classist and judgey and I'm sure that's not true nor what you mean, right? So, really, I'd ditch that question. It's bad news. As for the nitty-gritty, it's "Pepto-Bismol" and "news reporter" needs no hyphen. The rest is a marvelous, voice-driven romp. The ending bit about Ryker's secret may be too intentionally vague to register as a real conflict/stakes thing... you might consider opening up the tease a little more.

      Tofu, I'm a sucker for the "unlikely friends meet and bond" trope in all its forms, so it was hard not to read your query with a lot of favoritism. That said, I read it three times over and had a strong feeling that the stakes and drama weren't drawn strongly enough. I need to feel the frisson between these characters, what makes them different and what's driving them together, in as knitted-together a way as possible to appreciate both the kind of story you are setting out to tell and the way you intend to tell it (alternating POV). Have you considered alternating sentences, pairing setup with setup, stakes with stakes, crisis with crisis, and THEN ending with the promise of how these two are bound to come together and save each other? Careful use of parallel structure, conjunctions, and transitions can help you avoid story-whiplash and make the query stronger by having its form and function married together: it's the unified story of two people who need to be brought together.

      250 Matchup:
      I don't have to like a character to want to read a character. Indeed, I sort of enjoy characters who are intriguing and a little hateable, and I get the impression from Hailey's interior voice and the way she sees the fine details of the world she's coming into, she's just that kind of character. It's clear that you've put careful thought into Hailey's character and have command of her down to the fine details. Well done, Life Sucks.

      Tofu, I wonder if the right place to start your first chapter is actually with the SECOND paragraph. The first paragraph is all in the narrator's head, without any action or a sense of place or space to ground the reader specifically. If you lead with the new home and then, once we've got the narrator moving in space and time, talking to people, whatever, loop back to comparing cultures and the weather, you'll have earned enough attention from the reader to do that world-building, as it were.

      I'm seeing a lot of potential in Tofu's entry, but despite my initial and very powerful misgivings about the start of Life Sucks' query...

      VICTORY GOES TO LIFE SUCKS - I'M STUCK IN PODUNK

      Delete
    7. I actually second WonderPig's comments about the rhetorical question. My eyes literally jumped right past it and I didn't even see it - because rhetorical questions do not belong in queries. You should seriously consider rewriting your book before the next round.

      Delete
    8. Ack! HOOK! Rewrite the HOOK! Not the entire book. Sorry. It's early.

      Delete
    9. Note: For round 1 since there's so many entries, I'm judging based on the query only!

      LIFE SUCKS - I'M STUCK IN PODUNK

      I like that you bring out the voice right away - you can totally hear Hailey's disdain for her new town.

      Starting with a rhetorical question is one of those querying no-nos that you should try to avoid! Also, the "misery loves company" is a bit of a cliche, too.

      The part about Ryker being hot confused me; wasn't that the whole point of Project Ryker? Why wouldn't she expect it?


      -vs-


      LEARNING TO LOVE TOFU

      This sounds like it could be a really heart-wrenching story. You've definitely set up some incredible characters in the query.

      I personally don't care for the third paragraph - it seems a little melodramatic and surely Maris isn't going to be able to *physically* heal Brody's scars, right?



      Victory to...LIFE SUCKS - I'M STUCK IN PODUNK!

      Delete
  2. Not a Judge Just a KombatantJune 1, 2015 at 9:39 AM

    Podunk
    In the query:
    "Or sweet and fun, writing her songs and taking her dumpster diving for donuts." I think this particular sentence could be stronger, I'd reword and put it in past tense (lose the -ing words).
    In the 250:
    "I wrinkle my nose and look down when I make eye contact with him." This also needs to be tweaked. Right now, thanks to the word 'when', it reads as if the action are happening concurrently. Except your characters can't look down when they make eye contact, one action needs to follow the other. The order here isn't helping, you have placed looking down before making eye contact in the sentence.
    I also feel like the "driving to my new home" opening is becoming as cliché in YA as the "just waking up" opening, so I might re-evaluate where you're starting.
    I still really loved the 250. I think you have a nice balance of description, scene, and character. You're establishing a lot in 250 words but you're doing it seamlessly so it doesn't feel like an infodump. That's the mark of a great writer and you should be proud.

    Learning to Love Tofu
    In the query:
    I hate to question concept but I have to. I'm not sure it's realistic for a burn to be ridiculed this much. They call him a freak show and he gets ridiculed on a daily basis? That strikes me as particularly evil, even for high schoolers. I would think the reaction of his peers would be pity, avoidance, and feeling uncomfortable. Which are arguably even worse than open ridicule. But you've made it sound like high schoolers are openly teasing and bullying a burn victim and I'm not sure your YA readers will buy that.
    Maris really saved it for me. A pregnant teen and a teenage burn victim? Yes, please. The pairing sounds great. The reactions I described above, pity, avoidance, withdrawing, becoming uncomfortable in their presence, I think they all apply to a teenager who's gotten pregnant as much as they do to a burn victim. I think the pair could have a lot in common and with the addition that Maris is popular and her problem is hidden, she brings an interesting perspective.

    Both of these manuscripts feature an unlikely paring, but the *why* is clearer in Tofu.

    The first 250:
    This is voicey as hell and I love that. But it's all narration. I agree we need to see the character so I'd suggest you keep most of what you have but just intercut it with some 'now'. They say "start with action" but I like to think of it as "start with movement". Your character can be walking the neighborhood or making a sandwich, but I want them to be doing something so I can get a sense of not just who this is, but also where I am. Another interesting thing: Even though the narrator is coming off as unhappy and bitter I like him immediately and that's quite the accomplishment.

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  3. Podunk - watch the questions in the query. Especially as the first sentence. A stronger start to the query could do wonders for you. And, as Felicity said, I thought Ryder was older until you mention the makeover. Bringing that in earlier would help clarify things. We get a clear idea of who Ryker is but I'm not sure I know Hailey. Is she the typical city girl who's more into her clothes and appearance than anything else? An outcast herself? I'd like to get a better picture of her. You mention her nails in your 250 but are they manicured? Barely cared for? Also, I think making "This is what Hell looks like" its own paragraph would make it stand out more - especially since it is dialogue of the internal variety.

    "This is what hell looks like.

    I stare out the window of Dad’s Ford Explorer. . . "

    Tofu - you've gotten some great comments already and I don't want to repeat too much of what's already been said. I'd also advise to use caution with the word "freak show" even if this is the way the character refers to himself.

    Unlikely pairings are such a staple but you seem to have found that "inside corner" to make it work without feeling like just another tale of the "queen bee and the geek". You've made her less of an "unattainable" and more of a person with flaws.

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  4. Podunk -
    I love (and envy :D ) the 'voiciness' of your query. The voice in the opening 250 is great as well and the prose was fresh. I particularly liked 'His eye grinds into me, like a pestle trying to turn me into bits of shame.' I found the story idea intriguing and want to read more.

    Tofu -
    I like the story idea of these two different characters dealing with (and possibly breaking down) the facades they present to the world. In the query, the use of 'ridicule' did stop me. Obviously, I don't know your story, but it seemed overly harsh. I would've expected people to avoid looking at him or blanching when they do. But kids can be cruel, so if people do mock and treat him with contempt, ignore this part of my comment! The opening 250 sucked me right in and I would keep reading.

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  5. Podunk: I think your query is fantastic! I don't normally read YA, but it really hooked me. My only reservation is starting your query with a question, although this may be a rare case where it works. I like the MC’s voice in your first 250 words. I agree with another commenter’s observation that it would be more effective to make your first line its own statement. Great opening!
    Tofu: I work with a lot of teenage patients, and I had a hard time buying into high school students bullying a burn victim. In the schools I’m familiar with, they’d be more likely to make him the homecoming king. That threw me and made it hard for me to buy into the concept. With that said, I like the idea of your two MCs finding refuge in each other. Could Brody have some other issue, or could you tone down the bullying? Maybe another possibility is that Brody assumes everyone sees him as a freak show, but that’s not the reality.

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  7. I'm trying to do these without reading previous comments, so sorry if I repeat things!
    Podunk: Query: I think it's not generally a good idea to start with a question. Even if a question was YOUR hook for writing, it's not what hooks the reader of a novel. First para is good--just skip the question and put her age there. "Final straw" doesn't make much sense, though, when we don't know what the other straws were. "Misery loves company" also seems a bit misplaced after you've just said she was falling in love with the place. But I'm totally intrigued by donut dumpster diving!
    250: mainly, a few words could be cut to make it tighter. You don't need the first "I thought." Glance already implies quick. Mutter implies under her breath. I love the pestle grinding her to bits of shame, and her sudden attention to her nails. I would keep reading!

    Tofu: query: Cool premise. Needs comma after "at least." More punch to second sentence if you save 2 years for end of sentence--"two years ago." Does Maris convince him she's like the others? Unless that's really significant, in which case I'd show instead of telling, maybe you could combine those sentences to tighten it up.
    Second para--comma after "now." You don't need "feeling isolated," you're showing it. I don't think you need to state about the multiple POV.
    250--expletive so early is plenty realistic, but might turn off some readers (not to mention parents looking for books for their teens). Then again, I write MG so take that with lots of salt. :-)
    Really, I think this starts in the wrong place. It's pretty much all backstory. Show us his moving, or start somewhere else. Concept is good.

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  8. Podnuk - The premise for this sounds awesome, and I love the voice in the query. I thought the flow of the query was very good, with mention of just the right number of elements of the story to want me to read more and more as the query goes on. I did think the opening hook question was a *little* bit gimmicky and perhaps unnecessary, but it's your call. As for the 250, I found the unhappy, ungrateful teenager a bit tiresome, but then again it's rather realistic, and does give her some immediate voice. I appreciate opening into a scene as well.

    Tofu - Love the concept, and I love the two characters you pair up to be the narrators - two distinct experiences to keep each POV fresh, but with similar enough emotional spaces for them to come together quite nicely. I thought the query made it clear enough that it was an alternating POV novel, so I agree with the people that said that it may be unnecessary to state that it's an alternating POV novel. For your 250, I kind of liked how we get a punch of the narrator's voice with the swearing and such; it comes across as realistic to me, but I'm certainly not conservative with what I think is okay with YA, so maybe don't listen to me. I really loved that line about the MC's impression of the south, but perhaps cut the second paragraph down to get right into the action of the story, or weave the witty descriptions of the South into the action. It does technically start a bit slow.

    Congrats to both of you, because I really want to read both of these! :)

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  9. Podnuk - The premise for this sounds awesome, and I love the voice in the query. I thought the flow of the query was very good, with mention of just the right number of elements of the story to want me to read more and more as the query goes on. I did think the opening hook question was a *little* bit gimmicky and perhaps unnecessary, but it's your call. As for the 250, I found the unhappy, ungrateful teenager a bit tiresome, but then again it's rather realistic, and does give her some immediate voice. I appreciate opening into a scene as well.

    Tofu - Love the concept, and I love the two characters you pair up to be the narrators - two distinct experiences to keep each POV fresh, but with similar enough emotional spaces for them to come together quite nicely. I thought the query made it clear enough that it was an alternating POV novel, so I agree with the people that said that it may be unnecessary to state that it's an alternating POV novel. For your 250, I kind of liked how we get a punch of the narrator's voice with the swearing and such; it comes across as realistic to me, but I'm certainly not conservative with what I think is okay with YA, so maybe don't listen to me. I really loved that line about the MC's impression of the south, but perhaps cut the second paragraph down to get right into the action of the story, or weave the witty descriptions of the South into the action. It does technically start a bit slow.

    Congrats to both of you, because I really want to read both of these! :)

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  10. Podunk: Really enjoyed the voice of the query. So teenage-girl-y! I can almost feel the pain they get in their heads, when they roll their eyes too far. Not sure about the stakes though. As others have said, they feel a little vague and already-done. Maybe a bit more specifics are in order?

    Love the first 250. Again, that teenage girl comes out loud and clear (of course she's negative and overdramatic! Anything else would seem completely unrealistic!) I think Dad is a bit too paternal, though. "Now, Hailey..." Maybe an exasperated sigh, an "Oh for Chrissake here we go again" sort of thought, is in order?

    Tofu: Right away I feel sympathy for Brody. Not so sure about Maris, though. Does she have to be the Popular Girl? That makes it feel, for me, like a "What is a guy like him doing with a girl like her" sort of story. However, I like that they each have their own PoV. I'd like to know what Maris' "impossible choice" is - I have an idea, but could it be said?

    In your first 250, the first paragraph, I felt, had a little too much telling information. I think the details of why he is where he is can be spread out through the story, and you could possibly take the reader further into the now - is he in the car, driving among abundant trees past a plantation where he can see ladies in sundresses sipping mint juleps, or something? Perhaps he can smell the smog-free air, but laments he can't smell the sea?

    Hope my comments are helpful, and best of luck to both! -Yvette

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  11. Podunk: Query - I liked the premise! Like others have said, need to beef up the stakes. I what's at stake.There's a hint of Ryker having a secret but it doesn't seem as important as it only gets a one line mention.

    First 250 - Nice voice and great flow but the dad got a little too preachy to fast for me. I wanted to get at the heart of why didn't want to be in the south. Was it because she missed her friends? Her school? Did she miss her mom? It felt like a little telling for her to say, "mom as a broadcast journalist.." etc. Maybe the MC is watching her mom on TV or her phone while they are driving around and it makes her miss her?

    Tofu: - Query:
    I really liked the MC here. I loved the idea of him dealing with large amounts of burns but be wary of saying freakshow so early on. Who's calling him such names? Did maybe his injury change him into an unlikeable person? I feel he's alienated for more than just his burns. If so, maybe drop a hint. Love the idea of an alternating POV. I would maybe mention the alternating POV earlier. Because when i got to the 2nd paragraph I was thrown off a bit. I kept thinking, why there was so much focus on a secondary character? It's taking away vital space for the MC/Plot.

    First 250: While I loved the query, the first 250 didn't draw me in as much. It was almost too whiny for my tastes. And it was all discussing the outside world. I guess I wanted to know more about where he was in this moment, at the start of the story.Perhaps weave his feelings about the south more into the story instead of the info dump right up front. What's he doing at the start? More showing less telling.

    Good luck to both of you!

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  12. Life Sucks:
    Query: Your query is really good. Great voice and humor woven throughout. I love the “her own stupid feelings” part. It may be a tad on the long side, so I wonder what you could do trim it, and I also wondered why they would move to the middle of nowhere if her mom is a busy, important reporter. Shouldn’t it be a move in the opposite direction, rural to urban? Otherwise, great premise!
    250: There are some wonderful phrases in here, particularly the one about pestle and shame, as well as the one about the vat of frying oil. The last sentence seemed to not quite fit the pace of the narrative, and I would consider the explanation just a little bit further along in the work.
    Tofu
    Query:
    I like that you’ve devoted a paragraph to each character, and I love that you have these two characters coming together when ordinarily they wouldn’t. That being said, I don’t see their connection as strong enough. Why would he understand pregnancy and potential abortion/adoption/early motherhood, and what does she offer him regarding his condition? I really do like this relationship but would love to see it teased out more in the query as far as what really connects them.
    250:
    In the first part he says he’s not pissed about moving but a diatribe follows. I assume he’s a bitter character given this sample, but you might want to highlight the line where he feels some affection and duty towards his father to make him more sympathetic off the bat, even just a smidge. I do wonder if starting with exposition is the right choice, or if you would rather jump further into the story. Otherwise, great writing and concept… I really like stories like this.

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  13. Podunk: I was really into your query until you introduced Ryker. Mainly because he seemed almost like he was thrown in from left field. Perhaps it was because I was expecting you to continue with the antique shop storyline and not the Fix Up the Dude one, instead. And while I think that's a cool storyline too, I'd like to hear more about this secret that could destroy them. It interests me, but the vagueness of it doesn't really help. I also wonder whether or not the antique shop has anything to do with anything and if it should be left in the query, mainly because while it's a nice fact, it doesn't seem like a part of the main plot.


    Tofu: I actually really loved this query. It has something that's different than the usual get-together romance novels and it sounds really sweet. Perhaps it's more subjective, since I love that stuff, but I don't feel liek that's a bad thing. Otherwise, I think you wrote this query really well, honestly, and I think that it's pretty solid. :)

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  14. Podunk: I was really into your query until you introduced Ryker. Mainly because he seemed almost like he was thrown in from left field. Perhaps it was because I was expecting you to continue with the antique shop storyline and not the Fix Up the Dude one, instead. And while I think that's a cool storyline too, I'd like to hear more about this secret that could destroy them. It interests me, but the vagueness of it doesn't really help. I also wonder whether or not the antique shop has anything to do with anything and if it should be left in the query, mainly because while it's a nice fact, it doesn't seem like a part of the main plot.


    Tofu: I actually really loved this query. It has something that's different than the usual get-together romance novels and it sounds really sweet. Perhaps it's more subjective, since I love that stuff, but I don't feel liek that's a bad thing. Otherwise, I think you wrote this query really well, honestly, and I think that it's pretty solid. :)

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