Jun 21, 2016

QK Round 3: Hot Sauce is Bad for Wound Care vs. What's Luck Got to Do With It

Title: The Gray Hole
Entry Nickname: Hot Sauce is Bad for Wound Care
Word Count: 63K
Genre: Magic Realism/Suspense


Six students at Mayville High will be dead by Saturday night. Again. And again, they will begin the week over just before Tuesday's first period class. Doomed to repeat the same week until seventeen-year-old Grayson Dell decides to stop killing, the group must work through two problems: First, Grayson has no idea the groundhog week from hell is happening; Second, the victims are all jerks.

As Grayson debates whether or not to kill, some of his victims begin to see the cycle as a blessing instead of a curse, and in order to ensure it continues, they increase their cruelty to outrageous levels. It isn’t until Grayson’s once-most-brutal tormentor and member of that group treats him as a fellow human that signs of a possible end to the cycle begin to appear. Now with the help of his old adversary, Grayson must steer clear of his other victims and all their evil plans in order to find the therapy, medications, and friendships he needs. Otherwise, he will be forced to endure the week before prom forever, corsages, limos, improvised-explosives, and all.

Although the manuscript is narrated by a second-person voice in Grayson’s head, his is not the only story being told. Since Grayson is unaware of the temporal loop, so is the voice, leaving the reader to only feel the presence of the loop through Grayson’s interactions with the group of students he kills. While Grayson’s outlook resets with each chapter, the group members’ memories continue across the length of the manuscript, allowing their individual outlooks and attitudes to evolve, or in some cases, devolve. These secondary arcs are as seen by the voice in Grayson's head who keeps saying "you" when any rational, reliable narrator would clearly just say "I."

First 250:


You tell yourself today will be different. Maybe it will. The lockers are the same sick, pale blue as yesterday, the linoleum floors still shine with same pungent cleaners that have been disintegrating nose hairs and SEAL-Team-Sixing brain cells for all four years you’ve spent in this school. And your classmates – if they’ve changed anything other than the color of their hair, it’d be tantamount to Chris Hemsworth intentionally eating a carb.

But still.

That pale blue used to be your favorite color before your wardrobe and your attitude took an about-face to the dark side. The chemical glint and nauseating smell from the floor is fading with each sneaker’s squeaking step. And those people – the juniors, sophomores, freshman, even your classmates – they all could –

Your head snaps against a locker so hard it’s unclear whether the high pitched hum ringing in your ears is just a sudden bout of tinnitus or if the blue painted metal is actually screaming back at you. You try to pull away and see if the locker’s door was repainted red, but the hand that put you there doubles the pressure from its sweaty palms, digging the blunted and jagged ends of chewed away nails into the back of your head and your left cheek.

You stop struggling before you start. Today will be no different. Why would it be? Embarrassment is the baseline of high school, and pain is just a reminder you haven’t left yet.



The author of What's Luck Got to Do With It received an offer of rep! Congrats!!!
Hot Sauce is Bad for Wound Care wins by default!


  1. Judges, please leave votes and comments as a REPLY to this comment.

    1. Hot Sauce Is Bad For Wound Care


      I still think the last line of the first paragraph needs work. I get the victims are jerks, but it just seems odd to say it the way you do. Grayson doesn’t know what’s happening. They do. So them being jerks isn’t a problem for them, it’s a problem for Grayson. So I feel like Grayson not knowing is a problem for the group, the jerks thing is more for Grayson so it’s just odd.

      So how does Grayson find out it’s a time loop? If this is just a week, the why is he going to therapy and getting medications? That seems out of place here still. I like the fact that he’s working with his arch nemesis, but I’m not sure the medications and therapy bit is needed.

      The last paragraph….is explanatory. Keep the meat of the query to the story. You can say it’s in second person but that would be after the actual query when you’re like, “THE GRAY HOLE is a 63,000 YA suspense written in second person.” You don’t need a whole paragraph to explain how you wrote it. You need enough of the plot to make me want to request it.

      First 250

      In the second paragraph you overuse ‘you’. It’s in there 7 times. It’s somewhat distracting. You need to find a way to get rid of the overuse of it so it draws the reader closer. Right now it makes it hard to connect. You’re also not letting us know what’s going on around. Only what’s directly happening to him. Did someone grab him and slam him against the locker? Who is he struggling against? It’s somewhat vague and you need to ground the reader so they know what’s going on.

    2. Hot Sauce

      Since the last round your opening has really improved. And while I think you have a good start, the second paragraph confused me. Why would people see the cycle as a blessing if it ends in a school shooting? Your third paragraph also does not make it clear why a once enemy is now helping him. If you clarify these issues, I believe this query will be very strong.

      As far as the final paragraph, I do not think it's necessary. If an agent is encouraged by the query (and asks for pages) it will be quickly apparent that the story is told from a second-person-type of POV.

      First 250:

      This is still a very strong and intense beginning which I like. Be careful of overusing the word "you." If we are inside the character's head we will understand what he's thinking and feeling without the constant reminder of where we are.

      Good luck to you in the next round!

    3. I'll be totally honest - I have no idea what this is about. I need more stakes. Why should I care? Maybe it's just me because others seem to get it, so feel free to take this with a grain of salt.

      The voice in the 250 is solid. I think 2nd person is going to be a hard sell, though.

    4. This sounds like the biggest mind-f#&@ ever. Sorry, can I use cartoon profanity here? I'm really not sure what to make of this except to conclude that the author is super-cerebral.

      THE QUERY:
      This does a good job setting up this strange story. Except those students aren't just jerks, they're bullies, and it took me a moment to get my feet on the ground and understand that. I'd suggest getting the bullying in there maybe just with a tweak after "jerks". They're all jerks--bullies who've tormented Grayson since the 7th grade. I am wondering how well the whole time loop comes across and whether it will be confusing (since the narrator is inside Grayson's head and Grayson doesn't consciously know about the time loop). There's no way for me to tell from the first page.

      The mood is set well. This is just super weird. 2nd-person POV is a hard sell, but who knows? It's such a weird premise it could work. I can't tell from one page. Wish I had something more critical or helpful :-D

  2. I'm so glad this is an auto-win, because I like it so.

    Second paragraph is clearer than it was, but I'd still like some hint as to why the bullies see the time-loop as a blessing rather than a curse. Is it because they don't die forever, and can do basically whatever they want? If it's something like that, it's not a spoiler, and it would add richness to the query, I think.

    Last paragraph of the query, you don't need that. It will be clear from the pages. You may have your work cut out for you drawing some people in and getting them grounded with a second-person narrative by a character like this (and with characters like this at all)...I've faced dilemmas like this with some of my own stuff...but it can be done, and explanation in a query isn't the best way to do it.

    I like the 250 :)

  3. I enjoy this entry so much. Such a great concept and idea -- very unique. I have to be honest here...I like your earlier query letter better. The first paragraph held a kind of surprise, where as this just sort of explains it in a blander kind of way. I'm also assuming you added the whole "explaining the 2nd person" thing because of comments, but I don't think it's necessary, and actually think it detracts from the uniqueness of the storytelling. I hope when QK is over you can step back and look at what you really want, and not what a bunch of people have been telling you (including me). Make it have the feeling that you want. Congrats on some great stuff! And best wishes.

  4. Hot Sauce
    I love the unreliable narrator aspect of this story! I’ll admit, I had to read through this query a few times though. I’m not sure if there’s a way to maybe simplify or streamline. Also, it might help to let us know why Grayson kills. Great 250. The voice, the tension, the use of color…all promise an intriguing story that I really expect I’ll be able to read some day!

    What’s Luck

  5. Hot Sauce
    I still love this concept, and what I said in R2 still holds. But the last paragraph in the query is tough and I had to read it a few times. Still not 100% clear on it. However, the 250 voice is amazing and the concept of the victims being jerks (and he’s unable to stop killing them) is cool. Congrats on making it to the next round!

  6. I AM SO GLAD YOU MADE IT THROUGH! Also, you seem really lucky... mind sharing your luck? ;)

    I'm not sure how I feel about the third paragraph of your query now. I appreciate the heads-up, but I don't think you're trusting your ms enough to do its job. The reader will get it while they're reading, and if they don't, you need to fix something.

    (But I realize you want to get people interested in reading, and the third paragraph makes me want to do that. I'm torn.)

    At any rate, congratulations! :)

  7. Ok. This is such a fun, weird, disturbing concept, and I am all for it! I agree this some of the commenters above that the last paragraph of your query is unnecessary. I think you can boil that idea down to a sentence at most. "The story is told in 2nd person by a voice inside Grayson's head." Despite being a horribly passive sentence, those are the only facts we need to know here. Let us discover the stuff about character arcs, etc. as we read! Best of luck going forward!