Jun 2, 2017

QK Round 1: Beards vs She's Fast, He's Furious

Title: Chai, Beards, and Harmony
Entry Nickname: Beards
Word count: 71K
Genre: Contemporary Adult Rom-Com (Own Voices)


Amira Khan is too old for her noisy dorm, and exhausted from reporters’ constant calls for her personal 'hot take' on Islamophobia. She needs peace and quiet, and intends to get it by leaving grad school early to finish her thesis at her Grandmother's house. But it turns out, her grandmother rented the basement to a Barbershop Quartet. What? Amira needs silence; they need to rehearse for an upcoming competition, and the overgrown garden-gnome of a baritone is making her absolutely crazy.

For the sake of his family, Duncan Galahad has to stay in the tiny town he calls home. But he needs big-city cred even for small town gigs these days, and winning this competition might give him top billing, so he can't let an outspoken, overbearing engineer like Amira get in his way. Even if outspoken, overbearing women are his exact catnip, Duncan knows women like that have no time for small-town singers with no steady pay-check. And Amira might be way too much... even for his tastes.

Inexplicably, Amira finds a harmonious friendship with the misfit singers. And soon enough, she finds that clashes with Duncan outside bedroom only means hitting all the right notes between the sheets, as they both find exactly what they crave.

Their differences are only skin deep, literally, but Duncan comes from a world that sees Amira as nothing more than a cautionary tale against multiculturalism. And Amira long ago decided that only someone like her, could understand her. To make it work, they both have to not only accept their differences, but fight for them.

First 250:

If there was a Sufi Saint protecting single women travelers, Amira Khan was sure she’d royally pissed her off at some point in a previous life. The last time she tried to travel, she’d been ceremoniously escorted out of the security clearance area of Toronto airport, having been denied boarding her flight to Philadelphia. Nothing like that could happen now— this was a train, and there was no border crossing between her University in Kingston, and her house in Toronto. No border meant no overzealous border guards accusing her of terrorism because of her last name and fondness for Arabic calligraphy. But seeing as her train stood stuck in some place called Port Hope, and a creepy man wearing silver pants was leering at her, Amira clearly couldn't trust any deity to help her reach her destination unscathed.

She discreetly peeked at the creep. Shiny grey pants, black shirt open to reveal a silvery-grey undershirt, plus gold chains and a vile facial expression. Fuck… Amira hated traveling alone. She’d left grad school early because of overly creepy guys… only to get stuck on an almost empty train car with a gruesome member of the male species.

Finally, the doors slid open for new passengers. Good. More people meant more protection should things get hairy with the slick sleaze. Only one boarded— a large man with a lurid, orangey-red beard. Holy hell, that was bright. He accessorized his facial hair with a red-plaid flannel and black suspenders, resulting in a look that could only be described as Garden-Gnome chic.


Title: Circuit of Attraction
Entry Nickname: She’s Fast, He’s Furious
Word count: 87K
Genre: Adult Contemporary Sports Romance


MotoGP princess, Lorelai Hargrove, has battled tirelessly to earn her place in professional motorcycle racing’s starting lineup. But her biggest challenge is resisting the pull toward her sexy-as-he-is-infuriating rival: Italian racing superstar, Massimo Vitolo.

Their ten-year mutual attraction remains hidden behind Lorelai’s frustration with Massimo’s arrogant teasing. Meanwhile, Massimo is convinced there’s no point in attempting a relationship with the girl of his dreams. Thanks to Lorelai’s tumultuous family history hardwiring career-over-romance ideals into her priority list, racing will always come first for her. But when another rider crashes out Lorelai, leaving her shaken from cracked helmet to busted bike, Massimo’s determination to keep his heart at a distance gets left in the dust.

With the losses piling up, Lorelai is soon on the verge of losing her racing contract. Help arrives uninvited when Massimo saunters into Lorelai’s Memphis home during a break in the season, and their competitive tension ignites into a sexual explosion. But once they head back to the track, their relationship teeters on the brink of destruction as the foe-turned-lovers slip back into dangerously competitive habits.

While Lorelai’s sponsors are busy making noise about her low placements, Massimo’s sponsors are raising eyebrows at his fraternization with a competitor, and soon, he risks losing paychecks that feed his immediate family. Worse, if both can’t manage to keep their racing contracts, their banishment from the circuit will sink their globetrotting romance. For both Lorelai and Massimo, there’s only one way to salvage both their beloved careers and the relationship they’d risk anything to keep: Win the title of World Champion, or lose it all.

Circuit of Attraction is an Adult Contemporary Sports Romance of 87,000 words, a stand-alone novel with series potential. It is dual POV, alternating between the confident win first, ask questions later heroine, and the snarky Italian-born hero.

First 250:

Third gear.

The cool March air screams past me as I downshift in my approach to turn fourteen, a damn near 90-degree right corner on the Losail International track.

My body leans right, commanding my 300lb motorcycle around the tighter-than-tight turn. As I creep closer to horizontal than vertical, my knee scrapes the track while my braid hangs over my shoulder, flirting with the pavement rippling inches away from my helmet—my trademark American flag painted across my crown.

I tuck in my elbow and control my breathing. Twenty-one laps down, two turns to go, and then I will fly over the finish line: the first woman in history to win a race in MotoGP. The first woman ever to race in MotoGP. And all I have to do is what I’ve managed for ten years: ignore the part of me that wants to rope Massimo into a bedroom, and instead, beat him to the finish line one last time.

Fourth gear. I tilt her vertical and charge toward the sharp left of fifteen. Fifth gear. Sixth. Golden dust flashes on my right, black pavement and gray bailout gravel rushing by my left. The stadium lights of Qatar lead the way, and I fade left, forcing Massimo’s royal blue fairing further inside than he wants it to be. I never set out for us to be enemies, but if the Italian know-it-all jerk would’ve kept his distance, it would’ve made the fact that I can’t stop dreaming about his body against mine so much easier to ignore.


  1. Judges, please leave your comments and votes as a reply to this comment. Thanks!

    1. Professor McGonagallJune 3, 2017 at 1:59 PM

      First congrats to both of you on fun and creative entries. Best of luck to you!

      BEARDS: I love the idea of having a Muslim woman as the protagonist of a romance. I’m not sure if Adult Contemporary Rom-Com is a genre in books (as it is in movies) and I’m not sure what Own Voices means. Would it be better to just say it’s an Adult Contemporary Romance? The agent/editor would get a feel right away in your query and first 250 that it is going to be funny because of the language come on – a barbershop! ☺ Your premise is fun at the same time it is relevant to the current climate. QUERY: Keep an eye on commas – I know how easy it is to get carried away with them. Several places you have them where they aren’t necessary (as in even the very first sentence of the query – you don’t need it). Take a look at each and see if they really have to be there or are disrupting the flow. It took me a couple of reads to realize that Duncan is one of the singers in the barbershop in her grandmother’s basement. Perhaps that connection needs to be said in the second paragraph. I’m a little confused as to what the actual conflict is in the book – is it simply them trying to overcome their differences? Or is there a bigger conflict that will bring them together? I think a little clarification would help. FIRST 250: I like Amira’s voice already. She’s funny and smart, and her use of words is engaging. I LOVE the Garden-Gnome idea and am glad that in the query we see that also! Just some nitpicky things: University should not be capitalized, and it will make that sentence read more easily. If it were Kingston University it would be, but as it stands it should be lower case. For some reason the phrase “But seeing as her train stood stuck in some place called Port Hope” caught me and I had to read it a few times – not sure why, but for what it’s worth... You use ... twice in the second paragraph. Any way to get rid of one of them? Also, a little clarification about leaving grad school early might be helpful. The way it is now a reader who doesn’t have the query might think she quit grad school altogether, and that seems extreme when she’s obviously going to run into creepy guys in her life, just like on the train. As I said, nitpicky. Great job and congrats!

      SHE’S FAST, HE’S FURIOUS: First of all, great nickname. So funny! The premise is fresh and interesting, and I already want to know what happens at the end of the first race! Is Adult Contemporary Sports Romance actually a genre? Or would it be simply Romance? It is clear in the query right away that sports are involved. Maybe you’ve checked on that already. QUERY: This query reads well with explaining conflict and making the story come alive. Just a few nitpicks. I think your first paragraph would flow better if it were all one sentence instead of breaking it apart and starting a second sentence with “But.” What do you think? In the 3rd paragraph it should be “foes” turned lovers. In the 4th paragraph I think the comma after “soon” doesn’t work. And for the purpose of this contest you don’t need the final paragraph, but I do like it! FIRST 250: This is fun and well-written. I got the feel of the race without any hesitation. I think you need to spell out 300 pound motorcycle, and in the 4th paragraph you don’t need the “And” before “All I have to do...” I think it would read better. This is good stuff, and I think you’ve done a great job here. Congrats!

      I can’t believe I have to pick from two such great entries in the first round! I love the voices in both entries, and I think you will both have success. Congrats. You both have creative and fresh premises, and I would read either book with pleasure. But because I have to choose one, I’m going to go with the one whose query I think is stronger as for explaining the book.

      Victory to SHE’S FAST, HE’S FURIOUS.



      This is such a cute set up, she needs a quiet place and then finds a barbershop quartet in the basement! It definitely made me smile.
      I know this is minor, but I’m curious why reporters are calling her constantly? Does her work relate to this in a way that would make her a public figure/resource for them? Otherwise, surely there are other experts they can rely on besides a grad student. And if she IS a resource, then it doesn’t matter if she’s at her grandmother’s house or the dorm, they’ll keep calling. If this isn’t a plot point, I would cut it from the query, if it is, then I would clarify it.

      I LOVE the overgrown garden gnome line.

      Is overbearing the right word to describe her? That has pretty negative connotations to me. If it was unintended, I would consider something more like “assertive” or “strong.”

      Is racism the main conflict here? I wasn’t expecting that from your earlier set up, I thought it was more of a have/have nots thing. (highly educated woman on a solid career path falls for a singer in her grandmas basement.) If it is race issues we’re dealing with, you definitely need to weave that into the query earlier.

      Another thought, if racism is so ingrained in Duncan that it’s taking serious effort for him to accept their differences, why did he end up renting from her (presumably also Muslim) grandmother and also hopping in Amira’s bed? If the conflict is coming from outside influences though (his family for instance,) then I would clarify that. As it stands now, it sounds internal.

      Also, I started off this query thinking of Duncan as a lovable garden gnome, but between this and the “even for his tastes” comment, I don’t have a great feeling about him anymore.


      There are some small typos here, university does not need to be capitalized, single women reads awkward to me etc. Very easy fixes.

      I was confused by the statement that she had left grad school because of overly creepy guys. In the query you say its because she needs peace and quiet. Which is it?

      I think you could tighten up the first paragraph quite a bit while getting across the same information. I like the last name/calligraphy line a lot, so I would keep that and trim some of the others, which would help getting the plot moving a little quicker.

      I liked that you mentioned garden gnome chic, that was a nice touch.



      This reads more like a synopsis than a query to me. The last two paragraphs, however, are fantastic and do a great job of setting the stakes. I would build off that by cutting a lot of the beginning, tell us only the beats we need to know and saving the rest for the synopsis.


      I like that it starts on the track with the momentum of the race. I really enjoy sports romances, so this had me interested right away. I was confused why/how she was daydreaming so much about Mossimo while doing something so technical and dangerous. I would think her head would be totally in the game.

      One thing that worries me is that she’s clearly into him, and you say in the query its mutual. That right there is going to remove A LOT of tension from your story.

      I love the enemies to lovers trope, but that’s not exactly what you have here, since we are going into this knowing they BOTH have feelings for the other. They couldn’t have had one conversation about this in the last ten years?

      I think your first page would benefit by taking out some of the daydreaming, and not hitting us over the head with the fact that they are into each other. Watching it develop is a big part of the fun in romance!

      With that being said…

      Victory to: Circuit of Attraction!

    3. Lumpy Space AuthorJune 4, 2017 at 3:12 PM

      The one time your capitalized Grandmother - that usage doesn't require a capital.

      This sounds like a really fun and thoughtful multicultural romance.

      But seeing as her train stood stuck [was stuck…was currently sitting idle in the station? Not sure what you mean here.]

      I love the sassy voice, the humor, and the own voices Muslim character!

      SHE'S FAST

      Thanks to Lorelai’s tumultuous family history hardwiring career-over-romance ideals into her priority list, [Take that previous part out]Racing will always come first for her. But when another rider crashes out Lorelai, leaving her shaken from cracked helmet to busted bike, [ And "Massimo’s determination to keep his heart at a distance gets left in the dust" -leave this out because you show it in the following sentences and it just confuses things].

      Massimo saunters into Lorelai’s [change to her] Memphis home during a break in the season, and their competitive tension ignites into a sexual explosion [wait…this is help? I mean, sex always helps, but I think what’s happening is he wants to train with her? Make this clear]

      Great writing, but I'd take out some of the daydreaming about Dude.

      I'm having a hard time seeing where some of the tension is in this. They want to win so they have enough money to flit around the globe doing one another...that's cool. I don't blame them. But you might insert more romantic tension in there, too, and maybe some more emotional tension.

      One of these is more my cup of tea story-wise, and a lot more voice-y, and a lot more important - written by a very underrepresented group in the U.S. VICTORY TO BEARDS.

    4. Beards:

      This query grabs me from the first line. What an interesting couple! I love that there are enough details in the query to know what make hero and heroine unique. I do have a couple of suggestions. This sentence felt a little long and confusing for some reason: "And soon enough, she finds that clashes with Duncan outside bedroom only means hitting all the right notes between the sheets, as they both find exactly what they crave." I think it's the "clashes means hitting"? Maybe "clashing means hitting" would be clearer. I'm also concerned about "literally skin deep." In an interracial, I'm assuming maybe interreligious relationship, are there not cultural differences as well? "Skin deep," I agree with. "Literally skin deep" sounds like it's really only skin color, period.

      The first 250 work really well. You give us character and setting right away, and there are definitely no worries that it's going to take Amira a long time to actually meet Duncan... Garden-Gnome chic! I love it.

      She's Fast, He's Furious: This query is well-written and I love the idea of rivals-to-lovers in a motocross setting! If anything, though, the query feels a little long. Trimming it down a little to hit only the most important points might help catch an agent's eye.

      First 250: I love how you start in the middle of the action, as well as the attention to detail in this scene--I feel like I'm right there with Lorelei. You do hit a couple of my personal pet peeves in the third paragraph.... instead of "my body," why not just "I"? And is she really thinking about her braid in the middle of the race? This is definitely not as bad as it could be in that regard, but I'm a little worried when I see characters describing themselves in first person, especially in a scene where they probably wouldn't be thinking about looks.

      Both look like exciting romances with a lot of unique aspects, but for the succinctness of the query and strength of the first 10...

      Victory to BEARDS!

    5. Beards

      Query: Liked the query, it works for me.

      1st 250: Haha! A Toronto native. I would change "University" to Queens University since that's probably what you're referring to. I do love the voice/humor in this.

      Sidenote: Racism isn't the highlight in this, in my take. It's part of the MC's experience as a WOC/Muslim. You tell it like it is and it's part of the authenticity of it.


      Query: I think the 2nd paragraph can go. The query works better without it.

      1st 250: Great excerpt, very polished.

      VICTORY TO BEARDS ... I was taken in by the garden gnomes.

    6. BEARDS
      Love your opening. (Unfortunately) so topical. Already endears me to your protag. “Grandmother’s” in this case is lowercase. I think the last few sentences in the opening paragraph are really close, they should just be reworked slightly and the “What?” should be taken out.
      Love the voice of the next paragraph. Make sure you say what Duncan actually does in his gigs in the first or second sentence, though. You need to make it clear right away that he is a singer, which you never mention. Then we can put it together that he’s in the barbershop quartet (again, lowercase unless it’s a special name).
      Oh gosh, I LOVE opposites-attract romances like this! I’m already melting.
      And then in the last paragraph you do something amazing – you take an already-great recipe for a romance and make it something larger, something more meaningful, and something that might even help your readers to deal with their *own* prejudices and assumptions and confusion. BRAVO. This is the exact kind of book I love, one that isn’t a heavy-handed “message” book, but one which frames insight about life within an engaging plot. Really great stuff. Two small grammar issues in the last two sentences: no comma in second to last sentence. Technically no comma before “fight for them” in the last sentence, but I agree it needs something, so I’d use ellipses or an em dash.
      250: Great opening. Sings with voice and already sets up a lot of background. Second sentence, should be “she’d tried to travel.” I think “unceremoniously” works better here than “ceremoniously.” Ick.  Unfortunately so realistic. I think another sarcastic/bitter joke might be needed about the experience, then go to the next paragraph with, “But nothing like that could happen now—this was a train.” I think it will make things pop a lot better, especially for an opening. Maybe even set the train line on its own. No comma after Kingston. Feels echo-y to have “border” and “border guards” so close together.
      In the creepy guy paragraph, I’d take out both sets of ellipses. Use them as sparingly as you can. After the first one (with f**k) I’d just put a period. I think it pops more anyway. And in place of the second I’d put an em dash. “almost-empty train.” Hyphenate that. I think the last sentence of this paragraph should be reworded a bit. Maybe something like “She’d left grad school early to escape creepy guys, and now here she is trapped once again with a particularly gruesome member of the male species.”
      I’d take out the “lurid” in the last paragraph or sub it. In general, I feel like you’re using a bit too many adjectives. I’d go back and take out a few, especially in the creepy guy paragraph. LOL Garden Gnome chic. YOU ARE HILARIOUS!!!
      Overall: Holy hell I freaking love this entry! Like, I want this book in my hands ASAP. The writing is STELLAR. The voice is FANTASTIC. The plot ROCKS. And so, I don’t want to give any agent a reason to pass on you. Go over the rules for capitalization (nouns vs special nouns). With capitalization, it’s basically that if it’s a special name then you capitalize. For example, “Grandma, I love you.” In that case, it’s her name. Or if you’re going to see the Maple Grove Barbershop Quartet. But if you’re just saying that your grandmother is here, you don’t, because in that case it’s a tag about your relationship, not her name, or if you’re going to see a barbershop quartet.

      You confused me with the first 4 words all being names, so I would rework that. Is MotoGP a thing that everyone knows? I confess to being not very athletic (at all), but I would imagine I’m not the only bookish type who is, so I’d rework that. It’s just a lot to take in right off the bat. As far as I know you also don’t need commas around Lorelai’s name. The rest of the hook is good. I’d honestly just cut “Moto GP Princess.” I’d sub “pull of” for “pull toward.”
      Why is Massimo convinced there is no point in pursuing her, if she’s the girl of his dreams? I’d hint that more clearly. The rest looks great. Very clear with plot and stakes. Nicely done!
      250: I’m not sure you started in the right place on this one. I get that putting her in the car sets the tone nicely for her being a driver, but it didn’t work for me as an opening, I think because it felt too abstract with all the shifting and driving words. Also, so quickly telling, rather than showing, about her romantic interest and professional conflict with Massimo dampened the excitement I would have *seeing* it in action, maybe from risky dialogue when they’re getting out of their cars or something like that.
      Overall: Your query is almost perfect. Well done!!! Openings are SO HARD. Last year the judges told me the same thing I’m telling you – if I were you I’d find a new one, one that shows instead of tells the super hot attraction of your MCs. If you do that, I think you will be unstoppable!
      Both: One had a stronger query, one had a stronger 250. Suuuuuuper tough choice. I seriously love both of these entries, and I know that you will both go far, but I feel that the query and 250 of one is closer to where it needs to be, so I must give….

      -Molly Millions

    8. BEARDS
      I love this premise and really love the hook of a barbershop quartet – so much fun and so unique!
      Query: I think this query is really solid and just needs a bit of clarification on one or two things, but it definitely gets me interested in the book. I love the overgrown garden gnome phrase but I wasn’t sure what it meant exactly – the title hinted that maybe there’s a beard, so I soon surmised that, but it made me pause. And I didn’t quite get right away that Duncan was the garden gnome. I think some minor tweaks might make that easier to get right away. I noticed you have the word “find/s” three times in the third paragraph – consider revising and/or maybe cutting “as both find exactly what they crave” which is, to me, a bit vague and unnecessary. I’m a bit confused about what Duncan’s conflict is – is it about her race? Or is it about her personality and the fact that he’s not a big time singer? And I wasn’t clear on why Amira would “stop him” from winning the competition – wouldn’t she want him to succeed? Finally, I wasn’t sure what you mean by “Their differences are only skin deep, literally,” only because you have already told us that their personalities clash and they have different goals etc.

      250: I really enjoyed this scene and don’t have any real suggestions for improvement (except for adding a “the” before “Toronto airport”) Bravo!

      This sounds like a super fun ride of a story! I love the concept of a woman competing in and navigating a traditionally male field.
      Query: It feels a smidge long and I feel like I want it to be as driven and fast paced as the story seems to be. I would consider cutting it down, especially in the third and fourth paragraphs, which feel more appropriate for a synopsis and maybe give too much detail for this purpose.

      250: I love the action packed start – get’s us hooked right away. And I don’t have much in the way of suggestions for improvement, except that you may not need this sentence: “And all I have to do is what I’ve managed for ten years: ignore the part of me that wants to rope Massimo into a bedroom, and instead, beat him to the finish line one last time.” It took me out of the action for a moment, and you get into it more in the following paragraph. Good work!

      Victory to BEARDS

    9. Title: Chai, Beards, and Harmony
      Entry Nickname: Beards

      Query Feedback
      I am in love with this. I want the book immediately. YES PLEASE!!!!!!!!!

      I think you need to throw in the real goal and stakes at the end… they want to end up together, but it could interfere with his musical career? Upset their families? Prevent her from finishing her thesis? What is the external goal for each of them that is secondary to their love ending up together.

      You are SO CLOSE!

      First 250 Feedback
      LOVE the tension here. And the last line. Ahhhhh so hilarious! The first guy sounds so creeptastic. It is a very relatable moment and a nice opener.

      “a gruesome member of the male species” - you can just say “one” and it will be quicker and snappier.


      Title: Circuit of Attraction
      Entry Nickname: She’s Fast, He’s Furious

      Query Feedback
      Great setup here. You really have the voice down and the opposing viewpoints. I can see the stakes clearly!

      I think paragraph 2 has a bit too much / is too wordy and it slows it down for me. The crash is where we want to get… can we get there faster?

      GREAT work

      First 250
      Really sweet setup… right to the action! Also we learn a ton about our MCs here. You can feel the speed.

      Sports stories aren’t my forte so I can’t offer too much guidance, but it felt like maybe a lot of jargon on page 1? It wasn’t as accessible to me (but I may not be your target reader). There is a great enery here though!

      Also, you can feel the sexual tension on page 1!

      Both sound so fun! And romantic! But i gotta go with


  2. Not a judge.
    Not a professional. Take all comments for what they are worth: one opinion.

    Beards Q - "overgrown garden-gnome of a baritone" is a GREAT line and grabbed me right away. Your query and tight and to the point. Your characters are clear, and I feel a connection to them after reading a few paragraphs. That's hard to do. Tiny advice - tighten the Q more by losing words like "inexplicably" "soon enough" "long ago" "literally". They don't affect the Q but could be cut for efficiency.

    Beards 250 - I'm pulling for Duncan and Amira by the end of the 250. Again, hard to hook your read in that early with character, but you provide enough details for the reader to get a strong first impression (especially Amira). You also dump the reader into the middle of a scene - LOVE that. Same tiny advice as above. You could probably lose words like "finally" and "discreetly" but that's just something small to review. Your story is unique, and I want to read more!

    She's Fast, He's Furious Q - Your last line is your strongest and makes a perfect Twitter pitch "confident win first, ask questions later heroine, and the snarky Italian-born hero." The rest of your Q is solid. Maybe a bit long. It's fun to take sentences out of the Q and see if it still works. Take out the 2nd paragraph and see how it sounds. Or take out the first sentence of the fourth paragraph. It's tempting to put more story in the Q, but less sometimes works better. That said, your Q is great. You had me a sports romance! I love the idea of professional Motorsports as part of the plot. Very unique! Bravo.

    She's Fast, He's Furious 250 - Perfect. Launch into the action immediately. And by the third paragraph there's already romantic tension and conflict. You write action very well. I don't know what the "golden dust" or "fairing" is but you make it work because you've dropped me right in the middle of this racing world - and I love it. I hope the novel is full of action and romance...I want to read more of the racing scene and find out about the romance. I'm curious how you handle their previous relationship...flashback...thoughts from Lorelai?

    Both - Really enjoyed reading. Would read both of these in a night if given the chance! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Chai, Beards, and Harmony

    Your query does a good job of setting up who Amira and Duncan are in the first two paragraphs. I wasn’t sure if the problem of their relationship was the different cultures (small-town vs city), the money (engineer vs singer), or their religions (Muslim and Christian?). She says that their differences are only skin deep, but it sounds like they have more differences than their skin color. I would love to read about a Muslim woman protagonist, especially if she gets it on with a garden-gnome guy, which is a great description!

    In your first 250, you do a decent job establishing her voice. She mentions she left grad school because of creepy guys, but I thought she’d left because of the noise and interruptions. I do like your description of Duncan. He sounds funny, yet intriguing.

    Circuit of Attraction:
    This is an interesting setting for a romance, as I know nothing of MotoGP. I do feel like your query could be condensed, as it is quite long. I think you should tighten up the fourth paragraph to clearly identify the stakes. Also, I feel like the fact that both are into each other removes tension from the beginning.

    In your first 250, you do a great job with the action of the race. When she talks about being the first woman ever to race in MotoGP, I wouldn’t mention wanting Massimo at that point. I feel like it undermines her obvious competitiveness at that point. I think the last line is fine, because it feels like more of an afterthought. I think mentioning her wanting him twice doesn’t jive with the fact that she is more focused on winning than romance.

  4. Not a judge but wanted to chime in to say how much I loved both of these entries. I suck at queries so I have nothing helpful to add to those. But with She's Fast, He's Furious first 250, I love that you jumped right into the action. It really felt like I was on the course with her, with is amazing especially since I know nothing about motorcycle racing. I wanted her to win.

    Beards, all I can say is "yes, yes, yes!" I love that the Islamic girl is at the center of it and that it addresses Islamophobia but in a rom com is so great. We need stories like these. I'm black and Christian but my brother "looks" Middle Eastern when he grows his hair out. And he literally shaves and cuts his hair down every time he has to take an airplane because otherwise he gets stopped. And like I said,' we're black. So I can't imagine what it's like for actual Islamic people when traveling. So I love that you jump in right away addressing that issue and then kinda flip it where we see it from her perspective, how scary other people seem to her.

    It sucks you both can't make it to the next round but I do hope that you query these both with confidence because they're great.


  5. Chai, Beards, and Harmony
    I love this set up for a romance! Barbershop quartet?!
    First paragraph:
    Why is Amira getting hounded by reporters? And could you perhaps describe her ancestry here, since you mention she’s multicultural later? Is the “garden gnome of a baritone” Duncan? That last part of the sentence confused me and I think you could leave it out.

    Second paragraph: Maybe make it clear that Duncan is one of the Barbershop Quartet? The transition as a little abrupt. Also, I wanted to know about his “world” earlier. Is he white?

    “Inexplicably”—really? I bet there’s some kind of explanation! Maybe “over drinks, Amira befriends the misfit singers” (or if it’s not drinks, whatever it is!).

    I love the bedroom line but it looks like you’re missing some words/something’s a little messed up. Maybe “Soon enough, she finds clashes with Duncan outside the bedroom only mean hitting all the right notes between the sheets.” I don’t think you need the part about craving.

    The “accept their differences but fight for them” line was a little vague/generic. How can you be more specific about what they will face?

    First 250
    Loved the first line! Paragraph two, cut “discretely.” You don’t need it with “peeked.” And what was the vile expression? Show us. What a weird dude!
    I’m a little worried, in the first 250, that Amira is watching, and literally stuck. I’d hope that some forward action and agency on her part would start soon.

    Circuit of Attraction
    What?! A female motorcycle racer? YAS! Great set up in the first paragraph.

    Second paragraph got a little clunky here: “Thanks to Lorelai’s tumultuous family history hardwiring career-over-romance ideals into her priority list, racing will always come first for her. [this confused me. What about “Lorelai’s family always taught her to value her career over romance, so racing will always come first”?] But when another rider crashes out Lorelai, leaving her shaken from cracked helmet to busted bike, Massimo’s determination to keep his heart at a distance gets left in the dust.” [How is this a “but” connection? It doesn’t have anything to do with Lorelai changing her mind about career/romance but rather is switching to Massimo?]

    Third paragraph: would be “foes turned lovers.”

    I love the first page! You do so much here—set up the tension of the race, and the tension of the romance. The only part that confused me was “fairing.” I’m guessing

    1. Whoops, realized the last part got cut off! I was going to say "I'm guessing that is a racing term?" If so, you can leave it and readers can figure it out!

  6. Beards
    Query: I feel like this gave away a little too much of the plot. Also, at points you have the character's voices, but this doesn't carry through. Can this be reworked to show their voice more?

    250: THE VOICE! Oh my WORD I freaking loved this, especially the first line. Also, I got all of Starbucks to stare at me crazy when I busted out laughing my ass off at, "Garden-Gnome chic."

    Fast, Furious
    Query: My only comment is a question: how can they both win the title if they're competitors?

    250: No comment other than AWESOME! I seriously cannot find anything to critique, other than pointing out that it might be more beneficial to have the gear shifts be their own paragraphs. Add emphasis to them.

  7. Beards:
    HECK YES I am HERE for a Muslim contemporary romance heroine! I love everything about Amira – women in STEM are a huge favorite of mine, and I love the fact that your query and first 250 drip with agency. She’s getting what she wants, so either get in line or get out of the way.

    I did find that the third paragraph (“Inexplicably, Amira finds harmony with the misfit singers—“) to be a little awkward – namely because both sentences have the same A, something something B, something something C structure. The second sentence is a bit passive (“And soon enough, she finds that clashes with Duncan outside bedroom only means hitting all the right notes between the sheets, as they both find exactly what they crave”), and I really think you could lose ‘as they both find exactly what they crave’ without losing your message.
    I loved your first line! Amira’s voice is super clear here – she really seems like she came to you fully formed, and between the query and 250, she seems like a living, breathing, real person. I think you need to start a new paragraph after the first line. That extra beat will make the first line more resonant, and it will break up your first paragraph. I’m also not sure what the purpose is of describing the men around her to such an exacting degree, so I won’t necessarily say that’s a poor choice since I can’t read any further past the 250th word. I think what I’ll say is this: maybe take a look at your first 5 pages, and decide whether it’s something you need to come into the story with. (The hot takes on Islamophobia thing was great in your query – maybe lead in with that somehow?)
    She’s fast, he’s furious:
    I thought this was great! Yuri on Ice is one of my favorite shows right now, and your story has a similar dynamic – the love interest helping the main character with their career. I did think your query ran a tad long though, and by the 3rd-4th paragraph, it feels as though it’s more of a synopsis. My suggestion would be to shake your query up a little bit – rather than offer a shortened synopsis with events in chronological order, maybe find a way to introduce the stakes/conflict in the 4th paragraph in the 1st or 2nd to establish conflict.
    First 250:
    I loved this! Your sample grabbed me early, and I loved the intensity of opening in the middle of the race.

    Well done, both of you!

    1. (I don't know why this says I'm unknown, this is Anna Brittain!)

  8. BEARDS:

    Query - I think you have a strong query as it is, so I'll just add a few of my thoughts as I was reading:
    - The second paragraph didn't flow very well as I read it. The first was pretty seamless and then I got tripped up on the second, so you might take a look at wording. I think it's the second sentence that does it. It's very long with a lot of commas. : )
    - I'd like to hear a little more about the external conflict that exists after getting together rather than how they got together. The sentence you have in there about only someone like her being able to understand her is a little confusing. I get what you mean, but you might think about rewording it so it doesn't confuse readers.

    Overall, very nice, solid query.

    First 250 -

    The first 250 flows really nicely. It's well-written and I love the voice coming through. It does feel like she spends a bit too much time focusing on the creepy guy - I'd like to hear less about him and more about something else going on around her: the setting, thoughts about her destination, etc.

    Very nice. I'd definitely read this. Love the idea of being bothered by a barbershop quartet - how original!


    Query - I love the idea of a racing book with a female protag. That's great and very original. I'm sure you've probably heard this (I hear it about mine, too), but your query is too long. I think you could completely cut the second to last paragraph and it would help out a lot.

    First 250 -

    First off, and I'm sure you've done this, but I thought I'd mention it just in case, is this a real track you're describing? If so, make sure you're accurately describing the turns and all that stuff. My husband is EXTREMELY into racing and has most tracks memorized completely, knowing everything about each and every turn. Like I said, I'm sure you've probably already done your research on this, but I thought I'd mention it.

    It seems odd that Massimo should pop into her head when she's just moments away from winning this huge race. That would probably be about the last thing on my mind. Maybe if you rearranged things so that the part where she's forcing him further inside than where he wants to be comes first, and then she mentions trying to ignore her desire for him.

    Overall, seems like you know a lot about racing, and I think it's an extremely original concept.

    Both great entries! Good luck to you both!

  9. Such great entries!


    Query: I love the voice you have and the story idea! I didn't realize at first the Duncan was one of the singers--maybe make that a bit more explicit upfront?

    First 250: Interesting set up. Some of the sentences were a bit difficult to follow, including the first one--I think the two 'she's' confused me at first. Also the phrase " having been denied boarding her flight to Philadelphia" struck me as a bit awkward; maybe switch to active voice?

    Circuit of Attraction

    Query: Good set up of the story. I was confused, however, about the final stakes where they both need to "Win the title of World Champion, or lose it all." How can the both win? And if they both lose do they equally have their career in ruins?

    First 250: LOVED THIS. I am allergic to all sports including racing but I was hooked right in and wanted to know what happened next. Great job!

  10. Beards: I like that your premise is flirty, timely, and necessary. The unique personalities, stakes, and motivations of the characters are made clear in the query as well as what is keeping them apart. I also get a hint of why they will be perfect (and explosive) for each other and I am dying to read more. Your first 250 immediately makes me smile with the voice and pulls me in.

    Racing: Fun premise. I like that a woman is involved as a player in the sports romance and not just the girl who falls in love with an athlete. The query makes the stakes and motivations of the MCs clear and the first 250 snags my attention with the first sentence.