Jun 2, 2017

QK Round 1: Book Boys Gone Wild! vs Mars Bars and Snickers

Title: Paper Seeds
Entry Nickname: Book Boys Gone Wild!
Word count: 109k
Genre: YA Magical Realism


When seventeen–year–old Harlow Jackson gets dumped at her grandma Minny's wake, she's devastated—devastated and furious. She knows Jonathan sees her as the type of girl who gets kissed in the back woods, not on a rich boy's front porch. She is sick and tired of feeling second rate in her small Southern town, and getting mean–girled by the snotty debutantes. Honestly, she’d love to burn their perfect curls off their pretty little heads, but that would just be gravy.

But then Harlow finds something Grandma Minny left her: paper seeds. Minny always told her that if you place a magical paper seed in a book, and plant it in the ground, you can grow anything you desire from its pages.

Fuming and frustrated, Harlow doesn’t grow some boring romance novel’s version of a dreamy boyfriend. No, instead she grows teenage versions of Mr. Knightley, Sherlock Holmes, Dorian Gray, and Dracula (Drake), to escort her and her friends to the debutante dance. Passing the boys off as four rather eccentric foreign exchange students fools everyone. Harlow vows that she will beat the rich town snobs—including Jonathan —at their own game, and win the debutante crown and the cash scholarship prize it includes. Because everyone knows there's only one thing better than a handsome, well-groomed, drawling Southern beau…an English gentleman.

It’s all going according to plan, until Madame LeRoux—long rumored to be the town witch—demands that Harlow give her back the paper seeds. LeRoux claims Grandma Minny stole them from her, and that there are real–life consequences for every paper seeds that’s planted. Soon, LeRoux is trying to sabotage every aspect of Harlow’s life to get them back, at the same time that Harlow’s smoking hot neighbor Rafe, and the seed boys themselves, discover where the boys are really from. To say the least, none of them take it well.

Harlow must discover answers about the paper seeds themselves if she is going to protect everyone she loves. Where did the seeds come from and how did Grandma Minny get them? Have paper seeds ever been planted in her town before? Can they be undone? As Harlow searches for answers, she finds more town secrets than she thought possible. But those secrets pale in comparison when Harlow discovers that someone she loves has been hiding the biggest, ugliest secret of them all.

First 250:

If I hadn’t been standing in the middle of my grandmother Minny's wake, I would have whacked that boy in the man parts so hard, they’d be looking at pictures of his children in years to come and say—see the funny ear that kid has? Harlow Jackson did that.

But Jonathan took my hand and squeezed it, like he was bestowing some sort of warm comfort on me. He wore the gray shirt I'd saved up a week's wages for, the one that was the exact color of his eyes.

Now, I wanted to rip it off him.

And not in a good way.

I took a deep breath and tried to be civil. “Your parents will get used to the idea of us. I have a way of winning people over, you know.” I smiled my most becoming smile and flashed my dimple. Jonathan loved my dimple. Everyone loved my dimple.

He closed his eyes. “It’s not that, Harlow.”

“Then what is it?” I said, too loud.

Madison Pace cocked her ear in our direction as she scooped bean dip onto her plate at the food table. Nosey was not an adjective in this town, it was a given.

I tugged Jonathan’s hand, and he followed me out onto the front porch. The sky was gray just waiting to burst open, the air heavy and thick. October in Georgia was not a cool, crisp autumn. It was more like standing over a pot of boiling pasta. Or maybe it was more like being the pasta.


Title: Red Letter Law
Word count: 68k
Genre: YA Space Opera (#ownvoices)


In 2038, fourteen years after the start of settlements on Mars, people are selling other people. The morons who run this call it “indentured servitude”, but fifteen-year-old Lonnie Freeman doesn’t buy it. When her mom and stepdad lose a Mars-ton of money, they sign Lonnie and her sister Chelle up for servitude, saying “You’ll have enough to eat, and it’s only two Mars years.” That is, 45 months. Lonnie thinks of this as diet slavery: less calories, and less guilt, but it’s still bad for you.

While Chelle runs away to Earth, Lonnie is placed with a family of rich weirdos. The good news is, she starts to learn Arabic, she gets to care for pair of adorable three-year-old twins, and the family includes Amir, a fellow teenager who becomes Lonnie’s friend.

But everything changes when Amir’s classmate rapes Lonnie, claiming that he wants to “borrow” her from Amir. To make matters worse, Lonnie learns that the rape of servants is common. It’s a well-kept secret, as most servants are afraid do or say anything about it. Lonnie has to find a way to get her rapist put on trial, so that the servitude industry’s true colors can be seen. If she doesn’t, many more children and teens will be victimized.

First 250:

“You forgot the tampons?” I stare at my sister Rochelle in disbelief.

She stares back, confirming my fear.

“Oh, frack!” she mumbles, pulling her gaze away and starting to dig. She points down, reminding me to help.

Red dust flies up toward me as my shovel pierces the ground. We’re surrounded by a vast expanse of a desert drier than my Uncle Davis’s jokes. I look out at the cracks in the ground, which look blue through my mask, and wish I could go home to the blue planet.

“Frack nothin’,” I snap. “We have to go back to the store.”

“Lonnie, we can’t. Mom said not to use any more solar power.”

“Chelle,” I articulate carefully. “We have to go back to the store.”

She purses her full lips.

“Let’s just finish this first,” she suggests, “and then we can walk or rent a velo, okay?”


We stop digging when the hole is three feet deep. From the front pocket of my jumpsuit, I take a multi-faceted silver ball a little bigger than my palm. It looks just like something they used to hang from the ceiling during parties when my grandma was my age. But this is no funky ornament; it’s a solar energy storage unit, our family’s most valuable possession. We have to bury it to keep it safe during the dust storm coming in eight hours. After the storm, dust in the air will block our solar panels. The SESU is the only way we’ll be able to power our house.


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



      This query really sucked me in, I love the unique premise and the way the voice shines through. It can be hard to pull of a query with a strong voice, but it works very well here. The idea that Harlow can grow anything she wants and she chooses to grow potential dates tells us a lot about the character right off the bat, and her choice of who to “grow” is very entertaining and inventive.

      Granted I have a very limited knowledge of debutante balls, but I was surprised there was a cash prize/scholarship. Is it essentially a popularity contest for a scholarship? I’d like to know what the scholarship entails (is it for college?) and why Harlow wants it? Most of the query paints her as someone looking for revenge/show up the kids who seem to have it all, so if winning the scholarship is a priority, I need to know why.

      In general, I think this query does a great job setting up the conflict here and setting the tone for the book!

      First 250:

      This is a strong opening. The voice really shines here, and the imagery is fantastic! I don’t have much to add except to be nitpicky: the weather at the end kind of slowed things down for me. You do a great job explaining the heat and humidity, but it seemed to throw off the pace a bit.



      The word morons doesn’t work for me here. I agree they are morons, I’d use a harsher word actually, but the term pulled me out of the futuristic vibe your first sentence sets up. “Weirdos” seems too conversational as well. I think this query would be much stronger if you played it straight. Those words don’t seem to match the tone of the rest of the query, which is very dark/heavy.

      One thing that I was questioning was: if her sister could run away to earth, why couldn't she?

      Adding in a rape on top of everything else threw me off a bit. There is already A LOT going on here. Since it seems like a major plot point though, I’d like to know more about Amir’s part in the rape. Did his classmate “borrow her” and take her for himself, or was Amir part of it, essentially "loaning her out" to be used? It’s not clear if he’s a villain here or if we’re supposed to be rooting for him. (I would be *very* wary of creating a sympathetic slave owner narrative.)

      I’d like to know more about how she is going to put Amir’s classmate on trial, is she banding together with other servants? What else is at risk for her PERSONALLY besides the well-being of future servants? I’d imagine coming forward carries many risks to her life and safety. I’d like to see some of that outlined in the query.

      First 250:

      I like the juxtaposition of having a very common problem (forgotten tampons) take place on Mards. It was a great way to pull the reader in and create empathy.

      I think there are some tweaks you could make that would help your writing flow better though. For instance here:
      “You forgot the tampons?” I stare at my sister Rochelle in disbelief.
      She stares back, confirming my fear.”
      I would consider changing to: “I stare at my sister in disbelief. Rochelle stares back, confirming my fear.” This tells us the same info, that she’s talking to her sister AND her sister’s name is Rochelle, without slowing down the opening sentence (which needs to pack as much punch as possible!)

      I would also be careful of your use of dialog tags. In this page alone we mumble, snap, articulate, and suggest. If you use more action beats, you can express emotion and tell us who is speaking without slowing us down. (For example, if Lonnie scrunches her eyes shut or rolls her eyes etc. —however you choose to have her express frustration—and THEN says her line, you won’t need to attribute the quote to her with a dialog tag. We’ll already know.)

      The last paragraph also didn't work for me, particularly the side note about her grandma having a disco ball. I'm guessing that was meant to point out that while we're in the future, we're not THAT far in the future, but it didn't really seem to fit.

      Victory to: Paper Seeds!

    2. Professor McGonagallJune 4, 2017 at 7:52 AM

      BOOK BOYS GONE WILD! What a fun premise! I love the idea of bringing those guys to life. Very creative, and what girl wouldn’t love to bring those guys to life! QUERY: I like your character building in the query, and feel her emotions. I do think it is a bit scattered. In the first paragraph, for example, she is dumped at her grandma’s wake, but is angry about Jonathan and something that happened – which doesn’t seem to connect to her grandma. We don’t know what happened to her to make her so angry, so that starts us off with a question already, and it continues throughout the query. I think you need to start either with the Jonathan issue OR Grandma’s wake, and let us in on what happened to make her so mad. Not both events. It’s too vague. Then, does Minny find the paper seeds at the wake? Or is this later? And the big, ugly secret is thrown in as a vague surprise at the end. Is this connected to the rest of the story? A nitpick: In paragraph 4 you don’t need the comma after “plan.” FIRST 250: Minny’s voice is fun and funny, and I like her. You have some very fresh and creative ideas here, like the pasta and what people will say about Jonathan’s. children! In the first paragraph I think you should use Jonathan’s name instead of “that boy” so we’re brought into the story more clearly. In the last paragraph there should be a comma after “gray.” Good job and good luck!

      MARS BARS AND SNICKERS: An interesting concept, dealing with some very real and very current issues in a story that teenagers would find interesting. Good job! QUERY: This is good and compact, getting a lot of information to the reader in a clear way, with a feel for Lonnie’s voice. The conflict and character development are both there. A few nitpicks: In the second sentence the quotation marks should come after the comma after “servitude,” and I believe it should be after “saying.” (...Chelle up for servitude saying, “You’ll have enough...) And it should be fewer calories instead of less. FIRST 250: This is well done and smooth writing! The word “frack” immediately made me think of Battlestar Galactica – I’m not sure if that’s good or bad. Again, not having tampons is something teens could easily relate to, and I got a good feel for the world they are living on. Good job and best of luck!

      These are both strong entries! Best of luck to both of you. Because I feel it is a bit more polished,


    3. Lumpy Space AuthorJune 4, 2017 at 12:09 PM

      When seventeen–year–old Harlow Jackson gets dumped [it takes me a while to figure out that you mean by her boyfriend. I thought her family just dumped her there…I was like, whoa. I’d say “Harlow Jackson’s boyfriend dumps her”]

      but that would just be gravy [I’m not sure what you mean in this context. I usually take “gravy” to mean something extra good on top of something good, so I’m lost. I think you can take out the stuff about burning people’s hair off, anyway, because we all know how it feels to be around mean girls.]

      . [The query is long. I would condense the last two paragraphs. “All is going according to plan until the book-boys discover their own origins and run amok, and the town witch tells Harlow that planting the seeds could have dark consequences.
      Harlow must find answers about the seeds origins and history before everyone she loves gets hurt. As generations of lies begin to unravel, Harlow discovers someone she loves has been hiding…”
      You might add a few more details than that, but I would take out a few that you have in there.]

      This is an extremely engrossing concept on a lot of levels. It sounds like an addictive read.

      Great voice. I wouldn’t change anything. Super good job.

      Whoa. HEAVY CONCEPT but FRANK and FUNNY voice. This is amazing. So brave and important.

      “Lonnie, we can’t. Mom said not to use any more solar power.” [I like the worldbuilding of “solar”, but you don’t need it here, and it sounds stilted. I think she’d just say “power”. You can bring in the worldbuilding of the solar part later.”

      You keep on giving with this voice. And starting with dialogue here really works for you.

      Both of these entries are kickass. One of them kicks my ass and takes my breath away, because I feel like the author is going to pick up my whole heart and not let it go until they have molded it into something wiser and more beautiful.


    4. Paper Seeds

      Query: It's a titch long. I think you can condense the last two paragraphs into one. I do love the concept!

      1st 250: OMG. That first line is brilliant!!!! Loved the excerpt.

      Red Letter Law

      Query: The concept is solid, as is the query.

      1st 250: The voice is solid here. The excerpt is great. The subtle world-building elements are in place.

      This one was really, really hard for me to decide. I loved them both. :(


      Query: This is a very cool, VERY unique hook! However, the query feels more like a synopsis than a pitch – I’d love to get to the paper seed boys and the witch faster. I feel like the rich/poor/jealousy angle is less interesting to feature in the query because its less unique, so I would focus on the magical elements more. I also feel like the last paragraph is a bit clunky with all the questions and the last sentence is too vague and out of the blue for my taste. I would try to boil this query down so that the hook (the seeds that grow into boys,) the obstacles (what does she need to protect everyone she loves from? The witch?,) Harlow’s end goal, and what happens if she doesn’t achieve her goal are more spelled out (without giving away too much of the ending of course.)

      250: I love the voice of this – I can already tell that Harlow is a character I’d love to spend some time with. My only question is why specifically she wanted to kick the boy in the first paragraph. From the query, I knew he was dumping her, but I guess I want more hints/clarity on what he said that would make her so angry.

      Query: Oh, I love space opera and I’m so intrigued by this concept! I like the world building and voice in the query, but I think you could streamline the first paragraph a bit and I’m not sure that you need as much detail about the family she’s placed with, except to maybe introduce Amir. I think, if the crux of the story is about the rape and trying to expose this injustice and cruelty, you should bring that into the query earlier, and then end with more about the stakes for Lonnie. What happens to her if she fails? What are the emotional stakes? Why should we care about Lonnie in particular? Also, does her sister figure into the story after she runs away? If so, I want to know more about that and their relationship.

      250: Again, I love the world building and how you’ve woven the hints about the time and location into the scene. I also like the relationship with the sisters. I was confused about why they had to bury the disco ball device, but otherwise I found this very compelling and well written.

      Great job to both of these entries – I can’t wait to read these books someday! Since I must chose, Victory to MARS BARS AND SNICKERS

    6. BOOK BOYS GONE WILD! - So, wow, yeah, I love the hook. How fun and creepy and unique, all at once! The writing in the query is really excellent, too. I get a great idea of who your MC is, what she wants, and the problems that arise when she tries (in a really cool/weird way) to get it.

      The only problem I see with this query is unfortunately a big-ish one... it's way too long. I'd try to cut this down to about HALF the length you have now. This feels more like a synopsis. A little skillful trimming, though, and I think you'll definitely get some agent attention.

      The first 250, also, feels mostly solid. It's maybe a little confusing that, right after Harlow says she wants to rip Jonathan's sweater off, she pleads that his family will get used to her... is she angry? Has he dumped her yet, or is he trying to let her down easy? Other than that confusion, I enjoyed it!

      MARS BARS AND SNICKERS: Wow. I have to admit that I was initially put off by this concept... science fiction that echoes real-world slavery is something that's very hard (if possible at all) to do right, and is going to get you a LOT of scrutiny. But by the end of the query I was actually excited about it. It seems like there are a lot of places it COULD go wrong and turn offensive to someone... but I also love the way the stakes are both personal AND universal, and the voice in the query has me prepared for good things from the book.

      One thing I might include is HOW the book is ownvoices. My first thought was that perhaps you're black, which would give you a different perspective on slavery than someone who isn't. Then, I thought maybe from the Arabic world? Or from the sexual assault? Or all of the above? Definitely something to clarify in the query (assuming that you're comfortable with doing so, which I'm assuming based on the fact that it's marked ownvoices?).

      First 250: OMG the first line! Amazing. I love it. I get an immediate sense of setting, of the relationship between the sisters, and of the urgency that money has for them. I'm still REALLY worried about the concept. These are tough things to fictionalize. But the opening has me convinced enough to stick with it and hope you're the one in a million who could do it right and do it well.

      So, I guess for me this was a matchup of a concept I loved and a query that's not quite there yet, versus a concept I'm almost scared to go along for the ride with, but a voice that blows me away.

      Victory to... MARS BARS AND SNICKERS!

      (Please prove me wrong on that concept thing; I welcome it!)


      QUERY - I think there is a lot of voice in this query, which is hard to get so kudos on that front. That's really awesome and will help you a lot. I feel the first paragraph is a bit too long and hinges on being a synopsis? I'd shorten it, tighten the first few sentences. The last one is a real punch in the "voice" gut and really shows me how Harlow views things as a character.

      I LOVE the second and third paragraph and I really gasped. This has a great premise and idea to it. The fourth and fifth paragraph, I see are where you're building up not only stakes but characters. I'd get rid of so many questions, and the third fourth paragraph can be shortened a lot. A helpful tip is base the query off of what the reader would know from pages 1-70. I think you put a lot in here, echoing the synopsis feels I had before, and the query is too long. Mostly cutting things would make this a stronger query (cut from paragraph 1, 3, 4, and delete the questions from 5).

      Remember, you don't want me to feel like i read the book, i want to feel like I WANT to read more, and not feel like there are going to be 500 questions that will need to be answered. Keep to the central question, and let the other questions happen in book.
      TEXT - I feel like this text is REALLY strong but I got a little tripped up half way through, understanding how Harlow felt, and if I should be annoyed or not with Jonathan. I think this text is solid, but if you could make that more clear, you wouldn't trip up the reader. Which is important for an opening.


      QUERY -Again, this query has A LOT of voice. I think the 'quote' in the first paragraph could be done better, and removed--show me more how Lonnie views such a statement without using a direct quote, if that makes sense? Let us see it from Lonnie's perspective.

      Great voice again in paragraph 2 and I'm really into this and i can see you've though a lot about Lonnie as a character, her motivations and such.

      But then we hit paragraph 3. I feel the query falls apart there, esp towards the end. The stakes, though I understand them, feel fairly grandiose and kinda "Girl says the world" in a sense that I'm not really convinced. Is she going to get revenge? Is this more of a legal thing? A mystery? It feels more like one of those 2 than a Space opera. Also, the rape piece kinda comes out of nowhere. I think its hard to weave this in, but I legit gasped and WAS NOT prepared. I think you need to either ease up to this more (maybe make the tone less...sarcastic and brooding? Because that kinda gave me a more 'Lonnie views this like 'F this shit' type of way and more serious?) or find a way to make this less..up front and more weaved into the query.

      TEXT - Starting with dialogue is risky. I would suggest not and giving us more context on the world. I also think you do a good job of showing the type of relationship the sister's have, but I would like a little more world building that's less generic (red dust, solar power, etc--sounds generic to space, Mars, etc).

      I feel like you have strong voice here but I don't really feel grounded. It feels more like the characters are heavily in the forefront but without any world to support them and I want more of that, esp for science fiction. I need atmosphere to imagine and understand. You have their relationship well, now give me more world. A little better balance of text + dialogue, at least to start. Later on I'd love to see more dialogue.


      I think both entries have really strong qualities, and are things that can go far. You both did well in intersecting different ideas, ones that are commercial and in some senses more deep and universal.

      in the end, I think one is more polished and more something I'd find myself gravitating to, as an agent, and reader in its current state.

      WINNER - Book Boys Gone Wild!

    8. More excellent entries! Michelle, Mike & Laura sure know how to pick them.

      You've already gotten plenty of suggestions to improve, so I'll cut right to the chase and vote.

      Grr. I want to pick them both! Sci-fi has a special place in my heart. And the voice in Paper Seeds is like fine whiskey: it's going down extra smooth.

      But I have to pick, so...

      The Winner is: PAPER SEEDS!

    9. Heard this one was tied, so jumping on in. You both have already received great feedback, so I'll make it short and snappy. Like the others said, I like both, though one pulls to me more via the voice and unique concept.


    10. Title: Paper Seeds
      Entry Nickname: Book Boys Gone Wild!

      Query Feedback

      I think the query is a tad long (390 words when you want to be closer to 250) (and just as a side note, esp with a word count over 100k, agents will be very wary to see that. I highly recommend getting your word count down below 100k if at all possible… sorry, tangent!)

      Take out the questions. Let the reader/agent ask those themselves! I think just delete the last paragraph entirely. It doesn’t help elucidate things very much… also you can take out Rafe. Too many characters with him in there. And I don’t think you need to name Jonathan. (aim for 3 named characters… although here totally allowed to name the book boys! Because their names are ones we know)

      I think you might be starting with a bit too much backstory (although the getting dumped at the wake is tragic) you could say “when Harlow inherits paper seeds from her grandmom…” or something like that. Start where the story really gets going.

      First 250 Feedback
      Such a great voice. I love Harlow. You have nailed her voice and we learn so much in just a short bit. Wow.

      Although I like the shirt rip off joke, it reads a bit too contemporary to me.


      Title: Red Letter Law
      Entry Nickname: MARS BARS AND SNICKERS

      Query Feedback
      Wow, the rape thing came out of nowhere for me. The voice is so chirpy and sarcastic and then that. Not sure it jibes together. I mean…. I can’t reconcile the voice with the dark subject matter.

      (In a way, I guess that could work for you, since it is kind of a “wow that came out of nowhere” experience for her. But it just… it was hard to read like this.)

      First 250 Feedback
      I think you do a good job setting up the dynamic between the two girls.

      I am not in love with the opening line. I’m not sure if it is supposed to be startling or funny. Starting with dialogue is always tricky because there is nothing to ground it…But i think the concept of the buried orb is what is really cool and would be a great focus. Maybe trim some of the dialogue and focus on that action. I got confused if the digging was literal. ( I pictured people digging into their pockets or handbags or even the shopping bag to check for the item).I think there is a way to get the tampon joke in, and still bring the solar thing in.

      “Thirty seconds after we finished burying our priceless solar battery on the surface of Mars, I realized my sister had forgotten to buy tampons.” or maybe something like that.


      Victory to BOOK BOYS

  2. Book Boys Gone Wild

    I love this concept! Harlow sounds delightfully bitter, and she seems like a fun protagonist to follow. I also like the wide mix of literary characters (I hope they convince Dracula to be a bit more tame...). One thing that concerns me is length. Both the book (109K) and the query (398 words without bio+comps) seem a bit on the long side. Is there anywhere you can shorten? Maybe focus less on the revenge plot and more on the running-from-a-crazy-witch thing? But otherwise, it's a solid query!

    I don't have much to say except that I love it! I have a few nitpicks. The first paragraph is a bit too long/wordy for my tastes. Consider shortening. I'd also combine the two lines "I wanted to rip it off him/not in a good way." Otherwise, it's strong! I have a clear sense of where we are and what we're doing. I also LOVE how bitter Harlow is haha! Please let me know if you need a beta reader :)

    Mars Bars and Snickers:

    I LOVE the first paragraph. I get the idea that Lonnie is snarky and sarcastic. I also like the morbid humor of "diet slavery." I also like the second paragraph because it tells us that though Lonnie is optimistic despite her circumstances. But after the first two paragraphs, it loses that great voice and becomes a bit preachy. What is Lonnie's stake in this? Many more children will b victimized, sure, but why is that important to Lonnie? Is she worried about her sister being raped? Does she want to prevent further sexual assault to herself? Once you add personal stakes I think it'll be great :)

    Love this so I don't have much to say, but a few nitpicks: take out the "my sister" (it's implied because they refer to their parents later) and maybe say "my" blue planet to hammer in her homesickness. But other than that I think it's engaging and funny. I also like the design of the solar energy storage unit.

    Good luck to both entries!!

  3. Quaker Rain ForestJune 3, 2017 at 4:33 PM

    Book Boys Gone Wild!


    So, I really enjoyed this query but felt that it ran too long given that they’re succinct, short versions of the story. This felt like a synopsis to me and gave too much information. I think in theory, the query is supposed to be no more than three paragraphs and this is quite a bit longer. Although I found it really interesting, I think you need to move more quickly. I’d chop off the last part of paragraph three and combine it with the fourth. And I love the last line in the fifth paragraph but wonder if you need the rest of that one. It seems like it belongs more in the beginning.

    First 250:

    I absolutely loved the voice. Loved the man parts, the dimple, the bit about nosey being a given – very cute. Nice voice, also, for this kind of genre. Great story – I would absolutely buy this book and will when it comes out. The only problem I had here was that she’s at her grandmother’s wake and doesn’t seem be effected by that at all. But, of course, this is only the first 250 and you might get to that.

    Mars Bars and Snickers


    I love the first line. The voice in the second seems a little forced to me – kind of trite, considering it’s in the future and they’re on Mars – I mean would they even use the word ‘moronic?’ I don’t really understand Mars-ton money pun. Maybe it would make more sense in a synopsis?

    How about that Chelle disappearing to earth thing? How does Lonnie feel about this? I do like how you increase the stakes in the end, though. But I felt a little lost about the culture of Mars. I mean is it the same as earth? Maybe if you used broader strokes to help us understand how Mars is supposed to be it would be clearer?

    First 250:

    Great first line. I actually really enjoyed the dialogue in the beginning, and I don’t usually. I do think that the need for tampons is kind of dwarfed by the solar storm coming so maybe you could restate why it’s so important that they get them. I mean will stores be closed for months afterwards? Will they never see a tampon again? It sort of lost its vigor.

    Really liked the information in the last paragraph, which would usually be seen as an info-dump, but I think you handled it beautifully.

    Good work to both entries. Best of luck! Thanks for sharing.

  4. Two great entries!

    Entry Nickname: Book Boys Gone Wild!
    (Love the nickname by the way)
    -"She knows Jonathan sees her as the type of girl who gets kissed in the back woods, not on a rich boy's front porch." Does she know it or does she simply suspect it? How can she be so sure?
    -I have a bit of trouble getting this: "at the same time that Harlow’s smoking hot neighbor Rafe, and the seed boys themselves, discover where the boys are really from."
    Where did this Rafe character come from? Does he really need to be in the query?
    -250: Awesomely written!

    Entry Nickname: MARS BARS AND SNICKERS
    (Love the idea of a future take on slavery)
    Beginnings are what I struggle with the most, too. A suggestion here would something in the lines of: By 2038, man may have advanced enough to build settlements in Mars, but not enough to effectively end slavery.
    Or maybe focus on your MC's plight: 15-yr-old Lonnie's parents sold her as a slave in Mars.
    The last paragraph of the last 250 needs a bit of work. Maybe have her take the sphere out of her pocket earlier and incorporate it in bits throughout the dialogue?


    Query: I'm not entirely sure if this story is a comedy or not, because I'm definitely getting Bill and Ted vibes from this. The idea of planting paper seeds to get book characters is really neat and open to all kinds of possibilities, and while Harlow is hardly using it in the best way, I could definitely see a pissed-off teenager doing this with the situation at hand. I do have to wonder how much reading Harlow has done, because there's definitely a difference between non-boring romance novel heroes and the sociopathic, murderous likes of Dorian Gray and Dracula. Of course, this is assuming that these are the characters in the form of teenagers and not their actual teenage selves, as that's a little ambiguous. The mystery of Madame LeRoux and Grandma Minny's background, along with the tantalizing question of whether paper seeds have been used before, makes me intrigued to find out.

    First 250: You have some nice voice going on here, and the description in the last paragraph is a great touch. I do have to wonder about Harlow's priorities though. It seems a bit selfish to be talking about meeting her boyfriend's parents at her grandmother's wake, of all places. Even in the query, it seems like being dumped is a bigger issue than losing her grandmother. Were they not close, or is she just that self-centered?


    Query: The beginning of the query throws me off a bit, because it presents the idea of indentured servitude as a ruse, despite describing what indentured servitude indeed was, historically. People would sell their services for a set period of time as a method of payment, such as to get passage on a ship if they didn't have the money - which is pretty much what Lonnie's parents end up doing. Hardly parent-of-the-year material, but it fits with the description of the service. I'm also a bit surprised that there's a need to learn Arabic on Mars. Does Mars not have its own official language and culture? The rape elements are a very surprising addition, since the tone seems fairly light toward the beginning. I wonder what Amir's reaction to this is, since we get very little detail of him despite his seemingly important nature as being her friend, part of the family responsible for her, and being the one his classmate approaches. Does he support her endeavor to get this classmate convicted? What about the rest of the family?

    First 250: That opening was completely unexpected in a pretty great way, and I like the contrast between fantastic nature of digging holes on Mars and needing tampons from the store. The world-building elements of the solar units and coming stores is interesting, but it's the voice in the seemingly mundane elements like tampon shopping and Uncle Davis's dry jokes that really sells this bit.

  6. Both are great reads with interesting premises!

    Book Boys Gone Wild

    Query: I liked the premise but thought it was a bit too long - maybe try to condense into just 2 or 3 paragraphs?

    First 250: The page has an interesting voice but I found myself not really liking the MC...she seemed pretty self absorbed at her grandmothers funeral. That might be the point (and maybe she changes down the road), but it was a bit of a turn off for me.

    Mars Bars and Snickers

    Query: I liked the premise of colonization on Mars. There seems to be a lot packed into the story, and it'd be helpful to see how the MC moves from trying to save herself to saving the entire culture.

    First 250: I enjoyed how the world was set up, though I was a bit confused jumping from buying tampons to digging a hole. I also liked how the first page sets up the dynamic between the two sisters.

  7. Book Boys Gone Wild

    Love the premise, and love the writing--I'm a sucker for great analogies like your Georgia in October passage. The query needs tightening though. The last paragraph and a half doesn't give us any necessary specifics. The questions and vague details generate more confusion than curiosity, and the subsequent holes leak all the potential tension. It also reads like a name soup, with nine different characters mentioned by name. Though four of them are famous characters from other novels, even five named characters is likely too many for a query.

    Mars Bars

    You've chosen a high bar to clear, given the schizophrenic nature of America's approach to dealing with rape. While we recognize it for the awful crime it is, we are unwilling to address the horrid frequency of it or the misogynistic currents of our culture that generate it. That being said, your tone should prepare the reader for it in the query, even if the book itself can carry a lighter tone prior to the event. The prose itself is good, though I suggest making sure it doesn't sound like your MC is being overly descriptive for the benefit of the reader. Keep us in the moment, and build the world more organically.

  8. BOOK BOYS: I love the story you've laid out in this query! I think it's long for a query though, it feels a bit like a synopsis.
    The first 250 - so much voice! I definitely want to spend more time with Harlow. Well done!

    MARS: Wow, this was unexpected! Most of the query and first 250 words set a lighter tone (that I enjoyed) but the turn with rape is so serious. So it was jarring for me, but not necessarily in a bad way. I look forward to seeing how you turn these different elements of setting, tone and subject matter into a great story! Good luck!

  9. Fellow Kombatant, here. Not a judge.
    Book Boys gone Wild!
    I really love the premise of your book. I personally would bring Mr. Darcy to the real world, rather than Mr. Knightley, but that's a quibble. Really great voice in your query. My suggestion would be that you streamline a bit if you can since you've got pretty complicated worldbuilding here. For example, when you introduce Madame LeRoux, I don't think it's necessary to explain that she claims Grandma stole the seeds from her. You could simply say that Madame LeRoux wants the seeds. I also think you could end that fourth paragraph after the phrase "real-life consequences for every paper seed that is planted." The rest of it is detail which doesn't seem necessary for the purposes of the query. And it saves you from introducing yet another named character, Rafe. You've already named Harlow, Grandma Minny and Madame LeRoux, not to mention all the seed boys. Any more names and it gets confusing for a reader.

    Regarding the first 250, you've got great voice here. I really like Harlow. I've got one suggestion. I think you need to revise your first sentence for clarity. The pronoun "they'd" without any antecedent is confusing. You could change it to "people would be…" to solve the problem. The rest of that paragraph is genius. I laughed out loud reading it. Also love the description of humidity in Georgia as standing over a pot of boiling pasta. That is perfect. Very nice job. Good luck.

    Mars Bars and Snickers
    I was really engaged with your query for the first two paragraphs. There, your tone is very lighthearted and funny. "Diet slavery" is a great phrase. Unfortunately, the first sentence in paragraph three felt like a complete 180 in terms of the tone. Not only is the word 'rape' like a little bombshell in that paragraph, but you lose the funny, snarky tone. It becomes very authorial, adult, and like 'this is a very serious book which will deal with issues' rather than the approachable, snarky, teen tone you established in the first two paragraphs.

    Based on the first two paragraphs alone, I really want to read your book, and I think teens will, too. And that desire is cemented by the first 250 which is fun, with great tension and realistic, snarky teen dialogue. I like the juxtaposition of the very common issue of running out of tampons, amidst your very effective and engaging worldbuilding. I think once you address that third paragraph in the query you're going to have a very strong package. Good luck.

  10. JB Harris:

    Book Boys Gone Wild

    Query: I was immediately drawn in by the Query, but I think it is way too long and is crossing over into synopsis. That said, I loved everything I read and it made me want to read the book.

    250: Loved the writing and the voice. I don't think I would use gray to describe his eyes, a shirt and the sky all in the first 250 pages. Maybe you can find a different adjective. Not much to say here in the way of critique. Based not he query and the first 250, I'd keep reading.

    Mars Bars and Snickers

    Query: I was really drawn into the premise of this book until I got to the third paragraph and got slapped int he face with a rape. I didn't see it coming and I didn't really like it. Maybe that is just personal preference, but with all that is already going on in the book, I don't feel like you need to add such a heavy dark piece in as well. If I were reading this on a book jacket, that is where I would have put the book down because I was expecting and interesting story about indentured servitude on Mars and maybe an interesting adventure because of it, rape is not what I am looking for from this type of novel. Also I didn't under stand why burning the curls off their heads would be gravy...what is the meat and potatoes then?

    Starting with "you forgot the tampons" feels like a device to shock the reader. I wasn't really drawn in the this first scene. At the end, you start to talk about a big storm and how the SESU is the only solar they will have and they have to protect it. That seems like a far more important place to start. Up the tension by telling us they re digging against a clock and why...leave out the frivolous conversation about famine products.

  11. Book Boys Gone Wild: Good query, but I think it is a little long. Would be more effective if you shorten it. Love the premise here… I want to grow my own Mr. Knightly! First 250: Love the first line. I was a little confused as to who was who, and had to read it twice. If I hadn’t read the query first, it would have taken me too long to realise Jon was her boyfriend. Maybe instead of saying ‘whack that boy’, say ‘whack my boyfriend’. But then again, calling him ‘that boy’ is very voicey, and it sounds like it would be said by someone in Georgia. Loved the description of Georgia weather. Over all, great job.
    MARS BARS AND SNICKERS: This was a good query, nice and succinct, but a few things turned me off of it. It was a little jarring that the voice here was kind of flippant about the fact that the parents sold the kids as slaves. Also, calling the Arabic family weirdos came across as insensitive. The can be weirdos, and be Arabic, but when you tell me nothing else about them other than those two things, it implies they are weirdos because they are Arabic, and I don’t think that’s what you meant. And the mention of the rape was also jarring, I feel it came out of nowhere, but I suspect it’s the main plot of the book. The first 250 were great. Great voice, you sucked me right in with the characters and setting. I felt the red dust myself. Well done.

  12. Seeds:
    Great, fun, engaging premise! The query sufficiently sets up the world and the MC's conflict as well as characterizes the MC herself. I might take a second look at the genre. I can't say this for sure without reading the story, but from the query it reads like Contemporary Fantasy instead of Magical Realism.

    Mars: The premise is unique and the query gets across the MCs conflict and stakes well. I'd go back over the first 250 and as mentioned earlier take a look at the dialogue tags.