Jun 1, 2018

QK Round 1: Cake N' Books VS GG: Found Family

Title: Art Girl
Entry Nickname: Cake N’ Books
Word Count: 53,000
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary


Seventeen-year-old Korean-American artist Lillie Kang has one more painting to do for the high school’s art contest. The winner receives a cash prize and an exhibit of their work in an art gallery. All her classmates at school expect the ‘Art Girl’ to be the winner, and at home, her parents have even higher expectations. There’s one problem: all the pressure has made her so anxious she’s lost inspiration to paint anything.

But when Lillie meets Zevi, a boy who saved his cousin in a fire and has vivid scars to prove it, she may have found her subject. Despite her social anxiety, an unlikely friendship develops between her and Zevi, who attempts to coax her out from hiding behind her canvas. In a desperate attempt, she tries to paint him but fails to capture the image in her mind.

With an unemployed stepdad and a pregnant mom, Lillie is determined to win the cash prize. The pressure increases when she finds out that the gallery has a scholarship opportunity for one of the participants to her dream university. The only way she can achieve her goals is to paint Zevi and discover who she is beyond her label as 'Art Girl.’ With two days left to the deadline, Lillie must finish the painting, or she loses all chance for her future.

ART GIRL is a standalone, young adult contemporary novel complete at 53,000 words. It will appeal to readers of Starfish and Since You Asked. It is a compelling story of being true to who you are, figuring out your identity and finding courage to fight for your passion.

First 250:

My hand trembled as I eased the brush over the canvas. With a light coat of black and white paint, it glowed. I was retouching an old painting of a starry sky in an attempt to spark back my lost art mojo. The day I created this, the topic was ‘Freedom’ and I thought of all the unlimited possibilities in the sky. Cheesy, but at the time, the idea possessed me.

Now, I laughed at the irony. I didn’t feel any sense of freedom anymore. The concept of stars reminded me that we only saw the past in the sky. Not the present or the future.

Mr. Akhiro gave me a gentle smile. “Your work is fantastic, Lillie.”

Tension slipped away from my shoulders. As I inhaled the familiar, bitter scent of oil paints in the art room, I ignored the compression in my chest. Since lunch time was almost over, I had to leave.

The upcoming submission to an art gallery was due in one month, and an outside judge would pick the best artist. While the cash prize attracted every art student in Lincoln High, Mr. Akhiro narrowed down the list to ten, with my name being first on the list. He needed my best paintings because he knew it was my golden ticket to university—an opportunity at a dream that would otherwise be out of reach for me because of my family’s financial status.

If only I could paint.

"They will love your work," he assured.


Title: EXP
Entry Nickname: GG: Found Family
Word Count: 52,000
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary (#OwnVoices)


Fourteen-year-old Sai is one of the highest-ranked gamers on the Shadows of Shinobi circuit…but he can't go out in public without having a meltdown.

As a teenager with Autism, Sai battles crippling anxiety and underdeveloped social skills. But when Team Komodo asks him to become the reserve player on their semi-professional eSports team, those social skills are put to the test as he turns online acquaintances into real-life friends.

Thankfully, each member of Team Komodo is just as much of a fringe-dweller as Sai. It is comprised of a transgender jack-of-all-trades, a dating sim addict, a hyperactive community college dropout, a fake psychic and a thorny military reject. To earn his keep, Sai begins analyzing the team’s competition to increase their chances of winning. But as the team climbs to higher divisions, they’ll have to face stronger opponents.

As Team Komodo enters a grueling series of tournaments, every member of the team knows that they can't afford to let their internal struggles get in the way of victory. There’s no time to think about the world they don’t fit into or why they became obsessed with videogames in the first place. If they win, Sai and his teammates inch closer to breaking into the pro scene. If they lose, it’s back to social isolation and working in food service. The six members of Team Komodo have two hurdles to jump: their opponents and their own neuroses. They’ll have to beat both if they have a chance at becoming what every nerd in the world aspires to be: pros.

EXP is a Contemporary YA novel complete at 52,000 words. This “found family story in an eSports setting” features neurodiverse characters, LGBTQ+ characters, as well as characters of color and is #OwnVoices for all three categories.

First 250:

A dim, somber candle wavered in the summer heat, illuminating all that Psy needed to know about his new employer. The low-level crime lord in his dirty brown robe gave an almost toothless yellow grin that looked orange by the light of the candle. The wood on the sliding doors rotted with mildew. Psy could practically smell the high definition of the effect. With this new expansion, Meiji truly outdid itself with adding in more sensory details to gameplay. It was hard to believe that this alternate version of Tokugawa Japan was entirely constructed from ones and zeroes.

The dim light reflected on the faces of Psy’s randomized teammates, the ones who would be completing this NPC slimeball’s mission for him. One of them was built like a Sumo, his giant body barely contained in a dark blue uniform. He looked like he could block any attack with his hands. Another appeared to have taken a liking to cat masks, and was probably yet another kawaii Assassin, her thin frame appearing suitable for fast striking. Interestingly, there was a master and apprentice Monk duo. Psy narrowed his eyes as he thought of all of the times that the master could legally switch out with the apprentice in order to train him. Did they have to keep summoning and sealing the same spirit over and over? He turned up his nose at the thought, but inside, he felt a sort of green sea-sickness as he imagined the apprentice learning everything his master knew while he was all alone.


  1. Judges, please respond with your feedback and vote here! Good luck!

    1. ART GIRL: Great query! In general, you don't want to spell out themes or call your own work compelling, so I would delete that last sentence. 53k is very short for YA, so you may want to look at your manuscript and make sure all the elements are there and the character arcs don't need to be fleshed out. That's when a beta reader can be helpful.

      The 250 is very nice. I get a real sense of how she is feeling physically in the moment. Some great details about her senses as well.


      I love the query. It was very clear and I'm already rooting for your characters. The same note holds true here, 52k is short for a YA, especially with this set up and amount of characters. I'd take another look at the manuscript and see if the smaller characters all are fleshed out enough and have their own arcs. Are you skimping on anything else? Luckily, it's always easier to add than to edit down :)

      In the 250, I think you could make it more clear that he's participating in an online game. Maybe discuss what the screen or computer looks like, feels like etc. Overall, it's very compelling!

      This one was very close, but VICTORY TO ART GIRL

    2. Cakes N’ Books


      Wow. This query is AMAZING. It has a strong premise, and I already want to read it. My only question is, while I get winning the contest is high stakes, but I also feel like you’re missing an opportunity. You mention she wants to get beyond the label of “Art Girl.” How? Nothing in the query suggests that, and all of it is really about winning the contest because of her family and what it could cost them. Don’t get me wrong, I’d request this, but I feel like there’s more that should come out about Lillie discovering who she is. I also don’t think you should call your own work “compelling” as that’s not really for you to decide. What you find compelling, someone else may not, so maybe just humble that up a bit.

      First 250:

      This is well written, and I like the fact that we see how she is struggling with her art, but I feel like it’s lacking voice. It’s very factual, very this is where she’s at. I almost feel like we can be brought in closer. Yes her hand is trembling, but I don’t really know how to describe it. I feel like Lillie’s voice isn’t emanating, like we’re distanced from her emotion. It’s beautifully written, but there’s just something missing to draw me in to the character. I would still read forward, because sometimes it’s getting past that first section before the voice really flows.

      Over all, I think you’ve got a great query and beginning.


      GG: Found Family


      This sounds like a really exciting book. There’s a lot going on, but the stakes are clear, and there’s a lot of layers. I really don’t have much to add. I love the gaming aspect, the #OwnVoices aspect, and it’s just a really strong query overall. Great job!

      First 250:

      Again, I think this is really strong. It draws me in and makes me want ot read more. I get right away that it’s a game with the expansion and binary talk. The only thing I’m concerned about is if this is the right spot to start. I get that most of this is going to take place in a virtual game—or I’m guessing, but this is almost like starting in a dream, which is generally a no-no. While I caught the words that automatically let me know it’s a game world, not everyone may be privy to that. So a quick scene before the virtual world might ground the readers in the story better. It’s something to play around with and see if maybe it works better for you.

      This is a really hard match up guys. You’re both going to be on the shelves one day soon I imagine.


    3. Cake and Books

      Very solid query! Since Lillie’s desire to win is driven by financial need too, I would work that into the first paragraph, otherwise it just seems like her parents have high expectations. Is there a particular reason she has to paint Zevi (vs someone else) to win the prize? Otherwise, this is very clear and concise.

      I really like this! I like the mood evoked here, but I think you can sink into the emotions even more, especially the opening paragraph. What does it feel like to paint something you no longer care about? I love that you mention the smell of the paint, but how else could you describe that smell beyond bitter/or tie that scene to something else meaningful in her world (and why does it calm her?).

      “Now, I laughed at the irony. I didn’t feel any sense of freedom anymore. The concept of stars reminded me that we only saw the past in the sky. Not the present or the future.” Loved that line!

      Small edit: on the last line, I think that verb usually has an object (so “assured me”).

      GG: Found Family

      Another good query, wow! My suggestions are just to streamline a bit. I think you could cut these two lines:

      “But as the team climbs to higher divisions, they’ll have to face stronger opponents.”

      “There’s no time to think about the world they don’t fit into or why they became obsessed with videogames in the first place.”

      And I might combine the last two so they flow together (like “Team Komodo will have to beat their opponents and neuroses if they have a chance….etc.) Well done!

      Love the first paragraph, but you lose me in the second. It’s a lot of details and characters to absorb at once (though I love how the last line about the monks gives us an inkling of who Sai/Psy is). You could start a new paragraph after “Psy narrowed his eyes…” to break up that chunk of text.

      Ugh, another REALLY tough one! I’m going to say…


    4. Comments for Art Girl:

      This is a solid query. It's both clear and concise, and after reading through it once I felt like I had a pretty good idea of what this book is and where it might take me. The first 250 are fairly clean as well, with a couple of very minor exceptions:

      - In the second sentence, the antecedent of "it" is "my hand." I know what you mean, of course, but it would read much more cleanly if you reworked this to be technically correct.

      - Fifth paragraph, maybe consider cutting "because of my family's financial status." It's not really necessary, and it breaks the flow.

      My only real issue with this query is that the plot itself as outlined really isn't grabbing me. I feel like this could be a much stronger entry if you could raise the stakes for Lillie just a bit, and make the obstacles that she needs to overcome a little clearer.

      Comments for EXP:

      As far as the text goes here, I don't have too much to say other than that the last sentence of the first 250 is a little confusing and could maybe stand a rewrite. Other than that, this is solid top to bottom. The query lays out Sai's goals and stakes clearly, and I have a good idea of the general shape of the plot. The first 250 jumps right into it, immersing the reader immediately into the gaming world that I'm assuming will make up the bulk of the book. My only real concern here is that this story might have limited appeal outside the gaming community. As audiences go, though, that's not a bad one.

      These are both technically sound queries, so there's not much to pick between them on that front. In my opinion, though (and I do realize that this is entirely subjective) Art Girl's plot is just a little bit less compelling.

      Victory to EXP.

    5. Earthbound MisfitJune 4, 2018 at 4:18 PM

      Cake N' Books:

      Query: I'm intrigued by the character and her situation, but I think you could do more to make this query more punchy and to-the-point, and increase the sense of tension in the story. The first paragraph and the beginning of the second are great, setting up Lillie's situation and her relationship with Zevi, but then I was a bit confused by "In a desperate attempt, she tries to paint him but fails to capture the image in her mind." In a desperate attempt to do what? And also, the fact of her failing once doesn't sound all that dire. If you can increase the sense of what's at stake—particularly, what is she fighting against?—that would make the query a lot stronger!

      1st 250: Your first 250 do a nice job of introducing the character and the situation facing her, but again, there isn't a strong sense of tension yet. I can feel some low-level frustration, but you could increase the feeling that something major is at stake—maybe through a more dynamic opening moment with more physical action, even if that's just Lillie taking her frustration out on the canvas. We'd also learn a lot more about her as a person, about her reactions and her desperation.

      Found Family:

      Query: I really like this premise—lots of potential to show personal character growth and how one's passion for something can transcend other aspects of identity and bring diverse people together. I'm intrigued by the cast of characters, and you already make us want to root for them. There are a few tweaks that I think could make this stronger, though. One or two spots had awkward (to me) wording: in the third paragraph, "It is comprised of" feels like a clunky way to start that sentence. Also, the first sentence of paragraph four felt awkward. My last suggestion is to make sure not to lose the focus on Sai as the main character—he kind of disappears into the larger team later in the query.

      1st 250: The writing's really strong here, with great in-game details—I can visualize everything easily, and I like that the story starts with the reader not knowing yet that it's a game until a few sentences in. I did notice that the emotional hook doesn't come until the very end of the first 250, and yet it's Psy/Sai's feeling of emotional connection to the game that really starts to engage my interest on a gut level. While I understand the character has autism and that's going to influence the way his reactions are portrayed, I do think you could strengthen his emotional connection to the game in the initial moments.

      Victory to Found Family!

    6. Mrs. Will HerondaleJune 4, 2018 at 5:04 PM

      Cake N’ Books

      Query: Good job! All the elements are here, but I think you could heighten the urgency of the stakes a little. It sounds like a quieter book (the protag’s big goal is trying to paint a picture), so maybe give us a little more voice or something to intrigue us to go on this journey with Lillie.

      First 250: There’s a lot of telling happening on this first page. You basically restate the query- there’s a contest, a prize, she’s poor and needs it, she’s lost her art mojo, etc. Maybe make the reader work a little more for this info. Hint at this stuff instead of stating it outright. And give us some more unique voice that’s really going to make us root for Lillie. Since this sounds like a book that’s lighter on plot events, not a bad thing!, your characters need to be super engaging.

      GG: Found Family

      Query: This sounds awesome. It definitely skews too long and you could easily cut some fluff, but the premise is compelling and the characters sound really interesting.

      First 250: Well-written with good descriptive language that’s not too dense. Break it up unto more paragraphs for easier reading. I’d definitely keep reading!


  2. Cake N’Books

    I love the premise of the young artist and the art competition. It makes me want to know more about this world and the struggles that artists face. I thought you did a good job of explaining the stakes in your query, but I think you should make it clear the art competition is the ONLY way she’s going to college. I got that from the pages, but those are really high stakes you want to be clear in the query. At the end you say, “or she loses all chance for her future,” but I would be less general. Does Zevi become a love interest, or is he just a friend? If he’s a love interest, I would hint at that in the query.

    I love that all of my senses are engaged when I read your pages. The scent of the oil paints, the compression in her chest, the tension in her shoulders all draws me in. I thought the line “If only I could paint” was pitch perfect.

    GG Found Family:

    The first line of your query really draws me in, and the second paragraph makes it very clear what's going on here. I love that you address the inner struggles of Sai and his teammates. It makes me care about them and want to root for them. You do a great job of setting out what's at stake: making it on the pro scene or social isolation. These are huge stakes, especially for someone like this, so it makes me really want him to win. This query really grabbed me and made me want to read the pages.

    The sensory details in the first paragraph of the 250 were great, but I missed jumping right into Sai's (Psy's? is it meant to be different in the Query than in the pages?) internal/external conflict. I love the character you've created - show him to me right away. Readers will love him. PS: I have a teenage boy who's a gamer and this story resonates with me. I think it will resonate widely, especially with the Fortnight-crazed crowd and their parents.

    This one’s gonna be tough. I loved them both. Good luck to both of you!

  3. Cake N' Books:
    I am drawn into this story, in fact I love it. Your query is stellar. The first page gives me a clear image of what's going on and her feelings. As for the critique, I would put the authors of the comps.

    GG: Found Family

    Your query has a great hook and you had me at autism. You had me so much that I wanted to read more about him and he wasn't on the pages. I was a little confused by the new character. And so much was happening without enough clarity, but that could just be me.

    Both are amazing and I see why they were pitted against each other. To the Judges...good luck picking.

  4. (I’m a fellow Kombatant leaving feedback.)


    I love the Arts, so you grabbed my attention right away. Then you tossed in crippling pressure and the comp title of Starfish, and yep, you got me. Your story seems like it’ll be a sad yet hopeful read—and I really want to read it. The only critiques I have are what other commenters have already suggested: Adding the author names to the comp titles, and making the stakes clearer. Lillie wants to win the cash prize to do what (help her parents or get away from them)? And is the art scholarship Lillie’s only hope for university because of her family’s financial strain? That’s clearer in the first 250, but not as much in the query. Other than that, everything else comes through strong.

    First 250:
    Engaging, in a slow burn kind of way. It’s almost like I’m sitting across Lillie as she tells and relates her story to me. And I want to “hear” more of it. Good job!


    Hmm, diversity and gamers-uniting without either one feeling contrived. Very, very good. I love teams, and I already feel for your characters. Their descriptions are creative and effective, and the stakes are strong and clear. So I’ll only point out one thing for you to consider --> The last two sentences...

    “The six members of Team Komodo have two hurdles to jump: their opponents and their own neuroses. They’ll have to beat both if they have a chance at becoming what every nerd in the world aspires to be: pros.”

    ...(those last two sentences) seem to repeat or summarize what you already said in the last body paragraph of the query. So you could end it after, “If they win, Sai and his teammates inch closer to breaking into the pro scene. If they lose, it’s back to social isolation and working in food service.”

    First 250:
    I’m guessing Sai’s gamer name is “Psy,” but I could be wrong. They’re at least pronounced the same way, Sai and Psy. Anyway, the details in this first 250 are on the heavier side, but I feel close to his POV, focusing on what he wants to focus on and being thorough about it. I like that, and I love the following line: “Psy could practically smell the high definition of the effect.” Yes, good stuff!

    Overall, I’m not 100% sure if this is the best place to start the story—I wish I could read the next 250 or the whole first chapter—but like I said, I like how deep he’s getting into the game and I want to read the whole book!

  5. ART GIRL:

    Great premise, but I can’t help thinking the Q lacks voice (ugh, I know, don’t curse me for invoking that elusive concept). Wish I could make some suggestions for that, but I’m at a loss right now.

    “classmates at school” is redundant – try just “classmates”

    I’d remove the single quotation marks from Art Girl, but if you really want them, fix the left one on the 2nd occurrence. It’s “straight” instead of “curly” like the others (maybe formatting issue on the sight, though).

    In the 2nd sentence of the 2nd paragraph, consider replacing the comma after Zevi with a period and start a new sentence, such as: “He attempts to coax …”

    The 3rd paragraph - the pressure/high expectations from the parents was already established in the 1st paragraph, so seems repetitive here. The parts about unemployed stepdad & pregnant mom would fit better in the 1st paragraph.

    Try not to have 2 sentences in the same paragraph start with “with.” On the last sentence, “With two days left in the deadline” made me think maybe the whole story takes place over 2 days. Consider: As the contest’s deadline approaches, Lillie must finish the painting, or risk having any chance at the future she’s hoping for. (“loses all chance for her future” is bleak and drastic)

    I’ve heard/read about agents advising against making references to your own writing with things like calling it “compelling.” Also, I believe your last sentence would turn an agent off because they don’t want to be told about your book’s themes. They want your story to speak for itself in that regard. If you really want those keywords in there, figure out if they can be used in conjunction with your comps since it also helps to say *why* your book resembles the comps.

    First 250 – again, try not to start too many sentences with “with” (there’s 1 in the 1st paragraph & 1 in the last). Take a look at your sentence structure in general. Try reading your work out loud. You’ll hear problem spots you don’t otherwise see on the page. For example, the last paragraph has a couple of lines that feel clunky. Also check for “telling” instead of showing. For example, “The upcoming submission to an art gallery was due in one month …” could be revised to show some voice. How does she feel about the deadline? Is it looming? Does she feel like it’s closing in on her?

    I’d flip that 1st sentence of the 2nd paragraph to read: “Now, I didn’t feel any sense of freedom, and I laughed at the irony.” Show what she’s reacting too before her reaction.

    Are the teacher’s reassurances in part because he knows she has so much anxiety? If so, try to show that, even if it’s just through Lillie’s internal thoughts about his efforts.

    I think with some TLC to voice and attention to showing vs telling, this’ll be a great start to your book.

    What a great story idea & collection of characters.

    I don’t know if it still applies, but I’ve heard that aging your MC at 14 is a hard sell. Check out http://project-middle-grade-mayhem.blogspot.com/2014/09/age-14-no-mans-land-between-mg-and-ya.html & if link doesn’t work, Google "Age 14 - The No Man's Land Between MG and YA" by Dianne K. Salerni from 9/29/2014.

    The part about “working in food services” rubbed me a bit wrong. Maybe get a sensitivity reader’s take on that. Otherwise, I think your query is really SOLID.

    First 250 suggestions - This is solid as well, but watch use of adverbs (words ending in ly).You could take a hit on too many of those from a lot of agents. Also, try not to overuse the word “that.” Often, it can be removed & the sentence still works fine.

    Consider breaking these 2 paragraphs up, especially the 2nd . Seeing such big blocks of text can dissuade a reader.

    Also, both paragraphs have the word “dim” as the 2nd word. Play around with other word choices or sentence structure.

    And again, watch overuse of words ending in ly. You’ve got 7 here. That’s a lot for just 250 words.

    Great voice, though, I felt like I was in the character’s head. So, congrats on that hurdle!

  6. ART GIRL:

    The query to me reads a lot like a synopsis. It's a little long, I usually shoot for 250 words. I think what will help is if the middle two paragraphs become one. This will shorten and add a faster pace. if you read them both, they kinda are a bit redundant. Describe Zevi, and then say a sentence about him helping her and them teaming up together. Also just say she is determined to win the cash prize, we can assume family difficulties...or even better just say about the scholarship and get rid of the mentions of cash prize. When we read we will see there is a cash prize but I am assuming that the scholarship is what is most important. For the 250, it is a little slow and feels like you are just dumping the info about the scholarship on us. Is there a way you can have her talk to the teacher about it? And then the reader finds out about it that way? Then we are 'in' the story and not being 'told'. But other than that...great job. I could see this on the shelf today.

    For your query it is also the same thing, a little long and a little too much like a synopsis. I stick to 3 paragraphs in a query. What I would do is put the first two together and really cut the third. That is the chunk of your synopsis there. The sentences 'if they win' and 'if they lose' can be cut. The importance here is them overcoming their internal struggles and we will already assume winning is important for them professionally. For the 250 I would do the opposite of the query and make it more paragraphs, as a YA reader, a long paragraph is no something people like, especially at the beginning. Is there a place you could cut it? I would think in between 'Monk duo. Psy narrowed his eyes' That would be a place to cut. Other than that, great job!

  7. Cake N’ Books

    Query: I liked Lillie immediately and felt myself rooting for her but was a little disappointed when I got to the part that said she was actually the favourite to win the competition — I prefer rooting for underdogs, I guess. :) Maybe make her seem like more of an underdog in the query?

    1st 250: You refer to her “lost art mojo” in your 1st 250, so maybe bring that idea into your query? Paints (no pun intended) her as an underdog and makes the reader more sympathetic to what she’s going through. The line “If only I could paint” is really powerful. Well done opening!


    Found Family

    Query: Rather long, maybe look for ways to tighten up. And I found two sentences of the third para a little unwieldy, maybe they could be shortened and turned into one, something like “His Komodo teammates — including a transgender jack-of-all-trades, a fake psychic and a thorny military reject — welcome him into the fold” (bad example). Also, is there more than just winning at stake? Beating a nemesis? If so, maybe bring this into the query.

    1st 250: Clever opening with the game itself, but maybe switch to Sai and what he’s thinking/doing in real life before going back to the game to introduce your main character up front. Really unique story though, nicely done!

    Best of luck to you both!

  8. Cake N’ Books
    For the most part, I liked this query. There are a few small things you could tweak at the beginning. I don’t think “one more painting to do for…” adds to anything—it insinuates she’s already done paintings for the contest, but needs to do one more, which seems confusing, and sort of invalidates the rest of the story and the stakes—if she’s already completed paintings for the high school’s art contest, why is she so obsessed with painting another one? I think it’s just in the initial wording. Also, I’d take out the word “compelling,” when you’re describing your writing. I’m not entirely convinced of the stakes at the end. Arguably, she doesn’t have to paint Zevi. There are tons of things she could paint.

    The pages have some instances of telling, which you follow-up by showing. You could easily erase the telling—such as “Tension slipped away…” The next line shows her relaxing a bit, so you don’t need the preceding line. For a picky point, in the opening, I don’t think you need “art mojo.” “Mojo,” on its own, says it all. Another picky point, I’d moved the line about laughing to follow the actual irony—the fact that the painting now made her feel worse.
    “The upcoming submission to an art gallery was due in one month, and an outside judge would pick the best artist,” confused things for me. Who’s running the competition? In the query, it’s the high school’s competition. In the pages, it’s an art gallery. If it’s an art gallery, why do they need someone from the outside? Wouldn’t they want to judge it themselves and pick the entries they liked the best? Then, with Mr. Akhiro narrowing down the list, it makes it sound like he’s a judge. And if the judge is an “outside judge,” why would it matter where her name appears? The list would be arbitrary. I like Lillie, and her anxious voice, but I wish the facts surrounding the competition were clearer.

  9. GG: Found Family
    I liked the cast of characters when you first explained them to me, and I still like them! They seem like a plucky cast full of ups and downs! I also love that someone is writing about eSports—they don’t get quite as much attention in the western world, yet they’re so popular! I’d scale down the fourth paragraph of the query just a little bit. The opening sentences are somewhat repeated at the end—you could really streamline here and focus on the stakes more. If they lose, does the team have to disband or do they just lose their shot at going pro?

    Your 250 has some nice, vivid descriptions. You could tighten a few things here and there. Most of the time when you use the word “that,” it isn’t actually necessary. In the fifth sentence of the first paragraph, the word “with” is used twice—don’t need the second one. The description of “dim,” in relation to lighting it used twice. These are little things that are easy to change, though. Wouldn’t deter me from reading on.
    I understood it was a game right away, because I’m a big gamer, but others may not get that and be confused. Maybe you could add in a few details of how Sai feels while controlling his avatar. Overall, I like this first page, and I’d totally read this book. The world needs more of these books!

  10. Hi, fellow kombatant here (MG A Boy Named Pez.)

    I LOVE this premise so very much. I’m not a gamer and I would definitely read it! Kids are so into gaming now, I feel like even if the market is only gamers, there’d still be a huge market. The query is clear and concise. For what it’s worth, it did read somewhat more like a synopsis to me.

    250: I really like that you open with the game. It’s so clever and imaginative! However, I’m not sure about opening with the game in how it currently is with the 2nd paragraph being a description of all the characters. If there was something action-related with the game that could be cool. Also, if thoughts were mixed in perhaps or dialogue from the game. I’m not sure, but I guess I was just hoping for something more to draw in my attention. I agree that I’d like to see more paragraph breaks. That likely would have been really helpful.

    But, this is such a cool premise and the writing is very close. I’d love to read it!

    I’m really digging this premise, too. So much potential! My story is about filmmaking so in general I love stories that include the arts in creative ways. This query also gave me a clear sense of the story and I really relate to predicament the MC is in regarding needing to win the prize to help her family and for college. I think a lot of teens would, too. I think that if her family is in a pretty dire situation and if it includes a love story, this would be enough stakes for me, personally. Though I do understand that others perhaps may want a little more. The query did read a tad like a summary as well, so if there’s any way to include some more voice, I’d say go for it.

    250—Awesome start! I really love how it begins with her painting and her experience of creating a painting. Nice work on that. I agree with a previous comment that after the first few lines I was getting a sense that some of the information was there for the reader’s sake, so maybe you can find a way to interweave that info, perhaps through a conversation or something like that as someone else suggested. But I think with a little revision, I’d really like to read this one as well. Amazing job!

    This is a really tough match up because I think both have so much potential! Nice work to both of you. Really impressed.

  11. ART GIRL
    I think there's a lot of cool things happening in this query. Lillie's struggle is not only a creative one, it's a practical one, too. That's a really tough position to be in. My concern is that it doesn't feel like the events are building on one another. You could have put the info from the third paragraph in the first paragraph just as easily, and the query would still make sense. And since most of Lillie's problems are coming from outside sources, I think the query is underplaying how much agency she has in the story itself. Is there some moment in the story when she has to make a big decision? If so, I would try to focus the query there. I think you'll have a lot more urgency that way.

    First 250 words:
    I like how Lillie tries to touch up an old painting to spark her creativity. That says a lot about her, and it's something I think a lot of creative people can relate to. If I had to find a criticism here, I would say I feel like sometimes you take the easy road on your descriptions--the brush on the canvas, the light coat of black and white, ect. These aren't bad, but they're what everyone thinks of when they think of someone painting. Lillie is a painter. I want to be inside a painter's head. Give me more details like the bitter smell of the oil paint. Oil paint is awesome! You can stack blobs on top of each other, smear it all around. Show the audience that. I've only used the stuff a couple times. I'm sure you could come up with tons more material than me. (Not saying you should go overboard with the descriptions, but replace the everyday ones with more vivid ones that make the audience feel how a painter feels.) I hope this helps!

    Found Family
    Genre-wise, this is right up my alley. I love video games, and stories about the people able to play them on a pro level absolutely fascinate me. But I don't think you're grabbing the audience's attention as much as you could be. For example, the list of characters doesn't do much for me. I'm actually a little concerned that Sai is going to get lost in this sea of characters. If there's a conflict he has with one specific character, maybe shift the query of the focus there. I'm assuming the story is a lot more than just the team having one match after another. I'd love a glimpse of that.

    First 250:
    Nice work starting off in the game. I like how you didn't give it away right at the start that he's in a game, but you didn't leave out the info too long, either. Just enough that I could re-gather my bearings. It sounds like you've got an interesting mechanic with the monk duo, but I was a little confused on exactly how it works, and I'm not sure I need the details now. I could see Sai being focused on what details would effect play. So if the monk switching out means Sai might suddenly not have backup when he needs it, definitely keep that thought in his head. Best of luck!