Jun 1, 2018

QK Round 1: Found Wanting VS Don't Mess with an Assassin Mom

Title: Wake Up Call
Entry Nickname: Found Wanting
Word Count: 83K
Genre: Suspense

Query:

Gehrig Newman devises the perfect murder. Again. A desolate highway exit this time, twenty miles west of the city. He almost kills his client.

Which is exactly the plan.

The near-death is intentional. His business plan for helping clients recapture their lust for life—easy to follow, harder to execute—involves providing a wake-up call. That is, Gehrig delivers a near-death experience, because a person who survives such an event will place a higher value on life.

Patricia Hightower wants her husband dead, so she can collect his life insurance and live happily ever after with her lover. She uses Gehrig and his unique business to commit her murder. Gehrig’s latest near-death client is suddenly a homicide, and his fingerprints are all over the crime. To avoid a life behind bars, he better act fast—both to save himself and to punish Patricia.

First 250:

Uncle Charley


Gehrig Newman locked his office building’s deadbolt under the watchful eye of his best friend, Gus, a three-year-old Labrador retriever. The bolt, striking metal, sent two foraging animals scurrying into darkness. Gus raised his head and stiffened. A soft growl.

“Relax, Gus. Couple raccoons. Fur would stick between your teeth.” A chill knifed through Gehrig as he tapped numbers on a pad next to the door to set the alarm. Gus raised his warning to a steady snarl. Ears up and alert.

“Easy, boy.” Gehrig patted his dog’s head to calm him, smoothed stiff fur on his back. He pulled a key fob from his pocket and pressed a button to unlock his Ford pickup, the lone vehicle in the parking lot. A breeze swept through the downtown St. Louis streets bringing the scent of oncoming rain and something more foreboding that Gehrig couldn’t place. Perfect night for pizza and a glass of wine with a good book on the side. A click-click broke the silence behind him.

Gehrig froze.

Sucked in his breath when the gun barrel jabbed into his lower back.

Dropped his jaw when he recognized the voice.

“Don’t do anything stupid, this’ll all go smooth.”

His father’s gravelly voice, product of a pack of Marlboros a day for forty years, was as unmistakable as the firearm shoved into his back. The nine-millimeter Beretta was “Uncle Charley,” Dad’s service-issue weapon. Gus barked twice before sidestepping a boot from Gehrig’s father.


 VS


Title: BABYFACE
Entry Nickname: Don't Mess with an Assassin Mom
Word Count: 89,000
Genre: Adult Thriller

Query:

I’m hoping you’ll be interested in my woman-centric thriller, BABYFACE. It’s atmospheric of a female John Wick crossed with the emotional conflict of A History of Violence. Complete at 89,000 words, BABYFACE will appeal to fans of Alafair Burke’s The Wife, Riley Sager’s Final Girls, and Jessica Knoll’s Luckiest Girl Alive.

Marybeth Delay is a third-grade teacher and loving mother of two young children living with her husband in a small town in Minnesota. To her family and friends, she’s the embodiment of the word “wholesome”. But they don’t know that Marybeth was once, in a different lifetime, Valentina “Babyface” Nacosto, the New Jersey mob’s most prolific and mysterious killer. They don’t know that she had a child seventeen years ago, who died in a hit meant for her. They don’t know that the serenity of her new life is repressed denial of her old one.

Marybeth thinks the past is forever behind her until the morning she turns on the news — and discovers that Lorenzo is alive. Alive, and the focus of a furious FBI manhunt, along with Valentina’s ex-husband, fugitive mob boss Vincent "Nine Lives" Nacosto.  

Valentina couldn't save Lorenzo from violence seventeen years ago. But she can now. And she will. She’ll get to him before the FBI does. She’ll be his way out—and she will risk her new family, her new life, her new peace to do it.

BABYFACE is told from both past and present points of view as Marybeth/Valentina comes to terms with who she is, who she was, and who she needs to be for both her families.

First 250:

I have the Minnesota winter to blame for what I did today, and for everything I know I will do after today.

The kids and I got back home at 3:30 from pickup. My fingers were numb. The heater in the minivan doesn’t work well, not in this kind of cold, and I forgot my gloves. It’s month two of my maternity leave and I really don’t have it together yet. Caroline was nagging me for Doc McStuffin the entire ride home and Jacob was screaming his little head off. I knew he was hungry, I knew because my breasts felt like two water balloons filled a hair short of bursting. But Jacob doesn’t really latch; I have to pump. My stomach sank when I realized he was at least twenty minutes away from his meal.

Five tortured miles later, we made it home. I dragged the car seat into the living room “Give mommy a second,”  I begged him, but he only screamed louder. I felt like a PSA for birth control.

Maybe the cartoon would distract him. I jabbed at the remote, my fingers blue and slow from cold. Jacob was still screaming when I headed to the foyer to retrieve the pacifier and the pump, wincing as my fingers came back to life in a series of potent little stabs. If he hadn’t been screaming, if I hadn’t been in pain, I would have noticed. I would have seen. I would have understood that I had the wrong channel.

I would have changed it.

16 comments :

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

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow. I love thrillers and you've both delivered some really interesting premises.

      FOUND WANTING: I like that it's direct and not overdone. One question, is Patricia the latest client or is that someone else? Clarify that and I think you'll be in good shape. I like the 250 as well, it seems like a good inciting incident/interesting way to introduce the characters. I'm also a sucker for dogs as a way to make a character sympathetic.

      BABYFACE: Comp titles go at the end of a query if you are using them. It's unclear in the first mention that Lorenzo is her son. I get it in the next paragraph. The conflict is really unique and the stakes are clear, so great job.

      The 250 feels a little disjointed. I don't think we need all the info about pumping, Doc McStuffins etc. I wonder if you're starting in the right place in the story, or if we just need to get to the action sooner. Either way, I'm very interested in the character's dual life.

      VICTORY TO FOUND WANTING

      Delete
    2. Found Wanting

      Query

      I’m puzzled over the logistics. How does Gehrig almost kill his clients? My first thought from your opening description was by running them off the road, but then I wondered if it’s more personal/up close because how does he ensure that they *don’t* die? This might clear up for me how Patricia then uses an almost-murderer to actually kill someone. Does she blackmail him? Or come in after Gehrig and kill husband herself?

      For more clarity, I might start with some variation of the last line of your third paragraph (ex: Gherig Newman’s business delivers near-death experiences to help people value their lives more. He [brief list of ways he does that]. But when a new client *acutally* wants her husband dead….)


      250
      (Is Uncle Charley the chapter title? I thought it was POV for a second and was confused until the end. I’d cut for QK.)

      Nice tension in this opening. You immediately get a sense of setting, and I want to know why his own father is sticking a gun in his back. I was a little confused by Gehrig/Gus introduced in the same sentence and kept swapping their names (though obviously one is a man and one is a dog, ha, so that might be just me).


      Don’t Mess With an Assassin Mom

      Query
      (I’d start with Marybeth and put the comps at the end.) Your second paragraph paints a good picture of who Marybeth is, but I would condense a bit and open with a punchier line about her mob life that she’s now hiding. In the second, I wasn’t sure who Lorenzo was and had to re-read a couple times to realize it’s the son. (Rather than working in his name earlier, you could keep calling him “son.” Also perhaps say he’s “lost” rather than died in the hit meant for her?) Great stakes in the second-to-last paragraph, and I’d either cut the last paragraph or rework the line about her coming to terms with her past into the one above. Overall I get a strong sense of the story and would definitely keep reading!

      250
      Love that first line, and the ending is also very moving. There are a lot of details for an opening, but you certainly capture that tired, overwhelmed, distracted “I-have-a-young-baby” feeling!


      I’m going to say….

      VICTORY TO ASSASSIN MOM

      Delete
    3. Comments for Found Wanting:

      I have so many questions about this query. How does this business work? The clients themselves can't be the ones hiring him, right? If they know they're only going to be almost killed, then the premise doesn't work. So their friends/loved ones hire him? Regardless, attempted murder is a crime too, so I guess it's not clear to me how actually killing the client puts him in legal jeopardy that he wasn't in before. Also, why in the world wouldn't Patricia just use a regular hit man if she wanted her husband dead? One of those guys wouldn't be so motivated to make sure she gets punished afterward. I'm also not clear how the scene in the first 250 relates to anything laid out in the query above, which just sort of adds to my confusion.

      All that said, your prose is fantastic. You can definitely string sentences together, and it's entirely possible (maybe even probable) that this is an awesome book. The problem is that I just don't feel like I've got a clear sense of that from what I can see here.

      Comments for Assassin Mom:

      First, mechanics. I'd suggest deleting the last paragraph of your query, and moving the first to the end. You might want to put some more work into that one as well. It doesn't flow nearly as well as the rest of your text, which is terrific.

      That said, the meat of your query really pulled me in. I definitely feel like I have a solid sense of what this book is and where it's going, and I want to read more. I love your first 250 as well. It gives a nice mixture of the mundane and the foreboding, and your prose is extremely polished. My main concern here is that I don't have the rest of the manuscript at hand.

      Both these entries are solid, but I think I just have too many questions about Found Wanting.

      Victory to Assassin Mom.

      Delete
    4. Earthbound MisfitJune 4, 2018 at 3:53 PM

      Found Wanting:

      Query: This premise is super intriguing! I like it—you hook the reader into the query quickly with the protagonist's unusual career, and the complications that ensue follow logically and ramp up the tension. The one suggestion I do have is to elaborate a bit on how Gehrig intends to clear his name and solve his problem with Patricia—that part of the query seemed less developed to me. In fact, you could seed a little detail throughout the query to make it stand out even more. I also couldn't help noticing the similarity of Patricia Hightower to the thriller author Patricia Highsmith. :)

      1st 250: This first 250 has an amazing ending that makes me want to read more—his father sticking a gun into his back is definitely an effective hook. Something feels off with the pacing in the first few paragraphs, though; my sense is that it might need a few more paragraph breaks. Also, the opening sentence felt a little clunky.


      Assassin Mom:

      Query: A strong query with an interesting premise! I do think a few details could be tweaked a bit to make it more effective, though. Firstly, for the purposes of Query Kombat, I'd suggest putting the comps at the end, or omitting them. Also, the starting sentence doesn't really jump out at me—but the second sentence definitely does! I'd begin with "To her family and friends, Marybeth Delay is the embodiment of the word “wholesome”." Lastly, I wasn't sure who Lorenzo was at first—I'm guessing he's her son, but that could be clearer.

      1st 250: Your writing is really strong, and quickly establishes a sense of scene and character by showing us the gory details of Marybeth's life as a mom—but you also do a great job of introducing the hint that something's going to go awry. Very well done!


      These both seem like great thriller ideas to me, but in the end…

      Victory to Assassin Mom!

      Delete
  2. Babyface:

    Be confident in your opening. Don't "hope you will be interested" - Present this query as if its a must read. Not in an arrogant way, but with such confidence in your words that any agent would be crazy to turn this down.

    You need to start with a hook, or figure out a hook. The opening sentence of the second paragraph is where you should begin the query, but if you can come up with a one sentence log-line for your book, you are on your way to finding the hook you need. It makes me wonder why she would risk her family for her objectives, but her motivations are clear. The first 250 - feels like the voice of a real authentic mother. I'm looking for hints of her past in this opening voice, and I think it would draw me in more if I saw some. The opening line does not fulfill that role because is sort of cliche - "today was the day everything changed" - kind of thing. However, its still a strong opening to show her every day life.

    Found Waiting:

    Kind of like Flatliners meets a murder mystery. A risky story that could fall flat, but your opening 250 shows you have the chops.

    Your villain is named Hightower? Ugh. I have to dock you a point right there. Hightower's are good guys lol. Actually she sounds intriguing, but her motivation sounds a little cliche - at least in the query. Is there anything to her you could add to spice up her desire, and maybe an extra line connecting her to Gehrig? I didn't have much for the opening 250. It really draws me in and has my attention.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hiiiii! So I actually find it easier to provide inline feedback, so my suggested edits and comments [will be written in brackets like this] :D

    FOUND WANTING

    QUERY

    Gehrig Newman devises the perfect murder. [DAMN. A murderer? Count me in] Again. [haha love it] A desolate highway exit this time, twenty miles west of the city. He almost kills his client.

    Which is exactly the plan. [ok, so this threw me off a bit, since it goes against the first sentence of the query—that he planned the perfect murder-that-really-isn’t-a-murder after all. Not 100% sure how I feel about this, but I’m def still intrigued enough to read on]

    The near-death is intentional. His business plan for helping clients recapture their lust for life—easy to follow, harder to execute [haha nice, this packs voice]—involves providing a wake-up call. That is, Gehrig delivers a near-death experience, because a person who survives such an event will place a higher value on life.

    Patricia Hightower wants her husband dead, so she can collect his life insurance and live happily ever after with her lover. She uses Gehrig and his unique business to commit [shouldn’t it be “his”? Or else it reads like she’s asking Gehrig to murder HER] murder. [Except,] Gehrig’s latest near-death client is suddenly a homicide, and his fingerprints are all over the crime. To avoid a life behind bars, he better act fast—both to save himself and to punish Patricia.

    FINAL THOUGHTS

    I loved the punchy voice of the query, and the unique situation and premise. The hook immediately grabs my attention and makes me want to find out more. However, I’m a bit confused about the last paragraph about who’s doing what. When she “uses Gehrig to commit the murder”, is she officially hiring him? Does she rig his murder setup so that her husband ACTUALLY ends up dead instead of near-dead? Or is she simply using his business as a scapegoat to cover her crime/aka she committed the murder herself? I think rewording the last paragraph would help pull together what seems like a very interesting story!


    FIRST 250

    Very atmospheric first 250 words. The writing style is punchy and edgy—which matches the tone of the query perfectly. I like how you immediately introduce conflict. Really don’t have anything to say here, would love to read on!

    ReplyDelete
  4. BABY FACE

    As noted above, I’ll make my suggested edits and comments directly inline the query [in brackets like this] !

    QUERY

    [deleted stuff] BABYFACE [is a female John Wick crossed with the emotional conflict of A History of Violence. Complete at 89,000 words, this woman-centric thriller will appeal] to fans of Alafair Burke’s The Wife, Riley Sager’s Final Girls, and Jessica Knoll’s Luckiest Girl Alive.

    [mostly rearrange and streamlined the opening para. Keep it concise so that we can dive into the meat of the query ASAP :D ]

    Marybeth Delay is a third-grade teacher and loving mother of two young children living with her husband in a small town in Minnesota. To her family and friends, she’s the embodiment of the word “wholesome”. But they don’t know [deleted word] Marybeth was once, in a different lifetime, Valentina “Babyface” Nacosto, the New Jersey mob’s most prolific and mysterious killer. They don’t know [deleted word] she had a child seventeen years ago, who died in a hit meant for her. They don’t know [deleted word] the serenity of her new life is repressed denial of her old one.

    [very clean para, I love how you set up the character and reveal her dark background in an interesting and atmospheric way; I just deleted the ‘that’s since they’re not needed, and I feel like the sentences pack more punch with less extraneous words bogging them down]

    Marybeth thinks the past is forever behind her until the morning she turns on the news — and discovers that [her lost child, Lorenzo,][since you never mentioned who Lorenzo is, it took me a moment to backtrack and figure it out; would suggest outright stating it for clarity] is alive. Alive, and the focus of a furious FBI manhunt, along with Valentina’s ex-husband, fugitive mob boss Vincent "Nine Lives" Nacosto.

    Valentina couldn't save Lorenzo from violence seventeen years ago. But she can now. And she will. She’ll get to him before the FBI does. She’ll be his way out—and she will risk her new family, her new life, her new peace to do it. [solid ending with clear stakes, nice!]

    [deleted last para because it’s unneeded. General rule of thumb is that you shouldn’t tell agents about the themes and arcs of the book—they should be able to deduce that from the novel itself]

    FINAL THOUGHTS

    I thought overall this query was well written and you manage to make me care deeply for a character in a short span of time, so kudos! I think some tightening and polishing and honestly, this query reads good to go to me!


    FIRST 250

    Love it! Really puts us in the head of the narrator right away. Only comment is some grammar stuff I noticed:

    I dragged the car seat into the living room [and begged him], “Give mommy a second. [changed comma to period]”

    [new para] [But] he only screamed louder. I felt like a PSA for birth control. [LOLOL I love this cynical snark]

    Otherwise, I loved the sense of forboding the first 250 opens up with and ends on!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Nathaniel GlanzmanJune 2, 2018 at 4:53 PM

    Found Wanting:

    I am in love with the first few sentences of your query. It really draws me in and makes me want to know what happens. I agree with Good Janet that you could make it a little clearer what Patricia's role is in all of this. Overall, I love it because we really get a sense of who Gehrig is without ruining the surprise of WHY he is doing these near-death experiences. And WHOA does a lot happen in the first 250! You jump straight into the action and I appreciate that. You get a sense that Gehrig is cautious, and you learn that he not only does nefarious things, but his father is likely a criminal as well. I'm interested to know of the father and son's relationship from what you've shown me here!


    Don't Mess with an Assassin Mom:

    I'm in love with your premise! This sounds like an amazing thriller! I would mention in the beginning paragraphs that Lorenzo is her son's name because you name-drop without explaining who he is. Small quip, though. The way you establish your stakes is great--I can definitely feel the tension and suspense of trying to balance both lives while delving into the darkness of her past. The first 250 really surprised me--I wasn't expecting Marybeth to not have it all together, but it definitely makes sense. Is the guilt of leaving her first child seeping into her everyday life as a Delay? She seems very unsure of herself, and it gives the excerpt personality and conflict. I really liked that about it.

    ReplyDelete
  6. FOUND WANTING

    I really like the query. I usually do not read suspense, but this is one that I would pick off the shelf. What I would do is at the end of paragraph one, instead of putting a period I would do three. Like, He almost kills his client...

    Which is exactly the plan.

    That way I immediately move to the next paragraph. I usually like queries to be 3 paragraphs, so there are some spots that seem a bit synopsis like to me. You can just say that Patricia wants her husband dead. And then we are asking why? which makes us want to read it even further. Too much information, slows it down and I think making it faster will really add...suspense.
    The same goes for the first 250. I don't need to know how old the dog is, especially in the first sentence. I would also switch the two sentences,

    Dropped his jaw when he recognized the voice.

    “Don’t do anything stupid, this’ll all go smooth.”

    If you switch them around, then I think it will be more exciting, because for one second longer we still think he is in danger of the unknown.

    But besides that I like the plot and the style, well done.

    Don't Mess with an Assassin Mom:

    The Query is a little too synopsis-like to me. I think it should be around 250 words and 3 paragraphs. I think 3 comps is a little too much, try two. The premise is very cool and hardcore, love the female center feel. There are places you can cut to get to the action sooner. For example, you can describe her in one sentence, instead of a whole paragraph. For example, now a Minnesota mother, once a hardcore drug lord. We can assume she is from a small town, she has more than one kids and all that. I think it will speed it up and really get me excited.

    For the 250, I would get rid of the word today. The last one in the first sentence. It is a little redundant and the first sentence is so important I don't think you should miss out. But besides that it reads nice, I already get the feel for who she is and what she is doing. Great job.


    ReplyDelete
  7. Don’t Mess…
    Query: I’d move the first paragraph to the end, and change “I’m hoping…” to something a little more confident-sounding. “It’s atmospheric of a …” what does that mean? Maybing I’m missing a different meaning of “atmospheric,” but I don’t get what you’re saying, and to be honest I don’t think you even need that sentence since you have comps in the next sentence. In the second paragraph, maybe delete “in a different lifetime”? I don’t think you need it. Instead of stating that she had a “child”, I think if you use the word “son” it would be easier to figure out that that’s who Lorenzo is.
    First 250: Love the opening line! Great hook. Love the voice. Oh, it brought me back to those days when I had toddlers and babies, engorged breasts and all. Love the snarky, “I felt like a PSA for birth control.” Although this might not be the kind of story I’d normally read, Marybeth’s voice alone makes me want to know more.

    Wake Up Call
    Query: The opening line got me interested, the second paragraph had me hooked. I was moving right along until I get to the last paragraph…wait, what? Patricia Hightower wants her husband dead? So she uses Gehrig? But he only pretends to kill people. “…to commit her murder”? To kill her? Surely not, but I had to read and reread to be sure.

    First 250: I like the voice, kind of noir-ish but not. I like making Gehrig more likeable by giving him a loyal dog. Of course we know something’s going to happen, but it’s a nice twist/surprise when the guy with a gun is Gehrig’s father. If I had read the opening and not the query, I’d be all in for this story, but the query really threw me off.
    This is a genre I generally enjoy, and I want to love this idea, but I’m not sold yet.

    ReplyDelete
  8. FOUND WANTING

    Woo! What a neat premise. Reminds me a little bit of Tyler Durden in Fight Club, when he held a gun to that minimart owner's head and convinced him to pursue his dream of becoming a vet, instead.
    A couple questions: I'm assuming that Gehrig's hired to kill someone, so what does his client do when he finds the person is not dead? Does Gehrig have to disappear? I'm guessing anyone with $ to spend on an assassin would be pretty pissed when they find out their target isn't dead. Or does a person hire him not as an assassin but as a life coach, and this is Gehrig's extreme method?
    The voice in your query is awesome, but I think a little more clarification would help.
    Love your prose, again so voice-y and sentences filled with interesting words and tidbits. I was a bit confused about where he since we jumped from the door to the parking lot quickly, but upon a second read, you have enough clues for most readers. The only sentence I found tough to read was this one, "His father’s gravelly voice, product of a pack of Marlboros a day for forty years, was as unmistakable as the firearm shoved into his back". Maybe one less word? You can take out "gravelly" since the pack of Marlboros a day for 40 years does all the work in a more descriptive way.
    Awesome work!! Best of luck!

    ReplyDelete
  9. DON'T MESS WITH AN ASSASSIN MOM

    Would read!! Your query feels very tight for me and nearly done. A couple suggestions—
    I've never heard atmospheric used like that, and that could be just me, but I thought the word "evocative" would work better there. Or "comparable to".
    I didn't know who Lorenzo was and had to look in the previous paragraph to see if you'd mentioned his name. I got it afterward, but it was a bit jarring, like I was supposed to know. So maybe include "her son, Lorenzo" in the second paragraph.
    Love all these names and nicknames! Not sure if her husband's name is needed, though? I heard that you should only mention 3 names in a query (and since MaryBeth has 3 on her own, maybe adding in her husband's is a bit distracting?)
    Also really liked the last line, as that excited me—how cool that we get to hear both Valentina's and MaryBeth's POVs.

    Awesome prose! As an almost-new mom myself, I was feeling the anxiety of what I imagine my days are going to be like :)
    One tiny line edit suggestion. Original: "filled a hair short of bursting. But Jacob doesn’t really latch"
    Suggested: "filled just short of bursting. But Jacob never latched" or "But Jacob doesn't latch". (don't need "really")

    Great writing!! Best of luck to you.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hi~ I read through it all before, but I'll be making inline comments [in brackets] with mostly first impressions.

    Wake Up Call:

    Gehrig Newman devises the perfect murder. Again. [I like this opening] A desolate highway exit this time, twenty miles west of the city. He almost kills his client. [not so perfect then]

    Which is exactly the plan. [huh]

    The near-death is intentional. His business plan for helping clients recapture their lust for life—easy to follow, harder to execute—involves providing a wake-up call. That is, Gehrig delivers a near-death experience, because a person who survives such an event will place a higher value on life. [Hmm. I like this idea, but this bit raises so many logical/legal concerns, it takes me out of the query. Whom's Gehrig hired by? The families of the people he's supposed to almost-kill, or the people themselves? I think we need to understand some more about his work in here, even at the cost of some clever wordplay I liked up there. How about "Gehrig Newman devises the perfect murder, but killing the paying clients is never the point. Hired by [family/friends/individuals/whatever], Gehrig delivers wake-up calls: near-death experiences for the people who need that one drastic push to turn their lives around." And then you have room to expand and add in some details if you want, or better yet voice]

    Patricia Hightower wants her husband dead, so she can collect his life insurance and live happily ever after with her lover. She uses Gehrig and his unique business to commit her murder. ["to commit the murder for her" would be a clearer wording here. How does she go about that, though? We're shown so far that Gehrig is good at what he does, and he can't be careless with the kind of job he does—so she needs to either make sure her husband has a worse reaction than planned, or trick Gehrig and sabotage his plan. Whichever it is, I want to know it in the query, because otherwise her paragraph makes him seem less competent than I was led to believe] Gehrig’s latest near-death client is suddenly a homicide, and his fingerprints are all over the crime. To avoid a life behind bars [how is his job not a crime already? Is this a world different than our own?] he better act fast—both to save himself and to punish Patricia. [This hook can be much stronger. What does "act fast" mean? What does he have to do, what does he plan to do? What are his choices, and what's specifically at stake? I want to see how hard it'll be for him, exactly what he's risking, and how he feels about it—and then I might care enough to want to see him succeed.]

    I don't have too much to say for the first 250, really. I had a moment in the first paragraph where I had to do a double take to remind myself Gus is not a person/the MC, mainly because it's all in the same paragraph so I expect the actions to be those of the same character. In the last paragraph, there's some pronoun/antecedent confusion, but otherwise it all reads well. I'm curious about his relationship with his father, how this opening ties into the main story, and how you show his job on-page.

    Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Babyface:

    [I suggest putting comps and wordcount at the end, along with the rest of the housekeeping]

    Marybeth Delay is a third-grade teacher and loving mother of two young children living with her husband in a small town in Minnesota. To her family and friends, she’s the embodiment of the word “wholesome”. But they don’t know that Marybeth was once, in a different lifetime [<—I'd cut this, it's implied], Valentina “Babyface” Nacosto, the New Jersey mob’s most prolific and mysterious killer. They don’t know that she had a child seventeen years ago, who died in a hit meant for her. They don’t know that the serenity of her new life is repressed denial of her old one.

    Marybeth thinks the past is forever behind her until the morning she turns on the news — and discovers that Lorenzo is alive [you may want to say "son" in the last paragraph to make the connection easier... maybe also omit the name here too, and just go with "son" throughout]. Alive, and the focus of a furious FBI manhunt, along with Valentina’s ex-husband, fugitive mob boss Vincent "Nine Lives" Nacosto. [nice]

    Valentina couldn't save Lorenzo from violence seventeen years ago. But she can now. And she will. She’ll get to him before the FBI does. She’ll be his way out—and she will risk her new family, her new life, her new peace to do it. [I quite like this. We get the stakes, everything is clearly enough laid out, and she's got goals and motivations and agency, so good job]

    BABYFACE is told from both past and present points of view [aha I like this too, I'm a fan of dual timelines] as Marybeth/Valentina comes to terms with who she is, who she was, and who she needs to be for both her families.

    My only critique for the 250 is that the rhythm gets a bit choppy at times, and I'd like to see a bit more variation in sentence length (without sacrificing the voice, of course). I like the personality behind the words, as well as the point you chose to drop us into the story at.

    Good luck!

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  12. Mrs. Will HerondaleJune 4, 2018 at 4:39 PM

    Found Wanting

    Query: Such an interesting concept! I’m confused about one thing though. Is Gehrig in the insurance business, or is his business solely to give people near-death experiences? If it’s the later, which I think is what you’re saying, maybe clarify that people hire him to create near-death experiences for people who are depressed with their current lives. The “higher value on life” part made it seem like maybe it was insurance related.

    First 250: Is “Uncle Charley” the title? Maybe delete that as it’s confusing. I don’t have much to critique about your first 250, except maybe “Sucked in a breath…” I had to read it twice because it seemed to be missing “He” at the beginning. I think it’s just the voice you’re going for, but it brought me out of the story.


    Don’t Mess With an Assassin Mom

    Query: Maybe streamline the second paragraph:

    Marybeth Delay, third-grade teacher and loving mother of two young children, is the embodiment of the word “wholesome”. But what her small Minnesota town doesn’t know is that Marybeth was once Valentina…

    3rd paragraph: who’s Lorenzo? Her son? Clarify that when you first say his name.

    The last few paragraphs are great!

    First 250: Ooh…intriguing first line! Overall, really well done. Knowing that she has the past life of a notorious killer, I wouldn’t have minded a little more oomph in her voice, but as a parent, I think this is pretty accurate of a run-down mother. Ha!

    I love both of these concepts so much and they were both so well done. I’m sad I have to choose!

    VICTORY TO DON”T MESS WITH AN ASSASSIN MOM

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