Jun 1, 2018

QK Round 1: Magic Stone in Paris VS Short Girls Pack More Sass

Title: Mist
Entry Nickname: I found a magic stone in Paris
Word Count: 90,000
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy


When sixteen-year-old Deirdre Walsh arrives in Paris to spend the summer at her grandfather’s, she intends to enjoy the city like a native, even though she’ll have to fight grandpa on everything from curfews to the rip in her jeans.

But when he tells her about a stone of infinite power he’s been hiding and how she teethed on said stone as a baby, making her the only one able to wield it, playing tourist is no longer high on her list. The stone is faerie-made and the fey have descended upon Paris to reclaim it and take revenge on humans for stealing it from them. After Deirdre’s grandfather suffers a heart attack and goes into a coma before he can reveal the stone’s whereabouts, she sets off to find it, hoping its magic will revive him. She meets bad boy Sean and mild-mannered neighbor Luc—both bent on helping her navigate her way through Paris. That is until Luc lures her to a faerie ball and Sean turns out to be a spy for the fey.

The fey kidnap Deirdre’s grandfather from his hospital bed and issue an ultimatum. If Deirdre doesn’t relinquish the stone to them by midnight, they’ll murder him along with thousands of innocent civilians. Her grandfather is no longer the only one she needs to save. In a city where trust is a lost currency and alliances come with a price, all she has is herself and the stone—if the dark magic it’s made of doesn't destroy her first.

First 250:

I slid my passport through the window. The customs agent did not crack a smile as he began his interrogation. I stared back, scrambling to recall the few words of French I’d hung on to since eighth grade.

Alors, mademoiselle?” he prodded. He didn’t look like the patient type.

I pulled out a phrase book from my pocket. I had studied it during the flight from New York, but now I couldn’t remember a single word. I felt my cheeks go red as I flipped through the pages.

“’Ow long are you ‘ere for, Mees Derrdrr Walsh?” he said, sounding both exasperated and blasé.

“Deirdre. My name is pronounced DEER-dra,” I corrected. I was used to it; people butchered my name all the time.

He wasn’t amused.

“Two months. I’m here for two months,” I added, embarrassed.

“Where weel you be staying?”

“With my grandfather, in Paris.”

A door behind him opened, and a security officer entered the glass booth. The man was tall, all arms and legs, with hair so pale it looked white under the overhead lights. He whispered something in his colleague’s ear, bringing my interrogation to an end. The agent nodded, his gaze drifting past me as if he hadn’t been talking to me for the last two minutes. “Au suivant,” he called. The woman next in line walked up to the window.

The officer grabbed my passport. “Come with me, Miss,” he said in an accent I knew wasn’t French but one I couldn’t place either.


Title: To Chase a Sky
Entry Nickname: Short Girls Pack More Sass
Word Count: 90,600
Genre: YA fantasy #ownvoices, set on a Taiwan-inspired island


Flying is the only thing magic-less Lani and her bonded, invisible dragon Orys can do better than anyone else. The Ayrnec, a dragon race, is Lani’s chance to show the world her worth. Winning and continuing to the finals is also her only shot at finding her long-lost father, as this year—and only this year—the finals are held in the country where he disappeared.

However, Orys is banned due to his invisibility. Determined to enter the race, Lani and Orys search for a way to give him color. Instead, they stumble upon the truth in an ancient dragon’s cave: Lani’s magic was stolen, the effect leaking across their bond and turning Orys invisible before he even hatched.

In a city of enchanted machinery, Lani unearths a blood magician who claims he can turn Orys visible. Blood magic is illegal, but unless she tracks down the thief in possession of her magic in time for the race, it may be her only choice if she wants to find her father.

Lani doesn’t realize the blood magician and the thief are one and the same. Ever since Orys hatched for Lani, he’s held onto some of her magic, disrupting the thief’s control of it. Using Lani’s desire to join the race, the thief wants to lure her into breaking her bond with Orys, the dragon who sees her when no one else can.

TO CHASE A SKY will appeal to fans of ERAGON and Maggie Stiefvater’s novels.

First 250:

Lani didn’t believe in hell but, standing there in the Ministry of Aerial Affairs, she found herself wishing it existed, and that Amorfus Neale would be sent straight there.

“Now, see here, Miss Koh,” said Amorfus Neale, hunched up behind his desk, “I’m willing to help, but you’re clearly not old enough to join the race.”

“I’m sixteen!”

“In addition,” he continued, “you do not have a dragon, and a dragon is somewhat necessary to participate in the Carronby Island Ayrnec Race. Which is, you see, a dragon race.”

Being just shy of five feet and thin as a stick, Lani could grudgingly accept that she did not look her age. Being bonded with an invisible dragon, she could reluctantly accept that Orys’ existence was met with doubt on all sides. But she couldn’t today, not from someone with a name as insufferable as Amorfus Neale. She gritted her teeth so hard her jaw popped.

“I have a dragon. I already told you that. He’s invisible, is all. And if you just looked at the regulations—”

Amorfus Neale released a sigh nearly as insufferable as his name. “Whatever the case, it is simply impossible for you and your”—his upper lip curled with derision—“invisible dragon to participate.”

Lani slammed her palms on the counter. Sadly, the effect wasn’t as dramatic as she intended, given her less-than-dramatic height. But it did force him to finally look her in the face.

“He’s invisible, not imaginary. If you’d shut up for a second, he’ll prove it,” she snapped.


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

    1. Magic Stone:

      Wow! The query is so compelling and well done. The only thing I think you could do to take it to the next level is to shorten the second paragraph and move some of the fairy world to the third paragraph, combining the stuff about the two mysterious fairies who are trying to woo her etc. Tighten a little and you'll be good to go!

      Love the 250 as well. It definitely made me want to keep reading.

      SHORT GIRLS: I love the premise, however, I think the query can be streamlined to three paragraphs. Some of the information is a little redundant (i.e. about her dad). I think you could add some urgency as well. Think of the first paragraph as the hook, which you set up nicely, Lani is only good at one thing, riding dragons. Now she'll have to use that skill to find her dad. Then set up the main conflict, and finally, what her choices are and what will happen if she doesn't succeed.

      The 250 is very successful. It's a great start full of voice and tension.

      Both very strong entries, but I'm going to have to say VICTORY TO MAGIC STONE

    2. Comments for Magic Stone:

      Regarding the query: This is an interesting premise, and I feel like I understand what this book is about after reading this, so you've done your job. There are a couple of points that might be clarified or cleaned up, though:

      - First sentence of the second paragraph reads a bit stiff. Also, "infinite power?" That seems a bit much and also a bit vague. Some specific powers might be more interesting.

      - Third paragraph: does Dierdre actually have the stone, or is she still looking for it?

      Regarding the first 250, I think I'd lose the phonetic spelling for the French accent. It doesn't come across well to my ear. Also, the last sentence reads a bit awkwardly. Maybe consider re-working this?

      Comments for Short Girls:

      Wow, you've got a lot of plot packed into a small number of words here. Enchanted machinery, invisible dragons, blood magic, Lani's magic... honestly, it's a bit hard to follow. I haven't read the book, obviously, but if I were evaluating this query from an agent's perspective I might be concerned about focus. I also don't quite follow the last sentence. The dragon is the one who's invisible, right?

      Regarding the first 250: Your prose is clean, and the dialogue is snappy. I'm not sure I'm in love with "Amorfus" as a name, though. If this is a play on "amorphous" and the fact that the dragon is invisible, I'm missing it. As far as the dragon goes, he's just invisible, yes? Not incorporeal? So couldn't he easily prove his presence by smashing something, or just making a noise? Again, I'm not sure I'm entirely following.

      End of the day, these might both be great books, but I think I have a stronger feel for MIST.

      Victory to Magic Stone.

    3. I found a magic stone in Paris

      Pretty solid! As it currently stands, Sean and Luc don’t add anything to the query, and I would cut those two lines. There’s also an assumption that Deirdre does find the stone between the first and second paragraph. Maybe just something like, “But when she finds the stone, the fey kidnap her grandfather…”

      Really like this, my only advice is to be careful of dialogue tags. “Said” is usually best since it doesn’t draw attention to itself.

      Short Girls Pack More Sass

      There’s a lot to process here. I’m a little confused by the nature of the “magic” as it seems more like a super power/something possessed, and what Lani would be able to do with this magic if she still had it…

      1. I’d include the new goal of finding her magic to make Orys visible at the end of your second paragraph.

      2. The bit about enchanted machinery is distracting and unnecessary, and I’d cut.

      3. You don’t need the last paragraph explaining the villain’s motives, especially as it gives away your cool twist. Instead, I’d end paragraph three with a clear statement of what Lani must do to achieve her goal.

      This is SO fun! Such great voice and characterization. I want to keep reading!!

      Two very fun fantasies! Ughhh, decisions. As this is QK, I’m going with the more polished query…


    4. Earthbound MisfitJune 3, 2018 at 4:47 PM

      Magic Stone:

      Query: Very intriguing and well-written query—it feels polished and gives a thorough idea of the story and its complications. I'm a little unclear on what "enjoy the city like a native" means with respect to the sixteen-year-old narrator—has she been to visit her grandfather in Paris before? This would be easy to clarify with a tweak to the wording, I think. Anyway, great job!

      1st 250: You definitely do a good job of establishing tension from the outset, with Dierdre meeting the customs agent and then encountering someone…not quite normal. Also, starting in the middle of her travel is good—lots of opportunity for active scenes that give us a chance to know the character. A strong start.

      Short Girls:

      Query: I really like this premise a lot, and there are so many cool and intriguing aspects of the setting and world building! However, I did find myself confused from time to time in reading the query—it felt like it introduced a lot of different elements in a relatively small space. One thing that tripped me up in particular: "unless she tracks down the thief in possession of her magic in time for the race, it may be her only choice if she wants to find her father." This was hard to figure out—I had to go back to the first paragraph and kind of retrace the various factors that are leading her to the place where he was kidnapped. Also, I wasn't sure what the last line meant: "the dragon who sees her when no one else can."

      1st 250: You start right in with the conflict in your first 250, and that's great. One question I had here was, in a society as clearly organized and bureaucratic as this one, wouldn't Lani have a way to prove her age somehow? And if she doesn't, why not? Also, if she has a special bond with Orys and he's standing right there, maybe he should be more present right away? Aside from that, I was pretty hooked—Lani's anger and desperation come through, and I love the name "Amorfus Neale."

      This was a REALLY hard decision, because I thought both writing samples were equally strong in terms of polish and interest, and Magic Stone's query was impressively solid. However, the setting and premise of Short Girls really grabbed me, so…

      Victory to Short Girls!

    5. Mrs. Will HerondaleJune 4, 2018 at 3:25 PM

      Magic Stone in Paris

      Query: I really like the first paragraph, but it sets up the query to sound like a contemporary, so when a stone of infinite power starts out the next paragraph, to me, it felt a little out of no where. Overall, the query has all the right ingredients, but some of the generalities—like “lost currency and alliances come with a price” confused me a little. Also, are both Luc and Sean spies for the fey? It sounds that way because Luc lures her into the ball? If so, I wonder if they couldn’t be combined?

      First 250: Well-written, but a lot of time is spent on the pronunciation stuff. I’d love to get more voice and personality up front.

      Short Girls Pack More Sass

      Query: She’s magic-less, yet bonded to a dragon? Guessing that means emotionally bonded then, not like Avatar bonded because wouldn’t that be magic? Love the stakes set up in the first paragraph about the finals being in the country where he father disappeared. 2nd paragraph is great, but the wording of the last sentence is confusing: “the effect leaking across their bond…” Maybe say it a little more plainly/clearly.

      3rd paragraph: I’m not sure what enchanted machinery has to do with blood magic? I wonder if you could actually cut the last two paragraphs and sum it up by saying Lani sets out on a quest to find the blood magician who claims he can turn Orys visible, but… *insert part about things going wrong, without actually spoiling it for us*.

      First 250: Awesome first sentence. I don’t have anything to critique here. I think your writing is great, I just think your query needs to be streamlined and taken up a notch to match the quality of your first page. Good job!


    6. The Red CardiganJune 4, 2018 at 4:38 PM

      I found a magic stone in Paris: Oooh, angry Faeries, I like it. This sounds action packed! I’d watch the wording in your query as some things are unclear. The Fae want to reclaim the stone, or Paris? Some of the sentences run-on. I advise shortening them to make it more readable. I love, LOVE the last line of the query. First page: Try varying sentence structure a bit. Right now, the writing seems a bit stilted. Eg, in the third paragraph all the words start with I. Also, the border agent has an accent, but it can be stated that he speaks with a thick French accent without phonetically spelling it out. They way it’s written now slows down the reader. I was confused between the security agent and the customs officer. Maybe you can have her refer to one of them by name (perhaps seen on a name tag?). This sounds like a compelling premise, though, and I would keep reading.

      Short Girls Pack More Sass: I love the premise here. An invisible dragon! A fantasy world based on Taiwan! And this is a great query. Well-written, clear stakes and conflict, and a unique story that I would love to read. Only complaint I have is in the last paragraph, I’m not sure if the POV changed— does Lani know the thief wants to break her bond with the dragon? Great comps, too. Well done. First page: Great voice straight off the bat. And as I kept reading, the voice just got better. There is humor here! That was unexpected because the query didn’t show a hint of the humorous voice. Perhaps the query should be reworked to add some? I have no issues at all with this page. I love it.

      Victory to Short Girls Pack More Sass!

    7. Wow, I can see why this one is stuck at a tie. Both of these entries are really strong, especially the 250. I've got a repairman at my door so quickly: VICTORY TO MAGIC STONE. I can come back later this evening and expand on why.

    8. Congrats on making it into QK! Disclosure: I did not read the other comments before offering feedback, so you might find duplicate crits.

      I Found a Magic Stone in Paris


      I reeeaaallly want to know what “enjoy the city like a native” means in this context, because fighting grandpa about ripped jeans and curfews sounds like something a teenager would do regardless of geographical location.

      Really cool concept with the teething, but the second graph feels a little dense. There’s a lot of information packed in here, and a lot of questions I want answered. If he’s so strict, why tell her about the stone? Why does she believe him? Is this a world where magic is possible? I also feel like we’re moving through a sequence of events, here. Which yes, some plot is definitely necessary for your query, but we want to see these things rather than be told about them. How are the fey descending? Why was the stone stolen in the first place? Why does Deirdre trust Sean and Luc, seemingly implicitly, from the get go? You probably can’t answer everything, but just something to think about.

      The final graph has great stakes — kudos! My only hiccup is that it appears she’s got the stone in the third graph, and in the previous graph the emphasis is on her finding it. So there’s some missing elements there. Did she ditch Sean and Luc? What’s their role? If it’s not bigger in the main stakes, then I’m not sure if I’d mention them earlier.

      First 250:

      You have a lot of sentences in your first 250 that start with “I” phrases. Consider changing up the sentence structure to give it a different flow and not sound so repetitive. Now, this could be a personal thing for me, but I’m not a huge fan of altering the spelling of text to demonstrate a different accent. I’d rather have some descriptions/internal dialogue from the MC commenting/understanding the accent through her ears. How she processes it, what it sounds like, etc. Also, you italicize the first french phrase, but not “Au suivant.”

      Short Girls Pack More Sass


      I’m a little confused by the purpose of the race in the first paragraph. Is for showing her worth? Or finding her father? Are the two connected? How will winning a race give her a shot at finding her father? If he disappeared in that country, it’s certainly a place to start looking, but I’m not sure how getting into the race ties into her ability to search for her father.

      I’m definitely interested in the premise and issue presented with Lani and her dragon, but I feel like the query is read in a very sequential manner (something you might find in a synopsis). There are some details in here that probably aren’t necessary for the query, and you could use that extra space to amplify the voice or strengthen the stakes.

      The final graph is usually used to really hammer the stakes home, and in this case, we get the wants of the villain instead of what’s at risk for Lani. What happens if she doesn’t get her magic back? Does Orys go off on his own? Can he live without her? Is it worth her trading her dragon’s life for the chance at finding her father (this seems like it would be an excellent core dilemma)? And as for the final line, it might be a “cut your darlings” moment. I like it, but it doesn’t ring true (unless I’m reading it incorrectly). How does the dragon see her, but no one else can?

      First 250:

      Ohhh man. Your voice. I LOVE this. This is the kind of voice I want to see you infuse in your query. The tension is palpable. Her frustration is real. Her irritation is totally believable. Bring this vibe to your query, and you’ll be rock solid.



  2. I Found a Magic Stone:

    Query-This is an intriguing concept! I love the twist--her going to grandpa's but ending up fighting faeries. I might say something in the first line of your query to let us know about the fantasy aspect of your story. "She goes to Paris for shopping and sight-seeing, but ends up fighting the fey.."
    A lot of mundane dialogue. I'd cut some of it. Move the story along. Not much is happening until the last line and then it's a little vague. I'd love for you to show some evidence of the faeries right away! Sounds like a fantastic book.

    To Chase the Sky:

    Query-Intriguing premise! Tell us a little more about her long-lost mother. Since birth? the past three months or three years? I need a clearer sense of the stakes. "Breaking her bond with the Dragon" falls a little flat. Play this up more! Does it kill her if the bond is broken? etc.

    250- Be careful of telling things for the readers' sake in your dialogue. Work it into your scene another way. I love the MC's attitude! So, is the Dragon in the room with them? That would be a fantastic idea for the opening scene of your novel! Good luck!

  3. I Found a Magic Stone in Paris--First of all, I think this is a delightful setting and including the fae makes it even better. When I first read the line about “the fey have descended upon Paris to reclaim it” I thought you meant they were reclaiming Paris as their city (which made perfect sense to me) but upon re-reading, I realized you meant reclaim the stone. I also wasn’t quite sure why it’s bad to be at a faerie ball by a mild-mannered guy—-is she trapped there? Surrounded, maybe? I’m not sure. I love the last line of the query. It really ups the stakes and intrigues me! In the first words, I’d probably move through the passport scene a little faster, though I understand it sets up that she’s an American, that she’s done a little studying, why she’s going… but you could work that in without using dialogue to do so. I wondered if you’d consider opening with her already in Paris, experiencing the city itself, which could be a really beautiful scene to immediately bring the setting to life.

    Short Girls Pack More Sass
    Love this nickname! I love dragon stories and think this story sounds compelling. I think a bit of tightening would make the query even stronger. Clarity would help in paragraphs 3 and 4, too. There seems to be a lot of important revelations happening, and I’m wondering if we need to know all of these in the query, like the realization that the blood magician and the thief are the same person. Does this take away dramatic tension if readers know this going in? For the 250, I found myself wondering if they can feel the dragon if they touch it, even its invisible? Does she also turn invisible when she rides him, because how else would they explain her ability to fly without magic? I'm sure we probably learn more shortly, especially if the invisible dragon puts a foot on the guy's desk or something. ;) Some of the dialogue could be trimmed to allow us to meet the dragon even sooner. The writing captures her frustration well. I’d keep reading!

  4. Hi! So I actually find it easier to make my comments and changes directly inline the query. I'll denote changes I made and my thoughts [in brackets like this]


    When sixteen-year-old Deirdre Walsh arrives in Paris to spend the summer at her grandfather’s, she intends to enjoy the city like a native, even though she’ll have to fight grandpa on everything from curfews to the rip in her jeans. [nice, introduces character right away and sets up potential conflict]

    But when he tells her about a stone of infinite power he’s been hiding [deleted stuff to streamline, and also cut out unneeded detail. If Deirdre being the only one who can wield the stone is important detail, then maybe you can add it on later, but I really don’t think the teething info is important. Also, some other wording that you might be able to play around to maybe make the query sound a little more dynamic (ie. “But when he reveals to her a stone of infinite he’s been secretly safekeeping”)], playing tourist is no longer high on her list. The stone is faerie-made and the fey have descended upon Paris to reclaim it [from the] humans [who stole it from] them. [As if that wasn’t bad enough,] Deirdre’s grandfather suffers a heart attack and goes into a coma before he can reveal the stone’s whereabouts. [new sentence] [Determined to use the stone’s magic to revive him], she sets off to find it with the aid bad boy Sean and mild-mannered neighbor Luc[deleted stuff][just rephrasing some stuff to streamline]. That is until Luc lures her to a faerie ball and Sean turns out to be a spy for the fey.

    The fey kidnap Deirdre’s grandfather [deleted unneeded detail] and issue an ultimatum: [changed period to colon] If Deirdre doesn’t relinquish the stone [deleted extra words here] by midnight, they’ll murder him along with thousands of innocent civilians. [deleted sentence, since that’s made clear in previous sentence already] In a city where trust is a lost currency [ooh I love this phrasing] and alliances come with a price, all she has is herself and the stone—if [its dark magic] doesn't destroy her first.

    Overall, I think the query hits all the main points and clearly conveys the plot and stakes! I think my biggest feedback is to streamline and get rid of details not crucial to the plot, as they detract from the big picture 

    FIRST 250

    Very smooth first 250 words, and I got a good sense of Deirdee’s personality! I think my only small nitpicks would be that the “did not” in the second sentence came across a tad formal (due to lack of contraction) compared to the rest of the MC’s voice, especially since it’s so early on. Second nitpick would be the third paragraph; maybe consider switching up how the sentences begin so they don’t all begin with “I”. Overall though, the writing was polished and I enjoyed it!

    1. Oops, found a typo (right after I hit submit of curse). In the query's second paragraph, my suggestion should've read as "But when he reveals to her a stone of infinite power he's been secretly safekeeping"

    2. *of course

      I'm done lolol the spirits of spellcheck are not with me today


    [Rule of thumb is to note the MC’s age right away or very early on in the query for YA :D ] [Sixteen-year-old Lani might be magic-less in a world/island where magic equals rank/power/respect/insert-the-appropriate-term, but she sure as hell can fly better than anyone else.] [IDK if the swearing suits your MC’s voice (if it doesn’t just get rid of it), but I basically just tweaked the first sentence to establish a couple things: 1) her age 2) why she’s different 3) Why being different sucks and how this relates to her personal stakes later on] [Unfortunately, her bonded dragon, Orys, is invisible—something that’s unheard of.] The [famous/annual/pick-your-adj] Ayrnec [deleted stuff here] dragon race [deleted comma] is Lani’s chance to [finally] show the world her worth. [More importantly, winning] and [advancing] to the finals is also her only shot at finding her long-lost father, as this year—and only this year—the [championships][just using a different word here so you don’t need to repeat ‘finals’ twice in the same sentence] are held in the country where he disappeared.

    However, Orys is banned due to his invisibility. Determined to enter the race, Lani and Orys search for a way to give him color [I LOVE THIS SENTENCE idk why but I just do]. Instead, they stumble upon the truth in an ancient dragon’s cave: Lani’s magic was stolen, the effect leaking across their bond and turning Orys invisible before he even hatched.[ooooh intriguing. Keep everything in this para because it is GOLD[

    In a city of enchanted machinery, Lani unearths a blood magician who claims he can turn Orys visible. [Not only is blood] magic is illegal, [it’s dangerous, and one small mistake could kill Orys and Lani][OR SOMETHING idk like obviously the blood magic being illegal creates stakes/risks, but I think it might be nice to show some more /direct/ risk to your characters other than the magic simply being illegal and that they could get in trouble if caught breaking the law?] [But] unless she tracks down the thief in possession of her magic in time for the race, it may be her only choice if she wants to find her father. [love love love]

    [I deleted the last para completely because this one^^^ ends on a PERFECT note: you’ve got stakes and risks. Whereas I think the original last para reveals too much and detracts from this amazing build-up leading up to this point. Sometimes less is more ;) ]

    TO CHASE A SKY will appeal to fans of ERAGON and Maggie Stiefvater’s novels.


    Overall, a solid query that mostly needs some polishing. Like in Magic Stone, I think picking which details to include (ie. The ones that raise the stakes) and which ones to omit (ie. The ones just clutter) is the key here. I absolutely love the premise of the story <3

  6. Apparently I exceeded my max character count so here's the rest of my feed back for SHORT GIRLS :)


    Ahahaha I love the first sentence of the story—sucks me in right away and packs a bunch of voice.

    Do want to note that (and this is SUCH a nitpick) that using the exclamation point in “I’m sixteen!” had Lani come across sounding a bit younger(????) than you might have intended compared to the first sentence. Not sure if I’m explaining this coherently lol, but I kind of pictured her almost whining, and I’m not sure if that’s the image you wanted to convey.

    Some options might be to add on a modifying dialogue tag to pinpoint the tone. “I’m sixteen!” she growled/snapped/etc)

    Also, looking at the phrasing/set up of this para, I think it feels more natural to add the following word (marked in all caps):

    Being just shy of five feet and thin as a stick, Lani could grudgingly accept that she did not look her age. Being bonded with an invisible dragon, she could NORMALLY/USUALLY accept that Orys’ existence was met with doubt on all sides. But she couldn’t today, not from someone with a name as insufferable as Amorfus Neale.

    Mostly because it makes it more clear in the next sentence “But she couldn’t today” that TODAY was special, and that TODAY is an exception from the norm, if this makes any sense haha

    Everything else looked reaaaally good. Lani’s personality leaped off the page, and I loved how she described Amorfus. Excellent set up of conflict right from the start that hints of the main plot <3

  7. I Found a Magic Stone in Paris


    This is a great query, with great voice!

    I have two nit-picks:

    In the first paragraph, Deirdre intends to enjoy Paris like a native, and in the second she is playing tourist.

    Deirdre finding the stone is missing from the query. She sets out to find it in the second paragraph, and then she seems to already have it in the last paragraph.

    250 words:

    I’m not sure customs agent is the right word for the person checking your passport. If you know it to be, please ignore:-)

    In the second line of dialogue, I would consider removing the dialogue tag, and just use “The man (or customs agent :-)) sounded both…”

    I don’t think I would have Deirdre speak out her irritation when the man pronounces her name wrong. She could think it, though.

    If the men are in a glass booth, how can Deirdre follow the security officer?

    I would consider removing the dialogue tag in the last line as well. Instead you could say: I couldn’t place his accent, but I knew it wasn’t French.

    Hope some of this helps!
    Good luck!

    Short Girls Pack More Sass


    When you introduce us to your MC, you may want to give her age in a YA novel.

    I think you can remove the “and only this year”.

    It is a bit confusing when you jump from finding the truth in a dragon’s cave to a city of enchanted machinery.

    I think you need to work on your query’s ending. Give us the stakes instead of telling us what the thief wants. Also the last part about the dragon being the only one to see Lani is a bit confusing, since it’s the dragon which is invisible.

    250 words:

    I love this!

    I only have a few nit-picks:

    I don’t think you need the dialogue tag in the first line, since you also have an action beat.

    I would remove the exclamation point after “I’m sixteen.”

    I would remove: “given her less-than-dramatic height.” Since you just told us she is small.

    Hope some of this helps!
    Good luck!

  8. I found a magic stone in Paris

    I like the opening of the query. I had one question as I was reading, why have the fey suddenly decided to find the stone after sixteen years (or longer)? This doesn’t need to be answered, just know that it makes me feel like it’s all too convenient for the plot.

    When the fey kidnap her grandfather and threaten to murder him and other innocent people, has she found the stone by then or is she still looking for it? I feel that Sean and Luc sentences don’t need to be included, since they fall into the realm of trust being a lost currency and alliances coming with a price. You could say something along the lines of her trusting the wrong people and coming to the realization that she is on her own.

    Also, assuming she has found the stone, what is the stakes for her just giving it back to them? Are they not trustworthy? Would the stone give them supreme power? Along those lines.

    First 250:
    I would move more quickly through this, not focusing so much on how annoyed the customs agent is. No one likes going through that process, so reading it won’t be much fun either. This would give you more time to show a bit more of what is going with the strange man asking her to come with him.

    Also, any time I come through customs and with an USA passport, they ask me questions in English. They do that all day long and would not waste their time assuming the person speaks French.

    I love the strange tall man telling her to come with him. That is where the story gets exciting and where you need to spend more time!

    Short Girls Pack More Sass

    The first three paragraphs do a great job of showing what Lani in action toward her goal of getting to that race and finding her father. The fourth paragraph seems to shift to the antagonist and his goals. I would look for a way to reword it where Lani is the one doing. Maybe along of the lines of “when she discovers the blood magician and the thief are one and the same, she must…”

    Other than that, I think the query does its job.

    First 250:
    You use the insufferable twice about Amorfus Naele’s name. It probably was intentional, but it is distracting. I would only choose only place to use it.

    The interaction between the two characters is very good. I liked Lani right away.

    I love the last line. Though, with magic being part of this world, why would anyone be so sure that the dragon isn’t invisible? Plus, wouldn’t it be obvious as she climbed up to ride it? Wouldn’t they be able to feel him?

  9. Hey both! Great job getting this far—that means your story and pitch are really strong already. I’ll do my best to make constructive comments, but if they don’t resonate with you then feel free to ignore.

    1) MIST.
    Love the concept of this. Who doesn’t want to follow a treasure hunt round Paris for a magical stone, with the added tension of needing to save Grandpa & thousands of innocents along with it?

    Query: You do a great job of summarising the main plot here. I’d quite like the first para to be a pitch-type summary of the whole story, so I know what I’m getting into first. Then you can expand on the story in the following paragraphs. Also, the first sentence in the second paragraph is a bi awkward. Maybe strip it down or split it in two for clarity? Besides that, I think you need to expand on why Luc lures Dierdre to the ball. It makes him sound like he’s a baddie, but up until that point he seems like he’s the good guy. Maybe streamline that transition a little so it feels less bumpy? Also, I want to have a better sense of Dierdre’s character arc—what personal weakness does she have to overcome to succeed? But I’m being picky here. This sounds like a great adventure with lots of twists and turns—with the stakes upping at every stage of the journey.

    First 250: I’m not sure your story starts in the right place. We don’t get much of an idea about Dierdre or her impending quest or her relationship with her grandfather here, or the magical element of the story. Try and tie in as much as you can to the opening, particularly the emotional arc. You need to grip your reader right from the get go. If the border guard were a fae in disguise, maybe we could see something strangely magical happen that Dierdre puts down to jet lag (her passport that she was sure she put back in the zip compartment of her bag has disappeared & her grandpa shouts for her to look again, & it’s reappeared). That would do more to introduce a magical element, her grandfather being complicit in something other-worldly and her being at the centre of the problem. Something like that, anyway—just to tie it all in together better & get the reader thrown in to the intriguing elements of the story straight away.

    2) TO CHASE A SKY.
    There are lots of great elements to this story that have got me hooked—flying, invisible dragon, lost father, stolen magic—I’ve got serious grabby hands.

    Query: The first paragraph could be tightened to make the unique elements really zing off the page. Something like, ‘Sixteen-year-old Lani may not have magic, but she is determined to prove she’s the best dragon racer in all of Carronby Island. To find her long-lost father, she must reach the final of the dragon-racing championships, which is to be held in the country of his disappearance. But to qualify, she needs to give her invisible dragon, Orys, colour. When blood magician promises to help her, she allows him to break her bond with Orys [insert clear consequences and what she must do to fix the situation].

    That’s getting a bit long-winded now, so you might want to drop some of the elements & include them in the longer summary below. You might even want to ditch the blood magician from your opening paragraph / pitch to focus in on the dragon-racing contest and Lani’s desire to see her father again. I’m assuming she goes on to win the contest in the end and find her father? Put that in the opening paragraph before you expand on the plot in the rest of the query. Let the agent know they’re heading to a satisfying conclusion (or an unhappy one). I feel like I’ve rambled a bit, but I hope it’s a helpful ramble! I wrote the thoughts as they came to me!

    First 250: I love the voice. It gets right to the point. Lani is aces. I have serious grabby hands.

  10. I found a magic stone in Paris:

    Your query sounds really AMAZING! And your story is fascinating! I would suggest shortening or removing the end parts of the first line in your query, though. You want to get right into the action and jump from how her summer took a complete turn. Hook the agent in with the first line so it's best to remove the "fight grandpa on everything..." phrase. Another thing is that the second and third para have long sentences - it's good to break them up for more effect. Eg. "After Diedre's grandfather..." is a long sentence. Maybe cut out 'heart attack' and jump straight to coma because you only need to add the essentials. And you can cut down the last line to "If the dark magic doesn't destroy her first." Try to make the sentences short and effective in a way that it's shocking. And your stakes are WONDERFUL. I would definitely lovee to read your book! (Also, try to add comps if you found any - it's always a good bonus!)

    For the 250 words, you have me HOOKED! I'm curious to read on - what's happening with the guy? I would suggest cutting out as much '-ing' verbs as you can, mostly because agents don't like them. I completely relate to her about people butchering your name - i feel her pain. And I absolutely love the name!

    Short Girls Pack More Sass:

    The first line in your query packs a punch! It's wonderful & hooks the reader in, for sure! I absolutely love dragons! However, I'm curious as to why she isn't allowed to go to the country anyways? (As in without having to go there for the race) I'm not too sure of the word 'machinery' also because it changes the magical mood - maybe try a different word? The rest of the query is well-written and I love every bit of the stakes! I would love love love to read this book!

    Your 250 words are AMAZING! They bring out Lani's personality - especially the 'i'm sixteen!' part - it makes sense bcus people always underestimate teens. *sigh* I would suggest cutting out repetitions such as "insufferable as Amorfus Neale" - you've mentioned it twice. I would also suggest changing up this line "Being bonded with an invisble..." to show more of how everyone always thinks she's making Orys' up, or that her dragon doesn't exist. Adding a touch more of her annoyance in that line. I would also suggest cutting down this line to remove the "so hard her jaw popped" because it seems extra, whereas "She gritted her teeth" has a strong impact as a short line. Overall, your writing is amazing and you've really brought out Lani's voice!

  11. I found a magic stone in Paris

    Query: The beginning hook is great and you do a good job telling about the book. I'm assuming the genre and word count just got cut out for this contest. But even without that, your query is a bit long, maybe you could trim it up a bit.

    First 250: Very well done! The voice is great. I can't find anything to critique really, unless instead of saying "he wasn't amused" you put "He just stared at me, blinking once" or something like that. But good job, this is wonderful writing.

    Short Girls Pack More Sass

    Query: Love the premise (yay for dragons and a female rider!), but the query is a little too long. I feel like it should've stopped before the paragraph that begins "Lani doesn’t realize the blood magician and the thief...". That whole paragraph could be part of your synopsis since it reveals so many details about the antagonist. But the rest is really well told.

    First 250: This opening was exciting and funny! Love the character's voice. I don't have anything to critique except for something I'm not even sure is wrong, but I think you can delete the last comma in your first line. I wanted to read more so badly!