Friday, June 1, 2018

Query Kombat Round 1: Planet Panic vs Robot Hacker Girl

Title: My Best Friend Runs Venus

Entry Nickname: Planet Panic

Word count: 45K

Genre: Middle Grade Science Fiction

Query:

At 12.9 years old, Kade Walker has never heard of death. Literally. But neither has anyone else he knows. Kade is one of hundreds of kids "living" across the solar system through the use of robotic avatars while their real bodies sleep in pods on Earth. Nothing can hurt him this way; the adults all said so. They just never said how to survive middle school when only one person on the planet will talk to him.

Kade will admit, his obsession with numbers might deter 35.7% of people from hanging out with him. But the bigger issue is his best friend--Princess Tamika of Venus. So her mom almost let a crazed hacker take over everyone's bodies twelve years ago. The queen is locked away, and Tamika herself is really nice. Kade needs to give her reputation a serious reboot. He starts off simple: an interstellar tour using an old teleportation machine that he's reconstructed. But the machine's not rigged for current use, so when Kade fires it up, he unwittingly kills a major security wall and unleashes the same hacker from twelve years ago. Panic rating: ten times infinity.

The hacker shuts off all communications with the adults and begins to take control of the royal avatars. If Kade doesn't want to see his best friend used as a puppet, he needs to stop the hacker fast--even if that means waking up on Earth to fight with a body he never realized could be hurt.

MY BEST FRIEND RUNS VENUS (45,000 words) is an upper MG science fiction novel combining the virtual setting of READY PLAYER ONE with the adventurous planet-hopping of JACOB WONDERBAR. Thank you for your time and consideration.

First 250:

It wasn't the first time Kade had hacked the Venusian maintenance system, but it was one of the best. If he had to put a number on it (and there was very little he didn't put a number on), he'd give it a 9.7. The 9.8 and 9.9 scores were reserved for something epic he hadn't thought of yet, and 10.0 was for the day he would finally reprogram how his robotic body looked. Still, assuming he didn't get caught, his skills today would land him on a totally different planet. Maybe that deserved the 9.8 slot after all. If Tamika would hurry and get here, he could ask her opinion.

Kade straightened against a metal door embedded in a burnt orange mountainside and flicked his left wing. A line of glowing text scrolled across his view: 5:03:34pm. He'd checked the time fifty-three seconds ago, but whenever he wasn't reading data, he felt lost. The adults called it unhealthy. Healthy people could watch a sunset without calculating its luminosity every thirty seconds. Healthy people sounded boring. Besides, the numbers comforted him. Nobody got weirded out by constantly seeing their own hands, did they? His numbers were just that--an extra set of hands. Or wings. Or whatever.

Kade froze. His sensors detected a deep clunking sound that echoed across Venus' stone-hard surface. Low volume, maybe twenty to thirty decibels. His first thought was that it was a patrol robot, but it was coming too fast.


VERSUS



Title: Evie Zimmer and the Robot Misadventure

Entry Nickname: Robot Hacker Girl

Word count: 56K

Genre: Middle Grade adventure

Query:

Thirteen-year-old Evie Zimmer lives in Progress City, an Experimental Prototype City of Tomorrow where innovation is the yardstick of success. Always second to her brilliant sister, Evie desperately wants to win an invention competition and her parents’ love. But everything unravels when her dad loses his job—to robots. Now she only has eight weeks before her family will be forced to leave the home she loves.

Evie must keep her family in town. Her new goal: destroy the robots using coding and high-tech sabotage. If she kills the bots, her dad will get his job back. Problem solved.

Her sneaky plan seems to be working, until one night she stumbles across a grisly scene—blood-like graffiti and two robots hanging from their necks. Soon robots turn violent, and Evie discovers she’s not the only hacker in town. A vigilante named Malice will stop at nothing to use robots to attack the city and its citizens. Evie must race to outsmart her shadowy counterpart before her family gets hurt and the city she loves is destroyed, taking her dreams down with it.

EVIE ZIMMER AND THE ROBOT MISADVENTURE is a Middle Grade tween adventure story, complete at 56,000 words.


First 250:


The day the robots came, the Florida sun was ripe. Heat rippled over Progress City. Sprinklers pumped water heroically over manicured gardens, and palm trees drooped as if chasing their own shade. Dark clouds hung just over the horizon, but the summer storm was too far away to offer relief.

At least our monorail car was cool.

I sat as close to the fan as I could, lifting my chin so the air would blow against my forehead. Every jolt of the train sent waves of coolness my way. Only one short trip through the Green Belt before we reached the mall, then we could bask in air-conditioning and work on our invention.

My fingers tapped the plastic windowsill. Time was running out. Our team only had two hours to work on the project after school. If we didn’t get some basic engineering on paper this week it was going to be hard to finish at all. There were sensors to design, programming to write—-we needed to figure out what the thing would even look like.

“There’s a new collection out at Tren-D,” said Moira. “New dresses, really cute. We could check them out for the project.”

Moira wore a pale blue sleeveless top and black skinny jeans. I loved that look. She had a softness about her, a twinkle in her eyes behind her glasses. She was also the sweetest person on the planet. Her voice warbled like a little bird.

20 comments:

  1. JUDGES ONLY: Please reply to this comment with your feedback and match decision. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Alright, first matchup. Le’s go!

      PLANET PANIC:

      QUERY:

      This query starts off great. The 12.9 instantly tells us something about the voice of the character and you do a good job of explaining what makes this world different from ours in a short paragraph.

      I found the sentence structure (or perhaps order of the sentences) in the second paragraph to be a bit clunky. I like that you explain the numbers, but perhaps you should jump right into Tamika, since I’m assuming she is the only person who talks to him as described in the first paragraph, which makes her special to your MC. I’d recommend using her as a direct link to the first paragraph, and then a little more clearly explaining her sullied reputation and mommy issues.

      The stakes are there, it sounds like a fun story. Great job.

      First 250:

      I again like the bit with the numbers. I don’t think you need the parenthetical explanation, however, because it’s clear in later sentences why he numbers things and showing is better than telling. One question: Is it an actual wing, or is that what he calls his arm? You don’t need to necessarily explain this right now, but it was confused a bit.

      I’d like to know a little bit more about the space he is in physically, but you do a solid job of establishing the character. He sounds nerdy, but not in an arrogant way, so that’s refreshing.

      ROBOT HACKER GIRL:

      Wow, this query is so clean and easy to read that it’s almost clinical, ha. It’s clear you’ve done a lot of work polishing it. Great job.

      My only real recommendation would be a few more specific details, especially to show us a bit of why she loves Progress City. The query could benefit from the voice of the character a bit. We’re told it’s a city she loves, but outside of the first sentence, we don’t know what makes it special to her. This will help sell the stakes and make the query pop a bit.

      The part of the robots hanging from their necks is really the only visual image we get, and it’s effective. I’d like some more of this.

      FIRST 250:

      Your sample is full of wonderful spacial detail. However, there are three different things going on in your first 250 that seem a bit disconnected. The heat, the robots, and her willingness to get going on her project could perhaps be connected more. She could be feeling the heat both literally and physically. Maybe play with the sentence order a bit to sell the connection.

      Otherwise, I don’t really have a lot of advice.

      This is hard. I love the voice of Planet Panic, and there are some nice juicy details. Robot Hacker Girl is more polished, but a bit vague. I think there is great potential in both and really want to see both of your edits.

      But there can be only one.

      WINNER:
      Planet Panic

      Good luck to both of you.

      Delete
    2. PLANET PANIC

      I adore the opening to this query. That first paragraphs has a great bit of voice and a solid hook into this world. And that trend continues for the rest, and I love the stakes in the third paragraph. Good job! The only things that jumped out at me while reading are in the second paragraph:
      1) Feels like there's a few words or a sentence missing in the 2nd paragraph around the "So her mom..." and "The queen is locked away..." sections. Something like "So what if her mom..." or a "Big deal" inserted between the sentences, but obviously in your own voice.
      2) What exactly is wrong with Tamika? She's unpopular because of her mom? If so, how does that effect Kade? Will making her popular thus make him popular? Is she sad and he wants to cheer her up? I'm confused about what exactly is going on with her and why its his problem.

      Your 250 has a great opening line, and the numbers thing is fantastic voice. The mention of a wing in the second paragraph with no followup explanation threw me pretty hard, however. I assume it's a function of his robot body, but is it one he added? Does everyone have wings? Are the kids all flying robo-dragons? A quick bit of explanation will go a long way when introing such an unusual concept (and could add a cool bit of worldbuilding/characterization for Kade, depending on what said explanation is).


      ROBOT HACKER GIRL

      Yay for hacking! Always love seeing stories like this. Your query hits the Big Three (character, conflict, stakes), but I think you need to take it a step further with specifics. Why, exactly, does she love Progress City? Why must her family stay in town vs moving elsewhere? And why is Malice attacking the city? Seems like someone turning the bots against people would actually accomplish Evie's goal of getting her dad's job back (minus the whole 'destroying the city' angle). The bones are solid; I think it just needs a bit more flesh on it.

      For the 250, also, pretty solid. The first sentence tripped me up trying to imagine a ripe sun, but that might just be me. My only real suggestions here are for (again) a few specifics. What exactly is their invention? Seems like a good, quick detail to add for a bit of worldbuilding to help set the story apart. Also about the invention, I think the opening could benefit from a short blip of interiority/emotional reaction from Evie regarding the project. They're running out of time! How does that make her feel? Stressed they won't finish? Confident because she and her friends are amazing? Hungry because she skipped breakfast to get to work on it? I like her cuddling up to the AC on the train, but I just want a bit more of a glimpse into her head early on.


      Both of these are strong starts to what sound like amazing stories, but, as in Highlander, there can be only one.

      Victory to PLANET PANIC!

      Delete
    3. -----------------------------
      Planet Panic
      -----------------------------

      Query: There is a lot of good things going on here, but it’s still in need of some work. The query creates a lot of unnecessary questions, for example, why the parents want their kids to “live” in this way. However, for me things started to really far apart at “So her mom almost…” The use of “So” here is nice, in that it feels conversational, but the plot point being told is a bit confusing. So her mom did X, sure, sounds bad, but then we just know she is locked away, and not really anything else. Further, we get titles of Princess and Queen here, and much later a reference to “Royal Avatars,” but it’s unclear how this matters. What is the difference between a Royal Avatar and not?

      I like that we get some sense of the stakes in the 3rd paragraph, though why Kade is going to have better luck using his real body vs his Avatar isn’t entirely clear (it seems like a bad strategy?)

      First 250 words: I like a lot of things here. My only minor quibbles (and they are very minor) is:


      1. Why is Kade’s robotic body not appealing to himself? Generally (though not always) people have control over their avatars in these kinds of things. If they don’t, I’d think we’d want that explained.

      2. You say “Kade straightened against a metal door,” but I’ve no idea what this means. Was Kade kneeling? Flying? Hunching? It’s an odd initial action, as it makes me feel like I missed a step. Also we know Kade’s robotic avatar has wings, but we don’t really have any idea what it looks like beyond that? I assume it’s some sort of mech with wings like Gundam Wing?

      --------------
      Robot Hacker Girl
      --------------

      Query: This is a solid query. I assume “Malice” ends up being Evie’s sister? I like that I get a very strong sense of who Evie is, as well as the stakes. I feel like if you expanded any more of the plot points referenced you’d have to bloat the query with too much information, so while I have a few minor questions, none of them are big enough for me to fault the query. If I was an agent, I’d assume the synopsis would fill in the blanks. That being said, if you want to tinker at all, do the robots die from being hanged? Generally robots don’t need air, so I assume it’s more of a symbolic threat/omen?

      First 250 Words:

      This is a solid intro, in that it introduces Evie well, but unlike the query, there are things here that really make me question reading more. For starters, this is a futuristic world where monorail cars are not fully air conditioned? The existing monorail in Disney world (I reference solely since this is also set in Florida) is fully air conditioned and has been for a while (possibly since it was first created in the 1970’s?) So...that seems to be a bit odd.

      Secondly, if Evie is pressed for time for her project why is she going to the mall? Is she meeting her team there? If so, great, but right now, because of Moira’s statement, it sounds like she is going shopping, though possibly that is related to the project? I know it’s only 250 words, and I am ASSUMING that this is immediately explained in the next page or so, but right now, I’m curious what on earth Evie is doing.

      ----------------
      THE VICTOR: Robot Hacker Girl, solely because the query is stronger.

      If it were based on what I’d want to actually read, Planet Panic is way more my style, but the query needs more work that Robot Hacker Girl. That being said, BOTH of these are quite good, and I bet with a little tinkering here and there, either/both would find themselves an agent and publishing deal.

      I know we judges always say this, but honestly, this was was very hard considering it is round 1. I won’t be disappointed if Planet Panic ends up being the overall winner, but I do hope they’ll rework their query (if they get that chance.)

      Delete
    4. PLANET PANIC:
      Query:
      Great stakes! Great characterization.
      “They just never said how to survive middle school when only one person on the planet will talk to him. “ something in this sentence made me stumble. I think it may be a bit wordy? I also don’t know if Tamika and Kade talk in real life or just as robot avatars? (also, how does the virtual world differ from the real world? I can’t get a good idea on what it is like vs reality. You mention READY PLAYER ONE – is it fantastical like the Oasis? Or is it more realistic? Just a couple of words on that would be good)

      “Kade needs to give her reputation a serious reboot.” – part of me wants a word or 2 indicating if Tamika asks for this, or if Kade takes it on himself. I don’t really have agood idea about who Tamika is as she is only presented in terms of other people (her mom and Kade). Just a couple of words that will make us care about her and her wants/needs/dreams

      First 250:
      You opening paragraph is really great. We get the voice right away, and learn a ton about the world and Kade. Well done.
      “Kade straightened against a metal door embedded in a burnt orange mountainside and flicked his left wing.” – there’s a lot going on here. Maybe fewer adjectives on the door and mountainside (which still does not give me a clear idea of the world)… most interesting bit is “flicked his left wing” !! WHAT he has wings that is so cool! Don’t bury this casually. Bring that up to the front of the sentence, and build from there. It tells us the world is not like ours! Much more illustrative. Very visual. I am more interested in the material and color of his wings than of a door and a mountainside.

      Love this 250 overall.

      ROBOT HACKER GIRL:
      Feeback:
      Query:
      I think you can tighten up a bit, and tell us a bit more about Evie – what is her inventing specialty? (programmer? Engineer? Designer?)

      I think you may be giving a bit too much backstory – the inventing competition seems to not be relevant. Your start is at the robots taking dad’s job. So I’d get to that sooner.

      The “win her parents’ love” bit seems kind of heavy-handed to me? She seems to have 2 family issues going on: her sister and her parents. Maybe combine to simplify, like “see her parents smile the same way they do when [sister] wins things” or something like that. Make it more real and visual (aka show don’t tell) what that moment she longs for looks like to her.

      I really like the sound of this story and think you have something special here!

      First 250:
      You have a slight tendency to show us something (very awesomely!) and then tell us the same thing again. Take this example: “My fingers tapped the plastic windowsill. Time was running out.” – the fingers tapping already tells us that she is impatient, that time is ticking. That is much more elegant than stating it. You don’t need both.

      The last paragraph gives us lots and lots of detail about Moira. Can we get some of that in with her dialogue? She obviously loves fashion from her suggestion. Her voice warbling can be indicated when she speaks. It just seems like a long description that derails the “what is happening next” (like a detour). I want to learn more about the world and the story – details about what her friend is wearing are not needed yet. Also, show us that she is the sweetest in how she acts to Evie and strangers as we go… that will be stronger than you telling us so early in the story.

      Great work overall. Love the visual of the monorail and especially love the details about Evie’s thinking on the project – that immediately makes me like her a lot and want to get to know her mind more!

      VOTE:

      tough call between these 2. I love SCI FI and MG, and both Kade and Evie seem like wonderful brainy kids. But I'm going to have to go with:

      PLANET PANIC

      Delete
    5. PLANET PANIC

      This query started out with a great opening, but as it went on, I sort of got lost in the details. I think you need to narrow the scope of the query.

      Unfortunately, my brain was also fighting the incredulity of a person who has lived their entire life as an avatar suddenly leaping out of a pod to take on the enemy. I know what I'm like after I don't exercise for a week ... so take what I have to say with a hefty grain of salt: my issues with both the story and the query are quite subjective. However, I had such a hard time with the concept/query, I couldn't get into the first 250 pages.

      ROBOT HACKER GIRL

      I loved the query for this, because you showed me the most important parts of the story. You gave me a strong character, her conflict, and her character's arc. I liked how the story also seemed to moving into a murder (bot or not) mystery. The query hooked into the first 250 words, and those made me want to read more.

      Victory to ROBOT HACKER GIRL

      Delete
    6. PLANET PANIC
      Query:
      Oh woooow neato. Love this concept. When helicopter parents go badly wrong…
      Second para: “So her mom…” Take out the “so”

      A hacker taking them over!!! Double cool. I’m having trouble seeing how a trip in a teleportation machine will reboot her reputation, though. Any way to briefly connect these two ideas would help me.

      250
      I have no issues with this at all, though I would remove “sound” from after “clunking” – it’s assumed, I think, that clunking is a sound.

      ROBOT HACKER GIRL

      Query:
      First para: “Everything unravels” is a little cliché. I’d reword.
      “Taking her dreams down with it” seems like a softening of the goals at this point. The destruction of the city seems to overshadow her other goals, especially because those are a bit nebulous to begin with – she doesn’t want to be a skilled engineer, truly. She just wants her family to love her, it sounds like.

      250:
      Good imagery here. And I love that there’s a monorail in the city of the future. Very 1964 :D

      This is a tough choice. But the concept of one hooks me slightly more.

      VICTORY TO PLANET PANIC

      Delete
    7. Planet Panic:
      The first paragraph of the query is really tight and intriguing. I got a sort of MG Matrix feel from the concept overall, which I think is exciting. You lose me on the second paragraph, with a ton of detail that feels more like plot summary than a pitch. The sentence beginning with “So” particularly confused me.

      I like the specific number fetish Kade has going on. I think it might be a touch heavy-handed in the first 250, though. Maybe introduce it a bit more sparingly at the beginning of the story, or else as a reader I worry that it’s going to be there in every single paragraph of the book, which would be overwhelming. I do like where the sample ends. I definitely want to read on!


      Robot Hacker Girl:
      I love the concept here, as well as the female hacker MC. The tone of the query is very dark overall, which I’m always a sucker for. Are robots hanged by their neck too dark for MG, perhaps? That detail worried me a little (maybe I’ve just watched too much Handmaid’s Tale…).

      In the sample, I’d like more detail about the project being built. What is it, besides a “thing?” Not knowing, I can’t start to fully invest in them getting it done on time. And though I LOVE Tren-D for a store name, the description of Moira and her clothes didn’t do much to keep me interested and wanting to read more. You can save that description for later and focus on clearly defining the premise of the story, and the importance of the main characters to that premise.

      VICTORY goes to: Planet Panic

      Delete
  2. My Best Friend Runs Venus is a super title! Very Avatar-ish premise that is super interesting. I love the use of percentages in the query. It speaks to your command of your main character's voice. To improve your query, may I suggest you condense it down, leaving out details not related to THE HOOK OF THE BOOK. If you do that, I'm guessing 92.87% of those you query will scroll down to read your super opening pages!

    ReplyDelete
  3. First off, both entries sound absolutely amazing and the 250 words hooked me too! I can't wait to see these stories on the bookshelf some day! That said, onto the feedback :) I find it easier to do inline critiques, and will insert my own notes [in brackets like this]. Also, since it looks like I exceeded max character count, I'm gonna split my stuff into a couple comments

    MY BEST FRIEND RUNS VENUS

    QUERY

    At 12.9 years old, Kade Walker has never heard of death [love this opening, immediately grabs my attention and the funky way of informing age is a nice foreshadow of the character's personality]. Literally. But neither has anyone else he knows. Kade is one of hundreds of kids "living" across the solar system through the use of robotic avatars while their real bodies sleep in pods on Earth. Nothing can hurt him this way; the adults all said so. They just never said how to survive middle school when only one person on the planet will talk to him. [honestly, very clean first para :)]

    Kade will admit, his obsession with numbers might deter 35.7% of people from hanging out with him.[nice] But the bigger issue is his best friend--Princess Tamika of Venus. [Her] mom [might've] almost let a crazed hacker take over everyone's bodies twelve years ago, [but] queen is locked away, and Tamika herself is really nice. [just feels kind of funky with the previous phrasing, almost like it should be phrased as a question (ie. "So what if her mom almost let a crazed hacker take over everyone's bodies twelve years ago?") but from what I've seen in QK threads, rhetorical questions are a no-no...so I rephrased it slightly. Either that, or reading onto the next line, I think something in this sentence hinting of WHY Tamika's rep needs a reboot in this preceding sentence would be nice (ie. "Even though the queen's locked away, that doesn't stop the rumors about Tamika being crazy/insane/some-adj from swirling through the system")] Kade needs to give her reputation a serious reboot. He starts off simple: an interstellar tour using an old teleportation machine that he's reconstructed. But the machine's not rigged for current use, so when Kade fires it up, he unwittingly kills a major security wall and unleashes the same hacker from twelve years ago. Panic rating: ten times infinity. [nice! escalation of stakesss]

    The hacker shuts off all communications with the adults and begins [taking] control of the royal avatars. If Kade doesn't want to see his best friend used as a puppet, he needs to stop the hacker fast--even if that means waking up on Earth to fight with a body he never realized could be hurt [I LOVE THIS ENDING PITCH].

    MY BEST FRIEND RUNS VENUS (45,000 words) is an upper MG science fiction novel combining the virtual setting of READY PLAYER ONE with the adventurous planet-hopping of JACOB WONDERBAR. Thank you for your time and consideration.

    FINAL THOUGHTS

    Overall, I really think this query was well done and clean! Honestly, not much to change (if anything). My biggest suggestion is to hint of WHY Kade thinks Tamika's reputation needs a reboot. So obviously her mum's got a bad rep, does this bad rep pass down to her daughter? Is Tamika treated with suspicion? Just a quick line or something indicating that would help clarify tons imo!

    FIRST 250

    Your character's voice totally leaps off the page! Also fantastic hook to end on--would definitely love to read more.

    ReplyDelete
  4. **************************

    EVIE ZIMMER

    QUERY

    Thirteen-year-old Evie Zimmer lives in Progress City [, an Experimental Prototype City of Tomorrow][wondering if everything bracketed before this could be deleted if needed in order to reduce the number of proper nouns to keep track of/streamline?] where innovation is the yardstick of success. Always second to her brilliant sister, Evie desperately wants to win an invention competition and her parents’ love. But everything unravels when her dad loses his job—to robots. Now she only has eight weeks before her family will be forced to leave the home she loves.

    [Evie's] new goal: destroy the robots using coding and high-tech sabotage. If she kills the bots, her dad will get his job back[, and her family won't have to move]. Problem solved.

    Her sneaky plan seems to be working, until one night she stumbles across a grisly scene—blood-like graffiti and two robots hanging from their necks[ooooh the stakes escalate]. Soon robots turn violent, and Evie discovers she’s not the only hacker in town. A vigilante named Malice will stop at nothing to use robots to attack the city and its citizens. Evie must race to outsmart her shadowy counterpart before her family gets hurt and the city she loves is destroyed, taking her dreams down with it.

    EVIE ZIMMER AND THE ROBOT MISADVENTURE is a Middle Grade tween adventure story, complete at 56,000 words. [niice!]

    FINAL THOUGHTS
    Again, a wonderful query, cleanly written with clear stakes and what's at risk! Awesome job :D

    FIRST 250

    That first para was GOLD. I felt so immersed in the setting already. I think one suggestion I would like to make is if you could specify "invention", that would be fantastic, as "invention" is such a vague term, and if the MC is passionate about it, I think she might choose to be a bit more specific/descriptive? Especially since you then go on to talk more about the "invention" about the team needing to get the basic engineering on the paper and not having much time to work on the "project" (which, again, is not a descriptive term so it's hard for me to conjure a picture)

    But other than that, I really loved your first page and would love to read on too!!


    ReplyDelete
  5. My Best Friend Runs Venus

    Query: It had a fun and engaging tone. A couple nitpicks: Kade estimates 35.7% of people won't talk with him, but also thinks almost no one will (higher than 35.7%). Also, the story feels MG and not upper MG to me, due to the age of the character, the length of the story, and the overall tone (which isn't a negative thing, just not seeming to be on the older end of MG).

    First 250: It effectively established what makes Kade unique, without feeling like an info-dump. It confused me a bit how hacking a maintenance system can land him on another planet, unless that's just an expression alluding to his skills, in which case I'm wondering why he's hacking the system. Since Kade has wings, I wonder how the rest of his robot body looks, but if that’s all explained later in the chapter that would work too.


    Evie Zimmer and the Robot Misadventure

    Query: I liked that it got to the point, and Evie was a very active protagonist. My only suggestion would be to try to find a better way to fit in the sentence about the brilliant sister/invention competition, if that's important. That part, while helping establish Evie as a character, felt out of place because those things don't directly come up again in the query.

    First 250: The foreshadowing about the robots was a good opening line, and it’s nice that there’s also tension regarding Evie’s current entanglement with the project. My only questions at this point regard why going to the mall is necessary. Just for the AC? Are they carrying any equipment?

    ReplyDelete
  6. PLANET PANIC
    Query:
    Fantastic voice in the query, and fun, intriguing concept. I did find a couple of things confusing: 1) only one person will talk to him doesn’t match up with 35.7% won’t hang out with him; 2) if no one will talk to Kade, how could he be the right person to give Tamika’s reputation a reboot (and not clear why her mother’s crime sullies her, especially if she’s really nice)—it seems he’s the one whose reputation needs a reboot. Also not clear to me what an interstellar tour does for anyone’s reputation (are they taking other kids along, giving them a unique opportunity?). Last paragraph is great—stakes are clear and the query is intriguing.

    First 250:
    Strong voice, with a great touch of humor and good pacing. I’d suggest taking out the parenthesis in the second sentence, as it distracts and tells. I’m a little confused as to exactly what Kate is doing, and found the first sentence of second paragraph confusing. Did not fully understand the extra set of hands/wings reference. I wonder if maybe moving everything after “healthy people sounded boring” to a later point in the story, and including a bit more detail about what exactly is going on in this scene would help. Just a thought.

    Good luck!

    ROBOT HACKER GIRL
    Query:
    Strong query, and really intriguing concept. I know how hard it can be to figure out what story elements to include in the query when you have a complex plot, especially when your protagonist’s main goal shifts early on in the story—but I wonder if you need to mention the invention competition, since it doesn’t come up again in the query. Also, doesn’t seem to make sense to talk about everything unraveling, because it seems things are already not going well for her. If she can come up with a way to save her dad’s job, she will both prove her innovation AND win her parents’ love. So maybe the set up is she wants to prove herself/win her parents’ love, and now has the chance to do so, but because of a terrible event. Maybe just her dad getting his job back is a clear enough objective (because we don’t really know why she must keep her family in town). Not sure you need “taking her dreams down with it” at the end, as it doesn’t specifically tie back to anything in the query.

    First 250:
    Great opening line! And great job describing the setting in first paragraph. Might help to be more specific about what the invention is, as the third paragraph seems a little vague. It tripped me up that Moira wants to check out dresses for the project (are they to be used in the project, or worn while working/presenting?). Last paragraph doesn’t connect back to anything and I think is too much description for this point in the story, takes us out of the action. Maybe you can add this detail at later points?

    Good luck!

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  7. Fake Invisibility T-ShirtJune 2, 2018 at 9:14 AM

    Planet Panic

    Great query, especially the opening paragraph. I liked the way you used numbers to convey Kade's voice. The second (middle) paragraph got a little clunky...maybe I was looking for clearer tie-in to why he only has one friend in the universe. Nerd alert...35.7% deterred by numbers still leaves a pretty good friend pool. ;) Strong closing that's a little reminiscent of The Matrix. Nice work!

    250
    We get a strong sense of who Kade is, and the numbers motif continues to work well. I found myself wanting a little more sensory, tactile detail about where he is. We know it's a totally different world...inquiring minds want to be shown more! Again, good job.

    Robot Hacker Girl

    Good job with the query! The first two paragraphs roll along at a good clip. I felt a minor disconnect with the third paragraph, maybe because the villain seemingly comes out of nowhere. Perhaps you could quickly hint at a hostile presence in that middle section. Something else that might strengthen the closing is a full-circle allusion to Evie's heart motivation--to be recognized and loved. The risk of losing that dream is a powerful aspect of her stakes, and gives her emotional resonance.

    Your opening 250 is polished and compelling. We get a sense of her world, her setting, her friend...and the threat of a big change on the way. If I'm going to nitpick, I might like to see Evie's personality appear a little more quickly, maybe via spoken lines or another gesture. Great writing here!

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  8. Planet Panic: I love the premise of your book. However, I got a little lost in the second paragraph of your query. There’s a lot of information in there, and it took me a reread or two to figure out what was going on. I wasn’t sure why Tamika has a bad rep — if it’s because of what her mom did, that should be clearer. I’d probably break it into two paragraphs and maybe lose the line about Tamika being nice — I’d already take that as a given if Kade likes her so much.

    Your stakes are great and I love the voice in your 250 words. Best of luck!

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  9. Planet Panic: I love the premise of your book. However, I got a little lost in the second paragraph of your query. There’s a lot of information in there, and it took me a reread or two to figure out what was going on. I wasn’t sure why Tamika has a bad rep — if it’s because of what her mom did, that should be clearer. I’d probably break it into two paragraphs and maybe lose the line about Tamika being nice — I’d already take that as a given if Kade likes her so much.

    Your stakes are great and I love the voice in your 250 words. Best of luck!

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  10. My Best Friend Runs Venus

    Query:

    Great start to the query. I get a sense of both the character and the world very quickly. Well done! I agree that it might help to get to the problem with Tamika sooner. I'm a little unclear on why her reputation has suffered. Overall, I think your stakes are good, but I think you could use a little more clarity on what will happen if the hacker isn't stopped. What happens if the robot bodies are hacked? I assume here the kids can wake up in their regular bodies and won't actually be hurt.


    First 250:

    You could use a tiny bit more about how the robot bodies work. The mention of wings hints that these can go beyond an ordinary human shape, so a little bit of description of Kade's avatar would help. Your opening does leave me wondering why Kade is trying to hack in and wanting to know more.




    Evie Zimmer and the Robot Misadventure

    Query:

    I agree that you could use more about why Evie loves her town so much. Why does she feel she must keep her family in town? I don't yet have a sense of what happens here if she fails to stay. Also, you mention the invention competition, but that doesn't come up in the query again. Is this connected to her hacking? I think you could use a few more specifics about Malice's plans.

    First 250:

    I would also like to know a little more about the invention. I think this will help us as readers better understand what school is like in this town. I'd like to see a little more that gives me a hint of Evie's character. What do the new clothes at the mall have to do with their invention? I feel like this would make more sense if I could read on.

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  11. I have to say, both these entries have such cool premises! So well done to both authors! Now onto the feedback.

    PLANET PANIC
    Both the query and the first 250 are really well-written. For the query, my biggest feedback is that I'm unclear on the MC's motivation. It seems like a large part of the plot is helping with his friend's reputation, but I'm not really sure why. Is she being bullied? Is there something else that makes it so important? Without knowing, the stakes may not seem high enough. As far as the MC's quirks, it did remind me of Counting by 7's, but in a good way. For the 250, overall I really enjoyed this. The bit about "the adults call it unhealthy," I was wondering if this was too vague? I was wondering which adults. His parents? A therapist? I'm not sure all adults would have commented. There were a couple of small grammatical things in the second paragraph. Two past tense verbs in the first sentence of the second paragraph threw me a little, as did the sentence with the time remaining which may need punctuation (I think). Overall, it's a really intriguing scene to start with and very nicely written! I like how we get a good sense of Kade's character from the get-go. Great work!

    ROBOT HACKER GIRL
    This premise is really interesting! It reminds me of the TV show WESTWORLD, which is hugely popular so that would likely help you market this. For the query, I was wondering how a teenager would be able to accomplish the task of defeating the robots? Is she a prodigy? If so, I'd likely say that in the query and make it obvious in her voice in the opening pages. To echo what someone else said, it does feel a bit vague on her plan to beat the robots. So maybe some specifics would help with that as well as my question on how she could achieve this. I get a clear sense of her motivation and it's people losing work to AI/robots is definitely a big issue so I think it's really marketable/relevant. As someone with many family members who have gone through lay offs, I think it's a really important issue and I'm so glad you're writing tackles this! Great job on that! For the 250, the opening is really beautiful. I was actually wondering, however, if it's a bit too beautiful. It almost sounds 3rd person narrator level of writing, but the rest is through the 1st person with more of a teenager voice. If she's supposed to be a prodigy it would fit, but then I'd suggest making sure the voice is consistent throughout. It left me sort of wondering about whether the voice matches MG or is more suited for YA. Guess it just depends on what you're going for overall. For the last paragraph, when she describes her friend's appearance, it pulled me out of the story because it felt like exposition for the reader. I'm not sure the MC would comment on her friend's appearance in that way, at least not all at once. So I would suggest spreading that paragraph out over a few pages, interweaving it amongst the dialogue and actions.

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  12. Both these entries are so good! There really isn't much room for improvement, but I will do my best.
    1) MY BEST FRIEND RUNS VENUS. So, I absolutely love Kade's voice. It's comes across really well in the query as well as the opening. I would only say that in the query you need to try and trim it back to essential worldbuilding to get the main stakes across. In this, I would say robot avatars, best friend & her need for serious PR plus bad mom & hacker. Tighten it up as much as you can to those things. Also, if you can give a sense of Wade's personal development arc too then that will really get the reader invested in the story. In the opening you want to try & limit the worldbuilding / tell-iness as much as possible to let us get properly immersed in Wade and the adventure. But I'm being really nitpicky here. Your story is really strong otherwise it wouldn't have got this far in the competition!
    2) EVIE ZIMMER AND THE ROBOT MISADVENTURE. Love the title—perfect for the book—& the story sounds like a great adventure. In terms of improvement, I would say that any details you mention should really be tied into the plot. How does Evie’s relationship with her sister and her parents drive the plot forward? Is coding her area of expertise? What is Evie’s personal development arc? How does her father losing his job impact on her wanting her parents’ love? It just needs a bit of a jiggle to smoothly tie everything together. Lovely descriptive writing here. I could feel the heat coming off the screen! Maybe get a bit more of a sense of where the story is going in here? It doesn’t all have to be overt, but if you could maybe have her think about her sisterly rivalry, & her pressure to impress her parents? I’m being nitpicky really though.
    Best of luck to you both—such a tight competition between you!

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  13. PLANET PANIC:
    I LOVE your concept. It is so cool! I’m a fan of the quirky obsession with numbers, too. Really cute and definitely sets your character apart.
    The query for me becomes a tad confusing in the second paragraph when you’re talking about Tamika’s mom. Did her mom’s nefarious acts ruin Tamika’s reputation? How? And how will an interstellar tour fix her reputation? And why does he want to fix her reputation? I think if you find a way to make some of these things clearer, your query would REALLY sing! Also, is “the same hacker from 12 years ago” Tamika’s mom? If so, I’d just say “Tamika’s mom” again, otherwise it has me confused on whether or not we’re talking about a new person you haven’t mentioned before.
    Your third paragraph is KILLER. The last line about waking up his actual body back on Earth made me go “WHAAAAAT?!?!” So great job on that!
    For your first 250,
    I think your writing is really solid. The wing thing threw me, just because I had no idea what he’s supposed to look like. So my opinion on that is that if you’re going to mention something like that, give us more so we can get a good picture. If you don’t want to get into that on the first page because you’re afraid it would bog it down, hold off on that detail until we’re another page or two in.
    Really great! I’d read the heck out of this.

    ROBOT HACKER GIRL
    Honestly, I have no complaints about this query. I think it is very clear and gives me a really in-depth picture of what this book will be about. The only thing I might mention is that it would be helpful to understand why she loves her town so much that she needs to stay. If we can understand that, we’ll be rooting even harder for her to win. Also some kind of hint about why the other hacker is trying to hurt people would help. Just a detail or two to let us know what she’s up against.
    Your first 250:
    You have a lot of great imagery in your first paragraph, but then it seems to jump quickly from place to place and I’m not quite sure where to focus. I’m also confused about why they’re going to the mall if they’re running out of time to work on their invention. And lastly, what is the invention? I think if she’s proud of it, she would state it right out. That could be a really great way to infuse some character voice, too.

    Overall, great job to both of you!

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