Friday, January 31, 2014

Become an Agent #1 - SPLICED

Genre: YA Science Fiction
Word Count: 65,000

Dear Agent:

Years of living in the sewers beneath Elite City have hardened seventeen-year-old Syl to all manner of creepy-crawlies—except the oversized ones that feed on human flesh.

The sewers are the only place safe from the nocturnal bug-monsters that wander the overgrown city streets. During the day Syl scavenges for food among the abandoned skyscrapers, but at night the Cull come out looking for a meal of their own. She thought the fight was over; that these remnants of a genetic war were being driven by whatever’s left of their mangled synapses. She thought they could be exterminated, the city rebuilt and the population replenished. She’s wrong.

Whoever created the Cull isn't done playing God. While scouting, Syl is abducted. She’s tortured in horrific experiments that result in her DNA being spliced, slowly turning her into one of the bugs. Now she must find a cure and stop the person who violated her body before every remaining man, woman and child is transformed into the abomination they fear.

SPLICED is a 65,000 word YA science fiction novel.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

First 250:

“Please, Sylvia, give me a moment to think.”

I hide a smirk behind my pale hair, holding my hands up in surrender. Some people play cards or read to pass the time—well, those who can read. For me, pestering Serge with my questions has always been so much more rewarding.

“Fine,” I say innocently. “You don’t have to tell me a fourth time.”

He turns away from the dark room in which he’s shining a flash light to glare at me. His face is young, but with worry lines etched into his forehead—most of them because of me, if I had to guess. I haven’t been a kid for years, but that doesn’t keep him from treating me like I’m attached to his imaginary umbilical cord.

I study the greenery that grows through the tall, shattered windows. Vines crawl in from the outside world, an infestation that makes the building look like a slim lady in a green dress. From here I can see the tops of Elite City’s other buildings, crumbling and broken. Rusted metal contraptions line the street and veer onto sidewalks. I step closer to the window, my boots crunching on broken glass.

“Syl, be careful,” Serge says, his tone resigned.

I think briefly about pretending to slip and fall out the window, if only to feel his vast collection of muscles press against my body when he “saves” me, but decide against it. The crew would never trust me again, and then I would lose all of this


  1. Yes. I really didn't want to care about these big bugs, but the setting descriptions and plot idea won me over. That said, I wanted to know earlier on in the query that Syl was a girl, and earlier in the sample who Serge was to her (father, brother, friend). (Entry #19)

  2. Kafka's METAMORPHOSIS never left me after I read it in college. So I love the premise and it makes me fear for Syl--because I want a happy ending her for.

    Re: your query: How many years has she lived underground?
    "come out looking"= hunt?
    "were being driven by whatever's left of their mangled synapses"=? (I didn't understand this part. She thought they were dumb?)
    For the second 'she thought'. Maybe she believed?
    re: Your 250: Describe who Serge is right away. I thought he was a little brother, so startles me when he isn't.
    If she hasn't been a kid for years--how old she is?

    From the query, I vote YES. The 250 doesn't paint much of the main character. I'd like to see HER strong somehow, rather than rattling the guy's cage.

  3. No, but only because I didn't quite connect with the characters the way I did in the two I chose to vote yes to.

  4. (Entry #13)
    I like the idea behind this, but it just didn't grab me the way I wanted it to.
    While the stakes are high (which is wonderful!) you need to include some clarifying details in your query.

  5. No.
    Mostly, I don't like the impersonal nature of the plot. You have your MC who is scraping by, but then the over powering menace comes by and abducts her to torture her. I'm left wondering two things: Why her? and possibly more nefarious, Why is the bad guy doing this? It seems very unlikely that the villain is gaining anything from turning people into bugs, so it might really help to know why the villain wants the world turned to bugs otherwise it just feels like a convenient--and evil--scientist is maliciously destroying the world for no good reason. I'm sure this isn't the case, so maybe pull back the curtain on your bad guy so we can understand how this terrible situation has come about.

  6. Your first hook sentence is great - except coupled immediately with the next one sort of leads to some conflicting conclusions. It reads that the bug-monsters are in the sewers with her, then the second one says she is safe there. Clean this up, and the rest of your query is awesome, imho. :)

    The first 250 is a good combo of background and action. I know something imminent is about to happen, and I'd read on to know what. The characters really pop for me too (good description without bogging down the prose!). The only issue I see is that the conversation is confusing. She asks him a question (that she knows the answer to?) and he's pondering how to answer. Then that part cuts off and they talk about what's about to happen. Is the first bit really relevant? I don't know their history or why this is amusing to her, and since we don't know what the question is right away, and he doesn't answer it, I don't know if it adds anything to this excerpt.

    Those are my thoughts. Take 'em with the proverbial salt. :)

    But still, this is my first YES because, overall, both the query and the first 250 are interesting (love the premise... seriously creepy) and only need a few small changes to really strengthen them.

    Best of luck with this project!

    Jeannette (#6)

  7. #7
    Your query is tight and gives the main character and conflict in clear, concise sentences. The only sentence I found a tad awkward was “that these remnants of a genetic war were being driven by whatever’s left of their mangled synapses.” I get what you’re saying, but had to read it twice.

    I love, love, love your 250. The voice is strong, and I get a sense of who Syl is, as well as the impending danger. I so wanted to read more! I liked that she could still be seventeen and do seventeen-year-old things, like annoy Serge, in an unsettled world. It’s a great balance.

  8. This is tough, but I'd have to say no. Something about reading a teenager being tortured in horrific experiments doesn't appeal to me. The first 250 is well-written, though, and I like it. I feel like it might have been a yes if you rewrote that whole paragraph. Otherwise, I'm just very uneasy about the idea of what I might be about to read.

    It's a really, really close call, but ultimately, there are others that I would prefer to read if I only get three choices.

  9. No.
    But just barely - I really liked this! But I was confused by the query. Why was Sylvia abducted - just being in the wrong place at the wrong time? Or is there something genetic about her that called to the Cull?
    I like the early setup of her relationship to Serge.
    Good luck!

  10. Query:
    I don’t see any problems with your query. I went through some of the other comments, and while I agree it’d be nice if we knew why they chose Syl and why they’re doing this in the first place, the lack of those details isn’t a deal-breaker. I assumed you’ll have the reasons in the story.

    First 250:
    Your first 250 had a great voice and it was well-written. I want to read more. But I would suggest not ending your first 250 with “lose all of this—” just because there are a thousand things that could happen next. They range from bug attack to upset stomach. Try to trim a few sentences so you can get the next one in.

    Verdict: No.

    There was nothing glaringly wrong with your query or first 250, but YA Sci-Fi is a hard sell right now. I’m not an agent, but I had a conversation with Mandy Hubbard about it.

    Good luck!
    -Tiff (#3)

  11. Unfortunately, I have to say no on this. There was too much plot in the query. The first 250 words were decent, but only decent.