Saturday, June 21, 2014

QK Round 3: World on a String vs. Girl Destroys World

Entry Nickname: World On a String
Title: The Day I Ruled the World
Word Count: 57,000

Genre: MG Fantasy

When twelve-year-old Teddy Bridwell gets caught practicing spells—instead of waiting until she’s thirteen like she was supposed to—she’s grounded and stuck doing inventory for her dad’s business.

That’s how she finds the enchanted barrette. When Teddy holds it, she can make people do anything she tells them to. For the first time in her life, she’s the one with the power.

But that power attracts the attention of a fanatic who looks like a knight out of a fairy tale and talks like he was sent by God. He wants to use the barrette to end all the pain and misery in the galaxy, even if human beings become mindless puppets in the process.

If Teddy destroys the barrette the wrong way, it will release the enchantment and let the bad guy claim it. So she’s playing “keep the barrette away from the crazy man” while she figures out the right way to un-make it. Now her shaky knowledge of magic and the stubbornness that’s gotten her into so much trouble are all that stands between humanity and slavery.

Maybe if she’d given the barrette to Mom and Dad as soon as she found it, none of this would have happened, but it’s too late for feeling bad. It’s time for Teddy to lace up her big girl shoes, fix the mess she’s made, and hopefully earn her parents’ trust.

First 250 words:

Spying is rude, and I would never, ever do it. Not without a good reason anyway, like needing to know if my parents suspected I'd been practicing spells in secret.

For Snooper's Delight, I needed a mirror, some magic, and a little privacy. Good thing I had my own bedroom, so I wouldn’t be interrupted by my bossy older sisters or nosy younger brothers.

I settled cross-legged on my bed, tugged on my pajama shorts to de-wedgie them, and balanced the mirror on my knee.

At six o’clock on a Saturday morning, Mom and Dad would be in the kitchen, eating breakfast alone and talking about stuff they didn’t want us to hear. That was the scene I had to picture to work the spell—the counter along the back wall and the big dining table surrounded by chairs. When the mental image was as clear as I could make it, I slid it into the mirror to replace the reflection. My brain relaxed, and I opened my eyes. There it was, a perfect picture of my parents with plates of eggs and glasses of juice set out on the table in front of them. I could practically smell the butter on the toast.

I had one second to enjoy my success before the side-effects hit me, the slam of crazy emotions that came with every spell. This time it was a wave of what-the-heck-does-this-have-to-do-with-anything sadness. Mean things people said to me years ago and disappointments I’d forgotten all about rolled in to drown me.


Entry Nickname: Girl Destroys World
Title: MAGICK 7.0
Word count: 85,000
Genre: MG Fantasy

There are two kinds of quests: the good kind and the bad kind. The good kind leads to pots of gold and unicorns and everlasting fame. The bad kind gets you and everyone you love killed. Horribly and painfully. Possibly by zombie sharks.

Fourteen-year-old Anne is leaving the orphanage she calls home to embark on a quest—and it isn’t the good kind. That’s what happens when you accidentally fulfill a prophecy. She could opt out, but then as per Paragraph 5 Subparagraph 3 of the Official Questing Regulations she’d be exiled forever and all of her friends would be tossed into a dungeon. But hey, at least she has options.

The goal?

Slay a silver dragon that doesn’t exist (that’s bad).

In just three days (that’s worse).

With only the guidance of a wizard with a platypus for an arm and a sassy holographic sparrow (that downright sucks).

Oh yeah, and to top it all off, what Anne doesn’t know—what no one knows, in fact—is that finishing this quest doesn’t actually save the world. It destroys it (so, you know, not exactly environmentally-friendly).

If she uncovers the truth before it’s too late, she’ll be a HeroTM.

If she doesn’t, everyone dies (that also sucks).

First 250 words:

At Saint Lupin’s Institute for Perpetually Wicked and Hideously Unattractive Children they didn’t play favorites. Each orphan was treated with the same amount of disdain and neglect. They were provided with one threadbare tunic, one pair of ill-fitting shoes, and one dusty and moth-eaten overcoat. They were given a daily ration of gruel, and they were bathed exactly once per month, just before going on duty in the coal mine. This, incidentally, was consistent with the advice given in the popular self-help guide, How to Raise Orphans and Make Money.

There were three ways to leave Saint Lupin’s. The first was to get adopted. Perhaps by a nice family who would whisk you away to your long dreamed-of castle on a hill—one surrounded by forests and glens, filled with interesting and friendly people, rich with history and bright with promise and hope. The board of governors was extremely pleased with its track record in this regard as it had managed to prevent all adoptions since the Institute’s foundation.

The second way was to reach the age of fourteen and be unceremoniously kicked out on your bottom.

The third way was to embark upon a quest. Although quests were heavily regulated (so they could then be heavily taxed), there were no restrictions regarding age or background and thus anyone could apply. The secret to a successful application was first to fulfill a prophecy (also heavily taxed). At Saint Lupin’s, both of these topics, that is, quests and prophecies, were considered particularly taboo subjects of inquiry.


  1. Allusion AssassinJune 21, 2014 at 8:21 AM

    Holy revised query! What an excellent rewrite. When I saw this paring, I thought I knew what my vote would be (and it wasn't going to go your way). I'm so impressed. You made this one of my hardest entries of the day.

    The only thing I was left confused about were the parents - why can't they help her now? Why is she on her own. I don't think you need a long explanation. Something short will do.

    This is all voice driven, which I always applaud. Still not a fan of your opening paragraph and after reading World I realized that the voice had previously kept me from wondering about plot.

    These are two terrific MG fantasies and I'd be shocked if they both weren't scooped up by some savvy agents.

    Girl destroys world has unparalleled voice, but in the end I'm left feeling the premise in World is stronger and it has better full package.


  2. World on a String: Really good query rewrite. The plot is much clearer now, nice work. Your opening page hasn't changed and is still good, although on rereading one thing I noticed - a lot of your sentences are pretty long. I'd try to vary them a bit more, and overall keep them shorter, which would make your writing even punchier and more voicey, especially for an MG.

    Girl Destroys World: As I said in Round 1, I can't judge a match-up with this entry in as I know the author and have read the full. So I'll just fangirl one more time and say that this story is brilliantly funny, original and voicey all through, with fantastic chracters and an incredibly pacy, clever plot.

  3. Princess PrimroseJune 21, 2014 at 9:10 AM

    Zomg, two amazing stories. In the end, it boiled down to which voice I liked better, which 250 words left me going, "I WANT MORE, DAMMIT." And that leads me to...


  4. World on a String: YIKES, that is possibly the best revised query I've ever seen! I remember seeing this one before and thinking it was okay but didn't sound like anything special--but wow, you've really taken this to a whole new level. Your conflict (crazy knight) and stakes (growing up, fixing her mistake, earning her parents' trust, and of course saving the world) and even the cool little details (that she found the barrette while doing inventory) just floored me. I like your first 250, too--you have nice voice, and I Iike the wave-of-sadness side effect. All in all: I'm in!

    GIRL DESTROYS WORLD: I am in love with this story. You have a 5-star-amazing voice, and I would buy this book for that alone! I also think the quest/prophecy angle sounds fun and unusual (in that is pokes fun at traditional fantasy without alienating fantasy fans). One thing: in your query, I'm not sure about the line "But hey, at least she has options." It sounds more out-and-out sarcastic (as opposed to the rest of your query and your first 250, which feel more fun) and a little off in tone. I had the same thought with some of the stuff in parentheses, and it makes me worry that the voice in the book itself will turn out to be more sarcastic (which can easily be overdone) than fun. But I still adore your first 250, and I think you have one of the strongest, must-read-now MG voices I've ever seen.

    My decision: ARRRRGHHHHHHH (that is the sound of my brain imploding as I try to pick between these two equally amazing entries). To be honest, I wasn't supposed to judge this round, but I snuck in so I could vote for one of my favoritest-ever entries, Girl Destroys World. But... I have been swayed. You have swayed me with the awesomeness of your query revision, World on a String. I still *adore* Girl Destroys World and NEED to read the rest, but at the same time, I think middle-grade readers may relate more to the main character of World on a String, plus it has a much stronger query where the plot feels fuller and more thought out. I changed my vote several times and agonized over this match-up so much... but in the end, I have to go with VICTORY TO WORLD ON A STRING.

  5. World on a String, I like how quickly you get to the point in the query but you lose a bit of voice there. Add in a cute little quip in your characters voice and it'll turn into a great hook

    Girls Destroys World.
    I love this. Nothing beats a great voice. Great job!

    Victory to Girl Destroys World

  6. This late in the game, I'm basing my picks solely on which book I'd be most likely to dig into first if both were on my shelf.

    Definitely a big change to the query. I like how you cut back on "setup" info in the first paragraphs, but the third and fourth get kind of complicated, and I'm wondering in the end why she doesn't just go to her parents for help.

    Nothing to add... just want to say: ZOMBIE SHARKS! I want to read this book, like, RIGHT NOW.


  7. Oh man, these are both terrific!

    I hadn't previous read your entry and love your premise. I'm a sucker for magic.

    I'm still a huge fan and the edits you've completed have only made your entry stronger.

    I have to go with the one I feel more compelled to keep reading, but well done and good luck to both!


  8. WORLD ON A STRING and GIRL DESTROYS WORLD, these are both fantastic entries! I'm sorry to have to pick just one--fantasy is my favorite genre, and you both have terrific premises and first pages. However, I felt the query for GIRL DESTROYS WORLD had a slight edge over WORLD's query, just because there's so much voice and humor in it. That said...


  9. WORLD: Great job improving the query! I love how you've added details and made the story line clearer. My only quibble is that I don't know if you need the last paragraph. It makes the query a little long (5 paragraphs) and you already had a good hook at the end of the fourth paragraph.

    GIRL: This hasn't changed much since I judged it before. I still think it's clever and voice-driven, but I don't have a character to connect with on the first page.


  10. WORLD ON A STRING This query, for me, read so clear and so did the pages. It was an easy read and somehow felt fresh. This book is something I'd love to see on the shelf so I could buy it for my niece and nephew and BFF's daughter.

    GIRL DESTROYS WORLD: I love the voice in both the query and the pages. I can see this becoming a successful book based on the unique voice added to a somewhat familiar premise. My only issue is that I really wish I knew more about Anne and had someone to connect to/care about in the query and manuscript. I think if you work on incorporating that, this query and the pages will be money.

    I can picture both of these as books already and something the MGers in my life would like but I'm going to have to give VICTORY TO: WORLD ON A STRING
    xoxoSally Draper

  11. STRING: This query was clear, but it felt like a list of events, not a comprehensive summary. I think you can also combine a lot of those short sentences and utilize transitions to create a sense of character. For instance, she's forced to work for her dad...but how does she feel about that? Is she trashing the office when she finds the barrette, or is she trying to be the perfect employee and she comes across the barrette while she's doing extra cleaning? As for the sample, I LOVED it, up until the very end, where I felt you were *telling* instead of *showing* her sadness.

    GIRL DESTROYS: I loved this query and the sample. I think you could end w/ a bit more OOMPH, but I really love the tone and the use of understated humor.

    This was really, really tough..but VICTORY TO GIRL DESTROYS.

  12. I realize that I'm saying this in every match-up but this is another impossible choice.

    STRING: This is such a great revision! I had a small problem understanding why Teddy couldn't just destroy the barrette but this new query completely clears that up. I love that we get a better sense of who the villain is and the stakes. This is such an improvement and I'm floored by the re-write. I thought the first 250 were strong before and they are still strong now.

    GIRL DESTROYS: I've said this over and over again in the last two rounds but I'd like to repeat it again: I am head-over-heels in love with this voice! Taking out a few of the characters in the query really helped trim it and the first 250 are still just as wonderful as I remember them! I just love the humor and sort of "proper" narrator voice throughout the query and first 250.

    WORLD ON A STRING has shown massive improvements and I think both MGs will hook readers. But I still can't get GIRL DESTROYS out of my head so, I have to give the victory to...


  13. Mrs. Malcolm ReynoldsJune 23, 2014 at 8:42 PM

    Tough call - both are so fun!


    I love your voice in the query, but I wanted to know a little more about the world. Is it our world? Is she a magical being that our world knows nothing about? I like the stakes and I like the plot, but I would clarify. Also, I wouldn't end the stakes with earning her parents' trust... it seems like you've lowered the stakes.
    Love the first 250 - her voice is so strong, here!


    Excellent query. It's cute and gets the point across, and I see the world. I personally wouldn't end in parentheses, but it does work here. The first 250 is a lot of telling but -again- it works.

    Great job, guys - really. But based on voice for the first 250, I'll go with GIRL DESTROYS WORLD!