Sunday, March 22, 2015

Become an Agent 2015 Post #7

Genre: YA Sci-Fi Adventure
Word Count: 63,000


Joey and her twin brother scored a ticket to a terraformed Mars but they may not make it, unless they stop a terrorist onboard their Airbus.

The year is 2058 and the Earth’s air is no longer breathable. A solar flare has scorched the planet, leaving the few people that remain hiding in small lead-lined homes. Luckily, Mars has been terraformed and is ready habitation. However, only the smartest and wealthiest seem to earn a ride off a dying planet.

Sixteen-year-old Joey (short for Josephine) never thought of going to Mars; sure she hoped, but didn’t everyone. Her life of painting and the once a week trip to the mailbox was good enough for her, until a golden letter arrived in the post. She and her twin brother, Jesse, were selected for the next flight to humanity’s last hope, a terraformed Mars.

Joey knows her life will never be the same, but what she doesn’t know is that a terrorist is onboard her shuttle. A fanatic, who claims to be saving souls, is hell-bent on stopping humankind from leaving their home planet of Earth. His group of extremists have sabotaged every flight to Mars thus far, unbeknownst to the general public, and their sights are set on the next mission. Joey and Jesse didn’t leave their mother and home behind just to die in space. They’ll stop the attacks and get to Mars, one way or another.

A YA sci-fi adventure, EMERGENCE, is complete at 63,000 words. With aspects of Kass Morgan’s, The 100, and the thrills of the film, Gravity, this space set adventure will appeal to readers of all ages. While, EMERGENCE, has series potential it works as a stand-alone.

First 250:

Of all the chores, she hated this one the most. Joey pulled a helmet over her head, and fastened the latch to her anti-radiation suit. All this work, every Monday, just to get the weekly post.

After flipping on her oxygen, she hit the red button on the wall. A buzzer sounded, the air whooshed from the room, and the thick steel outer door opened. Almost instantly, she was blinded by glaring light. The sun had been flaring these last few years, but never so much as recently.

Joey slid down her visor. A deep crimson sky reflected in the tinted lens of her old spacesuit, which her mother had bought from Goodwill. She trudged across the dusty earth, a cloud of scarlet haze kicking up as she stopped. While peering through shaded glass, she tried to imagine the land as her mother had described it. White puffy clouds, crisp green meadows, and crystal-blue water. Hard to picture now, with the reddish tint that covered the barren countryside before her.

A sun-scorched Earth was all she knew. That and her lead-lined home, rooted into the parched soil, deep in the heart of G-sector. She glanced to a row of curved roofs, from the tiny homes below the sand-covered hill of her sub-division. They were the lucky ones. D-sector, caught within the shade of the fully enclosed, and highly lavish, Sector-A.

Joey turned from the neighbors that she’d never meet, moving toward the tall steel box that adorned her outer bulkhead door.


  1. No.
    Fascinating concept - having to suit up like that just to get the mail - I really got the feeling of how trapped they must feel, but ultimately it just didn't work for me.
    You start your query with a pitch which is then repeated in the rest of the query - I'd cut that first paragraph. In the 3rd paragraph, I found myself wondering why the public didn't know about all those sabotaged flights - conspiracy?
    Finally - check your use of commas.
    First 250: Stronger than the query; I got some great visuals from your worldbuilding - well done. Ultimately though, just didn't grab me. Sorry!

  2. Query: Great premise. Excellent longline. The only problem with you putting the logline at the top is you repeat the information in the query. Also, "Terraformed Mars” was repeated too often. Leave the events more up in the air as to whether or not they stop the terrorists. Little less info here and there, and the stakes of the novel will really shine. First 250: Good voice, nice set up and I like the nostalgia about the Earth before this point. — Yes, based on the 250, high stakes, and premise. ( #10)

  3. Initially, I just note that you don't need "short for Josephine" in your query letter. You've already told us that Joey is female, and you can trust us to extrapolate that Joey is a nickname (also, if it isn't - does it matter?) But I love your hook.

    First 250:
    Flipping on her oxygen what? Mask? Tank? Hopes? It reads like there's a word missing, which is distracting. Otherwise, you've done a great job laying out the scene, but I wonder if there's a bit too much. We don't necessarily need the paragraph about the sun-scorched Earth right away. I'd rather get to the story a bit sooner and leave the explanation of the various sectors for when it's immediately relevant to the story. I'm not going to remember that paragraph when Sector A comes up later. Also, this is something I do all the time, but you don't need the "that" in the last paragraph.

    This is tough, because I really like it, but I'm on the fence. On the fence isn't "I have to have this," so a completely subjective no from someone who thinks you've got something that could be great with another pass through it.

  4. Ack. Half my query comments aren't there: I agree that the hook shouldn't be repeated in the query. But I still like it and would leave it there. Just rework the rest. Make the stakes a little more "They must do this or," rather than "failure is not an option." You want us to read the book wondering if they're going to make it.

  5. YES.

    YES YES YES. Can I have this book now??

    Your query does need some work as aforementioned above, BUT I LOVED your 250 so much I didn't care.

    I love how everything in the 250 is human and realistic. Goodwill, least favorite chore... I love it. It's like, I don't know, Big Hero 6 meets Scorch Trials. I want it. :D

  6. No.

    Bystander here. I went through all 20 entries, made my yes, no, and maybe pile. This started out in the maybe pile. Because I had only two spots left for maybe's, I had to do some cutting, and this one didn't make it.

    The premise is fascinating--like Mars is Willy Wonka's chocolate factory and she got the golden ticket. Loved that. One suggestion to the query is that if you're going to do a summary logline at the top (which I don't like, but some people do), I'd put in about them escaping earth. That makes the stakes clearer.

    The beginning revealed a lot about the world but not about the character. It did have atmosphere and world-building, though, which might strike someone else's fancy. I'm finding that I'm saying "yes" to a lot of the 250 words that have emotional impact right away, so it seems like personal preference here.

  7. Yes.
    You made my short list and then my final, but it was on the query and concept. The 250 wasn't as vivid as I would like to see, but I am so intrigued, I would ask for a "full" in hopes that it would fulfill the excitement of the query. What I would hope to find is a clear terrorist group with their own political/spiritual views and clear motivations. I would also hope to find the real emotional impact it would have for us to have to leave the planet, even as ugly as it now is, its all Joey knows.

    One thought- How is it that the terrorists are sabotaging every flight and no one knows? I cannot believe a world modifying mars to make it hospitable does not have social media.

    I am #12

  8. This was one of the first entries I read this morning and the fact that when I got to the end, I thought 'hey, where did that space one go?' tells me that this is a YES! Great premise and I love that the mention of going to the mailbox in the query turns into something much more dangerous in the first 250.

    That said, I have some suggestions...Starting the query with the logline doesn't work for me. I'd rather you use those words to hint at what the internal stakes/motivations are (besides survival, because there are some internal ones, right?????), how the two of them got a golden ticket if those are usually reserved for the rich and famous, and that sort of thing.

    In the first 250, I love the description, but want to know more about Joey. What does she really wish was in that steel box? Something's got to be motivating her to risk her life to check the post or she wouldn't do it every. single. day. Best of luck!

  9. Yes.

    For the query, my recommendation is to cut the first logline. I don't think it's necessary and it reads better without it. As well, you said terraformed Mars several times, so I'd try to rework it to avoid that repetition. I'd also cut "short for Josephine" and "of Earth" when you're talking about their "home planet" since that's implied. My one question would be, if the terrorists are intent on stopping people from leaving Earth, are they also killing them? That might be in important point to mention. My only other concern is whether the world building is fully fleshed out in 63k which is a little on the low side for YA.

    I was really pulled into the 250 and thought it was really well-written. My only suggest here is to cut everything after "A sun scorched Earth was all she knew." I think this is something you could work in later, but right in the beginning I'd like to learn more about Joey and see the plot really get moving.

    Great job!

  10. YES YES YES! Based on the query alone.

    The 250 needs major tightening and work. No one needs that many colors and descriptions. Weave it into the plot. I skimmed over most of it because so much was just description. But the query is so good, I'm still saying yes. I want to read this book! It seems INCREDIBLE and includes a lot of nuance (classism, environmental terrorism, etc) as well. I love it. What an incredible query. You'll have no problems getting requests based off it. Work on the sample pages, though.

    Post #8

  11. No. The query is repetitive and includes a lot of unnecessary world building. The main conflict of the book is a terrorist aboard the shuttle, right? So get to that quicker. You have three and a half paragraphs explaining and re-explaining terraforming and Mars. I think you can cut a lot of that out--skipping the first paragraph and cutting out the "humanity's last hope" in the third paragraph make it much tighter. You also don't need to say it's the home planet Earth because you have already mentioned Earth. As for the conflict, I suppose I want a hint as to how it'd be possible for Joey and Jesse to stop the terrorist. You say the terrorists have succeeded up until know. So what special knowledge do Joey and bro have that they stand a chance? Right now it reads as kind of vague.

    For the 250, I'd replace "she" with "Joey" in the first sentence. The rest reads okay, nothing exciting. I get you want to start with world building, but I'm not sure Joey's getting the mail is the best place to open. I like the concept though. Good luck!

  12. I'm sorry. This is a no. Does it help that it would have been my third yes if I had three?

    I think your query has a great first sentence. When I got to "her life of painting" I wanted more. walls? portraits? landscape? A bit of something to tell us how painting could make life on a "scorched" planet worth living. I think you could tighten by eliminating "of Earth" or "home planet of." I also stopped at "they'll stop the attacks". Doesn't it take just one terrorist with a bomb to blow all the air out of the shuttle? Then I wondered what type of attacks? Acts of sabotage? That detail might really be interesting.

    In your 250, I thing instead of "telling" us her suit is from goodwill, you could "show" us the dings in the visor, thin spots in the fabric. Maybe she fears going out in it? I'd also like less description on the Earth I know more about the "barren" new Earth. And I couldn't relate well to the privileged houses she was looking at. How did seeing them make her feel? Maybe that would make her situation more real.

    I hope this helps. Good luck with revisions and querying.


  13. I think I might have critiqued this one before, so, to be fair, I'll skip and go on to the next. #9

  14. This is a no for me, but it was a hard decision. Just one of those things. Only allowed two yeses, so this one got pushed into the no pile.
    So sorry.
    Best of luck.
    I'm #14.

  15. I think this query has all the right elements, but they feel like they're out of order (and there's also a lot of repetition, which you want to eliminate especially in a query). For example, the opening sentence is almost a log line (that is, one sentence that encapsulates the entire story), and those details are all repeated again at one point or another in the rest of the query.

    I would suggest dropping the current opening line and using the third paragraph instead to begin the query (the one beginning "Sixteen-year-old Joey..."). I would then place what is currently the second paragraph after this and leave the final paragraph where it is (all with some editing and tinkering and streamlining though, both to eliminate repeated details and also build the tension a little better).

    Also, there's no real "hook" at the end. By saying "They’ll stop the attacks and get to Mars, one way or another" you've pretty much given away the ending (because there's no hint they they might not succeed). Sure they want to stop the terrorist, but who wouldn't? Is there more to it than that? Do either Joey or Jesse sympathize with the terrorists? Is there any moral conflict for the main characters (for example, if one of them is a pacifist and killing the terrorists is the only way to stop them)? Do one or either of them have to face/overcome a personal fear in order to stop this from happening? Hook you're reader by casting some doubt on the outcome, either based on the circumstances or (better yet) some choice the characters need to make.

    Finally, the word count seems a little on the low side for YA science fiction.

    I do very much like the premise and overall setting, but I'm afraid this is a no for me.

  16. No from me. I really like the premise, but the query jumps back and forth and leaves me with a lot of questions. Why do they get the ticket? How has no one noticed the ships haven't been arriving on Mars? How have people not heard of these terrorists before?

    There's also a lot of repetition in the query, which makes it read more like a summary than a back cover copy. I didn't feel any connection to the characters or the stakes. Which disappointed me because I enjoyed your first 250. You set up the world very well in the first few paragraphs and paint a detailed picture without using too many words. I really liked it. Unfortunately, I didn't love it.

  17. I'm a visitor. I wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed your work--it was in my maybe pile. There were a few others I liked more. You've gotten great feedback above for some small tweaks. If you follow some of those suggestions, you'll be there! Isn't it hard to make that 250 do everything you want it to? This is such a fun premise!

    1. Thank you so much, what a wonderful comment! This has been such an amazing opportunity, and the shine coming off my query right now is blinding from all this lovely feedback :) But you're right it is hard to draw a reader in with only 250 words. Thanks again for donating your time to encourage us along, it's highly appreciated.

  18. This is a no for me. I think part of that is because I don't understand why Earth can't be fixed up for the humans to just stay there if they have the technology to fix up Mars and make it habitable. BUT, I am not a sci-fi reader and maybe this whole terraformed thing only works a certain way.

    I think your writing is really great. You gave me a good picture of the world surrounding her. But parts of that confused me. So, if going to the mailbox is the biggest thing she ever does, how come her mom has gone to Goodwill? I mean, can she not go shopping places too? Maybe there is reason for that as well and you get to it after the 250.

    This section: "She glanced to a row of curved roofs, from the tiny homes below the sand-covered hill of her sub-division. They were the lucky ones. D-sector, caught within the shade of the fully enclosed, and highly lavish, Sector-A."

    I get it that D-sector is lucky because of the shade. But why mention them in your first 250? I understand the desire to word build, but you do that so well that I'm guessing you are also great at forming characters and I'd rather get to know your MC first with a bit of world building in there. Also..the first sentence in that section made me stumble a bit.

    Your voice is there. And you have already gotten great feedback on your query. I think you have just a few changes to that 250 to turn this into a great opening. But I'm going to say "no" for now because I need more info to tell me why Joey is doing the things she is doing.

  19. Tobias Eaton says No. But he's giving you some sexy smolder to soften the blow.

    The concept is good, the query could use some of the suggestions above, as well as the ones for the first 250.
    It also left me some questions about holes in plot, like how can they send people to Mars, and transform it, but they cant send emails so people don't have to use space suits to get snail mail? And if EVERY flight to mars had been blown up, how can they even be sure the settlements are real, or will be successful/better than earth?

    Tighten up the query and pick through the MS with a critical eye.

    Tobias Eaton (4)

  20. No, but only because I ran out of “yes”.

    I really like the idea, and the first 250 is really good, but I think the query needs work, specifically editing of clunky transition words (e.g. “luckily” and “unbeknownst”). The first sentence, for example, would be punchier if written “Joey and her twin brother, Jesse, score tickets to a terraformed Mars but won’t make it to their destination unless they stop a terrorist aboard their Airbus.”* The first sentence of the fourth paragraph is another good example. There’s no need for the “but” clause. Just it make it two sentences, “Joey knows her life will never be the same. What she doesn’t know is that there’s a terrorist on her shuttle.”

    The other thing I’m not getting is why Joey and Jesse? What makes them the heros who are going to stop this terrorist?

    I like the first 250, it has a great voice. Good luck!

    *Did you mean Airbus like the French aeronautics company? If so I’d make a model number for their transport shuttle.


  21. # 5 here - I'm going to say yes to this.

    I really like the premise and I love the writing in your 250.

    The query is structured very well, lays the plot out perfectly, and grounds us very well in the characters. Just a couple small items:

    - is 2058 far enough in the future for a fully terraformed Mars? That's like 40 years is all.
    - was Joey's life of painting and traipsing to the mailbox really good enough for her? That lends a certain resignation to her situation, when it might be more interesting to think of her as always dreaming of something big.
    - this may be a plot point you don't want to reveal in a query, but it's hard to believe that none of these shuttles are getting to Mars and no one knows about it. Why isn't there communication b/w Mars and Earth, if we're advanced enough to terraform it?

    I think your first 250 is absolutely beautiful writing. Great imagery. I enjoyed it a lot.

    Good luck with this, I think it will be very successful!