Monday, June 1, 2015

QK Round 1: The Four Month Plan v. Zip

[removed per author request]


Entry Nickname:
Title: Splinters and Clay
Word Count: 71,000
Genre: Adult Book Club Fiction


If there is one thing Zip thinks she can depend on in Sweetgum, Alabama, it is that change comes slowly if it comes at all. But when her older sister, Kam, runs away to find the father she’s never known, change comes flooding in. Zip is left alone with her larger-than-life mother and her stubborn, hypochondriac grandfather to navigate the void left by Kam’s absence. As the heat of summer unfurls, Zip meets a boy by the river who is not all he seems; finds a potential husband for her mother; and is torn between desire for her mother’s approval and resentment of her mother’s choices.

From throwing her daughter a surprise menstruation celebration to burning down her best friend’s swamp house, Zip’s mother has all the crazy that a good Southern mother should have . . . and then some. Zip’s narrative is interwoven with chapters from her mother’s past, which reveal Kam’s father and the secret backstory of Kam’s conception. Splinters and Clay addresses the mercurial relationships between mother, daughter, and sister, and it gets at the heart of what constitutes a person’s roots.

First 250 Words:

“I pick here.”

I looked at my mother who was lying face down in the field of wildflowers, her thick dark hair splayed like a shade over the brightness of the blooms.

“Here. Right here. This is where I want to be buried,” she said.

“Mom.” I stood near her head and looked down at her. “You can’t just pick any random spot to be buried. It has to be authorized or something. And anyways – get up. You’re not going to be buried for a while.”

“You never know.” She rolled over, spreading her arms wide, palms up. “You’d better be prepared. And you’d better take notes. Because this is it. This is the spot.”

She squinted up at the sun. “You don’t think it will get too hot here in the summer, do you? You might have to plant a tree over me. You know – just for a little shade every now and then. Oh,” she bit her bottom lip. “But what kind?”

She closed her eyes again to think.

“Mom.” I shook my head and picked dandelions with my toes, pulling them from their bases and tossing them onto her one by one – sprinkling flowers, dirt, and grass across her stomach. “Mom – we don’t even know whose land this is. I seriously doubt they’ll plant a tree smack in the middle of their field with your dead body beneath it. Come on. I’m gonna be late for the doctor’s.”

“Huh.” My mother looked up at me, her sky-blue eyes narrowed against the sun, then closed them again.


  1. Judges - hit 'reply' to this comment to cast your votes. Thank you!

    1. The Four Month Plan:

      Your query sets up your story and your characters, but it’s very heavy-handed, like you’re spoon-feeding the character and plot points to your reader. Show more, tell less. Similarly, while your 250 starts off with a bit of dialog and action, it ends in a long bit of telling. Other than her moving a chair, nothing actually happens in this scene that couldn’t have happened with her lying in bed. Get her out of her head and make the interactions between people have importance. I’m thinking you haven’t found the best place to start your story.


      The first paragraph of your query is pretty good, though the last sentence left me begging for you to slow down and unpack all that you dropped. The second paragraph is almost telling me what the book is about. I think you could salvage maybe the first sentence, but only if you opened the whole query with it. But then drop the rest of that paragraph. As for the 250, the writing’s good, but nothing happens here. I’m not sure why this is where you chose to start.

      Judgment: These both have some strong points, but could use some work to get through the next round. Good luck!

      Victory: ZIP

    2. FOUR MONTH PLAN: With your query, I feel as though you're giving me a synopsis. Stating events isn't really giving me a sense of your character's voice or personality. It's almost like you're just listing things to the reader, rather than showing us who Sophie is and why we should care about her. Also, you can nix your very last paragraph altogether, as it doesn't demonstrate plot and feels like the most telling part of your query letter. When you revise: focus on Sophie's voice plus tension and stakes. Remember, you don't have to give us every detail or tell us all of the plot, but give us some exciting event we can latch onto while showing us who Sophie is--that's the best way to make readers care!

      Your first 250 didn't hold my attention as well as I'd hoped, and I think this is because you aren't starting your story in the right place. What's the inciting incident? The thing that breaks your MC out of her ordinary, every day happenings? That's your first scene!

      ZIP: Your query is also reading more like a synopsis than a query letter. Try to infuse your MC's voice into the query, and read the back covers of some recent books in your genre to get a sense for how a query is supposed to flow. Your opening is great (as is the concept!) but the second paragraph is all telling. Instead of doing this, give us some exciting glimpses of the plot and show us the STAKES! What does Zip have to lose over the course of the novel? What does she want, and what stands in the way of her getting her heart's desire? These are the sorts of questions to ruminate on as you start to build a fresh second paragraph!

      In your first 250, ask yourself: are you starting the story in the right place? What's the first big, exciting event? That's where the story should start. This opening was too quiet, and I couldn't see how it tied into the main plot outlined in your query. However, your prose is beautiful!!

      Victory to...ZIP!

    3. Four Month Plan:

      I feel like this is a perfectly competent query, but there's not anything at the beginning to set it apart from the dozens of other queries an agent receives in a day. I'm not a fan of the "Sophie has it all" beginning in the query. That could apply to a thousand different stories. Also, I don't want to hear "has a disability" - what is her condition? I feel like the entire first paragraph could be a lot stronger if you infuse some of Sophie's voice and make it more personal. Give me a reason to root for her, right from the beginning. Same with Charlie, really - what's he doing? What was the tragedy? Also, the entire query's a bit long - redoing the first few sentences into one will help with that. The third paragraph is where things really get interesting.

      If it's not dual POV, cut the paragraph about Charlie to a sentence or two from Sophie's POV and combine it with the third paragraph. And if it IS dual POV, then I'm questioning if this is really WF or if it's romance (actually, I was wondering about that, anyway). Cut the first sentence of the paragraph. Rephrase the stakes to let us know what Sophie and Charlie are capable of accomplishing and what's at stake if they fail.

      The beginning of the first page is fine, but I wonder if there's a more exciting place to start the story. And the last paragraph is essentially an info dump of backstory - I'd cut it entirely. You want to grab your reader by showing the action that's happening right now, rather than having your character reflect on the past right away. Backstory can be woven in later in a way that will feel a lot more natural.


      On first reading, this feels like YA, not adult fiction (partially because of the reference to meeting "a boy," I think, but the entire first sentence had me wondering). Also the reference to the surprise menstruation celebration doesn't have me thinking Zip's an adult (unless she's just the luckiest woman who ever lived and got her period at like 30).

      Also, this really reads a lot more like back cover copy than a query letter. I don't really feel like I have a sense of the plot at all. You tell me a bunch of stuff that happens, but what's the basic plot? If the whole book is just a series of incidents showing the zany mom, that's not really my thing (and that's totally subjective). Really, the entire last paragraph should go. The first sentence editorializes the book, the second both reveals too much and not enough, and the third talks about themes, which never belong in a query. I honestly think the best thing I can do is refer you to QueryShark to see what a standard query letter looks like than critique this one. (Or look at the other entries. You want hook, book, cook. Draw us in, tell us what the book's about—plot, not themes—and then leave us wondering what happens. The best queries have character, conflict, and stakes.)

      The writing in your first 250 is really good, but it still doesn't feel like an adult manuscript to me. This is probably in part due to the reference to taking her to the doctor - I would never go to the doctor with my mother as an adult. But I think it's more about Zip's voice, and I'm not really sure how that can be adjusted. I also feel like the first page tells me a lot more about Zip's mom than Zip, and there's not really enough for me to know if I want to spend 300 pages with her.

      Both manuscripts sound like something I can enjoy. However, I feel like one entry is more ready for the agent round than the other. VICTORY TO THE FOUR MONTH PLAN.

    4. Note: For round 1 since there's so many entries, I'm judging based on the query only!


      The premise of this sounds like it could be a lot of fun

      I'm afraid the "Main Character seems to have it all" is a bit of a query cliche; you could simply cut it and start "Sophie Alexander is intelligent, attractive..." There's also some other phrases in the query that could be pared down or cut completely, including "But there's something that sets her apart from everyone" and "the only problem is"

      Also, check on your comma usage; there's a few unnecessary ones throughout (for instance, after "Charlie Brooks is a successful musician" and ""forces Sophie into a private event")



      I like how in this query we get a feel for the voice and the personalities of the characters. You get the warm-fuzzy Southern feel from it almost immediately.

      I'm a little fuzzy on what the main conflict is -- finding Kam's father? Zip simply surviving the summer? Zip and her mother mending strained relationships?

      Also, the part about the surprise menstruation party threw me off -- is that referring to a daughter of Zip's?

      Victory to... ZIP!


      QUERY: This is a familiar story formula, but one I love. You’ve also made it unique by adding a MC with a disability, which I think could add some awesome dimensions to the story. The first paragraph about Sophie seems a little too long. Use Voice to connect us with the character, rather than telling us why she’s so fantastic. Get to the heart of her conflict, that the man she loves is marrying someone else, and her belief that he is the only one who will see past her disability. I like the paragraph on Charlie. I think you can get rid of the last paragraph, and condense it into a sentence that gives the stakes, which aren’t really clear. What happens if Sophie and Charlie DON’T show the world what they’re capable of accomplishing? Why should we care?

      FIRST 250: I’m not sure this is starting in the right place. You don’t have to start with a BANG, necessarily, but I get bored at my own job interviews, and we don’t care enough about the character yet to have any stake in how this goes. It flows nicely, though could use another run-through to get rid of extraneous words. Look at each sentence and each word to make sure it’s really necessary. I think we get a hint of Sophie’s sweet voice, but I definitely want more. You share her thoughts, but what is she feeling? Show us? Is her stomach jumping? Hands shaking? Does she fidget with the papers and continually straighten them? Fix her hair? All of those are clues into her state of mind AND her character without just telling us she’s feeling conflicted.


      QUERY: This sounds like a really fun and interesting story. And I’m a sucker for alternating timelines. If I read this on the back of a book in a store, I’d be on my way to the checkout with it clutched in my hot little hand. That said, what’s really missing here is stakes. It sounds like a place I’d like to spend the summer, but how will things change by the time I’m done? What challenges is Zip faced with that are beyond the ordinary, that make us care about her and what happens next?

      FIRST 250: I actually really love this. It’s a quieter opening, but I like that. I’m sure some of my fellow judges will disagree. Zip’s mother is a hoot, and I can’t wait to see what she does next. I think you’ve already done a really nice job of setting up the relationship between free-spirit mother and ever-suffering daughter. I just read it again and it just makes me smile. Well done.

      HOSTS, don’t make me choose!!

      Fine. Victory to ZIP.

    6. Four Month Plan,

      I've always loved this sort of "friends to lovers" trope and you've added some interesting twists here. Right off the bat, I'd suggest you talk more about Sophie and her accomplishments and that she has everything she wants except Jack - this way you get away from the cliche' of "having it all." By doing this you open up the reader to her "stakes" and what she wants.

      In Charlie's paragraph, I'd be more direct about what the event is that changed his life. If the reader knows then they can connect with him right away.

      Your last paragraph reads like a synopsis. Your sinker needs to reiterate your stakes and then set up what may or may not happen if your characters get what they want. It should leave the reader questioning what will happen and wanting to read more.

      First 250:

      This all feels like set-up and I'm not sure you're starting in the right place. I'd suggest thinking about where your stakes really begin and using that as your jumping off point. Is it an encounter with Jack where she learns he's getting married? What is the catalyst that starts this story?


      What is the age of your main character? This query leads me to believe that Zip is under 18. If that is the case, I wonder if this isn't young adult. A lot of the themes seem to allude to this point: meeting a boy, the menstruation celebration, etc. Another question I have is what are the real stakes here? Is it Zip learning to live without her sister? Coming of age with a crazy mother? This is never clearly spelled out.

      First 250:

      I like that you've opened right on Zip and her mother. Instantly you set the scene of what kind of character her mother is and how Zip is the rational voice between the two. Good job!

      Hard choice, but victory goes to...


    7. Jackie Jormp-JompJune 4, 2015 at 2:39 AM


      I’m very intrigued by this story and I love the idea of these two people from different worlds, with different personal pain and tragedies, coming together. Prime ground for fireworks and drama!

      However, I feel like the query is too long – I think you could get to the crux of the conflict in Sophie’s life, as well as the stakes for both her and Charlie, a lot quicker and more succinctly. Think about what details are really important and which are superfluous (e.g. I don’t think you need to tell us exactly how Sophie and Charlie meet, in the downpour etc. You could simply say “thrown together with Charlie, a musician whose life and career is falling apart,” or something like that.) I also wonder if you’re giving too much away in the final paragraph. I want to be compelled to read on, and if you tell me that they overcome their obstacles and live happily ever after, I’m less curious about what happens to them. I want to know that I’ll be surprised by the obstacles that these characters face and to wonder whether or not they will actually overcome them.

      I wanted the first 250 to let me into Sophie’s life/mind a little more. I agree with other comments that maybe this isn’t the perfect place for the story to start. But also, I wanted to hear her voice – I want to find something in the first page that convinces me that Sophie a unique and interesting enough character for me to want to spend hours reading about. And interview is a universal experience, but I feel like we’re not hearing Sophie’s specific feelings/emotions/visceral reactions – I want more!


      First of all, I love the names – Zip and Kam are great. The think I feel is missing from the query is the stakes – what is the worst thing that could happen if Zip fails to achieve her goals / overcome her challenges? Why does she need to do the things she does? Also, the word “boy” threw me off and made me wonder how old Zip is? Boy makes it sound like she’s a teen. If so, what makes this adult fiction versus young adult? And I don’t know if you need to mention the grandfather in the query, unless he has a major role in the problems Zip faces (beyond just being an annoyance, which is how it sounds now.)

      Finally, should her mother’s intertwined history (including the meat of her mother’s problem and the stakes for her) be more specific in the query? What makes her mother’s past life unique, compared to other stories about quirky southern women with secrets? (I love the specifics about the menstruation party and burning down the neighbors house; that makes it clear that she’s unusual, but I guess I just want more about the conflict/action of her life.)

      The first 250 is very well written and has a voice that I really enjoy. The only thought I had was to maybe add in a bit of showing us how Zip feels about what her mom is staying and giving us a tiny peek into Zip’s personality and not just illustrating her mom’s quirkiness. I feel like I can’t quite tell is Zip is amused, annoyed, both? Just something to think about.

      Victory to ZIP

    8. Hey Judge Sparrow! Thank you so SO SO much for judging 11 match-ups (11!) even though you weren't assigned this round. The query feedback will help tons. We won't be able to count your vote because of the lack of 250 consideration, but seriously, thank you thank you. The writers will appreciate it tons.

  2. These are both sound like great novels. The Four Month Plan seems to be somewhat worried and I think it he query itself needs to be mainstreamed onto the main plot. I understand that they're going to find out what they're capable of accomplishing, but I want to know WHAT that it is they're trying to accomplish in the book. I love the diversity of the main character and the verbal interaction with the receptionist.

    Zip starts out really strong, but again, I feel like at the end, when it mentions 'what constitutes a person's roots', well that varies from person to person, so what roots are we talking about in regards to Zip's story? What is she trying to find out about herself? About these relationships. It can be more detailed to show what makes the story unique.

    I love the opening scene. The voice is amazing, and I love the unusual dialogue exchange. It's well written and comes out strong.

    Victory to ZIP!

  3. My two little cents!

    UNCONFINED: Query - I read through this several times, rolling it around in my mind and can conclude I love it. Initially I loved it, then was lukewarm, then loved it as I mulled over the genre, commercial women's fiction. I've read quite a few WF back covers that sound similar to this and pique all the areas you touched - love, friendship, possible new love, self-discovery, and misunderstand characters. I hope there are several rainclouds that bring FMC and MMC together!
    First 250 - I also think this opening is appropriate to your genre and the FMC as you've set her up. She is different from others and has to navigate life with obstacles set up with others in mind. I think it shows a lot of likable qualities about Sophie. TBH, it's not a slap you in the face beginning but the query doesn't sound like that's the book. I do think it's compelling.

    ZIP: Query - Good gracious that is a lot of stuff to process in two paragraphs. Sometimes I feel like queries are choc-full of nothing but yours is stuffed with mine-able gold. I might find a way to elaborate on some of these points and unpack the heavy you've manage to squeeze into your carry-on.
    First 250: This is gold. All of it. The mom is a bit off-kilter pursuant to your query and the daughter is dealing with being the voice of reason. It comes across beautifully.

  4. The Four Month Plan
    Okay, so we've seen this trope before in women's fiction. It's a popular one. What is unique about your story is having a disabled character as your lead. Women characters are never allowed to be flawed in such a major way. Yet, what would be harder to overcome in landing the man of your dreams than a physical handicap? Well done.
    The first 250 is heavy on back story. We need to land in the scene and see her struggle with a job interview like everyone else. Yet, she can excel in some way also. But hearing her ruminate on the job search itself is not going to hook the reader the way you want. Good luck.

  5. Zip
    Wow, a surprise menstruation celebration. That is laugh out loud funny. Your query sets up a high stakes my life is out of control scenario that is a bit like a train wreck. We have to watch to see what happens. Nicely done.
    Your 250 like your query is full of voice. The south - especially the deep south - has a unique culture all its own. This really rings true - not too far out to be believable but odd enough to be seen as different. Good job.

  6. Four Month Plan:

    Query: Too long, too much like a synopsis. And I feel like the stakes could be higher.

    250: I like that it shows that she’s used to navigating obstacles in life, but if I hadn’t read the query, I’d have no idea that she wasn’t just another able bodied person.


    Query: Is it the father she’s never known or that they’ve never known? Do they have different fathers? Kind of confused. And that last sentence of the first paragraph split by 3 semi-colons isn’t really working for me. Your query is short so you can definitely expand a little bit. I think that would help with that 2nd paragraph, which feels a little jumbled. Also, all caps on the title. SPLINTERS AND CLAY.

    250: Is she face down, or is her cheek pressed to the grass? Cause it’s kind of hard to speak if your face is shoved into the ground. Definitely like the start aside from that and interested in seeing more of Zip’s mom.

  7. The Four Month Plan
    I like the interplay between characters, as it's been described. I think you could still tighten up the writing in the query a bit. Runs long. Otherwise, good premise.

    Wonderful intro in some respects. Like the use of the chair as a block to her progress, establishes her challenges. But I wouldn't start by having her stare out of QQa window. I've used that device and it's okay sometimes. I don't think you want it in the 250.


    Intriguing query! There seems to be a lot of change though. I wonder if your first sentence is all that accurate, given the changes described. Regardless, impressive. Perhaps a little more emphasis on Zip, a little less on her crazy Mom, though. I'm not entirely sure what she's doing throughout the narrative.

    Your 250 is, indeed, fun. Makes me want to read more. I'm leaning towards thinking Mom is the star of the show, though. May want to put in more of what Zip is feeling and how she's reacting rather than just her dialogue.

  8. Four Month - The query piqued my interest in that I would love to know how the relationship plays out. It sounds like the genre could be Romance. The only thing I would like to know is what's at stake? You could probably drop the last paragraph, and reconstruct the last sentence of the third paragraph to be the "stakes". Also, you could tighten up the sentences a little bit. For example, ". . .could make Jack see she can be more than a friend to him" could be ". . . could make Jack see she can be more than a friend."

    As far as the 250, same thing. The sentences could use just a little cleaning. For example, this sentence in the last paragraph, "She knew she should be grateful . . ."

    Overall, it sounds like you have the makings of good love story.

    Zip - Query: What does Zip want more than anything in the whole world, what stands in Zip's way of achieving that, and what's at stake? These points are essential for the query. Plus, everything I've ever read about a query letter says to leave "themes" out of the query. But, I love the line, "as the heat of summer unfurls . . ."! Good writing, which segues into the 250.

    250 - I love this 250. I don't know if you were trying to, but I'm already annoyed by the mother. Good job. I love the interaction between the characters. And I love, ". . . tossing them onto her one by one – sprinkling flowers, dirt, and grass across her stomach." like she's already dead and in the grave.

    Overall, based on the query, it sounds like you have the potential to create some gripping scenes and good tension.

  9. 4 Month Plan -
    I think it would be helpful to spell out the tragedy which sends Charlie's life into a nose dive. Also, if you could add in how his life spirals out of control, give a hint as to the nature of his wild behavior? Suggest trimming back the 'telling' tone of the final paragraph: 'The following four months are filled with...' and give us more of the stakes here. I get that she hopes to make herself seem more desirable to her friend, Jack -- so that's what she hopes to gain, but what does Sophie risk losing if this arrangement fails -- since Jack's already engaged to another? In the opening 250, I like how you show us Sophie's self-sufficiency through a combination of action and dialogue.

    Zip -
    I loved the opening line of the query and the following line is great as well. I'm not sure what is at stake in the story for Zip -- what she wants/hopes to achieve. Since the ms is listed as adult fiction, I assumed Zip was a grown woman. Her living at home raised a question mark but it sounds like it's a multigenerational household. But, the mention of the surprise menstruation party upended this assumption and now I'm thinking Zip's 11 or 12? Or maybe the party's for someone else or happened years ago? I think giving us her age will help ground the reader. In the first 250, since I was unsure about the mc's age, I hesitate to comment on her dialogue -- other than to say she sounds adult. I liked the way the dialogue showed the mom's lack of response to reason, her focus on doing what she wants, no matter what the objections.

  10. Both of these had 250s starting with quotes, which can be hard to do because the reader doesn't know the person speaking yet. Just a thought.

    4 Month Plan -
    Can you roll the first 2 paragraphs and half of the third into one? I'd rather see the last paragraph expanded. It feels like too much telling the way it's written. What kind of obstacles? How do they rely on each other? What are the stakes? Is Sophie afraid she'll regret losing Jack for good?

    I like the idea behind your first 250 - I assume the secretary is embarrassed because your MC is unexpectedly in a wheelchair but your MC is cool and collected about it. But if so, the subtext is easy to miss (especially if the reader doesn't entirely remember the disability mentioned in the query/back cover). If you directly mentioned the wheelchair, the scene would be stronger.

    Zip -
    I like the first paragraph of the query, but the second seemed a little less focused and, other than the first sentence, could maybe be rephrased and integrated in the first paragraph, which could be expanded. Just my 2 cents.

    I love the first scene. I get a really strong sense of the mother, although perhaps not as good a sense of the MC. More MC thoughts could help with that.

  11. Four Month Plan:

    I love the idea of your story, but I felt like the query could have been tightened. The first paragraph had a very dry voice, and I wish we could get a feel for what it would be like to spend almost 100K words with your character. and speaking of 98K words, that's really long, and after reading your first page, I feel like that might be a little long because there are lots of slow passages. In your first page, your MC feels the sun. this is a little more filtering than I prefer (others can have different opinions). I like to have a closer POV, so I would prefer instead of "feeling the warm sun" maybe a "the sun streamed in, warming her skin" (or burning). It's just a personal thing.


    Your first 250 is awesome and I wouldn't change a thing. I did feel like your voice in the query was a little dry, especially considering the voice of your first page (which I loved).


    I thought this was a clear and uncomplicated query. With a really sweet premise. I could see only two problems; you’ve given away just about the whole synopsis – what incentive is there to read on? And secondly – again related to having no compelling reason to read on – it lacks stakes. It does promise a sweet read, definitely, but no tension. If I’m not worried for the main character and whether she achieves her goals, why would I read on? Leave us with mystery and uncertainty about Sophie’s future, so we want to find out for ourselves.
    I actually like your first line. The amount of times someone in a wheelchair must say that… The last paragraph is a lump of information, a bit too early on, and you could sprinkle it here and there instead, even showing some of it through dialogue. For me it stands out because it’s too early to care about it, because I’ve not yet come to care about the character – I just get bored when faced with a chunk of exposition on the first page. But a couple of pages in and once you’re on the MC’s side, you don’t notice it, it’s interesting then and you want to know more. I think you start in a boring place. I think the writing itself is really good and I feel this is going to be a lovely read. I think, I think, I think, blah blah – I think I’m not really in any position to have an opinion on your work, my own query was rubbish, but hope it still helps you in some way.


    Love the first line. Okay how old is Zip…? I really like the query, promises a good weighty read, with lots to follow and think about.
    LOVE the opening, just love it. Right in there, transported immediately to heir world. I would delete the first 3 words of your second sentence. Because currently it can read as if it’s the MC who spoke first – that’s what I thought until I got to the “she said” at the end of the 3rd sentence. Try it and see what you think. Also, have you thought about deleting that first sentence, and swopping the 2nd and 3rd around? It’s very a strong first sentence, immediately tells you it’s not the MC speaking, but also ensures the MC isn’t in the background of the opening so much, as currently you give the mother more weight. Your writing… It’s so stunning, I love it. I have a feeling that no matter what kind of scene you’re going to be writing about, it’s going to be detailed and evocative.

    Both queries were pleasantly uncomplicated. Thank you and good luck to both of you. May the best story go forward ☺

    London Skye

  13. The Four Month Plan: I think your query was really well written and gave me a good idea of the story. It definitely sparked my interest. Your first 250 had me pausing a little as I don't feel it conveyed Sophie's issue very well. If you hadn't told me in the query that Sophie was in a wheelchair, I wouldn't have understood what was going on in those first 250. I think it is important you establish the handicap, so the references you make to it, (the chair being in the way and the "have a seat," comment) will make more sense to a reader going in green.

    Zip: Your query has left me with lots of questions. First and foremost, how old is Zip? She seems more like a pre-teen which really doesn't match the genre of "Adult" fiction. Also, is the long lost dad Zip's father as well? Finally, what exactly is Zips problem? What is at stake here? This sounds like a fun read, but I think your query would be much stronger if I knew the answers to those questions.

    Good luck to both!

  14. Four Month Plan - Query: Liked the idea of your story. But this query felt more like a synopsis than a query. What's the significance of the four months? Is there a deadline? If so, maybe mention that.

    First 250: I like Sophie's voice, very warm and inviting. I wondered how the receptionist's words/actions made her feel. It seemed there was too much explaining about the magazine and not enough emotional insight to the situation. It also didn't seem to match up to the Sophie in the query. Here she seemed so much more confident. In the query she seemed more vulnerable. I really liked the Sophie here.

    Zip Query - Sounds like it could be a fun read! But after reading it several times, I'm not sure where the story is. There's so many over the top characters it seems the plot got buried underneath. How old is Zip? Why makes Kam up and run away? How does the mom feel about it? How does the grandpa come into play? How does the mom fit into all of this? What's at stake? Just not sure.

    First 250 - I instantly loved the mom here. Loved loved her. This made me want to follow her journey. Maybe Zip gets fleshed out later on? But the mom is such an awesome character.

    Good luck to you both!

  15. PLAN: I like this idea! You’ve covered a lot of ground in your query, and I think you can make it more effective by cutting it down to the essentials. For example, we don’t have to know why and where Sophie and Charlie meet or the details on their reactions to the manager’s plan; you could cut that paragraph down to a sentence or two.

    250: Your character sounds interesting and likeable in your query, but it didn’t come through for me in the query. Honestly, I was a bit annoyed at her reaction to getting the interview, and I think you risk losing the reader with the intro at a time when many folks are struggling to find any job (much less one they like). Could you open in a scene where Sophie finds out Jack’s getting engaged? To how devastated she is that the guy she thought for sure she’d end up with is marrying someone else? Now THAT readers could relate to!

    CLAY: I like your descriptions of the mother and grandfather, and the setting sounds interesting. What’s missing for me in the query is the stakes: what is all this building up to? What happens when Kam’s father is revealed – and how does that affect Zip? Is this boy a significant figure in Zip’s world; is there a romance as well, or is your story more about family?

    250: What an opening! I liked the Mom’s character right away. So dramatic! In your second sentence, I think you’re overdoing the description just a bit (though I really love the image!). I think it would help to let us know this is a mother and daughter sooner; at the end of your 250, we don’t know yet that this is a girl (or how old she is), and the age matters a lot in this dynamic (which I’m assuming is the wild parent with caretaking child).

    Good luck to you both!