Monday, June 1, 2015

QK Round 1: My Life as a Teenage Pirate Queen v. Tiara Thief

Entry Nickname: My Life as a Teenage Pirate Queen
Title: Bones of the Rabbit
Word Count: 88,000
Genre: YA High Fantasy


Born into a seafaring society where families fight mainlanders and each other for the advantage of an ocean kingdom, eighteen-year-old Uriel Edan must navigate a dangerous course to ensure her family’s—and possibly her kingdom’s—survival.

Uriel’s reputation prevents her from realizing her legacy. Her father—one of the most powerful lords on the sea--blames her for the deaths of his wife and son, her would-be crew believes she carries an entropy curse that will bring them to an early ocean grave, and the remaining lords either shun her or want her dead.

When her father ships her off for a political marriage with Askeladden Nyström, a powerful man Uriel’s never met, she’s certain she’s being cast aside. To her surprise, Askeladden is charming, kind, and she finds herself falling in love.

But when she discovers Askeladden’s plan to destroy the sea lords—a plan he says is necessary to stop their kingdom from decaying—Uriel’s sense of loyalty and duty compels her to warn the other lords. Once Uriel’s choice is made, she finds herself in treacherous waters where every man anticipates her betrayal and a single misstep can mean the difference between dying at the hands of her enemies or dying at the hands of her allies.

First 250 Words:

As my captor forced me to his master, I at least had the grim satisfaction that I’d put up a hell of a fight before going down. The bag coveringmy eyes didn’t stop me from guessing where I was headed, and when I was pushed down on the coarse floorboard, the rocking beneath me confirmed my suspicions. A warship. My father’s warship to be exact.

From across the cabin, I heard his voice. “It took all this?” He sounded the same as he had six months ago; indifferent and disapproving.

My captor said, “She’s not one to come quietly.”

“Leave us.”

Footsteps retreated until a door slammed shut. I swallowed as the sack was lifted from my head, blinking away at the lights of myfather’s quarters.

Jorah Edan stared at me with more fury than any storm. Father like daughter, I gave him the same look back.

Finally, he spoke, “Well?”

I observed him. “You’ve grown bald.”

My father sat down on his berth with a huff. The bed creaked and groaned; it was older than both of us combined. “Six months. Six months and all you can say is I’ve grown bald?”

“It was on my mind,” I said, pulling at the bindings on my wrist. He noticed, but made no effort to untie me. I wished the man who caught me hadn’t taken my dagger. The ivory-handled weapon sat by my father’s side for the moment, still in its sheath. A bit of dried blood colored the brown leather, I smirked at that.


Entry Nickname:
Tiara Thief
Title: Prom, Magic, and Other Man Made Disasters
Word Count: 95,000
Genre: YA Fantasy

Before Tessa can confess her feelings to her long time crush, he beats her to the punch and confesses his love—for her best friend, Maria. Down the crush of her dreams and her stag wingman for prom, Tessa’s on the prowl to make it a night to remember, and for more than the humiliation. Desperate to not be the only dateless girl at the prom in Small Town USA, she asks the new guy. Sean hasn’t been in town long, and his inability to reliably dodge traffic makes him a dubious choice at best, but desperate times call for desperate dates.

To make matters awkward, Maria insists on double dating for the pre-prom dinner. But when a wizard mistakes Maria for Tessa and kidnaps Maria, things go from jealous to deadly before the cummerbunds hit the floor. The wizard thinks Maria is a powerful mage whose blood will help him conquer his world, but he’s got the wrong girl. His mistake won’t make Maria any less dead, and Tessa is not about to sit by while some whack-job villain from another dimension murders her best friend. As luck would have it, Sean knows how to get to the wizard’s home. Now Tessa’s going to jump down the rabbit hole to save her best friend or burn the wizard’s magical world to the ground trying.

But Sean might not be as helpful as Tessa hopes. He’s the wizard’s son, and Tessa is the one the wizard really wants.

First 250:

Without a doubt, the most dastardly piece of literature was the love letter. Something so light shouldn’t carry so much weight. My letter wasn’t ready, but who was I kidding? It wouldn’t matter how perfect the lettering was. Either there was a connection, or there wasn’t. He just had to have the same feelings. I’d been wearing nothing but skirts and cute sandals since March. And this wasn’t entirely out of the blue: Jason Garvie had kissed me.

As I made my way down the bleachers, he looked up at me. My heart jumped, and he smiled, a real, genuine smile.

I could die from relief. He did feel the same way. He was just playing it cool. He held his hand to the side of his head like a phone and mouthed the words, We need to talk.

Blood rushed in my ears drowning out everything, and my toe caught the edge of a seat. I stumbled to keep from falling. His cheeks dimpled as his smile deepened.

Hold it together, Tessa.
Weeks of carefully wearing dresses and keeping my hair perfect, and all of it was about to pay off. How could that smile be anything but hidden love? And just before prom too!

“Can we talk?” he asked when I was closer.

Sound casual, Tessa. You can do this. Cas-uuuu-aaall.

“Sure.” Oh crap, was that too casual. Damn it all, why is talking so littered with social pitfalls? “I mean yes. Talking would be good. Uh—here?”


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

    1. My Life As a Teenage Pirate Queen - First, I love this title. It's fun and sassy. Great job on that. The query loses me a little bit with so much going on. I think I'd like to see it tightened up a bit, especially at the end. The last line especially is very long and choppy.

      The situation and dialogue in the first 250 flow well. The voice is great and I could see a snarky daughter sitting down to talk to her dad like that, especially if she wanted to push his buttons. You did a fantastic job of making the reader feel that this was a father/daughter conversation.

      I really like this query. The only thing I would suggest is putting the last line up a little. Ending it with burning the wizards house trying has a real pop and I feel like the line after it takes away from that. The story itself sounds fun and dynamic.

      I like the voice in the first 250 as well. Tessa's nervousness and eagerness comes across great on the page. I also like that you took an old story and gave it a new twist. Girl loves guy, guy loves girls best friend, but BAM here comes a wizard and kidnaps girls best friend.

      In regards to the query, I think Tiara Thief nearly nailed it. My Life as A Teenage Pirate needs to be smoothed out a little. Both had a phenomenal first 250, but I felt the dynamic more in Teenage Pirate.

      This is what makes this competition so hard!

      Victory to TIARA THIEF

    2. My Life As A Teenage Pirate Queen, I like this premise a lot. You set the stage nicely in your first line. After that, you lose me. There's way too much going on in this query. All I want to know to be intrigued is who your character is, why she's is in peril, and how she's going to get herself out of it.

      That being said, I think you've nailed your first 250. The voice immediately grabs me and I want to read on. Well done!

      Tiara Thief, while I like this premise, your set-up in the first paragraph of your query reads like contemporary YA. It's not until we are into the second paragraph that you suddenly throw a wizard at us. I'd recommend going back and figuring out how you can work magic into your hook so the reader knows immediately what kind of story they're getting.

      Your first 250 starts in the right place. I like how you get us into the action right away, setting us up for the inevitable "talk" with the love interest. I would definitely read on.

      As usual this is a hard choice, but at this point based on query +250, I'd say....


    3. I can't see any other comments apart from the judges, so I hope it's okay to post eek. And I seriously hope I'm not posting in the judge's lounge, oh my! I fear SC's wrath lol...

      Both queries and 250s are fab, and promise really entertaining stories! I can see why mine didn't get through – though I'm SO over it. *sobs*

      I thought "My life as a Teenage Pirate Queen's" query was the stronger of the two, and I agree with Trailblazer that "Tiara Thief"'s query needs to make it clear much earlier on that it's a fantasy – the wizard detail comes in too late, and can jar with what you're already expecting by now. Also, I think this line should be changed: "But when a wizard mistakes Maria for Tessa and kidnaps Maria..." I think the query should hold back at this point that the wizard was meant to kidnap Tessa instead, so that when we get to that last sentence, it packs a punch. At present, because we already know she was the intended victim, the last nine words, imo, don't have much impact.

      That said, I preferred the 250 words of Tiara Thief. I'm not much good at saying what's good, as i am at being critical lol, and it's only because I personally found Pirate Queen's protagonist a bit too much, I didn't take to her and this is obviously a very subjective thing. Also in the 250, I think it would read stronger if the "My Captor said" was deleted. I think adding a Sir or something appropriate to the end of what he says will make it clear he's speaking, and I found it a bit jarring in the chat to read that – it felt like an interruption to the reading. (A teeny tiny thing to pick at, I know, but I thought it when I was reading it.)

      Both queries and 250s are far stronger than anything I could have ever come up with. I love the premises in both too. Both promise an entertaining story, and I wish both authors the very best of luck – may the best Kombatant win!

      Thank you :)

    4. My Life as a Teenage Pirate Queen:

      The query reads more like a mini-synopsis than a query letter, which makes it rather dry. There’s a lot of voice in the 250 I’m not seeing in the query. You want to make the query as compelling a read as your first page to keep a reader’s interest. On a positive note, your plot and stakes are clear. If you can weave in some of that voice, you’ll be in good shape. I enjoyed the 250 and got a good sense of your MC’s flippancy. I don’t know if there are formatting issues, but some of the spaces between words are missing.

      Tiara Thief:

      This query has tons of voice, but there are too many characters and it’s hard to follow the plot. I didn’t understand the phrase “down the crush of her dreams”. The second paragraph gets a bit redundant with explaining that the wizard has the wrong girl. You could tighten that up a bit. I wasn’t surprised that your 250 was adorably voice-y. You’ve done a great job of setting up the scene and I’ve got a great sense of your MC here.

      This was tough. Both of the 250s are well-written. But while the query Tiara Thief trumps My Life as a Teenage Pirate Queen in voice, Pirate Queen’s query was tighter and easier for me to follow.



      QUERY: This query is almost there. I’m not sure the first paragraph is necessary. It’s a nice introduction, but it gives more backstory rather than jumping into the meat of the story. I want to know more about Uriel’s bad reputation. Were her father’s wife and son also her family? If so, I want to see that connection. Also VOICE. Once you get to the 250, the sassiness comes out, but I want to hear that same voice in the query. The last paragraph is a little bulky. At this point we don’t care about Askeladden’s motivations. I love the little punch at the end, but breaking up the last sentence could make it a little cleaner.

      FIRST 250: Loved the voice. Uriel is sassy and dramatic, and I can tell she’s going to be a fun character to read. Watch for things like, “I swallowed as the sack was lifted from my head, blinking away at the lights of my father’s quarters.” It sounds like the sack is doing the blinking. “I swallowed and blinked away at the lights of my father’s quarters as the sack was lifted from my head.”


      QUERY: I love the premise for this book. Falling for someone only to have them go after my friend has happened to me more than once, so I relate to that strongly. You also nail the voice in the query, which is difficult to do. The query itself gets a little hazy for me though. Why does she pick Sean? Just because he’s new? What does his inability to reliably dodge traffic have to do with anything? It sounds like a funny part of the book, an inside joke almost, but doesn’t really work in the query. I was totally floored when a wizard jumped into the picture. If that is the main plot of the story, it should come into play a little earlier. You could condense the backstory into a short sentence or two. I would also save the reveal that Sean is the Wizard’s son, but hint that he might not be quite what he seems.

      FIRST 250: The voice matches the query, which is awesome. I don’t have too much to say about the 250 except watch for repetition. You used “perfect” twice, and also talked about wearing dresses and skirts and whatnot twice, just in this little chunk. You want to make sure each word counts. I would probably read on, but the excerpt didn’t grab me the way I wanted it to. You might consider starting with her feelings, making the reader FEEL her anxiety, excitement, hopefulness, whatever, rather than waxing poetic about love letters, which, don’t get me wrong, was also beautifully written. I’m just not sure it works in that particular spot.


    6. Princess of LlamasJune 2, 2015 at 2:02 AM

      MY LIFE AS A TEENAGE PIRATE QUEEN: I think your query conveys a feeling of your book, but it’s filled with really vague phrases. From “navigate a dangerous course,” to “realizing her legacy,” to finding “herself in treacherous waters” – while these phrases fall in with your theme, they don’t give many specifics. After reading your query, all I really know is that she’s been married off, kind of likes the guy, but decides to warn her father/lords that her husband wants to destroy them. What’s missing is what exactly Uriel is doing after this. What’s her goal? Is she helping her father/lords defend against her husband? Because I would think that the lords would eventually see she’s on their side since she informed them of the betrayal. Why would they kill her? And are they the allies or enemies at that point? I think if you can re-work this and offer some more details, you’d catch the interest of agents who might not think they’re looking for a pirate story.

      As for the 250, I think it’s good. It flows nicely with interesting dialogue. The first paragraph is probably the weakest—my guess is the bag covers her entire head, not just eyes, and I’m not convinced that she’d be able to tell it was her father’s warship just by the rocking and floorboards. Otherwise though, nice job!

      TIARA THIEF: Great query! I’m not sure you need the last sentence though. You’ve already said the wizard wants Tessa. As for Sean, as soon as I read in the paragraph above that he knew how to get to the wizard’s home, alarm bells went off as to his possibly being involved. I think it actually might be better to focus less on Sean’s possible involvement, thus leaving that a twist for the book: “ . . . villain from another dimension murders her best friend. With Sean’s help, Tessa locates the wizard’s home.” Then, go on from there, omitting that last paragraph.

      As for the 250, I think you’ve started in a great place. Per the query, the conflict starts with Tessa’s failed relationship, and you get right into it! Nicely done. A couple nit-picks. I’d say the most dastardly piece of literature “is” (instead of was) the love letter. Similarly, in the following sentence, “how perfect the letter (not lettering) was” flows better.

      This is a tough match-up! Both have their strong points, but as this is a query contest, I have to focus on that first, and one is farther along. Victory to TIARA THIEF!

    7. PIRATE QUEEN: I love your title, and I think your query does a good job of laying out exactly what's going to happen in the novel--but the thing is, to me, your query reads too much like a mini-synopsis because you've put so much of the plot in there. In your first 250, I adore your main character's voice and sass, and wouldn't change a thing; but you see, that's what's missing for me in your query! I want more of your MC's voice to come through in your query. Consider dropping some of the later plot points from the query (we don't need them all for the purpose of a query letter), instead focusing on setup and voice to draw us in. :) As I said for your first 250 words though, I wouldn't change a thing!

      TIARA THIEF: You've definitely got some good stuff going on here, Tiara Thief. The contemporary-sounding voice in a fantasy novel is likely to draw in readers from many genres, which is fantastic. However, your query reads like a summary for a regular contemporary novel until the latter paragraph, when you throw in the wizard. I'd strongly suggest that when you revise your query, you make it clear from paragraph #1 that there's magic involved :) I need to know from the get-go that this is a contemporary fantasy. However, your first 250 are really fun! I like that you start with conflict right off the bat, which we all know is crucial to hooking teen readers. And your MC's voice is strong, too.

      All that being said, I think one entry had a slight edge over the other, despite both having great opening pages. One query was a bit more cohesive, though both still need work.


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


      I like the hook! I'm intrigued already!

      You've got a super-long sentence in paragraph 2 (starting "Uriel's reputation") that could easily be split to make it a bit more manageable.

      Also, the phrase "their kingdom" in paragraph 4 is unclear -- Askeladden & Uriel's kingdom? The sea lords' kingdom? I think it's important to the stakes that this is clarified.



      The crush-asks-BFF-to-prom and mistaken-identity setup sounds like it could be a lot of fun.

      That being said, there's a lot going on here and I had to read through it twice before I straightened out what was going on.

      Also, I'm not sure how Sean's "inability to reliably dodge traffic" is relevant. So he goes around getting hit by cars?


    9. My Life as a Teenage Pirate Queen

      First, I have to say that I love your nickname. And pirates. I do love pirates.

      Query: I'm not sure your first paragraph is necessary. It's interesting, but seems to be background. Overall, I think this suffers from a case of vagueness. Instead of just saying her "reputation," tell us what her reputation is. Same for "legacy"--what exactly is her legacy? I get the general sense that Uriel is being sent off to what ends up being a decent marriage, but then she betrays that for Lords who never liked her much, and in the end everyone's mad at her. A female pirate is so intriguing, but I need to know more about what she needs to do and what the consequences are. And also, how mad is her husband at her for betraying him? Especially since he really seems to be the one who's treating her well.

      250: I think this is an interesting opening. Consider rephrasing it to, "forced me to my knees" or "shoved me forward" rather than "master." I'm also not sure she'd be able to tell who's warship it was just based on the rocking. I definitely love that your MC is sassy, but the dialogue reads very stiffly. The phrase "you've grown bald" sounds awkward and contradictory. That being said, this reads very well as a father/daughter conversation, and I love how spunky Uriel is.


      Tiara Thief

      Query: I love how you've twisted this best-friend/love interest trope to include a wizard and mistaken identity. This sounds super fun. But, I'm wondering if you can introduce the magical element a little earlier? "And for more than the humiliation" reads awkwardly to me, I'm not sure what you mean by that. Second paragraph, first sentence-- I'd add "more" before awkward. Same paragraph, second sentence, I'd swap out the second Maria for "her." Next sentence, I'd add "mistakenly" before "thinks." I'd start off the next sentence with "unfortunately" and end it at after "dead." And I'd get rid of the last sentence entirely. It's much stronger to end with burning the world to the ground.

      250: First sentence, change "was" to "is." Then swap "lettering" for "letter." I might throw in just a quick blurb about *why* she's been dressing up for him. Does Jason have a particular love for skirts? Or well-dressed girls? I love, love the voice in this query which also shines through in the 250. I think it's great that you start right in the middle of the action and don't waste any time getting straight to the point. Tessa's inner monologue is fantastic and humorous. Great job!


      Both of these have their strong points, but for me, VICTORY TO TIARA THIEF!

    10. Hey Judge Sally 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.

    11. Jackie Jormp-JompJune 4, 2015 at 1:08 PM

      I’m sorry these are both so brief, but I think a lot of what I might have suggested has already been mentioned in previous comments.


      I think you could tighten the query so that it’s more action packed – consider which details are absolutely important to share and which are too vague or secondary. Also based on the query, I’m confused about why Uriel feels any loyalty to her father and his kingdom, and the other lords, when they’ve all treated her so badly – and this lessens the stakes in the final sentence (which is a great sentence.)

      I enjoyed the first 250, and was interested to see what happens next, although I sort of wish I had gotten to see the fight scene that led to her capture – rather than just hearing that she’s a handful, I’d love to be tossed into the fray in the first moment.


      I feel that your query takes too long to get to magic and the adventure. I would consider rearranging and tightening a bit to get to the wizard faster. Agents and editors get so many queries, you want to make sure you get the hook in right away.

      The 250 is well written, but I’m not sure the first paragraph really gets things started with a bang. It’s a bit too introspective/narrative – I feel like it’s better to start with action instead. I like the voice and the quirky quality of the MC a lot. Very fun.

      Victory to TIARA THIEF

    12. Teenage Pirate Queen:

      Your query gives me a lot of questions: Why does Uriel’s father blame her for the death of his wife and son? Why does everyone think she’s cursed? And why do people want her dead? Also - what’s her legacy? I almost think you’d be better off cutting the second paragraph entirely because, as someone who hasn’t read the book, I’m completely lost.

      Also, dying as stakes are usually OK - but if she’s going to die either way, then why should I care? Is there a way to phrase it so there’s something Uriel must accomplish to maybe not die? Give me a reason to root for her. If she’s screwed no matter what she does, then I’m kind of bummed for her and not sure I want to read more.

      In the first page: how could she possibly know she’s on her father’s warship? Does it have a distinctive smell? The only warship in the kingdom with floors made of marshmallows? The other thing is, before we can feel concern for Uriel’s situation, we need to know more about her. Dropping us into a situation where she’s imprisoned is a bit disorienting, because we don’t know if we’re supposed to be rooting for her.

      This also doesn’t really feel YA to me. That may be in part because of the voice, which (clearly) isn’t a contemporary teenager. But I still feel like it needs to remind me of a teenager in the world you’ve created. And I worry that high fantasy should be closer to 100k words, because it requires a lot of world building.

      Tiara Thief:

      I LOVE the first two paragraphs of this query. You’ve got great voice, and I really like the concept. But it kind of falls flat for me at the last paragraph. The purpose of the query letter is to entice, make us desperate to read more. You’ve done ALL that, at the beginning. And then when I read the last sentence, all I can think is “Wait, what? Why? So what’s at stake NOW?” it’s OK for your query to lead us up to the point where Tessa jumps down the rabbit hole and then stop. Otherwise, I’m reading, getting more and more excited, and then I come to a screeching halt.

      Also, let us know in the first line how old Tessa is. I’m guessing 16, but I’d like to know.

      I love the voice on your first page. I want to keep reading. I don’t really have much to offer to improve it. This is my kind of story.

      This is 100% subjective, but one entry just speaks to me more. So, VICTORY TO TIARA THIEF.

    13. As a TIE Breaker (if I’m still needed), I’m not going to go in as much detail, but here are my thoughts:

      Your query is a bit confusing, and could be benefitted from some re-organization and editing. You’re giving us too much plot. Give the reader a sense of the basic plot of the novel, and re-focus the query to give a sort of taste of the way it reads. There’s a lot of fat to be trimmed here.

      First 250 words:
      How does the “rocking beneath me” confirm she is on her father’s warship? Is it the grain of the wood? The particular sway? Her head is covered by a bag, so what’s the source here? I’d think her father’s voice would do it, but…that happens after. Would she really think of her father by full name? It’s possible she would , given their assumedly strained relationship, but it doesn’t feel earned, it feels more infodump. Also he went bald in 6 months? I’m willing to suspend disbelief, and I like the joke, but it is a bit much.
      This has some solid bones, but it needs some revising/editing/polishing. It’s your first impression and it needs to feel effortless.

      While I get what you mean by “Down the crush of her dreams and her stag wingman for prom” it’s an odd way to phrase it. Consider revising. By traffic do you mean human traffic? The 2nd sentence on the 2nd paragraph is a pretty big shift. Given that you categorize this as YA Fantasy, I think you might want to hint wizards and magic exist prior to this. This probably indicates you need to edit the first paragraph to a sentence or two, and focus on this “main action” of the novel. That said I adore “before the cummerbunds hit the floor.” “As luck would have it.” Is a bit much, especially since you later reveal WHY. So I’d revise there.

      First 250 words:

      I love the voice here. Not a lot of feedback to give. I’d keep reading!

    14. Another hard choice! Great job to both entrants. These both sound really fun.

      My Life as a Teenage Pirate Queen - The relationships in particular you’ve set up here sound really interesting. I love how you’ve entwined political and personal conflicts, and the dialogue between Uriel and her father is fantastic.

      The first 250 could stand a bit more polish (I see at least one punctuation error, and there’s some awkward phrasing), which does imply you might want to give the whole book a polish pass before agents see the ms. My other main suggestion for the first 250 would be to slow down a bit and orient the reader in the setting and in what’s going on before jumping directly to the audience with her father. I want to get an immersive, full-sensory sense of setting, especially on an exciting location like a pirate ship, and it’d be great to have a bit more of a close sense of Uriel and her feelings before she’s face to face with her father, so we can get even more emotional punch out of the scene.

      The close of the query gets a bit vague, and I’d like to get a more specific sense of what the conflict is after she makes her choice. You do a great job laying out the emotional stakes for that choice, but then you tell us what she chooses and leave me unclear on what the conflict is after that point, which leaves the tension muddled.

      Tiara Thief - You do a great job getting a fun, lively voice into your query—I love “before the cummerbunds hit the floor!” My biggest suggestion for your query is this: currently you seem to spend the entire query setting up the inciting incident. I’m assuming most of the story happens after Maria gets kidnapped (and if not, you probably need to get there faster), but the query barely touches on what happens after that point. I think your query needs much less about the initial setup, and much more about the main conflict throughout the book. I’d also love to know more about your MC besides her crush; neither your query nor your first 250 give me much sense of what her goals and drives are beyond that one crush, or what resources and strengths will help her overcome her obstacles, or what flaws will hinder her.

      In the first 250, aside from getting in more of a feel for your MC beyond her crush, I’d suggest reworking the first paragraph... right now it feels a bit muddled. I think if you use it to establish setting and character, the situation speaks for itself and you don’t need the rambly internal monologue at the beginning.

      This is a really hard choice. These both sound great! But I’m going to give the...


      For me, the deciding factor was a deeper sense of the conflict and how it emotionally impacts the main character. Good luck to you both!

    15. Saw the call for more judges to this entry, and so I'll weigh in. As a tiebreaker, I'm giving a little less comment than I might otherwise. (also, I'm at work, shh!) Here goes:

      I think that the PIRATE QUEEN has a strong 250-- it's got a great deal of voice, and I find myself interested and invested in the main character. The query is reasonably well constructed, but I find myself more confused than intrigued regarding 'the entropy curse' and a few other details. I think it's a little overly concerned with world building, as well. Others have suggested that it might be reworked and I agree.

      But the 250 I found very engaging, and I want to learn more about this character and her journey. Good work.


      This is a very zingy query, and has oodles of voice. I have very little to add what has been said already-- there are a few awkward constructions, but you are already on the right path with it, I think. It's engaging, fun, and good work.

      The 250 worries me because it starts out strong, and ends on a weak note. While I appreciate you including your MC's voice so much, it starts to become a little overwritten, to my mind, and I feel like you would accomplish more with less. I want to read this book from the query, but the 250 leaves me less certain.

      It's subjective, and the close nature of this match should indicate how strong both entries are.



      Well-worded query. Since you come here for the nitpicks, Hot Lunch is served! The first query line is great, though the second doesn't say a whole lot; we don't know specifics about the journey, so I say get right to the details and pull up the next paragraph in place of that. Since you don't have much word count in a query, make sure every line gives rich detail on plot or character, and you don't want to repeat.

      First line of 250: Voice, stakes, a problem right away. Sold. Father's warship, sounding like he did six months ago, the context is fed in bit by bit. Sensory details and setting add sense of time and place. Very well done.


      Hot Lunch is pleased with what's on the menu. (Yes, Hot Lunch will continue making lunch puns). The query is well worded with strong verbs and no wasted, vague sentences. "To make matters awkward" upends a cliche phrase to show voice.

      Though the title and genre list magic and fantasy, it was a shock to get to paragraph 2 and see mention of a wizard. The first paragraph reads completely contemporary, even referring to small town USA, which does not hint at magic being part of this world. Working in a line earlier about the magic in the world will help--right now the wizard feels like a different story barging into the query.

      The first page shows voice suitable for the genre with an active scene. It immediately ties into what we know from the query. Nice work.


  2. For me, the Teenage Pirate Queen is the better entry. I do agree some of the detail in the query can be trimmed to keep it to just the essential conflict and characters. I LOVED the first 250. The only thing that seemed slightly out of place was the MC "smirking," at the bloody dagger, but maybe that's explained later on.

    Tiara Thief, I enjoyed your 250 more than I expected to based on the query. To be honest, the first part of the query read as a contemporary YA with a boy-crazy-why-doesn't-this-guy-like-me? MC I wouldn't want to necessarily spend 95,000 words with. But your voice was really engaging and won me over. I'd suggest getting to the fantasy part quicker in your first 250 and maybe de emphasizing the boy drama in the query.

  3. Teenage Pirate Queen...

    I feel that your premise, while interesting, got lost in the query's more unwieldy sentences. I see two main ways to tighten your query up. First, re-evaluate the sentences (3) that include the dash. The dash seems like a way for you to cram more info into the sentences than they can hold comfortably. Secondly, the duality aspect (family & kingdom, enemies and allies, wife and son, loyalty and duty, etc.) gets unnecessarily repetitious and can be easily trimmed down.

    That being said, I really enjoyed your 250. I just think that an opening that strong deserves a stronger query.

    Tiara Thief... I really loved your query's voice but felt that the transition from realism to fantasy was somewhat abrupt. Perhaps the query would read differently if I had read the opening paragraph that you would normally include when addressing this to an agent. However, you might want to consider a way of bringing some magic into the first paragraph or perhaps of shortening the fairly mundane first paragraph so as to emphasize the unexpected twist of the second paragraph.

    In regards to your 250, I felt that the first line was unnecessarily hyperbolic and wonder if you might have a stronger (and safer) opening line with "Jason Garvie had kissed me."

    Best of luck to you both!

    James Tilton
    Fun Friday My Ass (

  4. My Life as a Teenage Pirate Queen rocked. I loved the query, especially that last line. For the first 250, I felt it started in a good place; right in the middle of the action. Also, I like the MC. She's tough and I'm so excited to see a female who isn't afraid to bash some heads in. Plus that line "You've grown bald"...hilarious. Bravo for all around good work.

    Tiara Thief, for the query, I liked the first paragraph but it's more realistic than the second. I think maybe incorporating some magic (pun intended) talk into the first paragraph so we'd have a better heads up. Also, I wasn't sure what the "inability to dodge traffic" meant. Was it literally or figuratively? Traffic as in cars, people? I think that last line could go somewhere up in the query and the phrase "burn to the ground trying" is a little cliche so I would suggest rephrasing that. Now for your 250, I loved it. I could so relate to every moment taking place. I bet we all have had those fantasy moments with past crushes that all ended in them liking a friend. I know I have. You pinned it down great. The only thing I have to say about it is that maybe edit it some of the first paragraph so you can end your 250 on a sentence that really packs a punch. Like if you could end it with him confessing he wants Maria, you'd be golden.

    These entries were so entertaining and I wish you both the best of luck. :)

  5. Wow, hard hard hard to pick here! Both of you did and amazing job of hooking me into your stories. I didn't want your first 250 words to end!

    Pirate: I agree with others in that your query needs to match the magnitude of your opening. the story is so beautifully written with just enough detail and tension that I am hooked. Can you apply that same level of "tease" to the query? Get to the heart of the story line and let go of that sense to relay to much.

    Tiara: Again I was drawn into your story and felt the character right away--another masterful beginning. I feel like the fantasy aspect seems to weigh the story down a bit in your query. Can you look for ways to sprinkle it in and keep it tighter? It caused me to loose the story's focus a bit.

    Honestly i'm having hard time picking, so since i'm not a judge i give you BOTH my vote--good luck!!

  6. My Life as a Teenage Pirate Queen
    - I love the twists. And the beginning has both physical and personal jeopardy. Nice job!
    Tiara Thief
    - I saw this earlier in wvoice. Still love it. Nicely done.

  7. My Life as a Teenage Pirate Queen


    Great concept. I love piracy! This was an easy pick in terms of reading.

    Your query is great, but has a few small problems. One- tighten up the phrasing. I'd condense down to 3 paragraphs, remove everything between the hyphen/m dashes, and simplify your second sentence in your second paragraph. It's far too long.

    The stakes are incorrectly described at the end. A single misstep can mean the difference between... she's dead either way, right? It doesn't read correctly. I'm sure there's a better way to put it.


    I suspect you want to add "satisfaction in knowing that." Typo "coveringmy". Final sentence, either replace the comma with a ; or break into two sentences.

    The good? I love this introduction to the story! It definitely makes me want to read more. This is precisely the way to introduce the tension between these two characters. Well done!

    Tiara Thief

    I remember this one! I've read every Voice entry, recognized it immediately.

    Typos: long-time, double-dating. You need hyphens in these places.

    Love the last line, first paragraph of the query, and it's following line, "to make matters awkward."


    I feel like your first line of the 250 can be a touch stronger. I think swapping form for piece would help. The second line is wonderful. You have a great knack for capturing those uncertain, teen feelings and I very much enjoyed reading the intro to your novel.

  8. Teenage Pirate Queen - I feel your query started off very good, but as it went on I started feeling as though it gave us too much information. I feel like I already know what happens throughout the book, except for the ending. There's a lot going on and it was a bit hard to follow at times.
    Your 250 was great. The first sentence took me aback at first because I felt as though I was starting in the middle of the story, but as I read on it all started making sense. It's very well-written.

    Tiara - I am a little confused with the query. At first, I thought it was going to be a story about the dynamics of Tessa, her crush, Sean, and Maria. I didn't get any kind of inkling that there would be a fantasy element to it. I would maybe cut back on the first paragraph a bit and/or give us a taste of the fantasy element in it because right now I almost feel like the query is representing two different genres.
    LOVED your first 250. I already feel as though I can relate to Tessa and her feelings toward Jason. Her inner dialogue was appropriate for her age. I would love to read more of it.

  9. Pirate Queen - I love the idea of an entropy curse, and I think your query is very tight and well-written. One small thing - I think you need semicolon in the last sentence of your 250.

    Tiara Thief - I agree with some of the previous comments that the mention of the wizard in the 2nd paragraph took me aback a bit. I might rearrange the query so that it's more upfront about the fantasy elements. That being said, I love the concept and think the query is very well-written. The stakes are clearly outlined, and I'm hooked. For your first 250, I'm not sure that you need your first paragraph. I think you could cut it and begin with "As I make my way down the bleachers" and you wouldn't lose anything, but rather would start the action more immediately.

    I'd definitely read more of both these books!

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  11. Pirate Queen

    I love seafaring adventures. This is a great premise, and your query/voice are both compelling. My only question is about the phrase – “blames her for the deaths of his wife and son” – not her mother and brother? I realize the two aren’t necessarily the same thing…just checking! ☺

    I think the 250 would start stronger with a simple statement (maybe move the opening clause to the beginning of the second sentence?).

    In the second paragraph, did you mean to put a colon instead of a semi-colon? And in the last sentence, I think you want a period instead of a comma.

    Tiara Thief:

    “Down the crush of her dreams and her stag wingman for prom…” I might go with “lacking” or “missing” or something like that…it takes a second to realize which meaning of down you intended.

    “His mistake won’t make Maria any less dead” sounds a bit like she’s already dead.

    Some of the vocabulary/phrasing doesn’t strike me like a teenage girl – dastardly and littered stick out particularly. Even though the age of the voice seems to waver, you do a great job capturing the emotional rollercoaster of dealing with a crush. It’s a very moving opening!

  12. PIRATE QUEEN: I really enjoyed this entry! It made me think a little bit about Game of Thrones and the kick-ass female pirate. :) I'm sure people have already told you about needing spaces in coveringmy and myfather's. In the last paragraph I would suggest skipping "I said" and just making it "I pulled at the bindings." It would also probably sound better as the man who'd caught me (not who). And "...brown leather. I smirked at..." Those are all so nitpicky, when I really, really like this. Especially love, "You've grown bald." Made me laugh out loud! Congrats and I wish you luck!!!!

    TIARE THIEF: Really enjoyed this a lot. Great writing and a fun premise. I'm wondering if there's a way in the first paragraph of the query to alert us that this isn't a YA contemporary. The wizard in the 2nd paragraph kind of hits out of the blue (I know the genre is YA fantasy, but still this would help to lear things up). Writing is great in the 250. Only comment is wondering if it should be a ? after "Was that too casual?"

    Both so fun and I can definitely see why more judges were called in to help! Such a hard choice, as I wish both could move on...

    Victory to PIRATE QUEEN