It's feedback reveal time for Pass or Pages, the query contest run at here Operation Awesome. We hope you'll find tips to benefit your own work and query letters. Copious thanks to our agent panel for taking the time to critique these entries. Our gratitude to all authors, especially those who participated in this round of Pass or Pages. The only path to success is by trying. Bravo to those entered.
Entry 1: Perfect Monsters
Fifteen-year-old Thirteen [SH1] [KP1] will do anything to get away from the scientists who engineered her human hybrid [KP2] body, even when it means a one-way trip to the planet Olympia. So, she stows away on a ship taking a test flight to the planet. [WJ1] The last crew that landed there is assumed dead, which is fine with Thirteen. Humans like to send heroes to kill monsters, and she looks too much like Medusa for them to comfortably live with her. But her need for food and supplies forces her to find the human ship [KP3]...which isn’t as abandoned as she’d hoped. [SH2]
Sixteen-year-old Ace is a Perfect, the culmination of a millennium of thoughtful human breeding. His job, besides looking perfect, is to keep the ship-dwellers [KP4] happy until their bodies can adjust to Olympia’s harmful atmosphere. [WJ2] It’s as close as he’ll ever get to his childhood dream of being a hero, and he takes his duty seriously, until he accidentally ejects himself from the ship. A strange green girl with tentacles for hair fishes him out of the water, and he believes the venom in her sting is the key to acclimating the rest of his crew to Olympia. Unfortunately, she’s okay with his crew being stuck on the ship forever. [KP5]
Despite growing up on different planets, Thirteen and Ace both spent their childhoods cooped up indoors. [KP6] Liberation [KP7] is almost as exhilarating as their growing feelings for each other. But they aren’t as free as they think. They were both created for a purpose and their creators are determined to see them fulfil that purpose, even if it means they both end up dead.
PERFECT MONSTERS is a 98,000-word YA [WJ3] Science Fiction that will also appeal to fans of [WJ4] ACROSS THE UNIVERSE. [KP8]
Kelly Peterson's Notes:
[KP1] - Having her name/ID be right next to her age is slightly jarring to read. Maybe considering separating them a bit in the sentence.
[KP2] - Human hybrid with what? I’m assuming technology? Though I see later that she seems to look like medusa with tentacles, so what is she a hybrid of, exactly?
[KP3] - I’m confused here. Does she not have supplies on the test flight? Are there any other humans or hybrids on the test flight with her? Why wouldn’t people assume a crash landing would burn the entire ship and not leave supplies behind? Did the last ship crash land, or are they just presumed dead due to lack of communication?
[KP4] - The same ship dwellers that everyone assumes are dead? Why do they seem to be living happily when they don’t have communication with their previous world and are assumed dead?
[KP6] - This seems like unnecessary information.
[KP8] - How so? How do the two relate?
Saritza Hernandez's Notes:
[SH1] - This confused me at first read. I thought it was a typo and had to re-read it to get the gist of it. I’d suggest changing her name so it’s not confusing. I don’t see a reason for the name in the query nor the sample and with brothers who are named for what they are, Taurus and Wolf, it seems odd that she’d not be named Medusa despite her hair not being made of snakes.
[SH2] - If it’s a suicide mission, why is she looking for food and supplies?
Weronika Janczuk's Notes:
[WJ1] - Cut the rest of the paragraph after this. The details there are (a) unnecessary and (b) hard for an agent to wrap their mind around without reading the actual text; in other words, there are too many story-specific details included.
[WJ2] - The rest of the query after this point doesn't work. What the writer needs to do here, in a third paragraph, is to offer a v. compact pitch about the ways in which these two worlds meet—and to demonstrate the clear plot arc that will be the focal point of the novel.
[WJ3] - Science fiction is not capitalized. Add the word "novel" after the genre.
[WJ4] - Include the author's name.
First 250 words
Taurus’s shadow loomed down the dim corridor, [KP1] the curved horn stretching toward my bare feet. I shifted the color of my skin to match the gray interior walls of Prometheus Labs. Normally, I took pity on my nearsighted brother and let him find me, but not today. [KP2] This time I wanted to feel as cold as the stone walls that surrounded me. And nothing else.
If I were really the monster the scientists said I was, the halls would be littered with silent statues that couldn’t hurt us. But I was only a genetically engineered facsimile of Medusa. Instead of snakes, my hair consisted of two long, stinging squid tentacles and eight useless squid arms, or squarms. My human face couldn’t turn anyone to stone and my paralyzing squid toxins were useless because the scientists always wore safety suits. [KP3]
Taurus grunted and then clomped down the hall, swinging his massive horned head back and forth. He was as bull-headed as any minotaur should be, but instead of hunting to kill, he wanted to help me feel better, even when that was impossible. Prometheus Labs created us to test the space program without endangering human life. He and my other brother, Wolf, were scheduled to go on a deadly one-way trip through space, leaving me alone to wonder if they survived. Hiding wouldn’t keep anyone from leaving, but it would save me the pain of looking into their eyes, knowing it would be the last time. [WJ1] [SH1] [KP4]
Kelly Peterson's Notes:
[KP1] - Opening with his name makes it seem as though he’s the main character telling this scene for a second. Possible rewording could make this a stronger opening without insinuating a different MC.
[KP2] - Is Taurus hunting her? Are they playing a game? Did he run after her because she was upset? Or is it just proper for her to make herself known to her friend who can’t see well?
[KP3] - I’m not sure this is necessarily needed here. I think this paragraph could be separated a bit and placed into a few more natural occurences of this information throughout the first few pages.
[KP4] - Good way to build that tension and immediately relate your reader to the character!
Saritza Hernandez's Notes:
[SH1] - I liked this sample but the query doesn’t give me enough of a conflict beyond their creators coming after them. Maybe specify in the query what they were created for (especially Thirteen). Despite the interesting premise, I’d pass on this.
Weronika Janczuk's Notes:
[WJ1] - These 250 words don’t work at all—there is way too much world-building and characterization here that doesn’t actively contribute to a strong tension or plot arc. I would encourage the writer here to fully re-imagine the entire scene, and to start within a clearer action arc (whether that action is exterior or interior). In other words, these 250 words tell us a lot—but they do v. little to show and structure the context for the unfolding story, and do v. little to invest the reader in the character or the unfolding story. Be thinking about plot and pacing, especially with regards to scene structure--the way that you begin, move through, and end individual scenes: https://bit.ly/2x38n55. A huge part of the journey to publication, as well as career-building, requires a constant perfection of one's craft. Also be thinking about the compactness of your query and your pages: https://bit.ly/2QnD4u4.
Kelly Peterson: PASS: Your writing seems to be decently strong, but I’m not quite sure of the story arc from your query. There’s a few questions I’d like answered, as well as clearer stakes and tension within your query so that I’d know what I’m requesting. Keep going, though! You have so much potential!
Saritza Hernandez: PASS
Weronika Janczuk: PASS