Title: Windfall
Nickname: My Boyfriend Rigged The Lottery
Word Count: 83,000
Genre: YA Contemporary Suspense

In Marina’s culture, dumplings are thought to bring wealth and good fortune to anyone who eats them. But she’s been eating dumplings her whole life and good fortune remains as elusive as a good boyfriend. She’s a Chinese-American piano prodigy with no say in her future, and the pressure to be perfect is crushing her.  
When Marina wins the lottery on her eighteenth birthday and her dad inexplicably forbids her from claiming the prize, she feels newly entitled to defy her parents and reject their plans for her life. She turns her back on customs, and everything else she knows, and accepts the money against their wishes.
But Marina’s lottery win comes with strings attached—a role she’s expected to play that was hand-picked just for her, the same way she was hand-picked to win the lottery. If she fails to do her part and the scandal is exposed, those on top will make sure she’s the first casualty. When Marina finds evidence linking her dad to the intrigue, she has no one to turn to but Sean, an edgy guitar player who gets her in a way no one else does. But Sean’s new in town, and his arrival was suspiciously close to the announcement of her lottery win. Now Marina must figure out who to trust and who’s pulling the lottery strings, before her prize turns into a noose. 
First 250:

My best friend’s raspberry spritzer sat dangerously close to the edge of the table, a twitch of the elbow away from tumbling to the floor. It was non-alcoholic, of course. The staff at Valer Prep made sure that alcohol was only consumed by parents (preferably ones with fat checkbooks) at the annual fundraising events. The students’ drinks were just fruit juice and club soda.  
The parents in the decked-out ballroom were dressed like they’d gotten lost on their way to the Oscars and ended up at our school’s silent auction by mistake. They mingled about, bidding on rounds of golf at exclusive country clubs and dinner cruises around the San Francisco Bay. What they really should have been bidding on were self-help courses like: Connecting with Teens For Dummies, or How to Break Your Workout Addiction in Ten Easy Steps
I reached over Darya and slid her drink to a less precarious spot in the center of the table. She didn’t even notice—she just kept staring at the phone in her hands.
Okay, I was staring at it too.
“The draw was at six. Why haven’t they posted the numbers yet?” Darya’s eyes were wide, and her dark hair hung in thick waves down her back. She had the tiniest hint of a Spanish accent, but it only came out when she was stressed or upset. Like now.
“Relax, it’s only been five minutes.” Despite my words, I felt anything but relaxed.


Title: The Gray Hole
Entry Nickname: Hot Sauce is Bad for Wound Care
Word count: 62K
Genre: Magic Realism/Suspense
Six students at Mayville High will be dead by Saturday night. Again. And again, they will begin the week over just before Tuesday’s first period class. Doomed to repeat the same week until seventeen-year-old Grayson Dell decides to stop killing them, the group must work through two problems: First, Grayson has no idea the groundhog week from hell is happening; Second, the victims are all jerks.
As Grayson debates whether or not to follow through with his deadly plans, his victims, seeing nothing left to lose, only increase their cruelty to outrageous levels, making the decision to kill easier and easier. It isn’t until Grayson’s once-most-brutal tormentor treats him as a fellow human that the magical force creating the temporal loop provides signs of a possible end to the cycle. Now with the help of his old adversary, Grayson must steer clear of his victims and all their evil plans in order to find the therapy, medication, and friendship he needs. Otherwise, he and the others will be forced to endure the week before prom forever, corsages, limos, improvised-explosives, and all.
First 250:
You tell yourself today will be different. Maybe it will. The lockers are the same sick, pale blue as yesterday, the linoleum floors still shine with same pungent cleaners that have been disintegrating nose hairs and SEAL-Team-Sixing brain cells for all four years you’ve spent in this school. And your classmates – if they’ve changed anything other than the color of their hair, it’d be tantamount to Chris Hemsworth intentionally eating a carb.
But still.
That pale blue used to be your favorite color before your wardrobe and your attitude took an about-face to the dark side. The chemical glint and nauseating smell from the floor is fading with each sneaker’s squeaking step. And those people – the juniors, sophomores, freshman, even your classmates – they all could –
Your head snaps against a locker so hard it’s unclear whether the high pitched hum ringing in your ears is just a sudden bout of tinnitus or if the blue painted metal is actually screaming back at you. You try to pull away and see if the locker’s door was repainted red, but the hand that put you there doubles the pressure from its sweaty palms, digging the blunted and jagged ends of chewed away nails into the back of your head and your left cheek.
You stop struggling before you start. Today will be no different. Why would it be? Embarrassment is the baseline of high school, and pain is just a reminder you haven’t left yet.
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    • My Boyfriend Rigged The Lottery


      Still not sure the dumplings bit is necessary in the query, but I like that we get a sense of her culture off the bat.

      I like the second paragraph. It’s pulled together telling me what’s going on and getting me right into the plot.

      I feel like we’ve got some events going out of order, or maybe they’re in order, but I’m not sure. Sean seems to come at the edge, and I have no idea why she’s only turning to him. Why not her mom or anyone else. He’s not mentioned at all before this, and I feel like if he should be. Right now it just feels like an afterthought. I’m also still not sure why she’s handpicked to win the lottery. Why her? It’s all still a bit vague in why she’s picked, what someone else is getting out of it, and why this poses a threat to her.

      First 250:

      I like the voice, but I still feel like this makes her seem a bit younger than 18. Maybe mention it’s a high school and is she graduating? Something to ground me more in the character herself, as opposed to everything going on around her.

      There’s a lot of telling instead of showing. Show us how she feels anything but relaxed. Is she shaking her leg? Biting her nails?

      I think that you could pull the urgency up a little to start it off a little better, mixing the scenery and mood in with the rest of it.


      Hot Sauce is Bad For Wound Care

      (Just a PS, I love this nickname)


      Great hook. Pulled me in right away.

      The problems throw me off a bit. If Grayson doesn’t know what’s happening, wouldn’t that be an advantage as they know where he’s going to be and how he’s going to kill them? It would give them room to work around that so they could potentially talk to him about it, at least I would think. Also, I’m a little confused if Grayson is the protagonist or not. The victims are all jerks—not really seeing that as a problem if they want to get out of the time loop. Stop being jerks.

      I like this concept, but I’m a little bit confused about what actually happens for him to realize he’s in a time loop. One of them treat him as a person, does this trigger something? What signs? Don’t be vague. Tell me what’s happening. Tell me what he must do in order to stop it.
      First 250:

      I’m not a huge fan of second person unless it’s done really well. Right now I feel like ‘you’ is being overused, much the same as someone writing first person overuses ‘I’. It’s a lot of self-action and reflection, but the ‘you’ I think keeps me distanced from the protagonist—if that’s who’s speaking. First might work better for you in this instance, drawing the reader in to give them more of a connection. Second person is giving me too much distance.

      Otherwise, I think it’s well written and starts in a good spot. It’s intriguing, making me want to know what happens next—what’s going to happen to this kid, or the kids tormenting him.

      My Boyfriend Rigged The Lottery: I think this is a great premise, but I don’t feel like I know enough about why the lottery was rigged, or really how, why Marina, and what the whole point is. The first 250 is well written, but I’d like to see the scene setting mixed in a little more as opposed to having it as the first two paragraphs. Play with the dialogue and action pulling it up and see if that works better for you.

      Hot Sauce Is Bad For Wound Care: The query has a fantastic hook, but it’s lacking on the details that that could make it great. The premise itself is unique, fantastic, and even with the vagueness, I’d probably request because I feel like there’s a lot of potential of there. First 250, I don’t like the fact that it’s in second person as it makes me feel like there’s a barrier between me and what the protagonist is feeling. I would play around with that, watch out for over use of ‘you’, and see how you can bring the reader in closer because there is sooo much emotion to work with there.


    • MY BOYFRIEND RIGGED THE LOTTERY: I'm intrigued by this query but also confused. The third paragraph loses me. What role is Marina expected to play as lottery winner and who expects her to play it? What scandal is being referred to? It's the first mention of a scandal. And Sean seems to come out of nowhere. I'm honestly pretty lost.

      I feel like you have all the makings of a good query here: a sympathetic protagonist, an intriguing conflict (a rigged lottery), and some potentially great stakes (although they aren't yet laid out clearly). This just needs some tweaking, and it's going to be fantastic.

      The first 250 are beautifully written, but there's nothing to really hook me until nearly the end. Honestly, I'm okay with easing into a story (especially if I like the writing) but I know that not everyone is, so I'd suggest maybe weaving more action into the setup. For instance, this bit of dialogue–“The draw was at six. Why haven’t they posted the numbers yet?”–brings some tension. Can you move it closer to the top of the page and set the description around it?

      HOT SAUCE IS BAD FOR WOUND CARE: I love, love, love the premise for this, as well as your query hook. What an intriguing idea?

      What I'm missing, though, is knowing who to relate to, because quite frankly, everyone seems despicable. Grayson is the killer, but the victims are jerks? Grayson is your POV character, right? But lines like "his victims, seeing nothing to lose" make me wonder if there are multiple POV characters. What about Grayson makes him human and relatable? Is he a victim of bullying and feels this is his last resort? I get that feeling from the mention of one of them as Grayson's tormentor. So maybe instead of calling the victims "jerks" you could say that they're Grayson's tormentors, maybe long-time tormentors or brutal tormentors or something that would give a better idea of why Grayson would get to this point.

      Also, while I like a query that leaves me wanting more, this query left me with too many questions as to the logic of the story itself. Why do the victims know they're in a loop but Grayson doesn't? Why don't they just stop being jerks? I would think that might be the first thing they'd try if their behaviors have potentially led to their deaths. Why do t hey see nothing left to lose? And why antagonize their would-be killer? Also, the words "magical force" throw me off. They seem at odds with the tone of the rest of the query. Is this necessary to the query or can you just omit and say something along the lines of "the temporal loop shows signs of a possible end"?

      Your 250 has some great tension in it, and some really nice writing. The second-person narrative intrigues me at first since it's something that isn't done too often, and I really like the rhythm of the words, but I felt like the POV was losing me after maybe two paragraphs. I felt too much distance from the protagonist. The details are great, but it all feels very "told" rather than shown. Plus the repetition of the word "you" became distracting.

      I think you have so much to work with here and I am absolutely in love with the premise.


      I've been back and forth and back and forth on this one. These both have so much potential, and my heart and head have picked different winners.

      Ultimately I decided…


    • My Boyfriend Rigged the Lottery

      This is another one I saw last round that I really liked.

      “…a role she’s expected to play that was hand-picked just for her…” This is bugging me a bit this go-through. Is there any way to be more specific without big spoilers?

      “edgy guitar player”…I may be the only one who is bugged by this, but I’m a guitar player, and in the musical circles I run in “edgy” is usually an underhanded jibe. It’s mainly a term used by the media, it seems like, and a lot of us roll our eyes at the “bad boy” musician stereotype (though the public in general it seems will never tire of it). I’d be more specific here if possible about what makes him edgy, to make him stand out from the crowd.

      I like this query. It leaves me with a lot of questions I want answered, and seriously makes me want to read the book.

      First paragraph, you don’t really need the last line. You’ve already shown us this well enough.

      Good pages, and good humor.


      Query: I love this dynamic. Bullies vs. disturbed gunman. All of them “unlikable characters” who have to work through issues. This is an awesome concept, and one that needs to be explored. Like, a lot. I’m really into characters typically seen as unlikable and “crazy”, and love books that explore the inner lives, beauty, and motivations of the people society hates (for good reason or not), so you’ve caught my attention.

      I feel a little bit like you’re spoiling the story too much by telling me that the cycle looks to be coming to an end. I’d increase the stakes by just saying something like, “Will these seriously messed-up people (don’t use that line, of course) learn how to understand each other and face their dark sides in order to bring the cycle to an end? Or will they be doomed…” etc.

      Oh, my gosh, second person. Cool. Screams crazy in so many ways.

      “SEAL-Team-Sixing” – I’m completely missing this reference. Though I basically live in a cave, so…

      “Your head snaps against a locker…” This disconcerts me. I’d tell us right off someone shoved him into it so I don’t spend the whole paragraph not having a picture of what’s happening.

      I really want to read more to see how you’ve handled this subject, and to see more of your MC’s (or multiple MCs?) voice/voices. I’m absolutely intrigued.

      This is a massively tough call. I really like BOYFRIEND, and think it may be more ready to be queried than its rival, but HOT SAUCE…I just subjectively NEED to read it and see how the author has handled this subject. That need drives me to give VICTORY TO HOT SAUCE

    • My Boyfriend Rigged The Lottery

      I really enjoyed your query and have no suggestions. You do an excellent job of outlining the goal, intrigue/suspense, and stakes.

      I love the voice in your 250, and I can see you have a great sense of humor. But, I’m not seeing much tension in your first 250. You don’t need a car crash or a murder to hook the reader, but I want to feel as if something is about to happen. I don’t get that until Darya speaks.

      Hot Sauce is Bad for Wound Care

      I’m not sure from your query who the protag is. Grayson is the only one named, yet I feel like the six dying students might also have povs in the MS. Is there a way to make this clear? If Grayson is the main pov, consider starting the query with him to ground the reader.

      Otherwise, I love the premise here. Very timely.

      Wow. Great tension. I’m already sympathetic for the MC. And I love the second person pov. I don’t have any suggestions for improvement.

      Laura! (I know you’re listening). WHY are you making this so hard for us? I love both these entries and would gladly pick them up at the bookstore and devour them.

      Sigh. Since I MUST pick . . .

      VICTORY TO Hot Sauce is Bad for Wound Care

    • My Boyfriend Rigged the Lottery
      Query: Love the first paragraph, really shows us her voice. It's an interesting concept but I started to get confused by the last paragraph. If her dad was involved, why would she have been hand picked? There's obviously some kind of conspiracy going on here, I think it would be more powerful if we understood the forces at work and why she's the pawn. Just because the main character doesn't know, doesn't mean you can't put it in the query.

      Your last line, the last phrase about the noose: too vague. It loses the tension that's been building. What exactly will happen to her if she doesn't figure this out? Is her life in danger? And you mentioned she was a piano prodigy in the beginning, but never again. Does that fit into the story at all, or is it mostly this lottery problem? I'm also wondering what kind of lottery this is. I can't imagine her dad could rig the Powerball, so is this some other kind of lottery? And what role is she hand-picked to play, and why? I feel like the query almost nails it but falls a bit short because it's missing vital story information, but you are really close.

      First 250: Nice first page, a bit bland and lacking in tension or action. Perhaps throw in more about her state of mind right from the start. Is she fidgety about this lottery, on edge, that would pull me in more than a description of her friend's drink and the parents' outfits. It doesn't have to be one or the other, her feelings about whatever is going on could be woven into the scene you are setting.
      All in all, an interesting premise that I'd be interested in seeing more of.

      Hot Sauce is Bad for Wound Care (HA! Great nickname)
      Query: I was kind of baffled. How do the "victims" know they are in a loop, being killed over and over, and their killer doesn't? Why would they become even more brutal? Why are the victims being jerks a problem? BTW, sounds like they are way more than just jerks. What is the magical force creating the temporal loop? I had trouble following this one, to the point of not quite knowing how to suggest any improvements, although the basic premise is fascinating and something so important to explore.

      250: Wow, I don't think I've ever read any novel in 2nd person before. I want to give you major props for bravery and originality. That said, I had trouble relating to it. Kept reading and rereading, trying to get what was going on. There may be many who love this style, though, but just not my thing.

      I do feel you are trying a bit too hard with the trendy witticisms. The Seal thing and the Chris Hemsworth thing in particular. Bullying is a timely and timeless problem and putting so many current references like that into it will date your book very quickly. Loved the line about embarrassment being the baseline of high school. So very true. I feel like the book could have more power if it was written in a different POV, that allows us to relate better to the bullied kid.

      It's always a tough choice when you're asked to judge something that's completely and wildly different (Hot Sauce) against something more conventional(Lottery).

      In terms of how ready the query and first page are for submission, I choose:
      Victory to My Boyfriend Rigged the Lottery

    • My Boyfriend Rigged the Lottery

      Query: Pretty solid, not too much to comment on. My nitpicky comment would be to un-vagueify (that’s my new word) the statement that Sean “gets her in a way no one else does.” How so? Does he understand her need for freedom? Her desire to have some agency over her own life? Where does he even come from? It doesn’t sound like they would be hanging out in the same places. All in all well done.

      Opening: I love the humor in this opening! Honestly, I wouldn’t have expected it after reading the query. It’s subtle, but with a bite. If you can incorporate that voice into the query, it would be amazing. I have no other comments here. Nice work.

      Hot Sauce is Bad for Wound Care

      Query: Ooo, this is really intriguing. The query is good. I’ve been staring at the part in the first paragraph, “…the group must work through two problems” for about five minutes straight. Something doesn’t sit right with me there, but I’m going to be that annoying person that says I can’t quite put my finger on why it bothers me. But that’s super nitpicky.

      Opening: Is the entire book in second person? Or does it alternate? Such a difficult point of view to pull off. I’m interested just to see how it continues using that viewpoint. It is jarring, going from musing to being shoved into a locker, which I’m guessing is what you were going for, so mission accomplished. Solid opening.


    • MY BOYFRIEND RIGGED THE LOTTERY: I saw this during the first round and enjoyed it then. You have made some really fantastic changes here, and it is very strong. Congratulations on a really good query and 250.

      HOT SAUCE IS BAD FOR WOUND CARE: First off, LOVE the nickname. ☺ Wow, this is so fun! I really like the premise. At first I thought, oh, Groundhog Day again, but then once I saw that it was about trying to get someone to stop killing them, I was completely into it. Great stuff. Query: I wonder if mentioning the “magical force” is necessary. In a way it undermined what was happening – could you just say that once he gets treated like a human there are signs that something could be changing? My only other suggestion is if after “forever” in the last line you might want a hyphen instead of a comma, to make it a little clearer. Your 250 are so strong. Really great. I don’t actually have anything to say about them except I enjoyed them and would like to read more!

      This is an impossible choice – I don’t want to have to pick on over the other. I would read them both in a heartbeat. But I have to. Ugh. Best wishes to both of you for these great books.



      My Boyfriend Rigged The Lottery

      This is a good query. I’d move Sean’s introduction up a bit, but other than that this does exactly what a query should do.

      First 250 words:
      I like that this first 250 words lets you instantly connect with Marina. Nothing to critique here.

      Hot Sauce is Bad for Wound Care

      I adore the final sentence of the first paragraph. Simple and clear, impressive given the premise. This query is quick and concise. I like it.

      First 250 words:
      Is this novel told in journal entries? 2nd person? Etc? It’s unclear. Everything in the prose itself is great, I like it all, but it is confusing. I can’t tell how the rest of this book will be. Will it all be like this?

      Honestly, on Query alone, Hot Sauce is Bad for Wound Care, would have won. I hate to fault it for the words, because my gut tells me that after the word “yet.” Things are immediately made clear. Unfortunately, I have to judge on what is here. If that book is actually all told in 2nd person that should be made clear in the query.

      Victory to: My Boyfriend Rigged The Lottery

    • My Boyfriend Rigged the Lottery

      Wonderful opening lines for the query set the tone and give great voice. To bring the narrative closer perhaps: ‘(She’s) A Chinese-American piano prodigy, with no say in her future, (and) the pressure to be perfect is crushing her.’ Suggest reordering the following for a more interesting rhythm: ‘(She turns) Turning her back on custom(s, and) – along with everything (else) she knows(, and she) – Marina accepts the money against (their) her parents’ wishes.’ Things get confusing in paragraph 3 – better to share the intrigue than mask it. Suggest streamlining the first line of the third paragraph along the lines of: ‘Hand-picked as the prize winner, Marina’s lottery win – like her piano career – comes with strings attached. If she fails…’

      The opening paragraph of the first 250 didn’t do much for me. I think the 2nd paragraph does a better job at scene-setting and has more voice. Unless the non-alcoholic nature of the students’ beverages is important to the story, I’d cut the first paragraph. Then you could add in Valer Prep to the 2nd paragraph, making it the opening one, e.g., ‘The parents in the decked out Ballroom of Valer Prep…’ By trimming out the first paragraph, you can get deeper into the story in the first 250 words.

      Hot Sauce is Bad for Wound Care

      Great opening line for the query – a real attention getter. Unfortunately for me, things became a bit too vague as the query progressed. Though the larger Groundhog Day-like experience was clear, I didn’t know if it ‘the group’ referred to the victims who ‘are all jerks’ or if the term included Grayson. I also didn’t get the logic of ‘his victims, seeing nothing left to lose, only increase their cruelty…’ It seems if they know Grayson plans to kill them and truly feel they have nothing left to lose, they’d use deadly force against him – rather than increasing ‘their cruelty’ – killing him before he can kill them. I think injecting some specifics here would clear things up.

      Lots of voice in the opening 250 and you manage to inject the MCs personality and perspective through his description of the school. His vocabulary and cultural references also let us know a lot about Grayson – before we even see him interact with anyone. Wonderful phrase: ‘Embarrassment is the baseline of high school…’

      Winner: Hot Sauce is Bad for Wound Care

    • Victory to My Boyfriend Rigged The Lottery

      *Critiques coming later this evening.

    • My Boyfriend Rigged The Lottery

      Query: Love the changes you made to the opening lines. Great job. The last one in the first paragraph reads as a little “tell-y.” Is there any way you can say this more naturally? Second paragraph, should it read, “her customs”? Consider rewording that sentence to something like, “She turns her back on her customs and everything else she knows, accepting the money against their wishes.” The third paragraph is a little vague and loses me a bit. Can you tell us more about this role? I think you can also make it clearer that she’s required to do something because she won the lottery, make that connection stronger, maybe even up front. The addition of Sean seems a bit like an afterthought all the way at the bottom of the query. Can you introduce him sooner? I think mainly what I want to see her is more of why she has to play a role and a hint at what the bigger picture is here.

      250: Second paragraph, first sentence—consider rewording. You’ve got two sentences before it that are “the staff” and “the students” so the structure is a little repetitive. In the fifth paragraph, should it be “drawing”? Consider moving the dialogue up further in the scene. I’m loving the tension it creates but it would be nice to break up the setting descriptions you’re starting out with. Other than that, I really enjoyed this opening. I love that it’s starting right before they find out the winning numbers so I know we’ll be heading right into the action.

      Hot Sauce Is Bad For Wound Care (love this!!)

      Query: Hmmm, I’m wondering whether the first sentence might read better if you switched it around like, “By Saturday night, six students at Mayville High will be dead. Again.” That third sentence, maybe instead of saying “again” again (ha), maybe say, “And just like last time (or the last xx times if this has been going on awhile).” I’d also suggest simplifying “they will” to “they’ll.” The last sentence in this paragraph confuses me a bit. Mainly, I’m not sure who’s POV this story is in. (Also is him not killing them the only way to stop it?) At first I thought it was going to be from the group who keep dying, but “the victims are all jerks” confused me. I think you can make this sentence work better by getting rid of the two problems portion and just stating what the problems are. It sounds like Grayson doesn’t know it’s happening, but it’s hard to stop it from happening because they’re all obnoxious? Okay, so the second paragraph really makes me think it’s from Grayson’s POV. If that’s the case, I really think you need to rework the end of that first paragraph to make it clear. And this could just be me, but the way you say “therapy, medication, and friendship” almost makes it sound like…the book is heavily focused on a lesson? Idk. Love the last sentence though! I think you might need an em dash between forever and corsages.

      250: This is tough for me, mainly because I’m really not a fan of 2nd. However, even though it’s not my thing, I think this is pretty well done. There is a bit too much use of “you” and I’m feeling a bit of distance between the MC here. (Honestly, I love this premise a lot and I’d love to see it told in 1st). I’m missing the “seal-team-sixing” reference and I’m not in love with the Chris Hemsworth line. As actors go I think he’s pretty well liked so if you wanted to throw an actor on the bus I’d go with someone douchier. The fourth paragraph loses me a little. I know his head (my head?) gets slammed against a locker, but I’m not sure what the red locker bit is about. Is he bleeding? Second to last paragraph consider ending on “haven’t left” so that the single “yet” on the next line is more powerful.

      Gah, this one is ridiculously tough. But I’m going to have to declare VICTORY TO HOT SAUCE IS BAD FOR WOUND CARE!


      Oh, you QKers with entry ‘nicknames’ that are far longer than the title. 😉

      I like this query, and I particularly like the sort of book this promises. So I’m in your court to start.

      The main problem is the third paragraph, which is overstuffed with ideas. We don’t know what this role is, and the concept of scandal is introduced as though Marina having a “role” must obviously mean scandal. When I first read it, I thought she was going to have to cut ribbons at a mall opening or be on a commercial with a giant check or something. (Which I wouldn’t want to do either.) But I digress. You need to spend a little more time with the idea of the scandal and the role. The rhythm of this query is about right— just tweak it so I can see a little bit more about what you’re getting at.


      So very confident. This is a strong entry.



      The first paragraph would play better, I think with some dramatic linebreaks. After one of the agains, I think.

      The first para has the problem of making it unclear who our protagonist is— the sentence: Doomed to repeat the same week until seventeen-year-old Grayson Dell decides to stop killing them, the group must work through two problems…” suggests that the group is the MC, not Grayson.

      You also imply that everyone in the group— unlike Grayson— knows that time is looping, which poses the question to me, why are they sticking around? If I expected some dude at high school to kill me on Friday, I think I’d sleep in that. Or take a road trip. Or tell people. In this day and age, if six teenagers said that a kid had been talking about killing everyone at school, authorities would get involved.

      Instead everyone’s reaction is to be ever more cruel, which I’m not sure I buy. That’s not to say I wouldn’t buy it in your novel, but in your query, it doesn’t feel believable. More track has to be laid down. Regardless: cruelly tormenting someone who is going to kill you isn’t really being ‘a jerk’, or rather, torment doesn’t automatically follow from it. And if it’s all fated, and they’re going to be killed Grayson no matter what, are they really ‘jerks’ for being pissy about it?

      But I digress.


      The 250 is good, but didn’t knock me over. 2nd person is always risky, if for no reason other than you’re going be compared to BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY, and that’s rarely a comparison you want to invite.

      I like the voice of it, though, although it does better with declaration than with description. A sentence like:
      “You try to pull away and see if the locker’s door was repainted red, but the hand that put you there doubles the pressure from its sweaty palms, digging the blunted and jagged ends of chewed away nails into the back of your head and your left cheek.” —- edges over into purple prose. I think being in second-person makes me more cautious about ‘showy’ descriptions, since you’ve already doubled-down on ‘showy’ by the choice of second person. Although I’m not sure that particular sentence would please an editor regardless.

      Also, not sure why the narrator has it out for Chris Hemsworth, since the narrator is not Grayson, but just some omniscient being that doesn’t like Chris Hemsworth. 🙂 (Liam Hemsworth, is that you?)


      Victory to MY BOYFRIEND RIGGED THE LOTTERY. Hot Sauce has some interesting ideas, but LOTTO would have been tough to trump for anybody.

    • My Boyfriend


      While I love the premise, your opening paragraph takes away from the real stakes and conflict. Your reference to Marina's background feels forced too. I think if you lead with the lottery win and then try to work in her background, perhaps in reference to her parents forbidding her to claim the prize, the backstory may feel more natural. I would recommend you make your sinker much tighter too. The nod to the dad's involvement, as well as Sean's interest, both add too much extraneous info to your ending. I'd focus on the real cost to Marina and what she will be forced to do to make things right.

      First 250:

      Like the voice here, but again the opening reads like backstory. I'd encourage you to think about starting out straight with the friend looking at the phone. That will raise the tension right away. After you set the tone, then you can weave in backstory about the fundraiser and the "prep" school setting. By setting things up this way you immediately draw the reader in with intrigue and then slowly build setting and background for them.

      Hot Sauce


      While I am intrigued by the "Groundhog Day" set-up, you lost me at your first line as it was not clear that Grayson was the perpetrator. A better idea may be to lead with a tight hook, giving a nod to "reliving the same day over and over with deadly consequences." Also, I think it would help connect with the query if you gave more detail as to the bully-turned-friend. This will clarify the stakes as well as build up the intensity of what needs to happen in order for everyone to survive.

      First 250:

      This is great voice but you lose me with all the over-description and the introductory run on sentence. If you want the opening to be tense, I'd suggest adjusting your sentences so each one reads tight. "The lockers are the same sick, pale blue as yesterday. The linoleum floors still shine with same pungent cleaners that have been disintegrating nose hairs all four years you’ve spent in this school." If your MC is frustrated. Angry. The tight, sharp sentences would add to his character.

      Victory to…My Boyfriend

    • Hopefully the final tie-breaker…

      MY BOYFRIEND–Love the query and premise…it made my eyebrows raise a couple of times (which is a good sign!)

    • I've already voted, but didn't get my critique in. We were trying to get votes in under the wire. Here is my critique as promised…

      My Boyfriend Rigged The Lottery


      I really like the setup here, and how Marina's culture has direct impact on the story. You've conveyed a lot about the book in a short space, and that's impressive. I just have a few nitpicks.

      The line that begins "when Marina wins the lottery…" feels a little run-on to me. You could drop the clause that begins "she feels newly entitled to…" and just go straight to the next sentence without losing anything. Saying both "defy her parents" and "turns her back on customs" feels a little redundant.

      In the first two sentences of the final paragraph, I got a little lost. I feel like too much information is trying to be conveyed here, and I'm not sure it needs to be. If you cut out the part about the role she has to play, and instead just say that the lottery is a scandal (and the bit about "if it's exposed, those on top…") it's much clearer to me. The role she has to play might be important in the story, but in the query, I feel like it's just weighing things down.


      I love how you set the scene and the way Marina describes things. However, I feel like you're losing a little by describing the setting first. The tension lies in the lottery being announced late. I'd start with that instead, and then have Marina look around and describe things as a distraction from watching her friend's phone. Besides that, fantastic job.


      Hot Sauce is Bad For Wound Care


      I like the concept, but it took me several read-throughs to figure out what was happening here. I think maybe the query as a whole is too short and there is too much information crammed together. Personally, I'd like to see the entire thing broken down into clearer, more concise sentences.

      I also don't understand who the central character is, and therefore, I don't know who to root for. Is it Grayson, or the six students? The first paragraph made me think it was the students, but the second made me think Grayson. I would revise so both paragraphs show the plight of the main character instead of switching back and forth between the two.


      I could drink this 250. It's delicious.

      I usually hate second person perspective, but this is so, so well done. We get character, setting, voice, sensory details, etc. etc. I'm so grounded in this story it felt like it was my head that was being shoved against a locker. The writer in me wants to read this again and again, and analyze exactly what you've done here. I love it. I would read more of this in a split second.

      As I already stated, I gave victory to The Lottery. My reasoning is this: I felt the query and 250 combined were a little more solid than Hot Sauce. However, if this had been solely on the 250, Hot Sauce would have stolen my heart hands down.

  1. My boyfriend – Query – The query reads well though I thought the sentence " She’s a Chinese-American piano prodigy with no say in her future, and the pressure to be perfect is crushing her," was a bit of a data dump.

    First 250: The first two paragraphs don't do a lot to draw me in. Would we really care about the drinks or the overdressed parents? Her tension over the lottery might draw the reader in better.

    The concept sounds neat, good luck.

    Hot Sauce – Query – This is a great query. Setup the stakes and problem very smoothly.

    First 250: If you're writing 2nd person, you're far braver than I. Personally I'm not a fan of that style. However, it does bring up a question about POV. If it's Grayson, than how will we know about the ground hog day, since he doesn't. It it's his tormentors, does this opening make sense? Also, I think if most of us were slammed head first into a locker, we wouldn't "try to pull away and see if the locker’s door was repainted red,". I don't think we'd care about the locker at all.

    I think you have a wonderful premise here. Good luck.


    QUERY: Overall, the query is strong and I like the character setup here. Not sure if the whole thing about dumplings is necessary, or at least with that amount of words. It’s your opening hook (two sentences worth), and unless the dumplings are magical and “supposed” to bring actual luck, it’s more of an indication of her culture and isn’t part of the plot (other than a creative way of saying she’s unlucky). Again, I like it, but I’m not sure if it will go over well being the first two sentences. The query gets a little vague with the stakes, other than she knows her boyfriend is in on whatever the conspiracy is. Maybe add a bit more detail about the conspiracy and how her dad is involved.

    250: I like the setup, with them waiting on the lottery numbers. The voice is good, and I like the way you describe the other patrons.


    QUERY: Great opening line! This totally clicked with me, and makes me want to read it. It’s my type of story, and already through reading the query I’m envisioning ways that all the group members could be jerks, practically begging Grayson to kill them. The last line cements it for me, with the description of prom. Good stuff!
    250: Love the 250. Especially the chewed away nails into the back of the head. Great pacing with the “but still” and “yet.”

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