Wednesday, July 29, 2009

49 Query Contest

Dear Ms. Meadows,

Nikki’s lost her mother and sister to the aliens who massacred all humanity except her hidden, defenseless world. Marooned two hundred years out of her time when a mission at relativistic speeds goes wrong, branded a berserker for refusing to accept defeat, she volunteers for an experimental program that rates to maim or kill her. If she survives, she'll spend the rest of her days alone in a small ship, hoping to find and map the enemy’s worlds before she perishes. A grim destiny, but hate is all that keeps Nikki going--until love tricks her.

Together with her man, Nikki sets off on her mission with a new hope for life. When they are discovered, she may have a chance to escape alone, yet, even if she returns to her lover from a black hole's rim, can they, and humanity, build a future?

Complete at 130,000 words, Return from Eternity spans one woman's time-dilated lifetime of total war and love. Two separate chapters were selected as Editor's Choice at Online Writing Workshop of Science-Fiction, Fantasy and Horror.

Thanks for your consideration,


Author’s full name

Nikki strained to see through the tangle of leaves. A highway of wood spread ahead, branches the size of Earth trees jutting everywhere. More than thirty yards above, a final swath of purplish bark straightened its canopy against a teal sky darkening with the dusk. She'd better hurry.

Her sneakers gripped the rough bark well, and the vertical shoots provided convenient handholds. Nikki raced down her branch, slowed only by the ankle-twisting unevenness of the rough cracks. Far ahead, small triangular leaves glinted brighter, marking the path to Stella's setting. A sunset bonus. _Take_ that, _traitor Kallia!_

The giant branch split and Nikki took the southern fork, hesitating where it narrowed to three feet wide. At home that would've been easy, but up here the third of a mile drop yawned like a scary mouth.

She wasn't going to give up now, not after hours of climbing. Nikki swung the strap so the binoculars rested on her back, and crawled along the narrow section, gripping her handholds and avoiding looking down. Falling would bang Dad's binoculars, and she'd really catch it then.

Ahead, her way widened again, and the leaves finally thinned. Nikki crept the few yards to the final knotting. _Yes!_ The wood sloped downward, ending in a big bushy tuft. To the South, the Rim Mountains glowed gold in the sunset, distant water glinting through the break called the Splice, gateway to winter storms. There, after dark, she hoped to catch Earth’s dim sun peeking over the horizon.


  1. You have several very long run-on sentences in the query, which made me fearful that the 250 would follow suit - and it did. Sorry, I wasn't hooked. The premise was interesting, but I was lost during the first paragraph of the query when you're talkling of "mission at relativistic speeds" and "branded a berserker".

  2. The query didn't work for me at all. I did read the first page, though, but only because I adore sci-fi romances. I still don't really know what this is about, and Nikki's situation didn't seem dire enough to me for her to volunteer to be 'killed or maimed'.

  3. Though I wasn't hooked by the query, I gave the sample pages a try and still wasn't hooked. Though the sample pages were a bit stronger than the query. Some of the language confused me. Perhaps because I don't read a lot of sci-fi, but "berserker", "rates to maim..." (rates?). Try to make the query letter more accesible.

  4. Not hooked. This may sound nit-picky but I was until the line "hate is all that keeps Nikki going--until love tricks her." For some reason this pulled me out as being too generic. May just be me.

  5. Not hooked on the query, the first few sentences were confusing. Run-ons made me tired.

  6. The phrasing in the query threw me off a bit. I liked the first sentence of the query, but there was too much going on in the second sentence.

    I kept reading because of the Editor's Choice awards. Without that, I wouldn't have read the sample page. I thought the writing in the smaple was stronger than the query, but there was a lack of action and some of the phrases ("highway of wood," for example)seemed awkward to me.

    I think your writing has possibilities, but both the query and the sample need editting.

  7. I agree with the other commenters - the run-on sentences in the query were a turn off. You were trying to squeeze in too much information in a single line. A few short sentences mixed in would help convey urgency. However, the Editor's Choice from OWW made me take the story more seriously - OWW has a great reputation.

    I was a bit confused by the opening of the novel, but that may just be an issue with only seeing the first 250 words. The first paragraph notes that the trees are the size of Earth trees, yet the last line of the sample mentions she might see Earth's dim sun. So she's not on earth, but our sun is still visible?

    It's hard to summarize sci-fi because the background is essential, and yet can weigh things down. The writing in your story is much stronger than that of the query; keep working, the potential is here!

  8. Query:

    I don't really read this kind of scifi, so this could be me. I'm semi hooked by the idea... at least the first sentence hooked me. Second sentence totally confused me and left me wondering what the real plot was.

    It would have been clearer if you said she escaped to Earth to evade those aliens who killed her family and decimated her people. Then she wants her revenge on the enemy, even if it's just her in her little rocketship. Or big rocketship.

    Or is she somebody from Earth who excaped back in time? Hence the 200 years out of her time?

    *** I did like the writing sample though.

  9. I thought I was hooked but it slipped away in the confusion of that first paragraph. I skimmed to the partial, liked the writing, but 250 words describing a climb through branches and leaves lost me again.

  10. Sorry, not hooked at all. The query made for difficult reading and the prospect of her going off with her man at the beginning of the story leaves no room a little spark and fizzle in the romance part of this

  11. I'm hooked, although the word count seems high? Not sure about acceptable word count for SF.

    On to the sample...
    Not bad, but I'm a little less hooked. There's a lot of action, a lot of "Nikki does this," but I lack emotional connection with Nikki at this point. I'm an observer to her actions, but I don't *care* about her...yet. If you fostered an emotional connection *soon*, I might stay hooked.

  12. The previous comments express my own concerns. One nagging problem was that "she volunteers for an experimental program that rates to maim or kill her." Lost me here with the "rates to". I wasn't hooked but I kept reading, due to your winning the contest.

    I liked your description in your 250 and appreciated your world building. I found the "the third of a mile drop yawned like a scary mouth." needed more originality to be included in your first 250.

    I probably would have sent a nice reply with a 'let me see your next one' This is a large scale science fiction and I needed the 250 to give me a solid huge affection for this character that would drive me to read her life story. This section didn't.

    I know, easy to say, but to do when its filled with such wonderful world building...

    I wish you well!

  13. Not hooked. There was nothing here that excited me and, for being a novel with a large dash of romance, Nikki's love doesn't even rate a name.

  14. The first sentence confused me (what, where, and how is this hidden, defenseless world?), and the rest of the query didn't help much. There are some jumps in the storyline that don't follow logically. Why will she spend the rest of her days alone in a small ship if she survives? Why would she want to survive if that's her fate? And how does love factor into all this - and how does it trick her?

    The hook and/or synopsis didn't entice me to read the sample page, and the word count pretty much sealed the deal. 130,000 words is (at least) 20,000 or 30,000 words too long no matter the genre.

  15. My overall impression of the letter was, "Huh?"

    I sense that you're trying to explain some really complicated stuff here and I feel for you. But I didn't come close to getting what you were talking about beyond there being some really mean, mama-killin' aliens out there.

    Also, I'm really confused by your use of the word 'rate.'

    The sample was better. I'd keep reading more if it was in front of me. I don't think I'd ask for more if this was all I got though. With a stronger query letter, I might.

  16. Not successfully hooked either. You had me at aliens that massacred all humanity, but then lost me at her hidden, defenseless world. I was thinking, huh? Did she hide in the basement? And the sentences were long.
    I did go ahead and read the sample pages and you lost me there, too. But it has the making for a very interesting "Robinson Crusoe" esque tale with some romance. But one question, if aliens wiped out all humanity, who's the love interest?

  17. I like these ideas, and black holes are always cool, but I'm afraid the writing in the query and sample page put me off. I felt it needed more editing and voice.

    If this is SF romance, Nikki's boyfriend should have a name, at least. He seems to come in randomly, too.

    Ultimately, not hooked.