Sunday, March 13, 2011

Tweet-a-Query Challenge & Conclusions

Earlier this evening, I issued a unique challenge to my tweeps: Tweet me a query, including type of project & a killer log-line, in less than 140 characters. The project could be real or fake - the challenge was to come up with something irresistible in the short space given.

An hour and literally hundreds of tweet-entries later, I've come to some conclusions. Of course this was just an exercise for fun, and some of these projects are jokes, but I think the lessons here are applicable to the regular query process too:

* You only have a few words. Use the right ones, and make them all count.
Transplantee Mishca's heart is not her own, now someone wants it back. Fight's on where she's most venerable - her dreams.-- Venerable? or Vulnerable?  Totally different meanings, totally different stories.
* When you introduce a bunch of foreign or peculiar words & names, the reader gets lost fast.  
Krishani brings war to Avristar and the girl he loves sacrifices herself to save him. Wait, what? Perhaps pick a word to tell us what kind of person (?) Krishani is, and what Avristar is, to ground us in the situation?
Can L`Arc live with Maria in happiness or will The Sodalis end it all again? -- Huh? Am I supposed to know what L'Arc or The Sodalis are?
* Remember that the book you sell today will probably not be released for a year or more.  
Tabby isn't a terrorist but when her bro blows up a genetics lab she might as well be. She's accused and in 2012 that = death. -- Really? 2012? Like, less than a year from now? I know it's an election year and all, but um...
* Premise is not the same as problem. Sometimes a unique enough premise can be enough to pique interest in a book (Werewolf Roller Derby!)... but usually we need a bit more than that.
 Eccentric family of inventors live in a zeppelin & fly around the world solving weather-related mysteries. -- OK, this is a setting, but so what? What happens? What is the problem? (And yes, I am interested in eccentric families, inventors, mysteries and zeppelins... but I still need to know that something happens in the book.) 
* Beware the List of Awesome  
A mashup of scifi, gaming, jedis, genetically enhanced heroes from space, a girl, an evil Mistress and a guy named Scrappy.  I am totally guilty of doing this "list of awesome things" pitch myself - and sometimes it works, particularly to set the scene or give a feeling of tone. But a list of awesome things, no matter how awesome they are, can't take the place of telling us what the problem is.
* Cliche is a shortcut, but it's also a crutch and your query will be stronger without it.

All Miah brought home from band trip was a hungry mosquito's gift of lycanthrophy. As if high school wasn't bad enough.  -- The first sentence was pretty hot, actually. But then the second ruined it. It would have been much better to introduce a specific reason or reasons why high school sucks for this kid, or to introduce it by saying what the kid EXPECTED to get out of Band Camp. ("Summer band camp was a break from getting slushee facials in the hall, but..." or "All he wanted from Band Camp was a shot with the sexy clarinet player, but instead...")  
* Don't Editorialize.
The heartwarming story of a Mathlete turned Sexpert. -- This is one of my clients books, full disclosure - and I think she is a great writer. But this is problematic as a pitch, primarily because of the "heartwarming story." Don't editorialize with "hilarious", "uproarious", "heartwarming", "pageturning", "unputdownable" or similar. Heartwarming? I'll be the judge of that. I'd have rather she used this space to tell us a tiny bit more about the Mathlete, or the Sexpert, or the setting, or what MAKES the Mathlete turn into a Sexpert.
 * It has to make sense. Beware derailing & straying too far from the point.  
4 new grads get first real jobs, find they can't cook, & set out to learn, while figuring out the mystery at work. -- I am not sure how any of these things have to do with the other. Is the problem that they can't cook and have to learn? What does that have to do with getting jobs? What mystery, and what does that have to do with cooking? They all work at the same place? Why didn't you say so? This leaves me with a lot of questions.
Taken by humans and made into a sex slave, 15 yrs old Effie struggles with PTSD and the deadly butterflies that consume her.  -- If she's taken by humans, that implies that she is NOT a human... so please tell me what she is. Does she have PTSD because of being taken and abused, or did she have it before? Are the deadly butterflies real, or imaginary? Are they literally consuming her? I am confused.
All that said, there were a few that made me crack up (Dude Looks Like M'Lady made me laugh for like, a full minute) -- and a lot of really fun sounding entries. These were my favorite, and I am going to let YOU guys vote on the winner. Please pick one (1) of the following & vote in comments or by tweet. Winner gets something nice:
  1. BLOOD OF WOLVES is a reverse Beauty and the Beast tale set in a pre-steampunk world of ice, alchemy and monsters. 
  2. Boy finds blank book, when he touches it it fills with his life story. Will he commit to his destiny or rewrite it? 
  3. 12yo overachiever leads world's worst boy scouts in earning toughest merit badge yet - saving the world from alien invasion.
  4. A student at one of the most competitive schools in Paris by day, a jewel thief on the city rooftops by night.
  5. Werewolf Roller Derby. Splitting hairs, bones and wheels for the sake of the pack.
ETA: Based on extremely scientific polling data here and on twitter (ahem), WE HAVE WINNERS - #3 is the winner, #5 is the runner up. Books are on their way! Wooohooo! :D JL