Monday, January 19, 2009

Query in 140 Characters or Less Contest Winners!

First, can I just say? WOW! You guys really know how to rise to a challenge. And, boy howdy, did I ever give you a challenge: To come up with a great book query in 140 characters or less (the length of the average text message or Twitter post). The idea was to A.) have some fun and B.) see if I could get you all thinking about how to convey a clear story idea in a very concise way. And while it quickly became apparent to me that more than a few of you don't seem to know how to count, the majority of you managed to keep within the contest guidelines very nicely. And a few of you managed to not only hook me with your wee tiny query, but you managed to do it with a unique voice.

There were a lot of great entries, some absolutely hilarious ones, and a few that kinda made me question whether the writer was actually communicating in the English language. But there were several real standouts for me (I've added the character count and the comment poster's handle):
The Winning Query:

What would YOU do if you realized all the kids on your baseball team were vampires? Explains the night practices! Little League Sucks, YA. (138) Deb

Note: I hope this is a real book, because I loved the hook and the title. This was a really amazing - albeit brief - YA query, and shows just how much a writer can accomplish with just a few carefully chosen words. This one gets a query + first chapter critique. Go ahead and send to me as a Word document when you get the chance!
The Funniest Query:

Zombie convinces 1940s detective to find out who killed him; gumshoe discovers that dead men do, occasionally, wear plaid. (122) Anonymous

Note: Laughed for ten straight minutes over this one. And it's a really good query!
The Query that Oprah Would Like the Best:

GOD DOESN’T LIVE HERE ANYMORE Burundi 1972. 897 dead. UNSC Tribunal, N.Y. 2008. Investigator T. Riwatti. Wanted—his Tutsi father. 89K words. (140) Jim Lamb

This could either be really wonderful or painfully bad. And, although the format is non-traditional, the writer beautifully gets across the complexity of the plot in just a few words.

The Query that Most Intrigued Me:

A gunslinger must steal a necklace from the Bone Queen, a story-figure who turns visitors into lanterns and walls - or be haunted to death. (139) – Alex D M

I'm a sucker for weird and beautiful fantasy; I was hooked by this one.

The Best of the Rest:

When Kate gets an e-mail from her dead best friend she decides to channel Nancy Drew. A hotter, bitchier Nancy Drew, but you get the idea. (138) Lisa and Laura

A dying girl, coerced into acting as grim reaper for a second chance at life, falls in love with the man she was sent to kill. (126) Kat

Traveling to days in her past is fun - until her present starts changing, and the road not taken isn't all it's cracked up to be. (129) Heather

Wrong answers on an exam warp the course of history to match the student’s response, moving the world further from reality with each answer. (140) shsilver

LABYRINTH - (David Bowie and Muppets) + Fey mythology x The dirty streets of Ireland = THROUGH BENDED GRASS, a 90k contemporary Fantasy.(136) Aiden Moher

A phoenix raised by chickens guards his superstitious flock from a deadly magebird attack while discovering his true heritage (125) Darlene C. Goodman
Thanks again to all of you who took the time to enter my very first contest here at the Swivet; it really was a lot of fun to read through all of these. (And please do submit your full-length query to me when you get the chance!)

Now you get to tell me: which ones were your favorites?


Lisa and Laura said...

Thanks for cooking up this contest, Colleen. It was a great exercise in procrastination...oh, yeah, and it also helped us tighten our hook.

Our query will be coming soon to an inbox near you once our manuscript is ready.

Lisa and Laura

Cassidy McKay said...

Loved the zombies wearing plaid query! Too funny, I'd read something like that.


Heather said...

Thanks for the honorable mention! I'm, well, honored!

A few I liked that didn't make it:

"Philips, a cosmic law enforcement agent, is stuck on Earth working a case he shouldn’t be on with a man who shouldn’t be there fighting a foe he doesn’t realize he knows."

Lisa Iriarte:
"Eliminating my target would be a helluva lot easier without these damn sex scenes replaying in my brain. And they aren’t even mine. 100k."

Great contest!

Alex D M said...

I quite liked these:

There's a tongue in a jar on the headmaster's desk. The boy it belongs to has a long journey ahead.

In gas-lit New Yorke, a winged boy and a blind girl seek the evil making their friends ill--and worse, obedient. YA steampunk, 60K words.

Alex D M said...

And thanks for the honourable mention!

JDawson said...

I found seven I'd read other than the ones chosen. My ultimate favorite?

"Sometimes the undead need to see a therapist. That's why there's Dr. Rombis, a man with a very complicated job. Urban fantasy-75k."

Runner up?

"BLEEDING HEARTS Saving the world, one damned person at a time. Advice columnist-turned-oracle meets a demivamp fighting to avoid evolution."

Loved the contest...

sruble said...

This was an excellent contest. Thanks! Not only did it make me think about my story in a way I hadn't, but I loved the choices you made. They helped me see how to put the voice of the book into so few words.

I'll be doing this again, when I write the real query letter ... except maybe I'll use a couple more characters ;)

Jim Lamb said...

I loved the zombie/gumshoe query. That entry will have me chuckling all day. I hope this becomes a book because the concept is so compelling.

Colleen, thank you for the contest. I had a lot of fun trying to convey plot in so few words. Alas, Oprah will never get to read the Burundi story. The query was for a book that one of my characters wrote. Now I need to apply this lesson to my own.

Thanks for your kind comments--they made my day.

Dara said...

ShSilver's about the wrong answers on a history exam changing the actual course of history was my favorite--that book sounds incredibly intriguing and I'm not normally one for fantasy or alternate time line novels.

Sandra said...

My fav-

Traveling to days in her past is fun - until her present starts changing, and the road not taken isn't all it's cracked up to be. (129) Heather

I'm a sucker for stories that muck w/time.

Nancy Naigle said...

This was great fun!
I used to think boiling it down to a paragraph was hard, but quite honestly once you get it to 140 characters...the other is a piece of cake.

Thanks for the lesson and sharing the fun.
I love the winning entry---Good luck to that author!

Amie Stuart said...

This was a blast! I LOVED the winner--totally one of my faves.

I know I'm biased but I loved my CP's also--probably because I've read the proposal:
It’s Vampire purity vs. Halfbreed bloodlust in a sexy smackdown that’ll leave you thirsting for more.
No. We CAN’T all just get along…

And this one:
'The Wire' with mermaids.
I'd pay to see this because I LOVE The Wire

And this:
Feeling sad? Relax. You have no control. Some beings you can’t see do. If they lose it, then worry. They did? I’m sure someone will help.

Because it TOTALLY made me laugh.

Ok and one last one because it made me think of the Supernatural episode when the teddy bear comes to life and tries to commit suicide:
When your mom dresses you like a girl and your dad documents every move, it doesn’t seem so strange when your stuffed animals start talking.

lynnrush said...

Oh, I'm soooo diggin': "What would YOU do if you realized all the kids on your baseball team were vampires? Explains the night practices!"

Crimogenic said...

Very nice contest. Thanks for hosting it. Loved the zombies, and the girl brought back from the dead.

Sassee B said...

Thanks for hosting! This was a lot of fun :)

Cheryl Reif said...

Okay, I have to go with the "hotter, bitchier Nancy Drew", personally. It's just such a great image mixed with the paranormal--the book will be a definite must-read. Great contest idea!

S. E. Ward said...

W00T! I had my fingers crossed for Little League Sucks. Please, please let it be a real book, because I want to read it right now.

Jen said...

I laughed out loud over the zombie/gumshoe one, and I liked the winner, too. :)

Well done, overall. Neat exercise!

ccallicotte said...

My favorite was ShSilver's query for the history student taking the exam and warping the present. Very cool premise. I'd love to see that book!

Kat said...

Great contest! I loved the wining proposal as well- and I hope it's a real book!

Thanks for the honorable mention! I'll definitely be sending you a real query when I finish up my novel.


Keiber said...

The winners were all great. Personally, I liked the ones below.

Sue glanced nervously out the window as her mail was delivered. Looking at the gun in her hand she hoped it wasn’t another rejection letter.

There's a tongue in the jar on the headmaster's desk. The boy it belongs to has a long journey ahead.

Sometimes the undead need to see a therapist. That's why there's Mr. Rombis, a man with a very complicated job.

deb said...

Thank you for selecting our vampire baseball query as the winner! It is the most enjoyable honor we have ever received and we are very proud. We were also hoping to win the Nathan Bransford Special Award for starting a query with a rhetorical question . . .

Sorry to disappoint the fans, but Little League Sucks is not a real book. :( We recently finished reading the Twilight series and needed to immortalize the excruciating experience somehow. And thus a fake query was born.

Thanks for the kind comments everyone. Some of the entries really had us laughing.

p.s. Colleen -- appropriate contact info has been sent; thanks!

JDawson said...

"Sorry to disappoint the fans, but Little League Sucks is not a real book."

In that case, I think the grand prize should be offered to someone who actually has a full query and first chapter of a real book.

My suggestion? Let the winner choose their favorite out of the "Best of the Rest" and give the grand prize to them.

Melissa M. said...

Too bad Little League Sucks! isn't a real novel- it sounds hilarious!

JDawson- I like your idea about choosing another "Best of the rest" story so someone will benefit from the query and chapter critique!

All the winning choices were good picks in my opinion, but I especially liked the ones about the Bone Queen and the girl as grim reaper- love that ghostly fantasy stuff!

clindsay said...

Melissa & Jdawson -

Though the novel wasn't real, the query was still a good one and still a winner, so I'm critiquing another of that writer's books.

Seemed fair to me!



AshK said...

Hey, JDawson: thanks for the big ups for Bleeding Hearts! Made my day.

Would make my tomorrow, too, if you were an agent!


Cheers, Ash

JDawson said...

"I'm critiquing another of that writer's books."

Oh! Well that makes sense... I just didn't want the prize to go to waste:)

evilphilip said...

I missed this contest, but here you go anyway...

"When Jake Colqhoun's Scarecrow gang threatens the Midnight Train, hired guns Gideon Ransom and Ace Hutson use cold steel and dark hearts to fight what waits in the darkness with stitched faces and button eyes."

Yes, that is a real story.

EmeryLafis said...

Those were hilarious! You should really do a part duex of this contest, I'm curious to see more of these.

most of them had me laughing my ass off.

Mmmm zombies.