Monday, May 11, 2015

Query Kombat - Standing Out 

Last year I entered my MG contemporary fantasy into Query Kombat. It was the first contest I entered with that MG, and I was thrilled when Michelle chose it for her team. I subsequently advanced through a few rounds and received a few agent requests. While those didn't pan out for me and I eventually found my agent through the slush pile, more than a few of my former competitors did obtain their agents through Kombat. I also found CPs and beta readers during the fight, so yeah, in case you didn't know before, it is a big contest.

Of course, before you even get to the Kombat stage, you have to be picked by one of the three creators: Michelle, SC Write, or Michael Anthony for their team. They get only 21 picks each, and with hundreds of entries expected, that in itself is going to be a challenge. So how can you stand out? Here's a huge tip from what I noticed last year:

*** The queries chosen were not perfect. ***

I know, right? But for real--I saw typos, unclear thoughts, queries with no stakes, queries a bit too long (ME!), etc. Thing is--this is a query contest, but it's also a mentoring contest in that, when voting, the judges offer suggestions and critiques on how the query can be stronger and complement the first 250 words. The entrants then get to make changes to their queries and first 250 as they advance. This means that the queries chosen are not necessarily the most expertly written, but they do have one thing in common:




ALL of the entrants that made it into Query Kombat had one or more of these things in common. They had a clever hook or a fresh idea or voice that killed. Something to make Michelle, SC, or Mike sit back and think, "Hey, if this query was better, this could rock."

I'm not saying you shouldn't proofread, and I'm not saying you shouldn't format your query the right way. What I'm saying is that to stand out in this contest, you need to provide that spark or glimmer of a cool idea to show you're different from the others and can benefit from the structure of the contest.

How can you do that?


None of these:

"If Kim can't defeat the king, the kingdom will fail."
"Kim has to choose between her heart and her career."
"Kim discovers a secret that will change everything."

You get the idea--nothing vague. Offer us those details that show you're story is different.

Instead of "must save her kingdom":

"If Julie can't travel to the neighboring solar system, steal the sun, and trap its rays in the bottle, her kingdom will freeze."

Instead of "choosing between heart and career":

"If Amy accepts the appointment to the bench, thereby fulfilling her life-long dream of becoming a judge, she'll miss out on moving to Wyoming and being with the man she loves."

Instead of "discovers a secret":

"Then Carrie discovers her rescue dog is a robot and is just one of many animals the government is using to collect secrets on its citizens."

It's those details that peak our interest and make us stop and think, "Hey, this sounds neat. Yeah, the query could be clearer, and I'm not sure about the first 250, but the idea's intriguing. I want to see more."

THAT type of thing gives you a better chance of making it through than a perfectly written, dry query. For more ideas of what caught each judge's attention the first time around, head over to the three judges' blogs. I know Michelle still has last year's rounds on her blog--you can see what caught her eye!

Good luck! Can't wait to read!


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