GENRE: YA Fantasy/ Dystopian

Word Count: 78,000



Dear Agent:

In a futuristic dying utopia, love is programmed as easily as the pigment of one’s skin.

 It’s said that a time existed that love and oxygen were free resources. Floating around our bodies, easy to inhale, easy to exhale. And strangely, people kept within their racial groups like borderlines, wore their body sizes and personalities until the day they died. But they abused that privilege. Now, everything is different. Nineteen-year-old Rori Plaatjie is self-conscious and craves to be beautiful; she uses self-image editing tools made allowable by her country’s technology to alter her body, at an expense: sunlight is created by a yellow machine in the sky, and it’s slowly ebbing away. But now, love and air, expensive commodities, are fading whispers in Rori’s body.

 But girls her age have found ways of surviving: finding odd jobs and bonking sugar-daddies to pay for Air-brushing apps and Race-changing apps. People edit their bodies so much that they have lost the ability to feel emotion and connect to others, which is what Rori wants: to be humanly free again. She wants to taste food again, to love someone freely, out of will rather than paying it as a service; and to remain naturally in her body without changing it to fit societal trend. Only one boy can teach her this: her old-flame, Daniel Van Rensburg. But his disconnection to society poses a deadly threat: they’re incompatible, and the few kisses and touches they’ve shared, physically deteriorate his health. And Rori wants to be with him forever.

She must be free from this tech polluted environment, but if she unplugs from society in attempt to keep him safe, she could die. In this day, falling in love could be the end.

LONELY, DEAD & HEARTWIRED, a YA Fantasy, Dystopian, is a multicultural novel, complete at 77,000 words. It can be described as the Uglies by Scott Westerfeld meets Awaken by Katie Kacvinsky


First 250 words:

Bwee! The world plunges into immediate darkness, preceded by a dead-end world sucking sound electricity makes when it dies. Arise the zombies. They get off on this ish right? Everything’s mute. Fuck. The sun’s off. Again.

Load-sun- shedding. This is bull.

“Mama!” My voice trills. “The sun’s off again!”  I’m banking on her feeding our sunlight reserves into our electricity grid—just, I feel insanely blind in this darkness, and like hell will I trudge through it. My movement would attract uncalled-for attention.

I press the knobs of my collar bones—hard like morula, automatically a female voice responds—prim and curt. “You have twenty percent of oxygen left. Moderate activities are recommended; otherwise, induced sleep will be automated for your well-being. Thank you for your patience with BrainNet network. Would you like to switch on your eye-torch miss?”

“Duh.” With sunlight intensity, two green cylindrical lights spurt from eyes matching my green irises and warming my entire face. The dark makes us alive because it awakens our fears.

For a young country—what is it, sixty, seventy years?—you’d think the blob of fat that’s operating the sun would contain enough patience to prolong its life span.

It’s snowing next door. Yep, you heard that right. Snowing in desert-hot Botswana—yet the sky is a pale, dull blue and a blistering yellow machine blows heat waves lazily downwards to Gabs city seconds before its melts into blackness.


8 thoughts on “Entry 3 – LONELY, DEAD, & HEARTWIRED

  1. Query:
    word: 8/10, slightly too long
    hook: 10/10, very good hook
    plot: 4/10, confusing, what does self-editing tools have to do with sunlight? I don’t get the last sentence of the second paragraph. Second paragraph and third paragraph conflicts with each other. On the second paragraph, the protagonist wants to edit her body, but on the third paragraph, she want to be natural and human again. You lost me.
    amount of characters listed: 10/10
    show/tell: 7/10
    stakes: 8/10 Stake is death of protagonist. But don’t italicize “could.” You want to have as large stakes as possible.
    overall: 6/10 There are some of punctuation mistakes (i.e. misplaced comma after “they’ve shared”). Also, maybe consider rewording some of the words to make it more clear (i.e. I’m not sure if you can use “unplugs” from society. I never seen it used this way before, but it might be just me). You have an interesting story, but the query is very confusing.

    First page:
    First line: 6/10 I don’t think it’s grammatically correct.
    voice: 9/10
    originality: 8/10
    character development 7/10
    setting 8/10
    overall 7/10 What does ish mean in the first paragraph?

  2. Query: 6/10 Too much background info. Start with Rori and integrate the necessary info into her own situation. Too many long sentences that use colons. It’s distracting stylistically.

    Hook: 9/10 I’d suggest naming the “futuristic dying utopia” first – ie. what name do you call this place in the book? (Edit: Gabs City? Use that here). Then use these descriptors later in the query. Specifics will set your book apart from the rest.

    Plot: 7/10 How did people abuse their privileges? I don’t get this sentence at all: “But now, love and air, expensive commodities, are fading whispers in Rori’s body.”

    Characters: 9/10

    Showing vs. Telling: 9/10

    Stakes: 10/10

    Overall: 8 /10 I’d cut “It’s said that …” too generic and boring. Also, the rest of the sentence doesn’t read right. How about “Love and oxygen used to be freely available resources.” Clean and simple.

    First Line: 6/10 Ignoring the “Bwee”, I see what you’re trying to say with the first sentence but it is confusing – you mention the darkness first, and then what preceded it. I’d suggest staying in order – at least for this first line. And what’s a “dead-end world sucking sound” anyway  ?

    Voice: 9/10 Good “teenage futuristic girl” feel.

    Originality: 9/10 I’d read this.

    Character Development: 9/10

    Setting/World Building: 10/10

    Overall: 8/10 Can I make a suggestion? I think your title would sound much better if it was just HEARTWIRED.

  3. from Entry #10

    Query is 250-300 Words: 10/10
    Hook: 8/10 Maybe focus more on the character’s emotions and conflicts without trying to explain the whole world she lives in. Tighten it up a bit.
    Plot: 8/10
    Amount of Characters Listed: 8/10
    Showing vs. Telling: 6 /10 I don’t get the emotion she is feeling here. Make me hurt for her.
    Stakes Clearly Listed: 8/10
    Overall: 8/10 I think it is an interesting idea.

    First 250:

    First Line: 8 /10
    Voice: 7 /10
    Originality: 9/10
    Character Development: 8 /10
    Setting/World Building: 9 /10
    Overall: 8/10

  4. Query:
    Query is 250-300 Words: 10/10

    Hook: 8/10 I don’t think it’s necessary to say this world is a futuristic utopia, since that’s implied when you categorize it as dystopian (which is often interchangeable with utopia, as utopian worlds almost always become dystopian.)

    Plot is Easily Understandable (MC, Goal, Conflict): 5/10 Your mc, Rori, and what she really wants (to be with Daniel despite the world around them which is losing the concept of love) is buried under a lot of backstory
Amount of Characters Listed: 10/10

    Showing vs. Telling (Doesn’t Read like a Synopsis): 6/10 There’s a lot of telling in here, and I’m a little confused as to exactly how this society works, why Daniel is disconnected from society, and why Rori can’t be with him. Is it societal pressure to change? Is she self conscious around him because she hasn’t altered her body like so many others, and is afraid he won’t want to be with her? Why does his health deteriorate when she touches him?

    Stakes Clearly Listed: 9/10
Overall: 7/10  This story reminds me a lot of DELIRIUM by Lauren Oliver. There’s also a lot of backstory/explaining about the society, but not as much focus on Rori. Also, if the mc is 19, this might be more New Adult than YA.

    First 250:
    First Line: 9/10
Voice: 9/10

    Originality: 6/10

    Character Development: 6/10

    Setting/World Building: 6/10

    Overall: 7/10 I really like your writing style, but this needs something to make it stand out from all the similar YA novels on the shelves.

    from entry number 8

  5. Query:
    Words: 9/10
    Hook: 9/10. Not sure about the “futuristic dying utopia” – sounds like an oxymoron to me! – but I like the rest.
    Plot: 8/10
    Characters: 8/10
    Showing vs Telling: 7/10
    Stakes: 7/10
    Overall: 7.5/10

    First 250:
    First Line: 7/10
    Voice: 9/10
    Originality: 6/10
    Character development: 5/10. I don’t really see much of the character herself.
    Setting: 8/10
    Overall: 7/10


    Length: 5
    Hook: 8
    Plot is Easily Understandable (MC, Goal, Conflict): 5
    Amount of Characters Listed: 10
    Showing vs. Telling (Doesn’t Read like a Synopsis): 5
    Stakes Clearly Listed: 6
    Overall: 5

    First 250:
    First Line: 0
    Voice: 1
    Originality: 6
    Character Development: 4
    Setting/World Building: 6
    Overall: 2

    Total score: 63

    Hook: This is a crazy statement, but does its job of hooking the reader’s interest. It’s the only one of the nine that entices me to read the rest of the query.
    Overall: Too much space was spent on background information and world-building at the expense character development. Also some odd word choices hurt this query.

    First 250:
    First line: You start off with a made-up word, and then continue with a sentence that doesn’t make sense.
    Second line: Zombies make no sense here. “ish” – I assume that’s a typo.
    Third line: Profanity
    Voice: Much of this is pretty much unreadable. If I saw it in a bookstore or library, it would be back on the shelf before I reached the third paragraph. In paragraph two, you actually wrote exactly what I was thinking as I was reading it.
    Overall: This was very disappointing after the query gave me hopes of an interesting read. I know it’s meant to be a dystopia, but your writing style immediately sent me diving for cover.

    General notes, applicable to all:

    Query length:
    250-275 is the sweet spot to aim for (300 words is too long). I used a simple formula. Any query of appropriate length scored 10/10. Anything over 275 words (excluding salutation and sign-off) lost one point, and then another point was deducted for every 10 words extra. I did not deduct points for short queries as this is not likely to be a problem with agents, provided all the important information is presented.

    Number of characters:
    I awarded the maximum to every entrant, unless it read like a character soup, or it was clear that something was missing.
    (Note for next time: I think this category should have been a little broader to include depth of character)

    Other categories:
    I figured that 6 is an average score, appropriate for an average query as seen in the “Query Critiques” forum (polished & revised versions, not first drafts as this is a contest and entries should already be polished). I adjusted the scores up or down based on how I felt it would stack up on that forum.

    I skewed the overall scores slightly depending on whether or not the entry left me wanting to read more.

  7. Query
    Words: 8/10–Lengthy (over 300 words)
    Hook: 8/10
    Plot: 5/10–So much exposition that the plot is hidden in there somewhere.
    Characters: 10/10
    Showing vs. Telling: 8/10
    Stakes: 7/10–I get that they could die, but the why is a bit confusing
    Overall: 6/10–This description needs to be flushed out: “YA Fantasy, Dystopian, is a multicultural novel, complete at 77,000 words”

    First 250
    First Line: 6/10–It reads very awkward.
    Voice: 7/10–I’m not a fan of 2nd person, but some can make it work. Speaking directly to the reader distracts from what is going on.
    Originality: 9/10
    Character Development: 6/10–I’m actually getting more about the setting than the characters
    Setting/World Building: 8/10
    Overall: 7/10

  8. Response from #9. First, let me apologize for being tardy. I thought I did everyone’s except somehow I missed yours. I’m sorry!


    Query is 250-300 Words: 8/10 – Some of the phrasing can be tightened up.
    Hook: 9/10 Excellent!
    Plot: 8/10
    Amount of Characters Listed: 8/10
    Showing vs. Telling: 7 /10
    Stakes Clearly Listed: 8/10
    Overall: 8/10 I liked it!

    First 250:

    First Line: 5 /10
    Voice: 7 /10
    Originality: 9/10
    Character Development: 7 /10
    Setting/World Building: 9 /10
    Overall: 7/10 You did a good job showing but I had to read it several times just to get a feel for what I was reading. This is a complicated world but let us feel for the MC and then world build. I really love this concept!

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