Genre: YA paranormal romance
Word count: 60,000


16-year-old Penny Boudreaux isn’t afraid of death. In fact, it fascinates her. After her mother’s death five years ago, Penny decided to enter the family business and become a mortician. In between school, track practice, and working part-time at the mortuary, she doesn’t have much time for romance. And she knows she should stay away from Stephen Campbell, her psychiatrist father’s mysterious new client. But it’s Penny’s fascination with death that draws Stephen right to her. And Stephen has a connection to the dead Penny never could have imagined: He’s one of them.

Stephen is a Shade, dead for ten years and recently resurrected by a powerful necromancer. His mere existence is an aberration of nature; not bound by natural laws, he is all-knowing and all-seeing. But every bit of supernatural knowledge he shares with Penny brings him one step closer to a second death.

Penny coerces Stephen into helping her bring back her mother. But there’s more to necromancy than spells and potions. Stephen and Penny will have to get their ritual just right, or they could summon a demon instead of a corpse. And if Stephen slips and tells Penny what she really wants to know — what happens to people after they die — he’ll die again, and Penny will lose him forever. PENNY DREADFUL is a 60,000 word YA paranormal romance. It will appeal to readers of April Genevieve Tucholke’s BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA and Stephen King’s PET SEMATARY.

First 250:

Penny Boudreaux had been sitting in the abandoned office for nearly an hour and had yet to crack open her textbook. The internet browser was taking forever to load, and she needed the internet to do some research. At least that’s what she kept telling herself.

Jesse sat beside her, working on homework of his own. After Penny had read over her notes for the tenth time or so, Jesse slammed his notebook shut. “I can’t concentrate,” he said. “It’s too hot in here.”

“It’s always hot back here. My dad’s too cheap to put in an air conditioner.” Surviving the September heat in Louisiana was almost impossible without air conditioning; fortunately, they had a high powered fan, and the office door was open, letting air from the main hall flow in.

“Yeah, I kind of noticed he was cheap when I saw my first paycheck,” Jesse said.

Penny snickered. Jesse had been an intern in her father’s office for four months now, since right after graduating high school. He had gone to school with Penny but was two grades ahead of her, so they never had any classes together. She hadn’t gotten to know him until he began his internship, though his workload had significantly diminished once his college classes had started a month earlier.

An error message appeared on the monitor. “Dammit,” Penny muttered. “The stupid internet cut out again.”

“I’ll fix it,” Jesse said. 

“Are you sure? I’m closer.”

“Nah, it’s fine. I need to get up anyway. I can’t focus.”



8 thoughts on “Entry 8 – PENNY DREADFUL

  1. Query
    words 10/10
    hook 8/10
    plot 10/10
    amount of characters 10/10
    show/tell 7/10
    stakes 10/10
    overall 8/10. Don’t start a sentence with a numerical number like the first sentence. Don’t capitalize “He” in the last sentence of first paragraph. What is Shade and necromancer? The reader might not be familiar with those terms. Starting from “PENNY DREADFUL” need a new paragraph.

    first page
    first line 8/10
    voice 7/10
    originality 5/10
    character development 7/10
    setting 8/10
    overall 7/10 The first page is a little boring. Maybe consider opening the novel with another scene?

  2. Query: 9/10

    Hook: 8 /10 It takes you a few sentences to get to it (Penny’s a mortician who falls for a dead guy), but otherwise it’s good.

    Plot: 9/10

    Characters: 8/10 Focus on Penny and Stephen. Dead mom and psychiatrist dad can go.

    Showing vs. Telling: 6/10 Needs more showing.

    Stakes: 8/10

    Overall: 8/10 I’m not familiar with your first comp title, but everyone knows Pet Sematary and although I understand that you’re going for the “story of brining back the dead” similarity, you’re writing a YA romance and King’s pure horror/drama. PS is also very old, which is another thing to avoid with comps – they should be no more than a few years old.

    First Line: 8/10

    Voice: 8/10

    Originality: 8/10 Searching the net with a bad connection isn’t the most exciting start to a book, but at least no one’s waking up.

    Character Development: 8/10

    Setting/World Building: 7/10

    Overall: 8/10

  3. from Entry #10

    Query is 250-300 Words: 10/10
    Hook: 8/10
    Plot: 9 /10
    Amount of Characters Listed: 9 /10
    Showing vs. Telling: 7/10
    Stakes Clearly Listed: 9/10
    Overall: 9 /10

    First 250:

    First Line: 6/10
    Voice: 5 /10 Sorry, it just didn’t stand out to me.
    Originality: 6/10
    Character Development: 7/10 Hard to do in first 250 words!
    Setting/World Building: 6/10
    Overall: 6/10
    I agree with other comment that it needs an interesting opening scene. Maybe start with her working on a body. People love the macabre. Then maybe she is thinking/daydreaming about something.

  4. Query
    words 8/10
    hook 8/10
    plot 10/10
    amount character 8/10
    show/tell 8/10
    stakes 9/10
    overall 9/10 – Pet Sematary is a old horror book, one that most YA readers probably never even heard of. Might try finding a newer example.

    First page
    first line 6/10 – “abandoned office” I had to re-read because it didn’t make sense. It it actually “abandoned” or is it not in use. Just read weird given the context.
    voice 7/10
    originality 7/10
    character development 7/10 – Hard to tell in 250 words. :\
    setting 7/10
    overall 7/10 – I didn’t have a strong feeling of place or character(s) in this short excerpt but based on your query I would read on. Cool premise!

  5. Query:
    Words: 10/10
    Hook: 8/10. Almost there. You’ve got the ingredients; I think just a bit of word-switching should do the trick. Maybe start with why Penny is fascinated with death.
    Plot: 8/10. Not sure what a necromancer is.
    Characters: 9/10
    Showing vs Telling: 9/10
    Overall: 9/10

    First 250:
    First Line: 7/10. A little less interesting than it should be, I think.
    Voice: 7/10
    Originality: 7/10
    Character Development: 6/10
    Setting: 7/10. I think “empty” might be a better word than “abandoned”. Abandoned makes me think of peeling plaster and cobwebs.
    Overall: 7/10

  6. Query:
    words: 10/10
    hook 9/10
    plot 8/10
    amount of characters 10/10
    show/tell 9/10
    stakes 8/10
    overall 9/10 Love the idea behind this! Would definitely want to read it.

    First page:
    first line 9/10
    voice 9/10
    originality 8/10
    character development 8/10
    setting 8/10
    overall 8/10 Unlike the the others I actually liked the first page. There was just something about it.

    from entry 3

  7. Query
    Words: 10/10
    Hook: 7/10–Took a while to get to your hook.
    Plot: 8/10
    Characters: 10/10
    Showing vs. Telling: 7/10
    Stakes: 8/10–Stephen’s conflict is clear, but Penny…eh. She’s only 16 and losing her ghost romance doesn’t seem that major to me. Honestly, I’d be more afraid of them possibly summoning a demon.
    Overall: 8/10–Overall, the query does the job of giving me the plot and the stakes are there. Some words can be removed to make the query read smoother, and there are a couple of errors.

    First 250
    First Line: 5/10–You did well w/ providing a setting, but for a first line, it doesn’t stand out.
    Voice: 8/10
    Originality: 8/10
    Character Development: 6/10–I’ve learned nothing about Penny. Her dad sounds interesting though; he’s cheap.
    Setting/World Building: 7/10–Are they waiting for her dad in *his* office? If so, “abandoned” is not the best word to use.
    Overall: 7/10–You set the stage, but maybe you should pick a better place to start. Sitting in her dad’s office w/ sketchy internet is not attention-grabbing.

  8. Entry 8: PENNY DREADFUL

    Length: 10
    Hook: 5
    Plot is Easily Understandable (MC, Goal, Conflict): 5
    Amount of Characters Listed: 10
    Showing vs. Telling (Doesn’t Read like a Synopsis): 4
    Stakes Clearly Listed: 5
    Overall: 4

    First 250:
    First Line: 4
    Voice: 4
    Originality: 5
    Character Development: 5
    Setting/World Building: 5
    Overall: 4

    Total score: 70

    Hook – it’s far too long and drawn out, using up more than a third of the total length of the query to get to the point.
    Plot – It doesn’t seem like there’s much to it. If their ritual is right – go straight to happy ending. If not – the main story isn’t even mentioned.
    Telling – A good chunk of the query is simply explaining how things work in your world instead of building the characters and story.
    Although the stakes are there they’re hidden
    Overall – Several grammatical errors cost this query some points. It also comes off as being too much like a lesser, cheesier, version of Twilight.

    First 250:
    First line: You tell us the kids are in an ‘abandoned’ office. The rest of the page says otherwise.
    Voice: You jump about a lot, often mentioning two unrelated events in the same sentence. I found it distracting to listen to.
    Overall: There are many small inconsistencies that make the scene less than believable.

    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.

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