Wednesday, September 5, 2012

CAGI Entry #43

Title: ISIS
Genre: Apocalyptic
Word Count: 50,000
One bomb. That’s all it took.
One very well-placed bomb, carrying a carbon-devouring bacteria, and every life form on the planet is now on the endangered species list – including the human race.
Isis knows this, because she’s the one who planted it.
But that’s about all she can remember, since someone wiped her memories. That was the trade off, in order for her to stay alive. But they didn’t get everything. They didn’t get her dreams.
For Isis, the dreams are dangerous. She gets flashes and fragments of a past she can’t quite remember. She’s seen enough to know she is the one responsible for the demise of the human race – whether or not it was an accident, is still to be determined.
She may not have the luxury of time to figure that out, because she’s not the only survivor having dreams.
The way some of them are eyeing her now, they may already know.
ISIS would appeal to fans of James Dashner’s THE MAZE RUNNER and Tahereh Mafi’s SHATTER ME.
As a biologist and owner of an ecotourism company, I’ve published articles in Outside Magazine, Eco Sarasota and the Journal of Emerging Infectious Diseases, the latter of which inspired the foundation for ISIS.
First 250:
When I first came to, I thought I was drowning.
My eyes snapped open but all I could see was whiteness, smothering whiteness. I tried desperately to suck vital oxygen into my lungs but instead something stuck to my face.
I flailed my arms and legs to get my face free of the suffocating weight, but I was tangled in a mess and could barely move. My heart ricocheted off my ribcage as I struggled, almost dislocating my shoulder in an attempt to free my face. I tore at it until I could pull in that first unobstructed breath. Then I breathed in another. My whole body was shaking. 
I registered two things. One, I was totally naked. Two, I had no idea where I was.
By the time I unraveled myself from the clinging cotton sheet, my panic had pushed the vivid dream I’d been having to the back recesses of my brain. The details swirled nebulous and out of reach, but the terror remained. My heartbeat raced as my eyes adjusted to the glare.
I sat on a bare expanse of cold sand. It stretched out before me almost perfectly flat, the only texture interrupting it were the ripples made by the wind and the long, white lumps I recognized as bodies. 
Everything was completely silent. The silence itself was frightening. Where in the hell was I? 


  1. LOVE this query! It caught my attention right away. Sounds like a great concept. Good luck!

  2. I like the way the query reads and I think it sounds like a good concept. Some possible things to rework:

    whiteness, smothering whiteness - I tripped over the repition here. They're all quite long words so it slowed the pace.

    I was also slightly confused over whether she was waking up or dreaming or drowning or what - I had to read twice. The thing that confused me most was sitting on the sand. I thought oh, she's just woken up and is in bed, then though wait, sand, huh what?

    I do like your descriptions and the idea of the bomb is compelling. Being stripped of your memories sounds interesting to :)

    1. Thanks Jess! Those are great comments. And it's funny but the thing that was unclear about where she is, gets explained in the very next paragraph. (250 word limit fail...haha!)

      Thanks so much! And good luck on your entry!

  3. I loooooove your query. I like how it's different in structure from other queries, but not so different that you look like a nut. :) And I think you're first page is strong. Completely draws me in. Good luck!!!

  4. I loooooove your query. I like how it's different in structure from other queries, but not so different that you look like a nut. :) And I think you're first page is strong. Completely draws me in. Good luck!!!

  5. Love your query - strong and concise, it gets right to the point and immediately hooks me in. I'm a fan of Dashner's THE MAZE RUNNER series, so this is definitely a book I'd pick up!

    For your 250 submit, I love the frantic nature of how this makes me feel. Suffocation is a fear for many, then throw in the confusion of where she is and the fact there are bodies all around her, and it makes for total chaos in such a short submit.

    Great job on this - I'd definitely read on for sure. Best of luck!

  6. I love the setup of your query - it reads like the back of a book cover, which is fantastic. really well done. That said, I would like to see a bit more of what's at stake. They start to suspect she may have set off the bomb - okay, that's heavy. But it feels like I'm missing the next peice. Does something happen that hints at what will happen to your MC if other people find out she set off the bomb? I just want that one more nugget to really suck me in.

    But overall I still really, really like this query. It's unusual, and I want to know what happens and how it was she came to set off the bomb. Nice job all around.

    Oh, and I liked the first 250 as well! :)

    1. Thanks so much! I really like your comment about the stakes involved and the "next piece" of the puzzle.

      Let me know if you have an entry, I would love to read yours.

      Thanks again!

  7. Thanks so much everyone for your fantastic comments!!!

  8. Kris... John from Entry #30 here, dropping by as promised!

    Here are the lines that really stood out for me and got my attention:

    "Isis knows this, because she’s the one who planted it." from your query.
    "I registered two things. One, I was totally naked. Two, I had no idea where I was." from your first 250

    A few things I think might make it better:

    Genre: maybe this was left out when you submitted your entry, but it would have helped prepped me to see YA (assuming that's what it is) before reading through your query and 250. My reason is that the word "Apocalyptic" could mean so many things... for a moment I was thinking of "The Road"!

    Maybe a few more clues as to what the environment or people around Isis are like after the bomb has dropped? I like that your query is focused on Isis and her conflict, but a few choice details about how the planet might have changed, and how the people might have changed. Maybe replace the word "them" in the 7th line of the query with something more descriptive?

    Hope this helps! :)

    John (#30)

  9. Your query is spare on details and for YA (I'm assuming) that's not contemporary, your word count is on the lower end of things. Those would normally give me pause - but the first time I saw this query at the WriteOnCon forums, I decided I didn't care.

    This query, to me, is the perfect embodiment of breaking - or at least stretching - the rules, and doing it well. It makes me want to read more. Period.

    If I were an agent, I'd request it.

    Sadly, in your first 250 words, there are a number of places where I tripped over both the prose and the apparent lack of clarity. You say the scene is set a bit better in the subsequent paragraphs, so I'll take your word on that front.

    But there's a problem in the opening with both repetition and rhythm, to my ear - truly great writing follows a natural cadence that I'd suggest isn't quite present here. If you haven't already, do a pass over your manuscript where you read the story to yourself, out loud. It's a pain in the butt, but you will hear and notice things you never would've otherwise.

    The places where you stumble will be the same spots that a reader stumbles.

    1. Rick,

      Thanks so much for your fantastic comments!! I am glad that you like the query. (I don't think I could revise that thing one more time without sweating blood) :)

      Your comments on the first 250 are absolutely spot on! It's funny, but I did read my MS out loud a couple of times, but it's obvious I missed a few things in this opening that could by greatly improved upon.

      Thanks for taking the time to act as the Judge o' Awesome! (We all, and I'm speaking for everyone here, really appreciate it)

    2. Hey, thank YOU for participating! It's super fun to see everyone's hard work and believe me when I say I'm impressed with every single person with the huevos to enter this thing.

      Best of luck!

  10. I really liked the query, it totally got my attention. The genre is a bit vague, you just need to find a more specific category for it. The first 250 showed urgency and definitely made me curious to read more. I loved the last sentence. Talk about getting someone to want to continue. How on earth did she survive? Why can't she remember? It's great I'm asking questions. I was a little confused as to what was suffocating her. The sand maybe? Other than that great start and cool premise. Good luck!!

  11. I love the tension that builds in your query. I LOVE that she can't remember anything but the bomb. And that there are others who may know more about her than she does!!! I would want to read more :)