Monday, January 14, 2013

Bouncer Post #12

Title: HAVEN
Genre: YA Sci-Fi
Word Count: 71,000


Arrival on planet CR-3 was supposed to mean a new beginning, but for seventeen-year-old Hope every day is a new test, a new torture, a new fear.  At any moment the Locals can call for Hope and nine other teenagers to go into the Stacks for testing. Some days she’s drowning in the middle of the ocean. Some days they keep them locked up without food. Once, they sent her in naked. Are the tall blue creatures watching the tests, their unchanging black eyes seeing, judging, deciding?

When a new home was found in a distant galaxy, what scientists hadn’t discovered or counted on were the natives. Upon landing the humans are met with the Dome, a force field keeping them trapped at their landing site. Contact with the CR-3ans has resulted in only one thing. The Stacks. A mountain of metal cylinders encasing a series of holographic testing rooms. Ten representatives of each age group of the human race have been chosen: children, teens, adults, and the elderly. And these specimens are the ones undergoing the strange testing, Hope and the ex-boyfriend she still feels fiercely attached to among them.

The Stacks can hurt. Maybe they can kill. But their purpose remains unknown and unrest is threatening to divide the humans. Some say the Local CR-3ans are hostile, and they want to prepare for a fight. Hope thinks the Stacks are a way of deciding whether or not to let the humans out of their captivity. As many start to turn to weapons and violence as an answer, Hope becomes a voice for a peace. It is Hope who establishes the first communication with a Local. As their intentions become clear, so does the fact that Hope is the last chance for the human race.

First 250:

I knew the other Specs ahead of me and behind me were all feeling the same thing, it was a communal cold sweat. The walk down the shiny white tunnel that led to our Stack for the day felt like a slow march toward inevitable doom. What would today bring? Another tornado hurtling at us at full speed? Or a herd of large, hairy, hump backed beasts that would charge the ten of us any minute?

It could be something simple. Dress us up in funny costumes and play music. They’d done that once. Just to see what we would do. Maybe that’s what that was… unless we were supposed to do something and we didn’t. Every time, we tried to maintain a team spirit. That was important above all else. Not only because a lot of the Specs thought what I did, that the sessions were a test of some kind. But also because we had to be a team because if it was a bad day in the Stacks, working together was the only way to survive.

Someone nudged me from behind and I turned to see Weeks grinning at me from ear to ear. Weeks got his name from parents who’d given in to the doomsday thinking back on Earth, near the end. Some of the kids had names like his now. Days, Weeks, Hours. They’d named their kid after the amount of time they thought they had left. Instead of turning out gloomy and depressed the way his parents must have been, Weeks chose to be an incontrovertible optimist.


  1. Fascinating. While I initially rebel against any book that could be a little preachy (peace, save the planet, be healthy), I love the idea that the CR-3ans are testing the humans to see if they are worthy. I would absolutely read this. One question, where are the rest of the humans that aren't in the Stacks? Camps? Still on Earth? I'd clarify that in a future version. Good luck.

  2. Awesome premise, but I would try to consolidate the 1st & 2nd paragraphs of your query into 1 concise paragraph to pack a bigger punch. I would start w/ something like, "When scientists discover a new home in a distant galaxy, they fail to factor the natives into their plan for a new earth." Then immediately introduce Hope and the Stacks and how they work. Again, a very intriguing premise.

    I think your 1st 250 words do a great job of drawing the reader in, but they just need to be cleaned up a little bit. First sentence could read: "I knew the other Specs around me felt the same cold, communal sweat as I did."

    I'm entry #19; thanks for your comments as well and lots of luck!!

  3. Fantastic premise! I'm totally hooked. I loved your opening 250 words. I especially liked the bit about the names--so clever. I liked your query as well, but I also like Heather's idea to condense and combine your first two paragraphs, I think that would make it even stronger!

    But no matter what you do, I think this is great! Best of luck!

  4. I think this is really solid. I actually like your query as is--the first paragraph really paints an intriguing picture. I like how you use details to show us what's happening in this world, and not just generalizing. I love the opening--I really want to read on. I'm entry #2--good luck!!

  5. Really intriguing premise! I like that it's not another rise-up-against-the-aliens story, that instead of violence the approach to peace is cooperation and negotiation. I thought both your query and first 250 were really strong. My only comment was that, as interesting as it was, the first paragraph of the query was probably not strictly necessary. I think everything the potential reader needs to get from the query is contained in paragraphs two and three.
    Good luck from entry #1!

  6. Really love your premise and your first 250. I agree with Shannon about condensing and combing the first two paragraphs of the query but then I probably have the shortest query in the competition (#6), so there you go ;) Oh, I also love the use of names here--love the weeks, days, thing. Awesome idea.

  7. This entry was soooo close for me! Definitely in my top 5. I love how unique the premise is. It's sort of a sci-fi dystopian but with only a few glimpses of apocalypse. Also, you turn the girl-hero convention on its head by having the heroine act for peace instead of kicking butt. And I can't help but love the phrase 'communal cold sweat.' I'm going to have to try hard not to accidentally steal that.

    But I don't think it's quite as strong as some of the others in my group. I agree with what previous commenters have said about trimming the query. Consider axeing the whole second paragraph. It's all backstory, and you can trust your reader to follow what you have in the first and third paragraphs without getting lost. You can also trim the third paragraph by several sentences, as there are at least two that repeat what you've already said. In queries, shorter is almost always better.

    As for your first 250, I loved your first paragraph. Not just the communal cold sweat, but also the questions at the end. It definitely heightens the suspense. But then the second paragraph loses some of that momentum for me. I can see why you put it in there (it explains that the Stacks aren't always bad), but consider whether or not you absolutely need to make that point right then, right as she's about to enter into who knows what. Would the character go into that much thought detail about maintaining team spirit? Could the characters show team spirit in some way so it isn't necessary to narrate it? I think replacing a few of the telling points with bits of small action (holding hands, noticing other characters' reactions, etc.) would make this excerpt really pop.

    Overall, I think you really have something here. Good luck!

    1. Oy! It's always hard to know you were close. I'm really grateful for the kind and insightful comments from everyone. I focused on providing a lot of specifics so that my query didn't read as generalizations, but I see now that it must be trimmed down. And the character interaction begins immediately after the 250 cut-off, so I'll look into re-organizing/cutting the 250 as well. :) So helpful, thanks everyone.

    2. Seriously, keep doing what you're doing! You're on the right track. I know I'll be adding this book to my TBR pile one day soon!

  8. Sorry to see that you didn't get into the next round, but please please enter another contest after you tweak your query/1st words some more. It'll get in next time for sure!

    I really enjoyed your premise/words, and though I write contemporary YA w/ only tinges of sci-fi, I would love to read/critique more of your work if you want to swap anytime. Just click on my name and it'll take you to my website, where you can contact me and we can exchange info.

    1. Hi Shannon, Thanks! I just hopped over to your site and sent a message :)