Monday, January 21, 2013

Bouncer Post #43


TITLE : COPERNICUS NERDICUS
Genre : Middle Grade
Word Count : 63,000

Query:

Thirteen-year old braniac inventor, Copernicus 'Nic' Wilhelm, isn’t a stranger to being pelted with cafeteria food by his arch rival, Eugene Zorn. But when a fifteen-foot-tall, short-circuiting robot built by Eugene’s dad wallops Nic with a stack of greasy cheeseburgers in the mall food court, it’s the last straw.



With the help of his ultimate battle-bot invention, Einstein, Nic blasts the mechanical monster back to the scrap heap with a rocket-propelled punch. Although Nic narrowly avoids being vaporized, he couldn’t be happier to see Eugene and his bullying classmates being dragged away into the mall warehouse by a legion of mega mechs. That is, until he sees his best friend being kidnapped as well.

Nic discovers that the vile criminal organization, C.O.R.E (Coalition of Rogue Engineers) has been using a new video game designed by Eugene’s billionaire’s father to brainwash and transform his classmates into pilots for their army of kid-controlled battle-bots. To make matters even worse, Eugene’s dad seems to be involved in the devious plot. Since C.O.R.E has turned the local police into mind-controlled, segway-riding mall security guards, Nic must rely on his ingenious inventions and Einstein’s brawn to break into their hidden mall base and rescue his classmates.


As Nic and Einstein pummel their way through C.O.R.E troops using everything from stink bombs to slime cannons, a fleet of battle-bots is prepared to invade. Nic is now in a race against time to put a stop to the mind control device and find proof of Zorn’s involvement before his inventions, and Einstein’s battery, run out.

First 250:

“I hope your robot is ready to get its butt kicked, Nerd!”

“Whatever, Eugene,” I answered climbing the stairs to the combatant platform. “I’m not going down that easily.”

The tournament room felt like the inside of a nuclear reactor and I had a sickening feeling lurking in my gut. I rolled up the sleeves on my hooded sweatshirt, wiped my clammy palms against my shorts and picked up the controller in front of me.

There was no turning back now.

“Who’s ready for the battle-bot match of the century?” Mr. Smiggons shouted over the loudspeaker.

Mr. Smiggons’ burly frame leaned out from the announcer’s booth beside the plexiglass enclosed arena. He was balding but made up for it with a bristly beard that hung over his Digital Zone work shirt. His arms were waving wildly as he urged the kids seated around the arena to cheer louder. The crowd responded with a booming applause that shook the stands.

“That’s what I like to hear! Let’s battle!”

“Keep it together, Nic. It’s only one match.” I took a deep breath. “No big deal.”

But it wasn’t just any match. It was the final preliminary round for the Digital Zone battle-bot tournament. If I won, it would be the first time a rookie defeated a top ranked player. Not to mention a huge boost for me in the popularity department.

There was just one small problem. The top ranked player I was battling happened to be my arch rival, Eugene Zorn.

32 comments:

  1. Nice!

    I don't think you need the line: To make matters even worse, Eugene’s dad seems to be involved in the devious plot. You've already implicated him in the line where you say he designed the video game and this could cut your word count.

    Great first 250 words!

    Good luck!

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    1. Agree with you on the query! Removed! You can already tell he's implicated. Trying to get as close to 250 words as possible for the guts of my query!

      Thanks!

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  2. Very strong query. I know exactly what is at stake, who the main characters are, and I love, love, love your voice. Your last sentence really sets up the rest of the book. Your 250 are equally strong.

    Good luck!

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    1. Thank you! Glad you love the voice, it's the hardest thing to quantify. I always see myself touching it up to really bring Nic to life. Poor kid, he's turning more into me when I was 13 lol.

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  3. I agree that your query and 250 are very strong. You got me hooked! Thanks for your feedback (entry 44)! Good luck!

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  4. I cruised on over to your entry after reading a couple of your critiques. They seemed spot-on so I wanted to see what you've got to offer and I'm so glad I did! I think your story will go over really well with boys - particularly the nerdy-and-proud-of-it types.

    I've just a few suggestions. Insofar as genre, I think you'd best be explicit about it being fantasy or science fiction. I was confused for a while trying to figure whether it is set in the "real" world. I get it you probably don't want to infer this is a fairy story - maybe "contemporary science fiction?" Something to think on.

    Your query does for me what it should - gives the setup, stakes, shows the mc, etc. without bogging down in details. A few things. I was confused about the setting - I got that it's in a mall, but needed to know about the tournament sooner, particularly for the blasting back part. The second paragraph needs some work. Who nearly vaporizes Nic? Eugene? CORE? Are they the ones who also did the kidnapping? Also, Eugene seems really important, then, he disappears from the query. Which might relate to: The one thing I feel is missing is some kind of indication as to Nic's character arc. You've got the external conflict in spades, what is the internal conflict?

    I love your 250 - so fun. The great voice makes me want to dive into the story. You do a lovely job of balancing description/action/interiority. Perfect starting spot.

    I do suggest you attach some kind of action or description on the first line. I only knew what was going on because I'd read the query (My arch-enemy, Eugene, faked a gut punch from the other side of the robot combatant's platform). Something like that, but better. :)

    Nic's reply "I'm not going down that easily" makes it sound like he thinks he's going to lose.

    "There was no turning back." I didn't get the impression Nic would want to turn back. Seems like he'd be thrilled though nervous be there. Is he worried his robot is going to be destroyed? Scared of the social consequences of losing? If not, clarify exactly what he's stressing about.

    Is Eugene a rival or an enemy? Either way, I don't understand the "there was just one problem" part. Why is it a problem? Does he fear Eugene will have his revenge? You might clarify this in the next paragraph, but just in case.

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    1. Thanks so much for your response, Heather! Your insights are incredibly helpful.

      The story is set in the real world, with real kids, just a few years in future. There's sci-fi elements dabbled throughout the story, so I may do what you suggest and bring that up for my genre description. Awesome advice.

      Def. agree with you on the query - I've seen some success with it, but I still want to work on it a bit more to show that Nic needs to basically push his grudge aside with Eugene in order to rescue him (and his classmates / best friend) from C.O.R.E. After all- Nic, as you can tell through the story doesn't want to be the bully. I'm back to touching it up!

      I'm going to play around with your suggestions with the 250 too, and the good thing is that everything you recommend is explained throughout the first chapter of the book. ( reason why they are enemies, why he doesn't want to lose, and the importance of the match, etc.) Wish it could have been first chapter posted!

      But, thank you! This help is invaluable! Can already see some improvements coming down the line.

      Gotta love these bouncer rounds!

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  5. Copernicus, this sounds really fun! Super MG-Boy friendly, with a strong voice. I do agree with Heather's comment about the setting, though it sounds like it all becomes clear in the first chapter. I also agree with your response to her that putting Science Fiction in your genre category would clarify up front a great deal. Really well done! And I love the name you've chosen for your main character. -Amy

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    1. Thanks Amy! I think we're both in the same boat in terms of targeting that reluctant reader base. Here's a toast to both of us! :)

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  6. OMG! I love this! God! I should be reading the YA entries considering I'm 19, but all you MG writers are just so awesome fun! Gah! This was really fun and I liked it!

    Good luck!

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  7. Ha! Yeah, MG allows me to tap into my "crazy" side a bit. Not to mention I still act like a complete child according to my wife lol. So MG is the way to go. I write YA too, but there's something about re-living my golden years of 12-13 that makes it too hard to pass up.

    Anyway - Glad you liked it :)

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  8. Hi Copernicus,

    I enjoyed your query and 250! You really do a great job with voice. It sounds like a fun book!

    In the last paragraph of your query, you write, "find proof of Zorn’s involvement before his inventions..." You had been calling him Eugene's father in the previous paragraphs. I'd stay consistent and stick with Eugene's father since you do have two Zorns in the query. And I agree with Heather on making the setting clearer.

    Good luck from #40!

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    1. Thanks for the tips Twinkie! I'm touching up my query as we speak (this will be version..I dunno...#17?) Thanks to the advice here, it's already sounding better. Hopefully it'll bump my "material request" % up lol.

      Glad you enjoyed it otherwise, and good luck to you too!

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  9. Wow, a fun read! I think you've done an awesome job with your MC's voice. And your language is great, love the idea of C.O.R.E. and battle-bots. I agree with the query discussion above, and yes, I think I'm on query version 27 myself. :)

    The setting in your first 250 was very clear to me. The combatant platform and tournament room sound like great places for some serious tension. Best of luck with this! And thank you for the comments on my entry, too. #48

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    1. I'm glad you think it was a fun read so far! I had a hell of a time writing it (Lots of laughs, and lots of banging my head on my desk).

      I'm also ecstatic to see everyone is enjoying the voice so far. It's something I worked on for a long time, so I'm glad I'm making strides.

      Don't you love the query letter btw? Someone should write a short story about a novelist forced to write query letters for all eternity. A perverse version of Dante's inferno.

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    2. Oh my gosh- yes!! Query Purgatory: Perpetual self doubt, bordering on total madness. :)

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  10. Oh man, this is so freaking awesome! My son is only three right now, but I imagine this will be the kind of book I'd seek out as a mom: clever, fresh, unique and a great voice that's very spot-on. Love your query and the first 250. Good luck and thanks again for all of your awesome critiques as well. ~#68.

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    1. Thank you so much! I hope one day you're son will pick it up off the book shelf. *fingers crossed*

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  11. Too. Much. Fun! Your query completely captivated me, each line hooking me more. Any pesky things I noticed have been covered by earlier posts, so I'll just wish you the best of luck. Your voice is fantastic!

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    1. Thank you! I can't stress enough how hard it is for any writer to get voice down. I feel like it's a constant work in progress. Still trying to improve it every step of the way. But I'm glad you're hooked already!

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  12. I love your concept! Battling robots sounds like so much fun and I think it makes for a great MG story!

    I like your first 250, but I think starting with dialogue is risky. In this case I think it confuses the reader as to what the opening situation is. I'd get rid of both lines and start with "The tournament room..." I think this immediately puts you in the setting of the competition and the comparison to a nuclear reactor is great.

    The other bit I struggle with was the "Keep it together" dialogue. This felt more like internal thoughts or something he'd mutter under his breath. Otherwise it sounds like someone is talking to him.

    Other than those two minor nitpicks I love this and think it is a super fun MG adventure that kids will love. I'd continue reading on.

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    1. Thanks for the critique! I honestly thought about the same thing you did, in terms of starting with the tournament room. I too was a bit nervous starting with the dialogue. I'm going to mess around with it a bit and see what I can come up with.

      The keep it together dialogue was meant to be as a mutter. I'll try messing with the dialogue tag.

      This is why I love the bouncer round! You get so blinded with your own work, it's little things like this that stand out once someone mentions it.

      Thanks! Glad you liked it!

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  13. This is awesome. I'd read this :)

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  14. Fantastic first 250! I can see this being a huge hit with MG readers (and those who are MG at heart too). I noticed how insightful your comments were to some of the other entries and I know everyone appreciates it. After reading your query and your first 250 it is clear you are a master of your craft. Best of luck (thought I feel you have created your own luck with your excellent story).

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    1. Bill - I really appreciate everything you said. It means more than you know. We all work incredibly hard on our stories, and after all this is what we are all passionately attempting to accomplish. Each one of us signed up for this contest deserves a round of applause. After all, not many people can say they wrote a novel that they want to share with the world.

      While I thank you for your kind words, I'm far from a master. I find myself to still be a young apprentice. Every day I'm learning something new and developing my skills. The same can be said for each of us. It's an ongoing process and every one us gets better by the day, as long as we keep at it.

      Thanks again!

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  15. You've already got some great feedback, so I don't have a lot to add aside from "YOU'RE IN!" :D

    You have a fantastic title, excellent hook, and your query reeled me right in. Well played, you, well played.

    The first 250 totally live up to the promise of the query - this sounds like a really fun read and just the sort of "boy" book I hear people are clamoring for. As long as the rest of the manuscript holds up, I could see this getting snapped up fast.

    I don't have much in the way of nitpicks (because really this is very well done) but there was one place that stuck out to me that could be tightened: "I had a sickening feeling lurking in my gut" would be a little stronger (to me) as "a sickening feeling lurked in my gut". Otherwise, I loved this! Great job!

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  16. Bouncer Starfruit!!

    Thank you so much! My wife was absolutely dumbfounded when I shouted "I'm in!!" while typing away on my laptop. She must have thought I was hacking into a government facility or something (as if I was a member of C.O.R.E lol).

    What you said about the clamor for boy books has gotten me even more excited. It's what I was really hoping for as I'm really trying to create a story that could connect with them. And older nerds like me of course.

    As for your nitpicks, I love nitpicks. And I agree with you that it sounds even stronger the way you worded it. Consider it changed.

    Thanks again, and my thanks for everyone else's critique. You all deserve another round of applause regardless of whether or not you make it into the next round.

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  17. Congratulations, Copernicus!
    I wanted to let you know how much I appreciate all of the time and effort you put into critiquing other entries! Thank you and good luck in the next round!!!!
    -twinkieseed

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  18. Congrats! I KNEW you were in on Monday when i first read this. You have some great stuff here. Someday I hope to read this to my son!

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  19. Congrats! And thanks for all the feedback on my (and others') entries.

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