Monday, September 17, 2012

GUTGAA Pitch Contest #36: WATER LILY

YA MYSTERY (Futuristic)


As children, best friends Sadie and Brandt invented a treasure-hunting game to train for positions on their floating city’s reconnaissance force. But when Brandt drowned outside their ocean home, the trail of clues he’d hidden — and the treasure at its end — were lost. Sadie has spent two years searching for the trail, but when she stumbles upon it on her sixteenth birthday, she realizes this wasn't one of Brandt’s usual games.

His cryptic riddles lead Sadie to Emery, a visitor from another seaborne city who suspects the clues could lead to information about his sister's disappearance. They work together to solve Brandt’s paper puzzles, but his clues reveal a startling secret: The citizens of their floating nation aren't the only ones who survived Earth's rising seas. It's a secret the government will kill to protect.

When Emery confesses that he's from the very land Sadie believes is gone, she realizes the conspiracy runs deeper than the ocean that holds her captive. And when he tells her how he arrived in her city, the final piece of the puzzle falls into place. Now that Sadie knows what Brandt was hiding she must make a choice. Can she live with the lies of her home? Or should she put her faith in the boy who deceived her and escape into a world she thought had drowned?

First 150 Words:

As I flip through the faded photos, the book's ancient pages curl around my finger, clinging to me just as I cling to their contents. I try to smooth the glossy paper, but age persists and I abandon the attempt, turning my attention back to the pictures of long-dead species before me.

Mom said nothing is ever truly gone as long as you remember it, and I think that’s why she gave me this book. To have the memories of trees and plants and flowers live on even if they’re not ourmemories.

The biochip buzzes in my wrist and I drop the book, spilling its forbidden words across my bedroom floor. I’ve had the implant since I was two years old, but I still can’t get used to the tiny vibrations that rattle me whenever we’re called to assemble. Above me, the alarm blares and the lights flash their insistence.


  1. Hi Robin!

    Love the concept. When I read your query I was hooked after the first paragraph—I don't even think you need the third...but that's just me.

    Great opening. I would maybe consider putting the mom's quote first, then describe the brittle pages of the book.

    This is great. You should get some requests.


  2. Very cool concept! I'd definitely read this! The third paragraph of your 150 was especially exciting and pulled me right into your world!

  3. This sounds like a super interesting read! I agree with the commenter above who said that the 3rd graf in the query might not even be necessary — I find it more suspenseful with just the first two.

    The first 150 are very intriguing — I definitely want to know what's happening with the lights and alarms. Is she in trouble for reading the book?!?

  4. Great query! It hooks me right away! I actually was hooked on second paragraph & third paragraphs. However, I am a reader that prefers to start with the action. Wonderful job!

  5. Hi,
    I like the query very much, though I did find it a bit too long. I'd suggest just going with the first two paragraphs. The stakes are clear in those already, and you want to give enough info to hook the reader.
    The writing in the first 150 is good.
    Best of luck

  6. You already know how much I love this. ;)

  7. Thanks so much for the kind words, everyone! It's always incredibly encouraging to hear people like your story. Good luck to all the GUTGAA participants!

  8. YES. This query is legit--I'm totally sucked in and dying to know what happens next!

  9. Ooo, I like this one a lot. Mysteries with sci-fi elements suck me right in, and yours is well-written and intriguing.

  10. Love the third paragraph of your query! Haunting. Like Triona, I'm loving the mystery element here. Excited to read more!

  11. That query is definitely enticing--makes me want to read more! Love the futuristic elements you showcase in the brief excerpt. Can't wait to read!

  12. Love! I think the writing is fantastic and beautiful. Best of luck!

  13. Very interesting premise. I love a good mystery--and this seems to have all the makings for one.

    This sample really resonated with me: "Mom said nothing is ever truly gone as long as you remember it, and I think that’s why she gave me this book. To have the memories of trees and plants and flowers live on even if they’re not our memories."

    It's a nice opener for what's to come in this book. I can imagine Sadie's distress in fighting over a world she doesn't truly know as her own. You've set up some nice conflict there--well done.

    I love the visual of a Water Lily, but based on what I read in the pitch, wonder if that's too *soft* a title for such a compelling read ?? Just a suggestion--like all, it's subjective :)

    Anyway, best of luck to you.

  14. This is a very compelling entry! Sounds haunting from the query and the sample really pulled me in. I agree with Bethany that it might set that type of mood even quicker by beginning the story at the second paragraph, but in any case I would definitely read on.

  15. I think the query could be tightened in the last paragraph, but I'd give you my vote if I had one. :p

  16. I really love the atmosphere your pitch is presenting--it's both mysterious and moonlit but also fast-paced and promises delightful twists and turns. This was one of my favorites.

    Congratulations! YOU HAVE MY VOTE TO MOVE FORWARD.

  17. PITCH: This concept is another intriguing one (an agent’s job must be SO HARD!). The beginning of the third paragraph goes a little too far into synopsis-land, in my opinion, and if you cut that part and ended the pitch with Sadie’s decision, the pitch would be stronger. It’s already very well done, though. [I’m not convinced the stakes are high enough, but if I were an agent, I’d request a partial.]
    FIRST 150: With the first sentence, I’m trying to reconcile how she can “flip” through photos while the pages “cling” to her finger. It’s a matter of verb choice, though, and wouldn’t turn me off immediately. Also, I need what Donald Maass calls a “bridging conflict” here—some extra tension, beyond the “forbidden” book, beyond the buzzing in her wrist startling her.

  18. I really like the premise of this (and I think you could query it as YA Sci-Fi if you wanted), and I like the setting shown in the opening 150 words, and I'm intrigued to see why her biochip is buzzing.

    You've got my vote!