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Saturday, January 12, 2013

Query & First Page Critique - 1000 Sleepless Nights

Thanks to another lovely volunteer, I have feedback for the New Adult Contemporary, 1000 Sleepless Nights.

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At nineteen, prodigy Emme Sawyer flew through her undergrad work and was well on her way to becoming a doctor when the money ran out. Drawn in by the promise of a free education, she joins the Navy. Earning the title of Hospital Corpsman, Emme  and deploys to Afghanistan.

With the front lines blurred, Emme fights side by side with the Marines.   Even though she's assigned to hospital work, Emme ignores the danger and Ignoring the danger she runs into the fire fight to treat the wounded. Soon it becomes apparent that sometimes being smart isn’t enough and bullets don’t care if you’re a girl.

Emme struggles with the brutality she sees and shuts off her emotions, focusing on what she does best…keeping her men safe. Soon she develops feelings for her commanding officer. Feelings she doesn’t want and isn’t supposed to have for a member of her team. When her commanding officer reciprocates, Emme learns that you can’t choose when and where love finds you. After Emme is shipped home, her life crumbles. Faced with the nightmares of her deployment and unresolved feelings for her commanding officer, Emme must choose to move forward in a world she no longer feels a part of or find a way to return to the man she left behind. or figure out how to get back to the men she left behind I don't know if that change is accurate, but saying she wants to return to the officer is more symmetrical. It rounds out the two main conflicts you mention in the query and then summarize nicely at the end - her trauma from the front lines and her feelings for her commanding officer.

1000 Sleepless Nights is a Contemporary New Adult novel at 65,000 words.
I LOVE your title.

Thank You for your concsideration,

Typo in that line. :)

I think this is a great query. It sounds like a unique and timely story that people would be interested in. The basics of the plot and primary conflict are well-illustrated, and you do a good job at showing the strength and courage of your MC. I care about her, and only within the space of 300 words of less, which can be tough to do.

I pared it down a little to take out some extra words and phrases that cluttered it up a little, in my opinion. However, none of the changes I suggested are super critical.


First page:

The brochure at the recruiting office offered a way to pay off my school loans and finish my degree. I didn’t realize it came with a one way ticket to hell, but now that seemed to be exactly where I was. There’s a lot of speculation on what hell looks like. Watch the tense, you shift to present in that last sentence. If anyone asked me, I’d tell them to hop a plane to the Middle East. I’d been in Afghanistan for close to a year. Currently,  I suggest that you take out all this backstory. All of that information is important, and you might want to weave it into the narrative throughout the first 10 pages so we know what's going on, but it's too much too soon. I'd like to get straight to the immediate scene.
I sat packed into the back of a hummer with a bunch of Army guys. The convoy I’d joined was headed headed to a compound where a local school was located. The air inside the cab was stale and charged with a nervous energy. The temperature was stifling. The desert was a consistent 120 degrees whether it was day or night. Is that accurate? The deserts I'm familiar with have extreme temperature changes between day and night. If I'm wrong, ignore me, it just struck me as odd.
  We kept the windows rolled up due to the possibility of hitting an IED, improvised explosive device, but more importantly to keep the fine grains of sand from filling the truck. At this point I was seriously thinking a little sand wouldn’t hurt. You've got quite a few "was"s in the first paragraph. Perhaps you can find some stronger action verbs to use.

“Good to have you, Doc,” the Sergeant said over his shoulder.

Before I could answer the interpreter started rattling off a frantic string of guttural sounds. Afghanistan had at least thirty-four languages. I had basics medical terms in two, but the faster he spoke the more his words sounded like he was clearing the phlegm out of his throat.

“Hey man slow down I can’t understand you,” the Sergeant said. “There’s a road block ahead.” A voice on the radio cut through the chaos. The line of hummers stopped and waited for their next directive. The drivers amazed me at their ability to kept an equal distance between the vehicles at all times. It was like synchronized swimming except with vehicles.


Except for the backstory at the beginning, this is a really strong start! I'd certainly keep reading.

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Now it's your turn! What do you think? I've pasted the uninterrupted version here:

At nineteen, prodigy Emme Sawyer flew through her undergrad work and was well on her way to becoming a doctor when the money ran out. Drawn in by the promise of a free education, she joins the Navy. Earning the title of Hospital Corpsman, Emme deploys to Afghanistan.

With the front lines blurred, Emme fights side by side with the Marines. Ignoring the danger she runs into the fire fight to treat the wounded. Soon it becomes apparent that sometimes being smart isn’t enough and bullets don’t care if you’re a girl.

Emme struggles with the brutality she sees and shuts off her emotions, focusing on what she does best…keeping her men safe. Soon she develops feelings for her commanding officer. Feelings she doesn’t want and isn’t supposed to have for a member of her team. When her commanding officer reciprocates, Emme learns that you can’t choose when and where love finds you. After Emme is shipped home, her life crumbles. Faced with the nightmares of her deployment and unresolved feelings for her commanding officer, Emme must choose to move forward in a world she no longer feels a part of or figure out how to get back to the men she left behind.
1000 Sleepless Nights is a Contemporary New Adult novel at 65,000 words.

Thank You for your concideration,


First page:

The brochure at the recruiting office offered a way to pay off my school loans and finish my degree. I didn’t realize it came with a one way ticket to hell, but now that seemed to be exactly where I was. There’s a lot of speculation on what hell looks like. If anyone asked me, I’d tell them to hop a plane to the Middle East. I’d been in Afghanistan for close to a year. Currently, I sat packed into the back of a hummer with a bunch of Army guys. The convoy I’d joined was headed to a compound where a local school was located. The air inside the cab was stale and charged with a nervous energy. The temperature was stifling. The desert was a consistent 120 degrees whether it was day or night. We kept the windows rolled up due to the possibility of hitting an IED, improvised explosive device, but more importantly to keep the fine grains of sand from filling the truck. At this point I was seriously thinking a little sand wouldn’t hurt.

“Good to have you, Doc,” the Sergeant said over his shoulder.

Before I could answer the interpreter started rattling off a frantic string of guttural sounds. Afghanistan had at least thirty-four languages. I had basics medical terms in two, but the faster he spoke the more his words sounded like he was clearing the phlegm out of his throat.

“Hey man slow down I can’t understand you,” the Sergeant said. “There’s a road block ahead.” A voice on the radio cut through the chaos. The line of hummers stopped and waited for their next directive. The drivers amazed me at their ability to kept an equal distance between the vehicles at all times. It was like synchronized swimming except with vehicles.


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