Chasing my crazy dream in the writing world…

SVS 9: Aussie Outsider – YA Contemporary January 23, 2014

Filed under: Blog,contest — chasingthecrazies @ 6:09 am
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Category/Genre: YA Contemporary


Word Count: 58,000



My Main Character is most uncomfortable with:



This might seem like a cop out, but Rory can’t really say that she’s uncomfortable with either snow or sun. As a former California girl turned Aussie outsider, she lives for the warm sun on her face, sweet island breezes and dazzling turquoise water. Yet her favorite memory of her mother is when they trekked up to Big Bear one Christmas Eve to sled and drink hot cocoa with noses as red as Rudolf’s. So which is worse: snow or sun? Rory cherishes snow in her memories, but lives for sun in the present.






When her mother suddenly dies, sixteen-year-old Rory Turner finds herself living on a Dr. Pepper can-size island with her father, whom she’s only just met.


Settling into her new home is awkward with a double scoop of awk. There’s Rory’s stranger father, for starters. Not to mention the confusing Aussie slang, no movie theaters or fast food joints, and all the other teenagers attend boarding schools on the mainland. Plus, someone really doesn’t want her to feel welcome: stealing her precious pictures of her mother, leaving a dead bird on her bed and even giving her food poisoning. She suspects Rita Harper, who was jilted at the altar by her father.


Rory’s only bright spot is Rita’s nephew, Tark, who’s quite charming when he’s not acting like a cactus. But when she uncovers a tragic secret from before she was born, she fears that Rita’s pranks will turn deadly. Especially when her father’s new love interest is found unconscious on the bowling green. If Rory can’t convince her father and Tark that Rita is a monster, her new home could be six feet under the ground.


AUSSIE OUTSIDER combines the family setting and romance of THE REECE MALCOLM LIST with the mystery of FALL FOR ANYTHING, in a unique “Down Under” setting.




First 250 words:



Nobody’s first thought when they wake up is this: “Today my mom is going to die, so I should run into her bedroom this very minute to tell her I love her.”


I wish I could say I’m not nobody. But I am. My mom wasn’t even on my mind when my alarm went off that morning. Instead I was thinking about how much I hated Thursdays. And pop quizzes in Biology, especially when I hadn’t read the chapter yet.


No, I didn’t rush into her bedroom. I hit the snooze button at least twice, and reluctantly dragged my butt out of bed to take a quick shower. After dressing, I slouched into the kitchen to eat breakfast before catching the bus to school. Just like any other morning.


Only it wasn’t any other morning. It was the morning. The one where I should have told my mom I loved her. Not the one where I gave her the silent treatment.


She was leaning against the counter, reading her texts and emails on her smart phone as she sipped her protein shake. Her shoulder-length hair was pulled back in a low ponytail and she wore a matching tank and shorts, with her running shoes laced on her feet. Just another weekday morning for her, too.


I plopped down on a barstool at the opposite end of the counter without uttering a word, as if I could voice my anger better with silence than a thousand heated words.


If only I’d had a crystal ball.



22 Responses to “SVS 9: Aussie Outsider – YA Contemporary”

  1. Kalinda Says:

    Team Snow #6 here to wish you good luck in the upcoming mentor round! I’d love to connect on Twitter, so I can keep up with you after the contest! @kranky_crow

  2. RobL Says:

    I really like your first 250. A lot. There are a couple of minor details others have mentioned (alight awkwardness around the mention of the bus, then still being the kitchen, for example), but really they’re minor quibbles and I think the whole thing is tight, engaging and generally great.

    I found the query a little more confusing. To be honest, I sort of assumed that Rita was going to be the bitchy popular girl at school character who feels threatened by the new arrival. She doesn’t quite come off as an adult to me. Perhaps if we could understand exactly why she’s targeting Rory instead of her father, that might help.

    I agree with others that you also have some leeway to highlight the differences between where she’s come from and where she now finds herself.

    These are only minor things, though, and easily fixed. I think you’ll do really well with this. Best of luck in the agent round!

  3. Hi! It’s mentor Rachel here to chime in. 🙂

    Your first 250 are great. I really like the emotion of the scene. The only issue I has was that she says she got on the bus and then we see her sitting in the kitchen giving her mom the silent treatment.

    Your query is well done also. I wondered why she’d know the nephew of her dad’s ex, but I guess that’s what happens when you live on a tiny island?

    Good job and good luck!

  4. I’m a bit confused about why Rita is trying to kill the MC too. I love the first 250 though. Good luck!

  5. michelle4laughs Says:

    Wow! I think this setting and concept sound amazing. Good luck!

  6. Susie Says:

    Good query. I don’t think you need to mention “stranger father” since it was already stated that Rory just met him. Also, is there a reason an adult would purposely scare the daughter of her ex? It seems like she would scare the father. I agree that this sounds like a mystery.
    250–I like it. Even though it is backstory, it provides a nice opening and entices me to read more. Good luck.

  7. I love the bit about Tark acting like a cactus, had me loling. I really liked your query, if you added a bit more detail about the island I think it would help to picture it a little better. I agreed with Katie that when i first read the description about Dr. Pepper sized that it would just be her and her dad living on the island. YOu could even say, On an island that feels Dr. Pepper sized, or something or the other. Did she grow up in a big city and that’s why it feels so small? If so adding it to the query would definitely help to understand Rory’s POV. I enjoyed your 250, you have great voice. Well done!

  8. Andy Says:

    Nice voice! Good first line.

  9. suja Says:

    I liked the query and the opening here. There’s definite mystery here, which I love, and a great plot. I’d read this book first chance I get. Wondering how the mom died. But I’ll read to find out 🙂
    The opening is sad and draws me in immediately. A reminder of how quickly ‘normal’ can change.
    Best of luck!

  10. Nancy Parish Says:


    I love the description of the island, it’s a great description without being cliché. Like other folks have mentioned, I would cut the second reference to dad being a stranger. I also think you can really show that she’s out of her comfort zone by mentioning up front that she’s moved Half a world away. It’s not abundantly clear that’s the case. Also, is there a school on the island if everyone else goes to school on the mainland? Is this relevant to the story. If not, you may want to cut it.

    The first 250: I think this is well executed, but it does seem to be a bit repetitive. You could cut some of it and start at:

    That morning started like any other, only it wasn’t any other morning. It was the morning. The one where I should have told my mom I loved her. Not the one where I gave her the silent treatment.

    Then you can get right into the action sooner.

    Or, You could start with Rory interacting with her mom and show her giving her mom the cold shoulder, then the reader would feel Rory’s regret in not saying I love you one more time when she finds out about her mom’s death. and then have her voice the regret mentioned in your opening.(You might want to read the first chapter of: If I Stay, Gail Forman I think wrote it, she starts with the family at breakfast and you really see the relationship of the family and then tragedy strikes.) Either way, this sounds really intriguing. Good luck in the agent round!

  11. Jeannine Johnson Maia Says:

    #TeamSun teammate here. I really like all that’s put into the first 250 words — so much longing and regret overlaid on what should have been an ordinary morning. It creates a sad but intriguing atmosphere, and makes me wonder what the next scene will be. I’d definitely read more, and really want to find out what secret Rory has discovered (and why she’s so sure Rita’s the guilty one). Bring on Rory’s investigation! I also love the query’s language (double scoop of awk, acting like a cactus) and look forward to seeing this voice and humor carried into the novel itself. Really nice job.

  12. smnystoriak Says:

    This is a really great opening! I really felt the angst about the silence and the regret…

    My only thought is, with the first 250, perhaps condense the angst some, so that you might get to move on to the next part of the story. Just a thought.

    Good Luck!!!

  13. Query:
    • I feel like there’s a lot of setup here.
    • The father jilting Rita Harper at the altar may not be necessary for the query, though it is interesting.
    • Why is Rita, an adult, acting like this? What’s the antagonist’s motivations? Revenge? Why take it out on Rory and not her father?
    • While you don’t need to reveal the tragic secret, it is a vague and it’s unclear how that connects to Rita here.
    • Stakes – love the life or death stakes, but is convincing her father and Tark really what she needs to do to overcome it? It makes me worry she may be a passive character if she’s relying on them to solve her problems.
    • Also, what does she DO about Rita? How does she know it’s her? And what does she do to try to stop her?

    • How would she know about a pop quiz? Isn’t that the kind the teacher springs on you without warning?
    • This is backstory, but it works for me. I think it sets up the story nicely and in a compelling way. I feel for the character, and it makes me want to read onward to find out how she died so suddenly.

    Good luck!

  14. Query: I like it, but the sentence about the tiny island is confusing. I really thought I was going to read something about a girl on a deserted island.

    250: Awesome emotion. I like the content of the first sentence, but it feels clunky and I agree that I don’t really care for the absolute. There are probably lots of people with very sick parents that wake up thinking that. So I would keep the sentiment but rephrase.

    Second-to-last sentence has “word” in it twice.

    Nice work!

  15. S.M.Johnston Says:

    I’ll start off with: Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi. Okay, I’m biased living Down Under.


    I like the voice that you have in the query. Don’t lose that. But there are some tightening up required.

    You don’t make it clear in the query that she’s moved from California to Australia in the query, and I think that’s really important to have upfront.

    I found it odd that Rita is still on the small island after being jilted by her father and didn’t find Rory’s theory on her plausible.

    The reference to a tragic secret is too vague for us to understand the link between Rita and the unconscious love interest (and what bowling green?). I would suggest removing reference to the secret if you don’t want to reveal what it is.

    The whole feel of the query doesn’t come off as a contemporary, but more as a mystery.


    I think this is pretty magical. The only question I was left with was why she was giving her mum the silent treatment. Otherwise, fantastic.

  16. amyereichert Says:

    Query: Skip the second mention of Rory’s stranger father. It is repetitive after the first paragraph. I also don’t think you need the phrase “someone really doesn’t want her to feel welcome.” Space is at a premium in a query, so make sure every phrase and word earns its spot. I also think you could cut the sentence about her father’s new love interest. No reason to mention it in the query. I do think this sounds like a fun book and I love the Aussie-isms.

    250: I don’t think you need to call the phone a “smart phone.” Just a phone will do. Great opening words. I’m gutted just reading them cause I know what’s going to happen. I really like the voice too.

  17. Love this query and your 250. Really cool premise. The voice in your query is fabulous, as others have noted. I don’t think I would change much, just maybe check for awkward sentences and unnecessary words.

    This might be an odd suggestion but I’d start your book right here: My mom wasn’t even on my mind when my alarm went off that morning. Instead I was thinking about how much I hated Thursdays. And pop quizzes in Biology, especially when I hadn’t read the chapter yet.

    I hit the snooze button at least twice, and reluctantly dragged my butt out of bed to take a quick shower. After dressing, I slouched into the kitchen to eat breakfast before catching the bus to school. Just like any other morning.

    I don’t really like the “nobody…” because absolutes kinda bug me. Take my suggestion with a grain of salt but I think it’d be stronger if you started with the sentence I suggested.

    I really love this whole idea. Good luck!

  18. Your query has excellent voice. “Awkward with a double scoop of awk.” I freaking love this. I agree that this definitely sounds like mystery to me rather than contemp, but that’s just a matter of relabeling.

    First 250 are excellent. My only nitpick is that you take us through Rory’s morning, her regret, and her leaving and then backtrack to the scene of her and her mom in the kitchen. Because the whole thing is in past tense, that confused me a bit, and it took a moment to realize you were going back to that scene to show us the silent treatment. But since Rory’s already told us she gave her mom the silent treatment, I don’t know if we need it twice. OR, if you want to show vs. tell, I’d plop that scene in before Rory says she leaves.

    Great start! You’ve got me hooked. Good luck!

  19. Lanette Kauten Says:

    Query: This is a strong query, and you had me at “Dr. Pepper can-size island”. What’s even better is that you didn’t stop there with your unique turns of phrases like “not acting like a cactus”. The only thing that gave me pause is the name Rita Harper made me think of Reba Hart, but that’s my own weird, little mind.

    250: I think you’re the queen (king?) of twisting cliches and having them beg for mercy as you make them do your bidding. Seriously, you have the whole waking up thing and not-telling-my-mom-I-loved-her-before-she-died tropes, and yet you nailed the opening page. You have given me nothing to critique. I’m looking forward for the requests to roll in.

  20. Liz Fichera Says:

    I like how this query leads with the hook, while providing a great voice with a compelling mixture of snark and mystery. My only minor quibble is Rory and Rita. Maybe change Rita’s name to another non-R name? I found myself mixing up the two characters. Otherwise, I think this query is pretty perfect.

    Regarding the excerpt, normally I’m not a fan of opening chapters that focus on the mundane–e.g. waking up in a bedroom, looking at an alarm clock, etc. But, for this excerpt, it works.

    Lastly, not sure if this qualifies as YA Contemporary per se. Maybe YA Contemporary Mystery? Even thrillerish, from the query? There seems to be some crossover here. Something to ponder when you go to query.

    Well done! Thanks for sharing and best of luck with your query and writing!

  21. Sounds fun and mysterious – great premise!

    Query: Very well done. You’ve got the voice down and the stakes are laid out for us. It isn’t too long or too short and the details flow. Um, you guys need to give us crappier queries to work with! Seriously though, if I could recommend one teeny-tiny thing it would be to compare where she lived before to her new Australian home and also mention which island she’s on – it could be done in one short sentence so we get a sense of how different the places are for Rory.

    250: Nicely executed. I found myself dreading finding out how her mom died and was mad when I got cut off at that 250 mark! It’s really relatable because we can all imagine feeling that way about losing a loved one…the remorse and guilt if not saying a final ‘I love you’ or ‘goodbye’. It’s also great to get right into Rory’s head as she’s reflecting on such tragic events. Yeah, I don’t have much to add here either! As long as you DO go into how her mother dies and don’t leave the reader hanging (which I’m sure you did), you should be golden. I’d definitely keep reading!

    Good luck!!!

  22. Katie French Says:

    Mentor Katie French here. Good query. You have my interest. One thing. The DR.-Pepper sized Island comment is funny, but I really pictured the tiniest island I could think of. So when you started talking about all these other people, I got a little confused. Is she on Australia? An island off Australia? I think you need to say. And I think that, even though it is cute, the dr. pepper joke is misleading.

    The opening really gets me. I feel badly for this girl. I want to see what happens with her. So good work.

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