Thursday, February 19, 2015


81,000 words
YA Contemporary 
Sixteen-year-old identical twins Ben and Travis are impossible to tell apart, and that’s just the way they like it. But Berkley Adams, local genius with a vendetta, wants to worm her way into their lives. Before the entire school, she identifies Ben from Travis—something their own mother can’t do—and challenges them to a game of riddles. Their best kept secret exposed, they leap at the chance for revenge.

Ben’s mind palace and Travis’ hacking skills have three months to answer her riddle: “Who is Berkley Adams?” Clue by clue, they seek to turn the game against her, but as they discover a more intimate side of Berkley, her secrets transform her into someone likeable—friend-worthy, even. The thought implies breaking their near-symbiotic bond, and though Ben can’t help but linger on the idea, Travis will never let that happen.    

After all, their world isn’t big enough for three.

First 250:

“Dude, they’re gone.” Travis checked their bathroom vanity. “Seriously, your go-to pair, your back-up pair, even your contact solution—poof. Nothing but a random index card signed by some ‘Berkley Adams.’”

Ben hung his head. What was he going to do without his contacts? He’d have to show up for school at Northside Collegiate in half an hour, and he’d either be blind or wearing glasses. Glasses that would make him look different from his identical twin. In public. Where everyone could see.

“Hang on, there’s a message on the back.” Travis lifted a white rectangle. “‘To Ben Northside,” he said, “and also to Travis Northside, who is likely reading aloud for his brother. I apologize for the petty theft, but don’t be alarmed, you’ll thank me soon.’”

Ben crossed his arms. Who would write this? Only their mother left notes for them, and those were restricted to the kitchen.

“‘As you can see—or rather, not see—your contacts have been removed from your possession. This is only to prep you both for our meeting today at Northside Collegiate, where upon you will be issued a challenge. No need to worry—I’ll find you. Additional apologies for this morning’s inconvenience, but you may find that blindness will deliver a sharper perspective. Sincerely,’” Travis hesitated, “Berkley Adams’?”

Ben pulled his eyebrows together as cold blood flooded down his back. Who was Berkley Adams?

“I think,” Travis said with a slow-growing grin, “we have a new game on our hands.”


  1. You've got a very intriguing, yet kind of creepy premise! Both your pitch and 250 are strong -- I don't think there's anything I would change except I want more!

  2. A nice tight pitch, with an intriguing premise.

    The first 250 is very well-written, with great voice. A couple of nits: I don't think you need to name the school (after all, you are pretty close in Ben's head, and I don't think a kid would name his school when he's thinking 'criminy, I'm going to be blind.'

    Nit #2: A bit of overwriting in the line "Ben pulled his eyebrows together as cold blood flooded down his back." A shiver? Cold sweat beading? {I know these are cliches, but I was jolted by the thought of flooding blood.]

    I love the way that Berkley knows Travis will be reading the note. And I LOVE that Travis is excited about this game. Great job! This is a very strong entry!
    Michael (#15)

  3. I was raised on Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, so mysteries are my thing! Great concept, and lead in, but I will agree with Mike. The feelings that Ben had when he found out that his contacts were gone was a bit over the top. I would save that verbiage for when they find out they have been duped in front of the school. Good luck, and happy adventures!
    A fellow contestant

    1. Glad it came off mysterious! I'll definitely refer to that when I revise. Thanks for taking the time to give me feedback! :D

  4. I think both the pitch and opening are excellent. The twin's relationship reminds me of the twin's in the Ouran Host Club too.

    For the opening line, "Dude, your contacts are gone" might work better than "Dude, they're gone."

    The "cold blood flooded down his back" line doesn't strike me as an overreaction as I'd personally be calling it a day and staying home if my contacts disappeared on me. It does come across as a bit of a tongue twister though. Too many of the same sounds right next to each other.

    1. Hah! You discover my inspiration for the twins ;) Thank you for the feedback! I'll definitely keep those all in mind during revision.

  5. I would love to read this! Hope you find an agent and publisher ASAP! I'm dying to know what Berkley's vendetta is. I'm so intrigued. I do wonder what you mean by Ben's "mind palace"? Just that he's really smart? Your first 250 do a great job of getting the action moving right from the start. Nice work.

    1. Thank you, Jenny! Your enthusiasm helps feed mine! :)

  6. What a great job. Wow. Don't change a thing. I mean it. I can perfectly follow your storyline, and haven't even read two pages and already have theories! There's a sign of a great mystery!

    -Lyuda (#40)

  7. Love the fun, taunting way you've set up your mystery-challenge! Judging by the first 250 words, the tone seems a little more MG than YA, but I may be way off. Would definitely love to see more. :) You have so many great elements at play here; a girl with a vendetta, two twins refusing to be told apart (why?!!), a foe turned friend or maybe even a love-interest... The possibility for a serious conflict between the two twins is what really kindles my interest. I'm also curious to see if a more playful tone will turn darker as the story unfolds. Nice job.
    #44 The Land Of Joy And Sorrow

  8. Commenting again because cyberspace ate my last attempt.

    The pitch concept reminds me of a Sherlock & Watson/Moriarty cat-mouse game. I like that Moriarty here is a girl and I am excited by this whole game and stakes concept - problem is, even though the writing is fun and excellent in many aspects, it's unclear to me what the stakes are. The boys are upset that Berkley made them identifiable? Seems innocuous to me without knowing why the boys are so invested in hiding their separate identities, or why Berkley is so invested in making this happen. Also, re identities, since these boys are so distinct from each other in personality, interests, and voice, I'm guessing that not being able to tell them apart is strictly based on their physical appearance when they are still.

    The way the first paragraph in the pitch reads, it seems like part of the story is from Berkley's POV. If that is true, I think it's important to know details here about her vendetta and why she targets the twins. If none of the story is from Berkley's POV (3rd person, close?) then I suggest rewriting the first paragraph so it sounds more like from the twins's POV.

    The first 250 accomplishes a lot: three distinct voices, intrigue, family expectations, brother dynamics.
    Eliminate the first mention of the high school. Keep the second, as it complements Berkley's voice. No need to replace index card with white triangle, keep it simple. "Whereupon" is one word (not two). I tried pulling my eyebrows together as cold blood (chills) flooded down my back and I couldn't make it happen simultaneously. Before and after, I could knit my brow but with the onset of a chill my forehead reflexively relaxed. These are all minor changes. The pacing and meter seem perfect for this story. I'd be eager to read on - clearly, a fun game is afoot!

    ~ Melissa

    1. Thanks for the detailed feedback, Melissa! I really appreciate it, and I'm definitely taking it to heart in the revision :)

  9. This sounds so intriguing! I wonder if Travis is going to be sinister later in the story? I don't think the stolen contacts is a strong enough object though. Maybe make us feel the way Travis does? How dire is it that they look the same? Otherwise I am totally hooked!

  10. This sounds so intriguing! I wonder if Travis is going to be sinister later in the story? I don't think the stolen contacts is a strong enough object though. Maybe make us feel the way Travis does? How dire is it that they look the same? Otherwise I am totally hooked!

  11. Pitch:
    Great revision! Like everyone else, I agree that this seems like a fun, original, intriguing story. However, I do wonder what the stakes are. What happens if they don't get the riddle correct? What do they lose? What does she gain? Personally I'd like a little more info here, but like I said, the story's got great bones!

    First page:
    Love it =) Good luck!

    Domenic (#28)

    1. Thank you! I can see how the stakes aren't as apparent as I want them now, so I'm off to revise! Thank you again! :D

  12. Great title, great concept, and I love the twins angle, but do wonder why Ben and Travis don't like to be told apart (aside from the twinness thing that twins have, of course!). What did they lose by being told apart by Berkley? More than just revenge, seems like something should really be on the line for them.
    Why does Berkley want to worm her way into their lives? I think this could add more dimension to your pitch.

    Also, I think being deliberately vague about Berkely's vendetta takes some of the tension out of your pitch. What did the boys do to her that she has a vendetta? I'd be specific here.

    Otherwise, I love the pitch. As for the 250, we are just getting to know these guys and a hint of why a pair of missing contacts would send someone into a cold sweat would help me worry more about them. Again, why would being told apart from his twin make Ben sweat? What is on the line aside from pulling a really great identical twin prank? I think you have a handle on what that is, but it isn't coming across in the pitch and 250 yet. I like Travis's voice and attitude. And I'm thinking that Ben is the one with something to really worry about? I don't think it would hurt to bring that front and center.

    Great pitch and good luck! #32

    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to help! :D I'm on the case! Revision-wise, haha


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