Query Workshop B-11: RACE TO BUTCH CASSIDY’S GOLD

It’s the final day of the query workshop with me and three of my blogging friends. Two queries on four blogs for ten days. This final day is only on my blog. They’re winners of a drawing on the Beyond The Hourglass Bridge Blog  So here’s my next critique…

      

Twelve-year-old Maggie McCoy wants to be brave and spontaneous. But she’s not. Especially when it comes to school bullies and flying by the seat of her pants. So when she and her fearless cousin Jake stumble upon century-old clues leading to gold coins hidden by Butch Cassidy—farm boy turned infamous bank robber of the Wild West—she crumples her ‘to-do’ list to prove she really can be daring and impulsive. 
And at first, searching for gold with Jake and their quirky Grandpa Jim in his beat-up motorhome is the grand adventure she’s always wanted—especially when Maggie learns they can use the money to save a camp for troubled youth. But her new found courage falters when she realizes they must outsmart and outrun a dangerous thief who is also after the treasure. 
The race is on. But, just as the cousins think they have solved the mystery, Jake is captured, and all the‘to-do’ lists in the world won’t save him. Only Maggie can, if she finds her bravery. 
RACE TO BUTCH CASSIDY’S GOLD is a 41,500-word middle grade mystery where Maggie’s present-day adventures parallel Butch Cassidy’s past until mystery and history collide. This book contains sneaky bits of Utah history and has the potential for a series of fast-paced adventures across the fifty states. 
With a Master’s degree in Elementary Education, I have been both an elementary and middle school classroom teacher.I am a regular attendee of writers’ conferences and have three published magazine articles. I created the successful marketing website, Giveaway Today,with an apex of 176,000 page views per month.
I believe you would be interested in my middle grade novel, RACE TO BUTCH CASSIDY’S GOLD.
   
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B’s critique …

Twelve-year-old Maggie McCoy wants to be brave and spontaneous.(There’s not enough voice in this opening and something is missing here for the hook. Maybe a descriptor. Like… Twelve-year-old Maggie McCoy would give up living her life by her lists if she were brave and spontaneous like her quirky Grandpa Jim.)  But she’s not. Especially when it comes to school bullies and flying by the seat of her pants. So when she and her fearless cousin Jake stumble upon century-old clues leading to gold coins hidden by Butch Cassidy—farm boy turned infamous bank robber of the Wild West (Do we need this? Doesn’t everyone know who Butch Cassidy is? Show of hands, who thinks this is needed and who thinks it should stay?) —she crumples her ‘to-do’ list to prove she really can be daring and impulsive. (Try to infuse some of Maggie’s voice in the rest of this paragraph. Picture the narrator of your story saying this query out loud.)
And at first, searching for gold with Jake and their quirky Grandpa Jim in his beat-up motorhome is the grand adventure she’s always wanted—especially when Maggie learns they can use the money to save a camp for troubled youth (How do they save the camp or why is the camp in need of saving?). But her new found courage falters when she realizes they must outsmart and outrun a dangerous thief who is also after the treasure. (You got the plot and stakes here, we just need voice. With MG, voice is key. Show the agent the voice of your narrator. Often it’s just in what verbs and how you structure your sentence that creates the voice. Use zany and sharper verbs to get an MG voice. Also, bring a little humor into the situations. It’s hard, I know. I’m going through some tough revisions for my MG right now.)
The race is on. But, just as the cousins Molly and Jake (use their names – don’t confuse by throwing in cousins) think they have solved the mystery, Jake is captured, and all the‘to-do’ lists in the world won’t save him. Only Maggie can, if she finds her bravery. (Why can’t Grandpa Jim help? Where did he go? Did something happen and he can’t help? What does she have to do that requires bravery to save Jim?)
RACE TO BUTCH CASSIDY’S GOLD is a 41,500-word (If it’s under 41,500 use 41,000, and if it’s over 41,500 use 42,000 words) middle grade mystery where Maggie’s present-day adventures parallel Butch Cassidy’s past until mystery and history collide. This book contains sneaky bits of Utah history and has the potential for a series of (don’t mention series potential – save it for the synopsis) is a fast-paced adventure across the fifty states (Utah? Or the southwest states?)
With a Master’s degree in Elementary Education, I have been both an elementary and middle school classroom teacher.I am a regular attendee of writers’ conferences and have three published magazine articles. I created the successful marketing website, Giveaway Today, with an apex of 176,000 page views per month.

I believe you would be interested in my middle grade novel, RACE TO BUTCH CASSIDY’S GOLD. (You already give this information above. And I wouldn’t use this statement. Just end it like this… Thank you for your time and consideration.) 

 
This premise sounds fun and exciting. And I’ve been rooting for it to get noticed by agents. You have most of the stuff you need in this query. Just add a little more of the narrator’s voice in it. You want it to stand out in the slush. 

I hope this helps. If you decide to revise and would like me to read it again, just post it in the comments of this post.

Okay, everyone, what do you think? 

And don’t forget to stop by the other blogs and read their query critiques. For each critique you leave in the comments, you get an entry into the drawing to win one of three first chapter critiques from me. The opportunity ends 8/25 at 9AM EST.

Becca C.
Becca (Becks) Coffindaffer
 Marieke Nijkamp

Sarah Nicolas
 Sarah Nicolas

13 comments to Query Workshop B-11: RACE TO BUTCH CASSIDY’S GOLD

  • This sounds really cool!

    I agree with Brenda, we know who Butch is so drop those details.

    Also, this sounds like this could be a humorous read so add just a touch of humor to the query.
    Good luck!

  • This sounds like a fun book. I agree with all the comments Brenda made.

  • I’m not a big MG reader, but this book premise sounds really clever. I think the most important point Brenda made was regarding infusing “voice”.

    This is where I slink away because I find it nearly impossible to do that in a query. Good luck!

  • It sounds like fun. I like that you balance it with boy/girl. I agree with voice. And maybe keeping the line of who Butch Cassidy is. I shamelessly didn’t know. But what does she find so interesting about him, It’ll give us a clue as to what she thinks about Butch while giving clueless readers (me) who he is. =) Just a thought.

  • I would take out the explanation of who Butch Cassidy is and also remove the part about saving the summer camp. I don’t think it adds anything and the other stakes in the story are higher.

    Adding to what Brenda suggested about reading the query aloud in the voice of the character, try writing the query as the MC in first person. When you’re done, change the pronouns to third and see what you have. I still have work to do on my query but I do think, using that method, I finally have some voice. (thanks again Brenda!)

  • I’m on board with taking out bio info on Butch Cassady, kids reading the book probably won’t know who he is, but most agents would. Could you give an example of the kind of clues they find? That could help with the voice/tone.

  • Love this premise! I’ve also been advised to infuse more voice in my query. Much more easier said than done! But you’ve got some great suggestions here. I don’t think it clutters anything up to leave in the explanation about Butch Cassidy. I think I would take out the detail about the summer camp instead. It seems like an outlier from the rest of the info in the query. Also, you’ve used “especially” twice. Might reword one of those sentences.

    Good luck!

  • I don’t have anything to add. I agree about taking out the camp and Butch Cassidy info. The book sounds great and I love the hook. You just need to add the voice in. How would your MC sound reading the query? Great premise! Good luck!

  • I think Brenda is right on the money with her comments. The story sounds interesting, but the pitch is missing just that little touch of umph. Infusing it with the character’s voice would give it that little twist to go from good to great.

    I’d like to know more about the theif, more than they just have to beat him to the treasure. Also, like Brenda pointed out: where’s Grandpa Jim when Jake gets captured? Why can’t he help?

    I actually think you can ditch the whole line “This book contains sneaky bits of Utah history and has the potential for a series of fast-paced adventures across the fifty states.” and not lose anything.

    Good luck!

  • Thanks for your great feedback! Here’s a revised version. Let me know what you think:

    Twelve-year-old Maggie McCoy would give up living her life by her lists if she were brave and spontaneous like her quirky Grandpa Jim. So when she and her fearless cousin Jake stumble upon century-old clues leading to treasure hidden by Butch Cassidy, she crumples her latest ‘to-do’ list in favor of adventure.

    And at first, searching for gold with Jake and their Grandpa Jim in his beat-up motorhome is the grand adventure she’s always wanted. But Maggie’s newfound courage falters when they run into a greasy, rotten-toothed thief who’s also after the treasure.

    The race is on. But, just as Maggie and Jake think they’ve solved the mystery, Jake is captured and Grandpa Jim is nowhere to be found. All the ‘to-do’ lists in the world won’t save Jake now. Only Maggie can, if she finds her bravery.

    RACE TO BUTCH CASSIDY’S GOLD is a 40,000-word middle grade mystery where Maggie’s present-day adventures parallel Butch Cassidy’s past until mystery and history collide. With a Master’s degree in Elementary Education, I have been both an elementary and middle school teacher. I am a regular attendee of writers’ conferences and have three published magazine articles. I created the successful marketing website, Giveaway Today, with an apex of 176,000 page views per month.

    Thank you for your time and consideration.

    • Yay! Love it, Emily! Great job! I’d still mention what group Jake is captured by, but just by a tag. Like …Jake is captured by some scraggly hoodlums in a Winnebago. Sort of like that, but something that fits your story.

    • I love this rewrite too. I did have a few suggestions.

      In the first paragraph, at least for me, there’s a breakdown of logic between the first and second sentence. Essentially it goes, she would stop being a coward if she’s brave, so, when she has the chance, she’s brave. I’d suggest editing the first sentence to read, something like:

      Twelve-year-old Maggie McCoy,living her life by her lists, wishes she were brave and spontaneous like her quirky Grandpa Jim. So, when…

      The last paragraph feels dense to me. “Maggie’s present-day adventures parallel Butch Cassidy’s past until mystery and history collide” is fantastic and it gets buried. Maybe, taking out the Master’s Degree and perhaps move the website info to a line in your signature. (I’m sure they’ll click the links if they’re interested in your query.)

      I hope this helps. The query is already great as it.

  • I also really like your new revision 🙂 MUCH clearer, and much smoother!

    The third paragraph seems to be missing something, almost. As if it was dropped out of nowhere. I think the main thing is that you need to hone in on the stakes a bit more, enforce what she has to lose and make us NEED to read on. Right now, it just seems like “oh, she’ll do this, and then she has to do this.” Make it so she HAS to “do this.”

    I do think there is an echo on ‘lists’ in the first paragraph, and now, after reading Eric’s crit, I do think the first sentence does have a disruption in the flow of logic. But I really do like it 🙂

    Great job, and hope I helped!

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