Monday, September 10, 2012

Pitch Polish #17


TITLE: RACE TO BUTCH CASSIDY'S GOLD
GENRE: MG Mystery
WORD COUNT: 43,000

Query:

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 Winnebago is the grand adventure she’s always wanted. But Maggie’s newfound courage falters when she learns they must outsmart and outrun a dangerous thief who is also after the treasure.

The race is on. But, just as Maggie and Jake think they’ve solved the mystery, Jake is captured and all the ‘to-do’ lists in the world won’t save him. Only Maggie can, if she can find the courage.  

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. This book stands alone, but can open the door for a series that exposes readers to fast-paced adventures across the fifty states.

First 150 Words:

Twelve seconds until summer vacation. Maggie’s eyes locked on the jerking hand of the classroom clock that counted down the last seconds of sixth grade. Someone in the back of the room began chanting, “Ten, nine, eight—”
Everyone else joined in, “Seven, six—”
Almost time! Maggie thought, sitting at the edge of her seat.
“Five, four—”
Just a few more seconds.
“THREE, TWO—”
Now!
“ONE!!”
RRRRINGGGG!! The class erupted into cheers.
Maggie jumped out of her seat, slung her pink backpack over her shoulder, and slipped out the classroom door. As she ran down the school’s rickety old steps, she pulled the ‘to-do’ list she had carefully prepared the night before out of her back pocket.
Five minutes. That’s how long she’d given herself to make it to Slotz Convenience Store. She studied the large crowd in front of her and took a deep breath. She examined her bright green digital watch, pushed the start button, and took off running. 

10 comments:

Hong said...

The last sentence of your query grabbed my attention to find out how Maggie will show her courage in this quest.

The first two lines of your query are "telling." My recommendation is to remove them and start with:

When twelve-year-old Maggie McCoy and her fearless cousin Jake stumble.....

You might also want to break down this wordy sentence to:

When [twelve-year-old Maggie McCoy]and her fearless cousin Jake stumble upon century-old clues, they are lead to gold coins hidden by Butch Cassidy—a farm boy turned infamous bank robber of the Wild West. There, she crumples her ‘to-do’ list to prove she can be daring and impulsive.

I'd also recommend to cut down on using "really", "just", and remove "and" from the second paragraph starting with "And at first."

I'd probably want to read more after 150 words to learn about Maggie.

Elaine Smith said...

I like the idea that Butch and Maggie's stories are running in parallel.
I agree with Hong's suggestion and comments on the query letter but I would like to say I loved the line that says "mystery and history collide" ... it was my favourite.

jennbrisendine said...

Love your idea! I personally like the beginning of the query as it is, because I think readers and agents will follow Maggie more than they follow Maggie's plot -- and consequently, it's crucial that we understand her before the adventure begins. It ups the stakes, shows us how much she'll change, and proves immediately that there will be a character arc. I think the query is occasionally wordy -- i.e, you don't need both outsmart and outrun, though it sounds pleasing to the ear, because if you outrun someone you are kind of outsmarting them too -- but generally it's really well-worded and professional.

I like the opening and I think kids will too -- but I bet agents would read that and flip to see how quickly the action gets going, how soon conflict happens. Again, it's a great job of showing her character, as long as her careful plan gets interrupted soon!

Good luck!

cocoanqueso said...

I'm a to-do lister too, so I really identify with Maggie, but you do mention that list a couple of times. Is there anything else you could use to show that she's a planner?

I agree that the first few sentences are a little tell-y. Could you break it up and mix it in with the action? For example:

At first, searching for gold with her fearless cousin Jake and their quirky Grandpa Jim in his beat-up Winnebago is enough adventure for twelve year-old Maggie. She's not exactly the fly by the seat of her pants type. But when she and Jake stumble upon century-old clues leading to gold coins hidden by Butch Cassidy, the farm boy turned infamous bank robber of the Wild West, she crumples her ‘to-do’ list to prove she can outrun a dangerous thief who is also after the treasure. The race is on. But, just as Maggie and Jake think they’ve solved the mystery, Jake is captured and all the ‘to-do’ lists in the world won’t save him. Only Maggie can, if she can find the courage.

This is just a suggestion, and you'd have to revise to make everything true to the characters and story, but I'd hope it would pull and agent in to the story sooner.

I like the first 150. Good luck!

Katie Slivensky said...

I really like the suggestion above of combining Maggie's personality background into the story plot in your query. I like knowing about her quirks, but I think it can easily be incorporated into the synopsis section.

She sounds like a great person to be given an adventure. Adventures always entail unexpected things, so for a girl obsessed with planning, this should prove interesting!

I also love the "mystery and history collide" line, so I'd keep that in. It's fun.

My question is, why is Maggie the only one capable of saving Jake? Maybe more detail in that part of the query so we know what Maddie is up against.

Overall this looks great, though!

marcyblesy.com said...

I really like this hook. You were clear and concise with the problem and the voice of the MC is also clear. I love her OCD-like behvior regarding the watching of time. Maybe you can expand more about the parallels between Maggie and Butch because that sentence about mystery and history colliding is really intriguing. Best wishes.

Cat said...

The query is good but could be a little tighter with the info about Maggy merged with the plot some more. The sample is perfect imho.

Liana Brooks said...

The title intrigues me, so I'm going to read and comment. :)

---Query---
I'd bring in the To-Do list element a little earlier in the query. You hit it pretty hard and I imagine it's in the book, so bring it up sooner.

The query sounds okay, but it doesn't stand out. I've read books and seen movies with this same idea. Maggie is what's going to make or break this, and you need to let her personality come to the fore in the query. Right now it comes across as fairly timid.

---First 150---
And there's the To-Do list, which sounds more like a schedule. But it's there like it is in the query.

The opening doesn't quite grab me, but I like seeing Maggie's quirks.

---Overall---
I love the idea and title, I'm not quite hooked, but that could be because I'm not a regular MG reader. This does sound like something I'd give to my kids to read though.

Good luck!
L

amycavenaugh said...

This story is so cute! I love the premise although it took me a couple of lines to get into the story. Personally I would like it better if you started with the third sentence: "When twelve-year-old Maggie McCoy and her fearless cousin Jake stumble upon century-old clues leading to gold coins hidden by Butch Cassidy..." and continue with that because thats what grabbed my attention. When she crumples the to-do list to prove she can be daring and impulsive, you're showing us without telling us that she wants to be brave and spontaneous.

Loved the first 150 - who doesn't remember that countdown from their school days? :) My only nitpic would be that you use the word "seconds" twice in the first paragraph. But great work! And good luck! :)

gailecn said...

I don't know that I can add a whole lot about your query that others haven't already said. It looks pretty good - I think it just needs some tightening up. :)

In the first 150, I love that you introduce Maggie's "to-do list" nature right away. She seems like a fun and quirky character. The countdown to the end of school goes on just a tiny bit too long, but that's about the only criticism I have. I love adventure stories & I'd pick this one up in a heartbeat.

Good luck!