Monday, September 10, 2012

Pitch Polish #7

Johnny Drake, Time Traveler

Middle Grade



Thirteen year-old Johnny Drake makes an astonishing discovery in his basement one day... followed closely by an outrageous, noble idea. The discovery is a time machine, and the idea is to prevent the car crash that disabled his favorite teacher, Miss Anderson.

Using the teacher’s favorite novel, A Christmas Carol, as inspiration, Johnny dresses as the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come and time travels to 1983. He warns her of a future “yet to come” if she gets in a certain car on a specific day. Johnny soon learns, though, that there is a mystery to the crash, and that changing history will have repercussions in the future. Can Johnny alter the past without risking his very existence?

Johnny Drake, Time Traveler is full of action and fun, and can easily be a series—he just needs to jump in the time machine and he’s off on another adventure!

First 150 Words:

Last Christmas my whole world changed. It began with an astonishing discovery in my basement, followed by an outrageous idea I had in class one day...


“Johnny Drake, are you paying attention?” Miss Anderson said. The tone in her voice meant Don’t be a slacker. Even while she was scolding me, though, she had a hint of a smile, which suggested she had seen the likes of me before.

But I knew she hadn’t.

I sat up and tried to look alert. Truth is, I had been paying attention—just not to what she was saying. My attention was on the way she limped to the blackboard, the cane she used to get around. I’d heard the stories of how she got injured when she was fifteen, only two years older than I am now.

What I’d been thinking about was preventing the accident that hurt her leg.

What I’d been thinking about was time travel.


Anonymous said...

I like the concept for this book and agree that there is series potential.

I have a suggestion for the first paragraph of the query. Maybe it could be combined with the second paragraph after a revision:
"When thirteen year-old Johnny Drake discovers a time machine in his basement, he develops a plan (or something like it in your words) to prevent the car crash that disabled his favorite teacher, Miss Anderson.

Then I think you can cut the "yet to come," ",though, that there is a mystery to the crash, and change the last sentence to a statement rather than a question.

I like the beginning of the story a lot. I think it really gets going after the "Last Christmas" paragraph. Could you lose that one?
Good luck!

Angela Brown said...

The suggestion to tighten up the first paragraph by reducing the repetition is an excellent suggestion for the query. It's crisp, clear and to the point.

The rest of the query is actually very clean. So are the first 150 words.

Katharina Gerlach said...

The query is fine except for one thing. Don't tell the agent what the book is like (full of action and fun) without showing it in the query (read the QueryShark if you don't believe me). Just cut the reference.

Also, cut the second sentence of the first para of your novel and the ~ too. The rest is top-notch (although I fear that the next bit could lead into a flashback).

Jayme said...

I love the voice in your opening, but I think it would be stronger if it was not repeated in your query. I think you could get straight to the point with something like, “When thirteen-year-old Johnny Drake discovers a time machine in his basement, he decides to prevent the car crash that disabled his favorite teacher, Miss Anderson.”

I agree with some of the other comments that you don’t have to tell the readers that your book is “full of action and fun.” We get that from the query. Maybe trade it out for something like, “Johnny Drake, Time Traveler is a middle grade adventure with series potential.”

In your 150, I would stop the second sentence at “an outrageous idea…” Otherwise, I love it! Especially “But I knew she hadn’t.” This instantly shows me that Johnny is a little cocky but from your query (and his thoughts) I know he’s noble, and that’s a really powerful combination. If this was on a shelf, I’d read it. :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks everyone! All good suggestions that I will most likely incorporate, especially the one about not telling the agent it is full of action and fun.

And Cat, the next part picks up with him in class, not a flashback. That doesn't happen till the next chapter, the scene where he discovers the time machine. Don't fear the flashback! Everything works if it's written well.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the previous commenters. I'm intrigued by your story and would love to read more and also, love for my kids to read it. ;) My only suggestion is with the first 150 words. There is something about the opening paragraph I'm not completely happy w/ and this may just be me. I think I would like it to start with him in class and refer back to "Last Christmas my whole world changed" Could that work better?

Unknown said...

Everyone who I've heard talk about flashbacks has said to avoid using them in the first 15 or so pages. This rule is probably shortened in a middle grade, but in the first 150 words is still super early on, and it's jarring. Establish a scene and stick with it for at least a page would be my main suggestion.

My other comment is that I'm not entirely on board with the kid's motivation for traveling back in time to keep his teacher from getting in a wreck. Most kids don't think about that sort of thing all that much, especially if she just has a limp. Make us understand why he cares so much, to give us more of an emotional hook.

Great job. Good luck!

(My entry is on my blog.)

Katie Slivensky said...

I agree with posts above!

Also, to let the agent know there is series potential, that's all you need to say: it has series potential. (Though, obviously, fit that more nicely into one of your sentences.) Mentioning ideas for further books, even just saying he can do another time travel adventure, is generally frowned upon in queries.

I also agree that I want to know more about the stakes: give us more detail or at least examples of what horrible things happen when he messes with time. Also, give us more reason for why he decided to time travel! I mean, helping his teacher is a nice thought, but why her? Why not someone else? Why is she special?

Best of luck! This sounds like a cool project. :)

Tamara said...

I think queries always leave questions open. I would also like to know what repercussions time-travel has for him. However, I have to disagree with the previous poster.

In my opinion (which could obviously be wrong, so take it with a grain of salt) the query is meant to intrigue us to read further. A good query is supposed to leave questions we want answered, because that's our reason for wanting to read the book.

I actually thought you did an awesome job on this. To me, you gave just enough information to make me want to pick up the book. Great title that instantly caught my eye, really fun concept with the potential for interesting stakes, and an awesome voice for the protag.

I think you should do really well with this exactly the way it is.

Although, I will agree with the other people who said to leave out saying the book is full of action and fun, because you've clearly shown those in the query. :)

I don't need any help with my query but you have a really great title and I'm struggling with mine. i have a few choices up on my blog. I'd really appreciate it if you could pop over for a minute and tell me which one you like?

Good luck with this. Again--I thought it was awesome!

Hong said...

I've nothing to say since I agree with everyone's comments above, but I like your premise and would read on!

I'd love to have my own time machine :)