Dear Query Shark:
Michael is a problem solver – a 12-year-old brainiac who finds creative solutions
One of those tricky little mistakes that you catch only when you think about each word in a sentence. It's when (not where) because Michael finds solutions when other people give up, not where other people give up. See the difference?
Orphaned and determined not to be parceled out to foster families, Michael, Cassandra (16), and Kendra (5) disguise themselves and run away. The ‘missing children’ hide out, first, in a rustic campground - where all that stands between them and starvation is Michael’s ingenuity (Just don’t ask him what’s for dinner!) - and then in a vacant house where they try
The rhythm of that second sentence improves if you leave out "to look normal." Again, that's something you'll catch only if you read the query out loud.
These are all things you only catch after multiple revisions. It's WHY you make sure you do multiple revisions.
Is there any chance the children can pull this off until Cassandra is old enough to be their legal guardian? Dare they trust that there might be another way to remain a family?
Middle Grade readers who loved Jack’s adventure and resourcefulness in Small Like an Elephant will enjoy BACKDOOR KIDS.
We don't really call books for middle grade readers novels. I think it's safe to say this is your first book, or your first book for middle grade readers. (A chapter book has a lot of illustrations, and while this may become that, it isn't now.)
Leave out all that stuff about good editing and deadlines. I just assume you are all of those things until proven wrong.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
This is so much better than the first version! Congrats on some really hard work.
Dear Query Shark,
The orphaned Robinson children are in deep cow dung - Children's Services is set to parcel them out to foster families. Except for Cassandra, 16; it's hard to find foster families for teenagers. She’s likely to end up in a juvenile facility.
This is a good opening for a query. Right away I have a sense of what's at stake: the kids being separated. Moreover I care about this because the idea of a regular 16 year old kid being put in a juvenile facility is just awful. I'm enticed to read on to find out what happens next. This is EXACTLY what you want in a query.
Cassandra will do anything to keep her family together. Destroy her hair. Lie. Get a job. Even eat nasty crustaceans and commit a crime (break into a house). It’s a real pain to be in charge. Things get extra complicated when she befriends a young police cadet with a good reason for being suspicious. Maybe dating him isn't such a good idea.
And then splat. What does "destroy her hair" mean? Cut it and dye it mouse brown for a job? And "nasty crustaceans"? Like lobster?
Then you say commit a crime (break into a house)--you only need ONE of those phrases, two is awkward.
And then comes the romantic entanglement. Except what's he suspicious of? Her loathing for lobster?
What you're NOT doing here is moving the story along. You've got a good set up in the first paragraph. How is Cassandra holding off Children's Services? Be specific.
12 year old Odd Duck Michael is observant and reads everything. He also has a better than average memory. He can build a shelter and safely feed his sisters worms and wild plants. He’s why the children survive the campground. Then his family holes up in a small town and, even before school starts, he’s more popular than he ever was at his old school. The guys even want him on their football team. Him, Michael the brainiac! He doesn't want to leave his new life in Applegate. But staying requires remaining undercover in plain sight. Easier said than done.
And if you could splat more you have just done it here. What campground? Are the children on the run? None of that is clear here. Not Clear is a BAD thing in a query.
Little Kendra is living her fantasy – she gets to be a boy. But it isn't any fun to be hungry. And she’s hungry enough to eat a bear. Well, maybe not Bear, the dog. But hungry enough to eat whatever Michael cooks on his tin can pan. (As long as it isn't peas!) The problem is, Kendra’s disguise is slipping. Her soon-to-be kindergarten teacher isn't fooled for a minute. And Michael went and called Kendra ‘her’ in front of the old woman down the street. How much longer before all of their secrets get out?
What secret? You've got a nice set up in paragraph one, but you've failed to tell us what the children are doing. Thus all this other stuff is confusing.
You've sacrificed clarity for telling us about the three characters. Don't do that. Tell us about the story, more specifically the plot.
Who is the antagonist? I'm assuming Children's Services but that's not clear here. I don't think Children's Services tracks kids down like bounty hunters, so we'll need something that gives some urgency to the plot.
Tweens who daydreamed in younger years of being as independent as The Boxcar Children will enjoy BACKDOOR KIDS, complete at 43,000 words.
The Boxcar Children is a really difficult comp title because 1. The first one was published in 1924 and 2. It's gone on to become a classic.
Comp titles are generally used to show who the audience is for a book which means using a classic is statistically improbable. You want book/s that are new, generally acquired within the last two years or so.
I have a BS in Journalism from the [University] As a former freelance magazine journalist, I appreciate good editing and understand the importance of deadlines. BACKDOOR KIDS is my first novel.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Question: In QS critique #199-FTW, a query for a multi-perspective novel, you praised the writer for her restraint in not presenting each party’s perspective in her query. I just violated that concept. Do I need to rethink this?
What you've given us here is essentially three versions of the same perspective: that of the kids. QS #199 had viewpoints from three different perspectives: the kidnapper, the kidnap victim, and the people left behind. If you want to do three perspectives here you'd need the kids (whichever kid you chose), the people looking for them (Children's Services) and maybe the teacher.
There's no way to do that in 43K words. There just isn't. Also, if you're writing for middle grade, I'm not sure you'd want to.
Your problem here is that the query doesn't work, not the number of perspectives. You've got one: 3rd person omniscient. What you need now is a query that is a lot more specific and plot-centric.