10 February 2014

Pitching is hard, let's do it together!

A great contest hosted by Brenda Drake is coming up in March--Pitch Madness! It's like March Madness, only way better and with less basketball. Just kidding. There's no basketball involved (I hope). To read more about the contest, click here.
To enter the contest, you'll need a 35-word pitch (as well as the first 250 words of your MS, but you already have that!) When I read that part of the guidelines, I was like, "Seriously? I have a query letter, synopsis, and a couple of Twitter-length pitches, and now I need THIS?" It can be hard to come up with so many different ways to "sell" people on your novel, but guess what? We didn't enter the writing game expecting it to be easy. A 35-word pitch (also known as an elevator pitch) is highly useful at writing conferences, so it's good to have on hand!
I'll be working on my pitch here on the blog, and I hope that others who'd like help will stop by, too. If you post your pitch in the comments I will reply and offer my suggestions, and the idea is for other people to help out as well. What I've learned about the online writing community is that it is AWESOME, and everyone is totally supportive of everyone else. I've received tons of help over the past few months, and I'm excited to pay it forward in my own way.
So what do you need for this pitch? How are you supposed to sum up your book in 35 words or less?
We need to know the WHO: Who is your main character, and what makes him or her special?
WHAT is the challenge they face?
WHY is your book different from others? Or in other words, what makes it unique?

If you need help getting started, here are some resources:
Upstart Crow Literary
NA Alley
Nathan Bransford

So, here's my first attempt. Comments welcome!
Anna's strong sense of familial loyalty keeps her home with her lonely widower father after high school. A Shakespeare Festival roadtrip satisfies her need to travel, and brings love and balance to her life.

I think I have the WHO and WHY down, but not enough of the conflict. I'll try to get that across in attempt number two!

Okay, it's been a couple days, here's my next try:
Anna defers her dreams of independence so her widower father won't be lonely. An impromptu Shakespeare Festival roadtrip threatens to tear down her fa├žade of contentment and leaves her aching to live her own life.

What do you think? Does it show more conflict?


Kara Reynolds said...

I was told that there were some problems with leaving comments here, so I'm trying it out myself.

Laura said...

Ok, third time's the charm, right?

I like the second pitch you posted better, but I'm still not clear on what the stakes are. How does the Festival do that?

After graduation, Anna stays with her widowed father instead of satisfying her wanderlust. When she discovers a traveling festival, [something happens] to tear down her facade of contentment and set her free.

Or something, since I don't know what happens. But that leaves a couple extra words to play with.

Laura said...

This is my first attempt.

Life after college isn’t as advertised: Jen’s low-paying job is uninspiring, her boyfriend’s uncommitted, and things look unexciting. On a whim, Jen applies for a reality show. She’s looking for adventure; she finds love.

Martha Mayberry said...

I love the Shakespeare Festival aspect of your story and pitch. I wonder if you need the first sentence in your pitch. How much of your MS is spent with getting her to the Festival, and how much during the road trip? Are the stakes all tied into needing to go home to her father, or are there stakes with the Festival road trip itself?

Laura said...


Take Two:

Disillusioned with life after college, Jen applies for a reality show advertising physical and mental challenges and a $250,000 prize. She never dreamed her whim would lead to battling another woman for another contestant’s love.

Kara Reynolds said...

Hey Martha! Thanks for stopping by. :0)
So the major conflict in the novel is internal, really: Here we have this girl who is very devoted to her father, who has given up everything to be a good single dad. He's got plans for her, and she's been happy to go along with them for the most part. Then she goes on the roadtrip and falls in love with a guy from out-of-town. Should she risk disappointing her father (maybe becoming estranged from him) for something that may or may not work out? So that's why the first sentence exists, to establish her character. Do you think I could encapsulate it another way to show more of the conflict? Would love to hear your thoughts!

Kara Reynolds said...

Okay! She gets on the reality show, falls in love, and there's another woman who wants the guy. I'm on board with the conflict now. I find "never dreamed" to be a cliche phrase (which is just one person's opinion), so I would recommend taking it out. I think what would really sum this up nicely would be the juxtaposition of the cash prize versus the love prize. Now that I see the conflict I think you can do away with Jen's disillusionment (to save words.) Does she risk losing the money in her attempts to win the guy's heart? That's what I would love to know from the pitch!

Laura said...

That information really helps. I can see why you're having trouble with it. Hmmm....

After graduation, Anna defers her dreams to care for her father. When a Shakespearean Festival rolls into town, [CharactersName] makes her forget her obligations. She must choose between following her heart and losing her father.

I was going to use "stay with" but then that makes me wonder why. Care for makes it sound more like he needs her (or she thinks he does).

Kathleen S. Allen said...

Here's my 35 words:

After his vocal coach and lover dies, 18yo aspiring opera singer Ash is heartbroken---until her spirit returns. But when she kills to further his career, love turns to horror and he wants her gone.

Elizabeth Penney said...

These are hard!

After graduation, Anna feels obligated to stay with her widowed father. But when she joins a traveling Shakespeare festival, she finds herself torn: between the comfort of home and the adventure of life and love on the road.

Three words too long.

Here's mine--appreciate feedback:

New to Hollywood Arts Academy, an
aspiring filmmaker blames herself for a friend’s mysterious death. But when she
seeks answers, she finds herself stalked by a killer—one of her A-list

Kara Reynolds said...

I think you could get rid of the "new to..." information and use those extra words to strengthen the link between blaming herself for the death of her friend and seeking answers. Right now there's a disconnect: What answers could she possibly need if she blames herself? Wouldn't she know what happened in that case?
You might consider even taking out the blame factor. In a short pitch, you can choose one conflict, and it looks like you might want to focus on the stalking part for simplicity's sake.
Good luck! I'll try to look again if you get a second attempt up!

Elizabeth Penney said...

Thanks for your input! I thought I had to cram in the internal motivation too.