So I’m going to preface this post by saying that until last week, I’d written exactly one pitch in my life. But as you all know, I recently finished & polished my novel, A Magic Dark and Bright, and I was feeling really good about it. And then two weeks ago, I found out about a brand-new contest called PitchSlam. It seemed simple: submit your 35 word pitch, get feedback, submit your first 250 words, get feedback, then submit your revised pitch + 250. From there, the lovely folks running the contest picked the top 60 entries, and opened them up to agent requests. Agents could then request pages on a “record” scale, including 50 pages for a gold record, 100 for platinum, and the full manuscript for a diamond record. I figured I’d enter–what the heck? I didn’t have anything to lose. Either I’d make it to the agent round or I wouldn’t, and either way, I’d get some feedback.
This being my first contest, I wasn’t really sure how to write a pitch. And condensing an entire 84,000 word book into 35 words is HARD. So I thought pretty hard, and came up with this:
When a cute boy named Charlie Blue moves into the creepy MacAllister House next door, seventeen-year-old Amelia learns that in a town as small as Asylum, Pennsylvania, some ghosts are better left dead and buried.
Understandably, the good folks giving feedback at PitchSlam were a little confused as to what my book was actually about, or what the stakes were. I’d introduced my main characters (Amelia & Charlie) and the setting (Asylum) and included one of my favorite bits (The MacAllister House) but I hadn’t actually said what my book was actually ABOUT.
So then I did some brainstorming with Danielle. (sidenote: I think everyone needs a friend like Danielle). She reminded me of the following:
Who’s your main character, what do they want, and what stands in their way?
And I thought, how the HECK am I supposed to fit all of that into 35 words?!
SO. Back to the drawing board I went. I boiled my book down to the bare minimum. I ignored all of my lovingly-crafted subplots, my awesome setting, and listed what I knew was at the core of my book.
I had a main character: Amelia.
I knew what she wanted: To help the ghost in the woods, because she thinks the ghost may be able to lead her to her dead brother.
And I knew what stood in her way: Girls in her class mysteriously drowning in the river and the town’s suspicions of Charlie.
So, I came up with this:
Amelia wanted to help the ghost in the woods–she didn’t count on unleashing a curse. As the bodies pile up, she must find a way to stop the evil before she ends up dead.
Which, while BETTER, still didn’t seem right. So I took place in a Pitch Workshop Blog Hop (my blog post is here) and posted my original pitch, my feedback, my query, and my revised pitch to see if I could get some help.
And you guys.
It’s amazing what a fresh set of eyes can do for you. The lovely, lovely Suzanne Leder took my revised pitch and brought it to a whole other level. With her help, my final pitch ended up being:
Amelia wanted to help the ghost in the woods; she didn’t count on unleashing a curse. As her classmates’ bodies pile up, she must exonerate the boy next door—or end up the next victim.
I’ll break it down into its parts:
MAIN CHARACTER: Amelia
WHAT SHE WANTS: wanted to help the ghost in the woods;
WHAT STANDS IN HER WAY: she didn’t count on unleashing a curse.
FURTHER COMPLICATIONS: As her classmates’ bodies pile up
SOLUTION: she must exonerate the boy next door
WHAT’S AT STAKE IF SHE FAILS: –or end up the next victim.
As you can see, there’s a lot packed into those 35 words. Every single one of them does some seriously heavy lifting. And apparently it worked, because I made it into the final round of PitchSlam and ended up with quite a few requests! I’m thrilled at the response. And I’m really, really excited to start querying for real.
Now comes the fun part — audience participation! Leave a pitch for your novel in the comments, and let’s see if we can make it shine. 🙂