Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Lesson 35: The Pitch

Hey what do you think of the new look...comments, criticisms??? Let me know it it loads right in your browser! I'm working my way through wallpapers and textures....Like I don't have enough to do...LOL!

Good Tuesday, I trust you had a great holiday. For all of my friends 'down under' I'd like to extend my deepest sympathies at the untimely loss of the "Crocodile Hunter", Steve Irwin from a stingray jab. My regards go out to his family.

Today we continue up with Donald Maass' Writing a Breakout Novel. This is a fabulous book and I encourage each of you to buy it. What I'm presenting here is by no means a full lesson and there is a wealth of insight and additional info that will help you.

In case your just joining us...What I am attempting to do here is present truncated versions of each of the lessons in the workbook. We're done with Plot Development, now we're moving on to General Story Techniques! Today's lesson is in Section THREE: The Pitch.

Okay, let's take a look at 'The Pitch'.

Whether we're aware of it or not, we all pitch stories all the time. Did you see a movie last weekend? Did you tell your friends about it at the office. Your quick take on that film is the kind of pitch that either turns your friends on or off. You're selling it. (Or panning it!)

In the book publishing business everyone must pitch: authors to agent, agent to editor, editor to sales rep, sales rep to buyer, bookstore owner to customer. The worst pitchers by far are authors!

Go over to Miss Snark, she's winding down another Crapometer of Query letters plus a first page. I think I counted more than once that she wanted to set her hair on fire...or run from the room screaming...LOL! No, I was not masochist's enough to turn something in...too busy!

The majority of authors queries are ineffective, full of hype, and needlessly long plot synopsis. Some rattle on for pages in microscopic fonts, lines crammed together and spread out to the outer edges of the pages.

Why?? In pitching their stories authors feel anxious. They do not know the agent, or their tastes. They don't know what details to leave in, or take out, or what would appeal to a particular agent. Then there is the problem of boiling down a 450-page story, into four punchy lines.

Shouldn't you put in as much plot as possible...most agents say NO! Long plot summaries overwhelm the person getting the pitch, and hype has the opposite of the intended effect.

So what does work? First, brevity. Second, writing in a straightforward and businesslike way. Third, just enough about your novel to tell the agent or editor whether they'd like to have a look.

All they need to know to get hooked is its category, the setting, the protagonist, and the main problem. Add to that one unusual detail that makes this story different from any other like it, and you've probably got a winner!

Category...Mainstream? Literary? Mystery? Thriller? Women's? Romance? SciFi? Fantasy? Historical? Western? Horror? YA? This gives them a mental map of where you are in the publishing business.

Setting and protagonist? Those are easy. Add only a tiny bit of color. Is there inherent conflict in your setting? Is it a world of clashing values? Is your protagonist conflicted?......To be continued tomorrow!

Now for a bit of jockularity!

A man was being tailgated by a stressed out woman on a busy boulevard. Suddenly, the light turned yellow, just in front of him.

He did the right thing, stopping at the crosswalk, even though he could have beaten the red light by accelerating through the intersection.

The tailgating woman was furious and honked her horn, screaming in frustration as she missed her chance to get through the intersection, dropping her cell phone and makeup.

As she was still in mid-rant, she heard a tap on her window and looked up into the face of a very serious police officer. He demanded that she get out of the car with her hands in the air and get into the back of the police car. He then drove to the police station where she was searched, fingerprinted, photographed, and placed in a holding cell.

After a couple of hours, a policeman approached the cell and opened the door. She was escorted back to the booking desk where the arresting officer was waiting with her personal effects.

He said, "I'm very sorry for this mistake. You see, I pulled up behind your car while you were blowing your horn, flipping off the guy in front of you, and cussing a blue streak at him.

I noticed the 'Choose Life' license plate holder, the 'What Would Jesus Do' bumper sticker, the 'Follow Me to Sunday School' bumper sticker, and the chrome-plated
Christian fish emblem on the trunk. Naturally...I assumed you had stolen the car."


  1. Rulan said...
    I am sorry, my friend, but I find it too hard to read the words with the blur of color behind them.
    David Meigs said...
    I love the new look!
    Bernita said...
    Bonnie, liked the other one, crisper.
    Be sure to check out Miss Snark's comment about weak-assed heroines at Entry # 42.
    I am still chortling!
    Vanda said...
    I loved the clean, clear old look but really like the colours on the new look. I did find it a bit harder to read. Sorry Bonnie.

    LOL that was so funny I laughed out loud and got a strange look from my hubby.
    Denise McDonald said...
    Love the new look! so pretty
    M. C. Pearson said...
    I like the look but it is a bit busy...Love the colors. You'll have to use bold for your typing or something because the letters were hard to read...and don't use green on the fonts. I felt like I was in one of those color blind tests. I love that beige crackly look of the side boxes.

    We learned alot about pitching in Kathy Mackel's class, huh? She was excellent. That joke was too funny!

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