"I am always happy to take credit where blame is due."--John Davis Frain
I got up at 5 am to post my pitch and just to ensure I didn't oversleep and miss the window. Now I'm not so sure I want to be first. So. Many. Good. Pitches.
Daaaamn I thought, "I have time to finish serving breakfast before I post" (west coast time) but alas, I'll have to extrapolate from all the others. Nice work, everyone!
My daughter [Janet] woke up this morning at 4am to get ready for work. I heard her moving around at 430 so I got up, went to the computer, checked my entry from yesterday, still liked it, posted it, then went back to bed. I'm glad I did. Comments closed today at 756am CA time!Some really interesting stories in the works out there!
Closed! Curses! That's what I get for paying my bills first.
You think your book is pretty special until you see what the competition looks like. A birds eye view from the agent’s perspective was enlightening.
Wow! There are a lot of books/WiP that I want to read!
Was thinking the same thing, @Lisa B! Will be super interested to see which ones Janet gravitates toward. There were several that had me Google stalking the author after reading.
This was a really cool way to see what everyone is working on. I found this really hard -15 words is so few. And a written pitch vs the face to face pitch is a different animal.
Yep,that was rough.The hardest part for me was avoiding spoilers.But wow, so many awesome story ideas!
I liked three pitches in particular; the ones written by Julie Weathers, GL Burke, and Gigi... spies, samurais, pirates... all the good stuff.
somewhere in this process is a pitching haiku waiting to be written. And another haiku about the art of the pitch, which brilliantly on display in the 15-words challenge. I got there too late, in part b/c I was debating the question of whether an ampersand (such a great word) counts as a word. So if it's "this and that," that's 3 words. But "this & that" .... 2 words? Hmm.
Wow! My 15 word pitch seemed pretty boring compared to some of the ones people posted... Glad I didn't have a chance to post before the comments were closed!
Just wow guys, there were so many that I would love to read.Some pretty serious talent swimming around the reef.
My goodness are there some interesting novels in the works here! Enough to fill a TBR list or two.I'll be interested in Janet's comments. What is she looking for with a 15-word pitch? Is it to get a full sense of the story, or just be enticed to read? The one that jumped out at me as giving both an idea of the story AND dangling a carrot was InkStainedWench/'s. "She thwarts two out of three" leaves you wondering WHICH she doesn't thwart. If I was an agent and had to pick one out of all 60+ of these (a REALLY hard thing to do), that's the one I'd request.But y'all are awesome!! I guess I need to get cracking on my WiP... trouble is, it's got some really tough competition... :-O
What a cool exercise. I'm sort of relieved I was at work when this whole thing went down, though. I'm curious to see what Janet has to say about all of these. Kudos to you, all you brave souls. Well done.
This was SO hard. I wrote a pitch once, years ago, and it was awful. Was totally at a loss for how to do this in 15 words. I went over to twitter and looked at the hashtags for pitmad and pitchwars (there weren't very many actual pitches, but maybe they're not currently active?) and one tweet gave this example (sorry I can't attribute the source, I didn't write it down):[MC] is/has [STATUS QUO], but when [INCITING INCIDENT] happens they must [PROB FLAWED SOLUTION] or else [CONSEQUENCE]!And then I laughed and laughed. All that in 15 words? And yet, a lot of you managed it AND made it compelling. I'm impressed.Really looking forward to Janet's comments on these.
What a ridiculously talented group of Reiders! So looking forward to seeing how I can improve!
Teach me to get my writing done first. I was WAY late! Lots of interesting pitches, though.
I snuck in under the wire, barely. Now that I have gone through and read the entries, I don't know if I was lucky, seriously good shit.I do think that this has already been an awesome learning experience. I hope some comments by both the reiders and my Queen make it more so.
I really enjoyed reading all of the pitches, but the standouts for me were:Kristin OwensJulie WeathersKat WaclawikRobert McNearyBrendaLynnClaire BobrowJordan StephanieGigiI either knew or could intuit the category and genre of all of these pitches. All of them had a strong, distinct voice. The word choice was right for me, strong verbs etc. And on top of it all, I got a sense of the stakes.I would request pages from all of these.I also like the thought behind EMs, and the demonic protagonist and exorcism would probably make me ask for more information, if not the manuscript. (simply because I don't know if it's a genre I read)
I don't have a current WIP, but if I did there's no way I could've pitched it in fifteen words or less. These pitches were amazing. Well done, everyone. Now, would I be the big jerk if I said that many of them just sounded too... vague?But the one about the opera singing yak (forgot who posted that particular pitch)? Now THAT stood out to me. I'd read that in a heartbeat. So, is the take away that our pitches need to stand out?
Too late! I enjoyed reading all of yours, though, and some of them sound very intriguing!I'd like to know whether we were supposed to just write something sufficiently hook-y to get an agent to request; or whether it was important to squeeze in the main character, key plot point, setting, theme, conflict, or something else? And in just 15 words?! I've done this in about 30 words for my first novel; but, man, 15 words is so hard!I did come up with something, but I have no idea whether I did it right. Interesting and useful exercise, because sooner or later we'll all have to do this. Thanks, Janet.
Darn! I missed the window. Oh well... next time. Such good pitches, though. I enjoyed reading them all.
Some day, when I’m hearing about a terrific bestseller I can’t wait to read, I’ll realize I’ve heard that idea before - because it was one of these pitches. Awesome, everyone!
Boy, are there some good stories in the making!I didn't see the post to pitch until this afternoon. I was so afraid of missing the deadline I quickly wrote down 3 pitches, waited 10 minutes and picked the one I thought was best. I can see where I went wrong.
If I had to choose one it would be Claire Bobrow's yak. There's voice, humor, and sass, all in 15 words. Well done, Claire!
Mine was too flat - I knew that when I posted, but I wanted to get it in before Aussie bedtime. Annoyingly I thought of a better version while I was cleaning my teeth.There were several standouts for me that I'd like to read, but like everyone else, I want to hear more about this opera singing yak.
I recognized Gigi's Lioness of Brittany. I've always thought that was a fascinating story, so I'd love to read that. Elise starting out in the demon's pov has to catch your attention, or mine at least. Sharyn's mystery and InkedStainWench caught my eye in a good way.Kate Higgins, what a fun twist on a classic.Claire! I need to read about Arlette!12-year-olds and multiple Elvi? Oh, dear. Just a hunk a hunk a burnin' fun.Elissa and her wizard and confused hero and manipulative sword. I'm in.There were really a lot of good lines here. I cringed a bit after I put mine up, but it was done and in stone so to speak. Boiling a complex story down to 15 words isn't easy.
I worked on my pitch all day yesterday and of course, missed the deadline. However, once satisfied with my final pitch, I delved back into the narrative threads of my manuscript draft that evening. Thank you for this wonderful exercise-very helpful, and something I had put putting off.
In case you wondered…James Lucas lived with his mother and was so devastated when she died, he wouldn’t release her body for burial for 3 months. After his brother George and the police finally made him give it up, James, a wealthy man, paid his tenant farmer to supply his food, add logs over all the windows and seal him alone inside the house …for the next 25 years. James wore only a horse-blanket, never washed or cut his hair or nails and slept on the accumulating ashes. He was England’s most famous Victorian hermit, and trains brought up to 400 onlookers a day to see who would be given gin and cash and who would be pelted with rock hard stale loaves. (Charles Dickens was a visitor, and he wrote a short about his experience.) But with James in the house, his brother George, a London barrister, could not realise his inheritance. How could George have his brother certified as mad and removed, when James also attracted academics to his window to debate the Classics in Latin and Greek?Most of the research is done, but the plot needs development. And then there’s the dialogue…
I had been inspired by Sell Your Book with One Sentence, to work this out for my mostly imaginary mystery. Like writing a query it’s a good way to find the backbone of your story. I think what a pitch should be is a clear statement on what the book is about, not so much comps or log lines. So if an agent asked you, “what is your book about?” you have a clear answer.Though I think of my imaginary memoir as The Nest meets This Old House.Janet with her razor sharp mind will sort us all out, I’m sure.These are the ones that worked for me.Gigi, a clear statement. Sets the time frame, the protagonist, and the action in one line.InkStainedWench, good but I’d want to know why the reporter was being stalked. In 15 words not easy.Kate Higgins, very clear and sets up a fun sounding story. I imagine this could be quite funny.Gabby Gilliam, also a clear statement on the story. A lot covered in one line. I was confused about Pan (thinking the god with goat feet and pipes) then I realized one more word was needed to say Peter Pan.CynthiaMc, this works. Sets up the character, the setting, and the conflict.Jennifer Delozier, sounds funny and is clear.I loved Cecilia Ortiz Luna’s. Perfect murder with a twist. On the first read through, this was my favorite.Shelly Steig and the Vegas pawn shopRichelle Elberg and the resurfacing husbandKat Waclawik’s magician and the curious studentMA Hudson’s girl discovering fairyland (I liked the underachieving girl description)
OMG I WILL NEVER SLEEP IN EVER AGAIN!!!!I really hope Janet does this again.I really want to read EMGoldsmith now.
Peter Taylor, I would pick your book up to read after seeing your added comments. The name threw me off, because George Lucas, yanno, Star Wars. My two cents would be, the time and setting are important, (two words, Victorian England) and that it is non-fiction makes it intriguing so I suggest finding a way to say "true story!"And the conflict is between the two brothers because one brother can't collect his inheritance because he can't get the other out of the house. The reason they are battling is over the inheritance. That's the conflict.Sounds like fun!
I am another of the Oh, No's! I missed the deadliners. I was up and debating between the 3 versions I had come up with. And then BAM, the portal to the comments had closed like it had never existed. No friendly 'I am not a robot,' nothing. I knocked and tapped and scrolled but no answer. I mourned and wallowed and then I read alla you's entries.Holy tamale! Full of life, energy and vividness. In 15 words. And some of you even included those pesky, but oh so necessary words like a, and, is, the. I bow to you all!
Sadly I clicked the submit button a wee bit too late (by a couple hours)... But it is wonderful to see what others are working on. Great ideas floating around!
Shelly Steig's was my absolute favorite. I don't often laugh out loud, but this caught me.
I'll be eagerly awaiting the books by Just Jan, Margaret Turkevich, Claire Bobrow, and Richelle Elberg.And thanks, Colin! [blush] You know she has to thwart the murderers, because the genre requires it.
Those who missed the deadline: pony up. We still want to hear about your stories, and this is the opportunity. Janet won't comment. So what? We will.
A correction of my earlier comment, in which I thought my loglines (I had two) for my first novel were longer: Logline One was 12 words and Logline Two was 15 words. So it can be done!The first used two comps and three enticing concepts. The second focused on the two protagonists and the theme.
I really liked the one by Kristin Owens. It has a locked room mystery feel to it and the part about the "killer buffet" cracked me up.
I've never done speed dating, but I suspect the success ratio is abysmal. Maybe I'm wrong. I am often.But 15 words to describe your 80,000-word story feels an awful lot like 30 seconds to judge your compatibility. Strikes me you'd be wrong more often than right.I'm sure I don't have the chops to be an agent because I'd be leaving gold on the table. I can't seem to judge which of these stands out, which tells me I'm probably not doing it right. Is someone who is superb at writing a 15-word headline the same person that writes a compelling 80,000-word story? Well, I'm a failure at both so far, so I'm probably not the right judge yet.
John Davis Frain, (Who has now also taken up spying and undertaking as well as being a doctor. He's so talented.) it's very hard to condense a novel down to a sentence or two. Gig's for instance. Jeanne De Clisson and her black fleet was one of the most notorious and successful pirates of the time. She wreaked havoc for thirteen years, which was a long time for a pirate.That's going to be a fascinating story and man is it hard to distill into fifteen words. Peter's is the same way. The expanded version of the story is great. I wouldn't have gotten any of that from the log line though.It's hard.
John, I’m not convinced that first impressions aren’t accurate. I judge livestock at agricultural fairs andmost of the time you can spot the grand champion and reserve as they enter the ring. Exceptional animals stand out in the herd. After that comes the finer inspection, the showmanship, the grooming. That champion may be disqualified because it has a deformity that you didn’t spot at first. I suspect that the same can be said of our stories.
Sharyn Ekberg Thanks, so much! Yes, a better pitch would be 'When James Lucas barricades himself alone in the family home, it sends his brother George on a 25-year journey of discovery into the bounds of love, loyalty and sanity. Based on the true story of Mad James, England's most famous Victorian recluse.’ It still has to be completed.Though George found James's hermit existence an embarrassment and great inconvenience, George was also caring of his brother (who today would be diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic), and as well as wanting their inheritance divided, George also wanted James removed to somewhere healthy. But to which mental institution/mad house? Though most Victorian establishments had terrible practices, progress was being made. Hopefully the story will humanise the stigma placed on those with mental health problems then and now, which breaks hearts of family members and makes us all want to to better - schizophrenia still has no cure.Told from George's POV, there will be elements of fiction and, as you might imagine, I've gathered an enormous amount of background info. I've also located a great-nephew on Facebook who has told me more of family happenings involving the Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo, a Vatican diplomat, MI5 and how the family fortune was lost to a swindler. But first, James and George... The story Dickens wrote was Tom Tiddler's Ground, in which he called James 'Mr Mopes'.
I guess we bring so much history to the table, but I see first impressions wrong constantly.In our own industry, think of all the many rejections that happen incorrectly. From Kathryn Stockett's The Help to JK Rowling to just about anyone else you want to name, there are infinitely more misses than hits.Think of sports where you have a cornucopia of data, and still there are more misses than hits. Every team in baseball passed on Albert Pujols a dozen times. They all passed on Mike Piazza fifty times before the Dodgers drafted him "as a favor." Sports has more examples than publishing and they have more data that should make it easier.I don't know the acting world, but I suspect catching a break is very similar and that's one of the main reasons #metoo got started.I'm not saying it's impossible to break in. You're responsible for creating your own breaks. I just wonder if 15 words for Laura Lippman's Sunburn would come close to doing it justice. Okay, now I have to try, and I hate myself for creating more work when I'm so close to finishing the first draft of my WIP. Ugh! Somebody shut me up.
Since everyone is now in a tizzy about pitches, here is the perfect solution. Instructions are included:https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/2000/1*KHs6OgOb7_aJhmQvOKj_dg.jpegHappy Sunday folks
A few thoughts:Like many, I struggled - mightily - to try to capture the spirit of an 80,000 word novel in 15 words. I say 'spirit' because that's all you can really do. But I think the original point of the blog post was to have an answer at your fingertips, an answer to the dreaded question "so what is your book about?" If nothing else, the post got me thinking about having an answer prepared.This weekend, I saw friends I haven't seen in 5 years. I've really been writing for 4, and of course one of their questions was, "so this book thing...?" which ultimately became "so what it it about?"I'm happy to say I passed the test, in large part because it's been on my mind. Their eyes didn't glaze over and they didn't fidget or turn away, or make up some platitude to substitute for the fact that they were supremely bored. I sure as hell used more than 15 words in my 'pitch'. And hell, yes, I used it as practice.I think we can all drive ourselves crazier if we try to condense it into some magic formula, some word count or A+B = interesting. Janet did us all an amazing favor by getting us to think about it. I loved the pitches you all crafted (Cecilia - yours was gold, and Claire's hands-down had me wanting to pick up her book) but I'll be happy enough if I can answer that dreaded question without breaking out in hives.
I was so disappointed to realize I was too late to post since I had worked on my 15-word pitch so hard the night before! Ah well, can't win them all.But since Kathy Joyce said to "pony up," here's mine:Cinderella escapes abuse and ignites social reform in spite of assassinated royals and no magic.
I straight away started drafting. Then sat staring at the words, pondering the universe. In all, it took me a whole day of sitting on it and a night's sleep before I came up with something I was happy with. Alas, after the window had already closed. Loss of a great opportunity, but not a total loss by any means. This is quite the useful string of 15 words!
Kathy, I'm not sure if any of you will even see this due to the time (late getting back to check in), but I will pony up:Bloody hotel mattress. Missing brother. Police suspect mother. Mitchell does too.
Write a story, they said. Invent an imaginative setting with enough mythology and sensory detail to put your reader in the world. Include a complex protagonist and morally ambiguous choices. Design a plot with an outcome that's fitting but not too obvious and weave it full of obstacles. Keep your audience on the edge of their seat, but foreshadow. Include vivid secondary characters and assign them competing goals. Write a romantic subplot that isn't instalove but compliments the main plot without wasting too much page time. Make sure you have a three dimensional antagonist with their own detailed backstory and goals. Now edit. Cut, trim, be ruthless. Kill your darlings. Scrutinize every word, make sure it's all needed, make sure it's all necessary. Got it down to 65,000 words? Good.Now, tell me what it's about in 15 words.
Oh, if we're going to pony up, I'm in. Alex is a mage hired to hunt down warlocks. Except their best friend is one.***April, I hate Cinderella because she does nothing for herself--her fairy godmother and the prince solve all her problems. THAT is a Cinderella story I would read! Rosanna, I really like how you set up the whole conflict, and then at the end tell us exactly who we're rooting for.
Sharyn and Timothy,Thanks, guys!
Well if we're ponying up...."What's your book about?"A mother searching for her missing baby in the land of lost things."More accurately...it's about a whole lot of people looking for a whole lot of things, but she's the heart of it. The alternative ("It's about the forest where lost things go and the people looking for them") feels like I'm describing setting and not plot.I'm really looking forward to Janet's analysis with regards to in-person pitching versus written pitching, because there were a lot in the thread I loved, but couldn't imagine delivering out loud. Or am I just too easily embarrassed for dramatic pitching?? D:
I just remembered I'd already described The Book in under 15 words on my website"A castle under siege, from troops without and demons of the mind within."It's got more pizzazz than my pitch here, but looking at it critically, it's missing the MC, and "not just what happened, but what changed" as requested by the queenly shark. So still not right.This is an excellent exercise [goes off to fiddle more]
Chiming in late, but kudos to everyone who dove in there and wrote a pitch. That was a tough challenge. A bunch of them caught my eye - Julie Weathers, I can't wait until Lorena lands on a bookstore shelf. Sometimes readers wear crinolines, too. (Okay, maybe not. But I'd put one on if I could get a copy of your book!)
YES! Do it again with thirty words and a genre title....I'm INSPIRED!
Alina said:"spies, samurais, pirates... all the good stuff."That sounds like something I'd read. 8^)I miss most of the deadlines. Sometimes I don't even see the post til the deadline has passed.My weekends are often full.
Are we doing it again??Here is mine, I'm not missing the window this time. Memoir:After the agonizing death of her father, a grieving daughter seeks forgiveness, and looks for his spirit in the perennial life of her gardens, a legacy of shared devotion.
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