Pitch Madness Pitch Workshop!

With Pitch Madness fast approaching, I thought now was a good time to go through a little pitch workshop. First off all, I’m going to put together a pitch for you guys. Then, I’m going to ask you to put your pitch in the comments section, and I’m going to critique it for you – say what I think is working, and what isn’t.

So let’s use my latest WiP as a starting point (and hope that when I send it to my agent, she loves it!!).

Step One – The One Line Hook

It is absolutely vital that you can sum your book up in one line. This is the line that an editor will use to sell your book to the other people in the publishers, and that your sales rep will use to hook a potential bookseller. So don’t underestimate the power of a good hook. In fact, many agents and editors have been known to say: “If you have a good hook, then that’s half the battle.

A logline is one line that boils down your narrative to its core purpose. So let’s break this down – what forms a good hook (aka logline)? Actually, it’s pretty simple. A good logline should show CHARACTER, GOAL, CONFLICT. That’s it. The clearer and more simple you can make it, the more high concept your work becomes. And high concept sells well. If you can’t sum up your work in one sentence, you might want to consider whether it’s your logline writing skills or your book itself that needs work. A good site to browse when thinking about loglines is this one: http://www.raindance.org/10-tips-for-writing-loglines/ That should give you some good ideas.

Alright, let me show you my logline for my YA Folklore Mystery (the length of a Pitch Madness pitch):

An isolated teen’s brother washes up dead on the shore of their tiny island, but when she investigates the murder, it seems more than one person on the island is determined she doesn’t solve it. 

So we have a character (the teen), the goal (to solve the murder) and the conflict (people on the island stopping her from solving it). Simples. Now, you try.

Step Two – The Pitch

It is very important you don’t move onto this until you have written the logline. Don’t be lazy. I’m serious. The logline is ridiculously important. If you don’t have that, then you will have a weak, unfocused plot. You only have one chance at this. You want the agent to understand the story completely. Remember, they don’t know your story like you. So it’s your job to get your information across as CLEARLY as possible. That’s really important too. To be CLEAR. Soooo many new writers have fancy, wordy, beautiful sentences in their pitch and it has no clarity so the agents pass. If you need to forsake stylistic flourishes for clarity. If you can add some style whilst still being clear, then of course do. In addition, do not be mysterious in your pitch. Don’t be obtuse. Your story has mystery naturally by having a character, a goal and a conflict. No need to be confusing.

Ready?

This is where you are going to take your logline and work it into a full pitch (for a query). In a pitch you can add details – your character name, what makes your story unique, setting, etc.

Okay, so following that theory, here’s mine:

Sixteen year old Lucy’s brother washes up dead on the shore of their Scottish island. The islanders say he broke the curse of the mythical selkies, bringing their wrath. Others say he ran off with a fabled kelpie woman and drowned. And whispers about underhand dealings leading to his death drift around the harbour, ship to ship. Determined to get to the bottom of it, Lucy decides to find out what really happened the night he died – accident, murder, or legend come to life. But the more she delves into it, the more she realises that not everyone wants her to find out the truth. 

This is the pitch I will send my agent. In addition to achieving what the logline achieved, it also tells her about the character (Lucy, teenager, determined, investigative), the setting (a Scottish island), and the unique angle (a blend of myths, legends and folklore).

So there you have it! I hope this helps, and I look forward to seeing your pitches in the comments below!

92 thoughts on “Pitch Madness Pitch Workshop!

  1. Here is my attempt at a logline for my upper MG fantasy, DARKENWEAR, INC: FAETHERS VS. SCALES. This is tricky and getting it down to 35 words for Pitch Madness is tough.

    Logline:
    13yo Persephone’s becoming a dragon and if DarkenWear, Inc. catches her, she’ll end up a designer handbag or a fabulous pair of shoes. DW’s imprisoning magical creatures in their fashions—and they must be stopped!

    Thanks for the help!

    Shawn

    Like

  2. Here's my attempt at a 35-word pitch for a YA Paranormal:

    Everyone's entitled to a little me-time—even demons. But possessing a sixteen-year-old human has some nasty side effects, including curfews, developing morals and falling for a snarky atheist with muscular dystrophy.

    Thank you so much for your help!

    Natalie

    Like

  3. Here is a first attempt. Any advice is appreciated!

    Grad-student Hans has discovered a secret about Beethoven which will make one killer thesis, but he had to go back in time to find it, and returning home with it may not be an option.

    Like

  4. Alright, here is my attempt currently:

    After sacrificing her life to save a friend, Addisyn's angelic afterlife should be all clouds, halos, and harps. If only someone had mentioned that to the dark-winged angel manipulating her to incite a war.

    Like

  5. I like the flavor of this pitch – lots of voice and a great premise (sounds super fun). However, I stumbled over your first sentence as the “…becoming a dragon and if DarkenWear, Inc. catches…” section doesn't read easily. It took me a second read to go back and understand the sentence. You might want to think about rewording this.

    I absolutely adore the concept though!

    Like

  6. I like that you flip the conflict on the head, but I think the inclusion of the curfews as a problem can go. It doesn't match up with the tension from the other two conflicts. Also, while you have conflicts, we don't have stakes. What is the worst that can happen to this demon if he/she doesn't fall in love or does develop morals? How will this affect his life?

    Like

  7. Hi. I love Beethoven, so this caught my eye. However, my concern is in the regards to the mechanics of stakes. While him not returning home is a great stake to have, I'm unsure as to why he might not get home. Can you clarify that? Also, in the first sentence, I think it should be “he HAS to go back in time” as opposed to “he HAD to go back in time.”

    Like

  8. You've managed to fit a lot in a little space, and a good sense of style. However, I think you need to highlight your stakes more. What is the worst that can happen if she does incite a war? Is the worst she has to lose her afterlife heaven? If so, that needs to be clearer I think. If not, then you need to clarify.

    Like

  9. Fiona, thanks for the feedback! Wow, that 35 word limit for Pitch Madness continues to challenge me. What do you think about this? I think this is clearer, while keeping the voice intact (I hope). I also added a hint of the villain in there. This is a great exercise! 35 words exactly!

    13yo Persephone’s becoming a dragon. Even worse, DarkenWear, Inc.’s imprisoning magical creatures in their fashions. If Persephone’s caught, she’ll end up a designer handbag or fabulous pair of shoes—the feathery fashionistas must be stopped!

    Like

  10. Thanks Fiona. Here is a completely different approach:

    200-year-old music, love letters, and the Time Train bring grad-student Hans face to face with destiny. Falling for a 19th-century Viennese beauty? Not part of the plan. Letters To Juliet meets Back To The Future.

    Like

  11. When Alex undertakes an internship with the Xavier Corporation, the last thing she expects is to fall in love with a sentient cyborg and risk her career to help him escape the iron-fist control of his creators.

    Two words too many, but it this better?

    Like

  12. Thank you so much for your feedback, Fiona! I've been so intent on keeping the voice, I completely neglected the stakes/conflict. I hope this version is clearer:

    Possessing a teenager was always going to have some risks. Matt expected the curfews, but not developing morals or falling for an atheist with muscular dystrophy. What would his dad, the Devil, say?

    Like

  13. This is better. Knowing she's fallen in love makes the stakes real for the character, You could get the word count down by changing “When Alex undertakes an internship with” to “When Alex interns with”.

    Like

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