Saturday, January 30, 2010

Why pitches?

As folks are getting ready for the Polish Your Pitch contest, I thought I'd share my experience with them.

A while ago, Janet Reid did a very brief query review through her blog. (It turned out to be a precursor to Query Shark.) I wasn't quite finished my MS, but I knew enough to write a query. So I spent lunch break writing the pitch part of the query. It was a great distillation of the story, but it wasn't a great pitch.

That's when I realized my story needed work. Lots of it.

So, I thought about what would make the pitch good- what would make the story even more engaging. It meant taking what had been the slimmest of threads in the plot and weaving it through half the story. So I wrote the query with the new and improved pitch. Then I started on my MS so that it would match the query.

It meant research. It meant cutting a third of what I had, and writing nearly 40,000 new words.

Yet my story has grown into something I'm proud of. And all because of the pitch part of a query.

Working on your pitch can be helpful for a variety of reasons. As I'm working on mine, I'm thinking about whether:
  • It communicates the conflict.
  • It communicates the stakes. (What happens if things don't work out?)
  • Does it make someone want to read the story?
I'm also thinking about how I'd better go outside and shovel the snow, but that's an entirely different issue.

Have a great weekend, everyone!


KarenG said...

Hi Sarah!

Thanks for being my 50th follower! Looks like we posted about the same topic. Pitches--can be very scary.

Your blog looks good, I added myself as a follower!


Sarah said...

Thanks, Karen! So glad to be the 50th! It seemed like the thing to do after sharing the same topic. : )

annerallen said...

This is great advice. I think novelists need to stop and do a "pitch check" at different stages of the writing process, to make sure we're on track. Just yesterday I suggested that my critique group do an occasional "pitch session". Weekly groups tend to focus on details and forget to look at the over-all story arc. This is a great way to do it.

Tess said...

I've been giving thought to this fun contest and pulling my hair out...


I suck at pitches!

will someone else just write one for me? pretty please?

Sarah said...

Best of luck, Tess! I'm sure it will be great. If you can mother a ninja, you can do this!

Anne, I never would have thought of pitches helping writing if it hadn't happened to me. But I've returned so many times to the pitch that I put together. As you say, it can keep our writing on track.

dirtywhitecandy said...

I've found that pitches help the writing too. As does pitching informally to friends - I was describing my WIP to a friend a few weeks ago and realising that the beginning wasn't nearly as dynamic as I was making it sound when I talked about it. Out with the red pen!

Nicola Morgan said...

Sarah - you asked me to blog about this so i just did, over at www.helpineedapublisher Not sure if I've said anything helpful. Good luck with your compeition!

Sarah said...

Nicola, I just read the post. It's great as always- and thank you for the link!

I've already listed your post as one of the contest resources.