Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Pitching And All That Jazz

STATUS: Today I’m flying back to Denver from Vancouver. I have to say I was quite delighted when the rain eased and the sun popped out this morning. It’s going to be beautiful here (of course on the day I’m leaving) but there you have it.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? WHAT A FOOL BELIEVES by The Doobie Brothers

When I was teaching my eQuery workshop this weekend, I suddenly achieved some clarity about writing pitch paragraphs and how to teach it.

Often writers freeze when attempting the pitch because they are laboring under the wrong assumption that they need to sum up their entire novel in one longish paragraph or two short ones and that's not the way to do it.

It was a real learning moment for me. Since I’m having this insight now and I'm not physically there to teach the workshop, I thought I would do a workshop-like couple of posts here on my blog.

So that’s what I’m doing this week.

When writing your pitch paragraph, all you need to do is examine the first 20 or 50 pages of your manuscript. Then zero in on the main catalyst that starts the story forward—the main conflict from which all else in the novel evolves. It’s the catalyst kernel of your story that forms your pitch.

Don’t worry, I’ll show you some examples over the next couple of days but what you need to remember is that your pitch paragraph needs to read like the back cover copy of a novel. Notice that when you read the back cover of a book, it just gives a hint or a teaser of the story and that it also usually focuses on a crucial early event in the novel. That gets the ball rolling.

And the back cover copy of a book never reveals the ending—and neither should your pitch paragraph. After all, if I want to read the entire novel, I don’t want to know the ending beforehand.

So what I suggest is that you go to your local library or bookstore and browse the section that holds the novels comparable to yours (i.e. if you are writing a thriller, look at thriller novels. If you are writing a paranormal romance, read the back covers of other paranormal romances. If you write literary fiction, read the back cover copy of literary works and so on).

You want your pitch paragraph to mirror that same sort of rhythm and content of those back cover examples. After all, that copy was written by experts and analyzing how the experts create enticing copy can only help you to write yours.

I’ll go into more detail starting tomorrow.