Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Blog Pitch Workshop (IX)

STATUS: Working. Pretty much a normal day. I’m doing a submission tomorrow so I’m pretty excited about that.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? HEY JEALOUSY by Gin Blossoms

I promised you a contemporary romance today before moving on. I might have to take a little break from all this analyzing as well. We’ll see. Part of me thinks the point should be pretty clear regardless of the genre you are writing but maybe I’m wrong. Let me know in the comments section if you’re dying for me to tackle a certain type of fiction that I haven’t yet.

As you can see so far, there are many different strategies for writing good pitch copy. You just have to choose what will work best for your story but for the most part, simply focusing on the catalyst event in the first 30 pages or so will get the job done.

In fact, I just put that into practice for tomorrow’s submission. Sure enough, I focused on a situation and event that starts the novel. After the sale, I’ll share that one but I can’t at the moment. So on to contemporary romance. One of my favorite writers is one of my own authors, Jana DeLeon. I think the back cove copy for RUMBLE ON THE BAYOU is just about perfect.

In fact, the copy editor “borrowed” a lot of the verbiage that was in my editor pitch letter, which is great. The copy editor also made it better which reminded me that I could use some work on my own pitches. We can always improve—even agents.

Deputy Dorie Berenger knew it was going to be a rough day when the alligator she found in the town drunk’s swimming pool turned out to be stoned. On heroin. Now she has some big-shot city slicker from the DEA trying to take over her turf. And Agent Richard Starke is everything she’d feared—brash, demanding and way too handsome for his own good. Or hers.

The folks of Gator Bait, Louisiana, may know everything about each other, but they’re sure not going to share it with an outsider. Richard wouldn’t be able to catch a catfish, much less a drug smuggler, without Dorie’s help. But some secrets—and some desires—are buried so deep that bringing them to the surface will take a major

Now let’s analyze:
1. This back cover copy is 8 sentences. Hopefully I’ve driven home the point that pitches needn’t be lengthy to get the job done. Writers who can’t get their query letter to one page aren’t working hard enough.

2. It’s a terrific opening sentence. If this line doesn’t capture your interest, I’m not sure what will. The image of a stoned alligator in the town drunk’s swimming pool sets a vivid scene. This is a Louisiana-set novel and they do things different down there—but not this different. Love it. Any pitch that started with that opening line is going to get a request for sample pages from me. Now, before everyone starts adding that to their opening pitch, it has to be true in the actual story you are writing and honestly, how many stoned alligators can we have. Jana’s already done it. It’s not original anymore.

3. The opening sentence also tells us why a DEA agent is coming to town—which is going to be a source of conflict for our deputy heroine. We know this because the story is a romance but also because of the word choices used. “Her turf” for example. We know he’s “brash and demanding.” We also know what hasn’t been said which is that Agent Richard Starke probably thinks this is a Podunk town with residents who are lacking in IQ.

4. The start of the next paragraph gives us the low-down on how small towns operate. They are close-knit and closed mouth because they understand what Richard is thinking about them. Dorie, however, is the insider. He needs her to catch the drug smuggler.

5. The last line ties into the title (which is clever) and gives a hint of some of the things that will unfold. All small towns have secrets. Most aren’t worth knowing but this one will cause a rumble. Nice tie-in!