Thursday, November 01, 2007

Pitch Critiques Round 2

Six more critiques from the October 25 workshop on Perfecting Your Pitch. This is really fun, so thanks again to everyone who was willing to put themselves out there. Over the course of the next several weeks I will go through pitch-by-pitch and give my critique. Feel free to comment and give your own critiques, ask further questions, or just tell us what you thought.

7. Caroline Smith
Sometimes white picket fences can turn into iron bars. At 45, Jennifer has everything she's always dreamed of - husband, children and security. Why then does she feel as if her life has been placed on pause? A story of discovery, adjustment and new beginnings.

I hate to do this to you, but snooze. Almost all women’s fiction are stories of “discovery, adjustment and new beginnings.” This is exactly what I mean when I warn against describing your book by using themes. Few readers care what the theme of a book is. We don’t buy a book based on themes. We buy because we’re looking for a riveting plot and engaging characters. Your first sentence is strong. I like that a lot in fact, but now you need to show me how that happened for her or what that means for her or what she’s going to do about it. In other words, now that Jennifer (and the reader) feel that the white picket fence has turned into iron bars, what happens? Does she have a torrid love affair? Does she pack up and leave her husband and kids? Does she dye her hair purple and join a punk band? We know the internal conflict for Jennifer, now we need more action, we need to know what’s going on externally.

8. Aimless Writer
Eyes of My Killer: (Romantic Suspense) Misty reads eyes. She only needs to glance deep within your eyes to see your soul, your past and future. When she comes eye to eye with a serial killer Misty goes to the police for help.

Max Jennings is a by the book cop and he’s on the trail of the nastiest serial killer in Angel Fall’s history. When Misty McAllister walks into his squad room and declares she knows who the Angel Fall’s Strangler is because she met him at the mall, Max labels her a whacko. When the strangler leaves a message on Misty’s door step in the form of a dead body Max labels her a suspect, but Misty insists it’s a warning.

Interesting idea. This is one of those queries that I would close up again immediately after reading. It has me unsure, so therefore I wouldn’t answer right away. It would sit in my in-box for another day or two, I’d open it again, and in all likelihood I’d reject it. Disappointing because you were oh, so close. The idea is good. I like the idea of someone who can see your soul so easily. I think that’s an interesting concept. What doesn’t work here is that I think I can read the flaws in your book through your pitch. If Misty knows who the killer is, where’s the suspense? By revealing the killer so early you base the entire book on Max’s inability to believe her. That’s going to make for an irritating read. Of course, I’m not sure if the book is actually written this way, but what about something more along the lines of, “With just one glance into another’s eyes, Misty can see into a person’s soul. A skill that’s been known to get her in a lot of trouble in the past. But nothing beats the day she comes eye to eye with a serial killer, who knows what she’s seen. Now Misty is in a race for her life and only one man can help her, the one who doesn’t believe her”?

9. Tess Harrison
Every man has a breaking point, even Jonas Pride. So when the visions start again, he has no choice but to face the destiny he’s spent his life fighting against. Because this time, the only woman to break his restraint and make him crave her touch is the one woman his enemy is using to claim him as one of their own.

This is a problem I see a lot in pitches. Authors think they have a really great opening line, but don’t tie it in at all to the rest of the pitch. I don’t get how the breaking point really ties into the entire book. It’s a great setup, but is it only about craving the touch of one woman, because that’s going to be a pretty uninteresting book. I think your pitch is really about the enemy trying to claim him as one of their own. What do you mean by that? Who is the enemy? Why are they trying to claim him and what could this mean for Jonas? That’s your pitch. More along the lines of, “Jonas Pride is a man who lives alone and works alone. He’s never needed the touch of another until he meets Maria—a woman who makes him crave her touch and also promises to be the one person who can destroy him...”? Okay, that wasn’t very good at all, but I think you get the picture. We need to get to the conflict in the plot. The external conflict.

10. tammie
At the Knickerbocker Hotel in Chicago, James meets and falls in love with Mara who is planning her wedding to another man. After a night discovering that the lives they each have planned might not be right, the two make a pact to meet each year no matter the status of their lives. Once A Year is an updated version of the Alan Alda movie, Same Time, Next Year. Alternating points of views Mara and James hit heavy topics that touched each decade from the mid 70’s all the way to 2002.

Hmm. I have to admit that I’m immediately turned off by the fact that it’s an updated movie. I never saw the movie, but let’s face it, even with the biggest Hollywood stars on board, few updated versions of old movies do well. I think a book would be a disaster. In other words, there’s no need to tell anyone that. So on to the real pitch. Is the book really about the fact that they make plans to meet each other each year? Or is it about what happens each year? I have a hard time picturing how this will be written and what the conflict will be. Is it a series of vignettes taking place on the same day in a new year, or do we follow one of the characters and see how she deals with this relationship as well as her own life? As you have this written now I don’t see what the story is at all.

11. antony
(Comic crime)
A bigamist conman dies and leaves behind the score from his last job and a team he hasn't yet paid. When the team make plans to steal the money they're owed, the first question they have to answer is: which wife did he leave it to?

Your first line didn’t interest me at all. In fact I was sort of irritated at how uninterested I was (yes, that can happen), but your second line made me laugh out loud. That’s a good sign. In other words, the pitch should probably not be about the con man, but about the team. What about something like this, “A team of con artists is left with one baffling question after the death of their bigamist leader: which wife now holds the score from the last job? In a series of escapades...”? In other words, I really need to know what happens now and what kind of book this is. Is it a bigamist Italian Job? Or is it The Usual Suspects? What’s the conflict for this team besides finding the wife, because if that’s the only conflict, all we have to do is drive from house to house and search under mattresses (so to speak).

12. elizabeth bemis
Megan Miller is on her honeymoon (sans groom) in an effort to get over the louse who dumped her days before her wedding. So far, she’s met a guy who isn’t what he seems, been shot at, jumped overboard into (potentially) shark infested waters and stranded in the Mayan jungle with nothing but the clothes on her back and a copy of the Girls’ Guide to Hero-Hunting and an undercover FBI Agent named Rey Rodriguez. So far, she’s ignored the book’s every piece of advice, and yet, Rey is proving time and again to be her hero. The question is: will he still be her hero, after their “holiday”?

***Please note: this author submitted a later, updated version, but since I’d already critiqued this one she’ll get critiques on both. You can see if the changes she submitted made a difference.

I hate to say this, but been there done that. There have been many books and millions of book proposals about a bride taking the honeymoon alone. I wouldn’t even bother to mention it. I need to know what makes this book really different. I suspect this is romantic comedy, but we need something more. Does the Girls’ Guide to Hero-Hunting play a huge role in the story? If so, that’s your pitch. Your pitch is to show how that book is influencing her decisions, and not in the best ways. We’ll also need to know a little more about why she might be shot at and stranded in the jungle.

And that’s it for today. Great work! Keep an eye out for the next group.