Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Pitch Critiques Round 6

You haven’t broken me yet, but you’re getting there. Every time I think I can say I’m a third of the way through I find ten more have been added. At this rate . . . well. And here’s my requisite link to the original post, Perfecting Your Pitch.

31. Christine
Little Fish
Peter Dodge fell in love with a woman he was not sure even existed. Fifty years later she came back for him on a foggy cloud, leaving his aged body behind with a dagger in his heart. When Evie, the beautiful coroner, touches the dagger, she catches a glimpse of the watery world Peter's murderess came from, and the beings there could help her understand one of the town's long unsolved cases, if only she gives them the one thing they are fighting for, a child she'll lovingly call Little Fish.

The first line is really good and definitely grabbed me. After that though I was confused. Is the story about Peter Dodge or Evie? Is the conflict of the story Peter Dodge’s love and later death or is it Evie fighting for a child called Little Fish? I think you have some very intriguing elements here, but it feels like two different pitches. Would it be better to say something more like, “When Evie, a small-town coroner, touches the dagger in Peter Dodge’s chest she is somehow able to see the watery world Peter’s murderer came from, and the beings that help her understand one of the town’s long-unsolved cases. To do so she’ll have to give them (who them?) the one thing they are fighting for, a child she lovingly calls Little Fish . . .”? I think it needs one more line about Little Fish and why she’s so important. Otherwise, you’re right on the verge of a fantastic pitch.

32. anon 11:41
Tillie Russell, an acclaimed entrepreneur who became a household name in the late 90’s by designing pet products, suddenly found herself in the doghouse. In an aggressive interview on a nationally televised talk show, Tillie is bombarded with allegations of animal abuse. Although the implications proved to be completely false, it didn’t deter stores from yanking her products off the shelves, costing the young company over one hundred thousand dollars. The financial debacle resulted in the loss of the company and almost devoured Tillie’s eleven-year marriage. Proving that life could go on, one year later, Tillie becomes pregnant and dreams up a new business with a very unconventional business plan. She enlists ten mothers to join in the new venture she ambitiously names Ten Moms and Counting. Their product? Themselves.

The opening sounds like backstory to me. While cleverly written, it’s not all that exciting and doesn’t sound like it pertains to the story you are trying to sell. What does sound interesting is the Ten Moms and Counting venture. I imagine that’s what the book is really about. So, shouldn’t your pitch say something more along the lines of, “When Tillie Russell decides to look for a new career it’s far from her previous life as an acclaimed designer of pet products. Pregnant and out of work, Tillie comes up with Ten Moms and Counting, a company sure to raise a few eyebrows . . .”? We’ll need to know more specifically now what the company is and what kind of problems it causes.

33. Joan
Athena Solomon is a cemetery director who witnesses burials every day, visits graveyards on vacations, and peruses the internet for locations of famous graves. After her father dies, Athena’s grief is interrupted when she learns about her mother’s long-term love affair and family’s connection to the Jewish Mafia. She unearths the truth about her parentage and suspects that by guarding the past, her mother believed she was protecting her children. Athena then shifts a selfish quest for knowledge into a mission to heal her mother’s soul.

Interesting, but another situation where I don’t see how the first sentence connects with the last part of your pitch. What I thought when I read the first sentence is that I was going to be pitched a new take on a thriller or mystery, but then I realized this is probably women’s fiction. A good pitch means that the reader usually knows not just what the story is about, but also the genre without being told. I think your pitch is actually more detail about Athena’s mission to heal her mother’s soul.

34. Mary
Marian lives a content life – at least while Father is away – she enjoys the herbalism training from her mother, and has a good friend in the village recluse. But after her village is destroyed, she lashes out at those responsible in a magic she didn't know she had. Girls born with magic are sentenced to death. Marian would know, she helped birth one recently, and her heart broke watching the Enchanter take it away. She doesn't know who she can trust or how she can learn to control her new skills without revealing herself to the Enchanters Guild.

There’s something missing here. I think that it’s another case of trying to squeeze in too much information. Do we need to have the first sentence? Would it be better to get straight to the point? The point/conflict seems to be that Marian is now forced to learn to control her magic without letting anyone know. My question to you though is how is this different? What makes this special from other books where someone must learn to control magic? It seems like a common theme and plot. We need to know what makes Marian’s plight unique and intriguing and different from all the others.

35. dwight’s writing manifesto
Over 350 living Americans have floated weightless in Outer Space, but less than two dozen men and women have crawled along the muddy bottom of the Mississippi River at its most treacherous depths. DIVER DOWN chronicles the life of Evan, a river construction diver, as he finds himself navigating even more treacherous chasms of the heart.

I love this. The tone, the voice, the comparison to Outer Space. I think this is an incredibly strong pitch (and I’m not just saying that because your picture scares me), until the end. The ending seems like a downer to me, and what I mean by downer is disappointment. I would assume from your opening that things are going to be happening on the bottom of the Mississippi, but from the last line it sounds like it’s a love story. If he’s battling more than possible heartache I wouldn’t request more; if you have something bigger for him, you’re in. In other words, you have a great setup, but slow follow-through.

36. karen duvall
Chalice has a unique gift of sight, sound and scent, which makes her the perfect thief. But not by choice. She's forced to steal charmed and cursed objects for a secret society of magicians, her bond to their gargoyle guaranteeing her complicity. If she doesn't steal for them, she'll turn into a bat-winged atrocity just like the thing she's bonded to. If Chalice can kill her gargoyle, she'll be free. But how do you kill an immortal creature? To learn the answer she must gain wisdom from the remains of a prophetic saint, fall in love with a thousand year-old Turkish warrior from the Crusades, befriend an elf who owns a coffee shop that caters to the people of faery, and find her fallen angel father.

Uff da. A lot going on here and very confusing. I think this is the hardest thing about complicated plots, it’s hard to tell what’s important and what’s not. Even I have that trouble when pitching to editors. It can also be a sign that maybe the book itself is confusing or not tight enough. You need to ask yourself what’s the point? What’s the conflict? It seems to me that Chalice’s biggest conflict is that she must kill a gargoyle to gain freedom and to do that she must....” It still seems like a lot though and I’m not sure any of it feels really exciting. I guess the question is what is the real journey? What is the real issue for Chalice?

And that’s it for today. Great work again. I’m off to continue my critiques. I do think I have fewer than 100 left.