Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Pitch Critiques Round 24

I’m winding down. Hoping to get to as many as possible, but just can’t agree to do them all. So here we go again . . . Perfecting Your Pitch.

144. Phoenix
In 305 A.D., the Roman gods are preparing to die; the Seventh Seal is about to be opened; and inside a waking Mt. Vesuvius, pagan prophecy and Christian canon will soon converge.

Now, a devout young mage must defy Church and Emperor to not only initiate an apocalypse but to win over the Persian mercenary he suddenly finds himself soul-bonded to. All before the gods rebel and a thriving empire falls.

I like your opening line, your setup. This definitely grabs my interest and makes me want to see where this is going. Your follow-up, though, falls flat for me. Be a little more specific. Who is the devout young mage and why must he defy the Church? What does it take for someone who is devout to do this? What does it mean that he’s soul-bonded? In other words, you’ve piqued my interest, now you need to reel me in. At the end of your pitch I should want to read more, not think, “Hmm, interesting,” and put it away.

145. Tricia Grissom
Natalya Petrofsky is a zombie with authority issues. She was just about to escape her crazy immigrant family when someone killed them all. Now Grandma Nama is in a coma from changing the curse intended to wipe out their family into something that made them zombies instead. Big improvement. But that doesn't stop her from interfering with Natalya's life. Grandma’s telepathic running commentary can really kill a date night.

And when Natalya finally meets a sexy guy who won't freak because she has no heartbeat, it's because vampire Victor wants her to swear an undead oath to the vamps.

Natalya just wants to keep the family funeral home afloat and find a way to reverse whatever curse killed her entire clan, preferably before her dysfunctional relatives meet Homeland Security. Coping with her own death is hard enough. How will she avoid becoming a vampire lackey?

I am completely confused by this story. I assume by “killed” you mean made into Zombies, and if Grandma Nama is a part of her family, why wasn’t she killed? What does being a crazy immigrant family have to do with anything? That actually piqued my interest more than the zombies. I wanted to know more about this crazy family. My problem is that when I’m finished reading what is really a pretty long pitch, I still have no idea what your book is about. I know it’s about Natalya, who is a zombie, but does anything else happen? I’m getting bits and pieces of information, but I never feel like I get any true taste of this story. I also like the ending. Again, I’m intrigued by the family funeral home, but you don’t take me far enough into it to really tell me about it.

146. Laura Elliott
Owner of the galaxy’s largest freight company, Lucy McAllister gets to do what she’s always wanted – travel the stars. Wealth, fame, family, and friends, she has it all. If not for that one old debt…

Her family taken hostage, Lucy must fly to Rogusta and assassinate the planet’s most respected senator, or she’ll lose everything she loves. She has no choice but to play along while she plans a rescue mission. Just two steps out of the ship, Lucy finds herself the target of a hired assassin. She’s tossed into GIA protective custody with the sexy Chief Agent Finn Droverson watching her every move. Things heat up between them, and she begins to suspect something is a bit different about their relationship – especially when their hands fuse together during a romantic moment. Lucy must figure out her unexpected (and complicated) relationship with Finn, battle with GIA double agents, and somehow outwit the smartest criminal in the galaxy – and save her family.

Your two paragraphs don’t connect for me. The tone is different and, again, I’m not sure we need to know the backstory. How does owning the freight company have anything to do with Lucy’s family being taken hostage. The second paragraph feels like you’ve run out of time and you're trying to rush through and get out as much information as possible. I picture you standing at the front of the room giving a five-minute book report only to realize that there’s just one minute left, so you are busy top-lining the key points in order to finish on time. This just didn’t grab me. It felt like you were trying to be too many things. I didn’t get a good sense of what the tone of the book was. It felt very light and funny, but didn’t feel like that’s what it should be, and in the end the story just doesn’t seem different enough.

147. D.C. England
Five words
Phil Collins stops my imprisonment.

One paragraph
My name is Steve. When I was younger I had big dreams. Jamie, Brian and I, we all had big dreams. We wanted to change the world – and we did. We wanted to be rock stars – and we were. We wanted girlfriends - that was the difficult one. We had all been great friends. Jamie and I still were. I wouldn’t have been here today if not for Jamie. But I wasn’t sure I’d ever forgive Brian.

One sentence
A semi-fictional tale of WOMAD 1982, one of the greatest but financially most disastrous music festivals ever - seen through the eyes of an utterly helpless organiser, and told alongside the story of punk rock in the provinces.

What’s most interesting about this to me is that none of your pitches connect. What does Phil Collins have to do with punk rock or the fact that your name is Steve? And what is this book about? Is it a memoir? Is it coming-of-age? Is it about a disastrous music festival? My suggestion is to focus on writing one strong paragraph first that really tells me what your story is about, and from there you can shorten if necessary.

148. Jael
My book is about a woman who gets younger, and her husband, who doesn't. When Gretchen turns 30, she suddenly starts to age backward, and her body begins to undo both the negative aspects of aging (scars, wrinkles) and the positive ones (wisdom, stability, memories). The book alternates between Gretchen's point of view and Charlie's, as they struggle with the ever-growing gap between them, as he turns 31 and 35 and 41 while she turns 29 and 25 and 19.

This just sounds odd and, I hate to say it, not that interesting. Of course I’m concerned that your pitch tells me instead of shows me your story, but I’m also concerned that you don’t have a story there. This sounds like it would be categorized as women’s fiction, and yet I don’t see the readership for it (please, readers, tell me if I’m wrong). It might be more interesting if you tell me some of what this couple is dealing with, why she does this and what is eventually going to happen. Does the reverse aging affect her mind as well? Will she become a baby? Does she have reverse puberty? I’m curious, but from the pitch the story doesn’t feel as well thought out as it needs to.

149. anon 9:36p
Lady Elizabeth Dunham and her brother have been hiding a secret that could ruin them. When the blackmail letters arrive Lady Elizabeth sets out to save her family. She is prevented from attaining this goal because her brother has enlisted the help of the mysterious “Messenger” who Elizabeth believes will only ruin her family and she sets out to find and stop him.

Daniel Reming, Earl of Clauster, is The Messanger. He believes in justice and wants to right the wrongs of the ton, because he failed his sister and family and needs to make it up, even if it is only to himself. He is prevented from attaining this goal because the woman in his latest assignment is doing everything in her power to prevent him from succeeding.

You are telling me and not showing me and, as I’ve mentioned before, a pitch should be representative of your writing. Based on the first paragraph, I would pass on this. The writing feels choppy and stilted. And ultimately, I’m not sure what this story is really about or how it stands out from others. Be careful . . . in both paragraphs you use the phrase “prevented from attaining this goal,” which distances me from the characters and tells me instead of shows me. I think you might be better melding these two paragraphs and focusing on the heart of the story, which, I imagine, is when Daniel and Lady Elizabeth come together to try to reach both of their goals.

150. Shayla Kersten
Did you ever have a dream so real you could taste it?

Catlin Landry has. Her nights are filled with visions of a sexy man, the feel of his muscles, and the taste of his skin. Too bad they aren't real, or are they?

I think that this is a good pitch, but in the end I wouldn’t request it. I assume this is for an erotic romance, and so many of those involve a dream man that as you have this here it wouldn’t stand out in the market. What else makes your book unique?

Okay, readers, it’s up to you now (and no slacking off on me!). I want to hear what you have to say. . . .