Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Pitch Critiques Round 12

More critiques for you. I’ve seen some great, great pitches so far, some that needed a lot of work, and some just a little tweaking. Good work, everyone. And great books! Here’s the original post, Perfecting Your Pitch, and you should be able to link back to all previous critiques if necessary.

66. linda
On the day of Victoria’s engagement to Boston blue-blood, Scott Halstead, she inherits a farm in Oklahoma and is forced to make a choice between a life of privilege or the skeleton in her closet.

Doesn’t do it for me. It just doesn’t grab me. Why is she forced to make this choice and why can’t she marry a blue-blood and have a farm? What’s really at risk for her? You’ll need to expand on this a little. We’ll need a better sense of Victoria and what this really means to her and for her.

67. sharon
Grayson Cyre lives in a world where war has gone on for so long, no one remembers why it started. After his treasonous sister is arrested, Grayson vows to seek revenge against the enemy--the anonymous forces whose surprise attack left his colony decimated and his parents dead.

This doesn’t sound different enough. So many books are about revenge, so what is different for Grayson? What about his sister’s arrest makes him decide to do something? Is he trying to finally end the war? Why does he think he can do it and no one else? Why now? What will he face? We need to know what makes this book stand out from others and I’m not seeing it here.

68. carol a. spradling
Widowed and propositioned at the gravesite is not Anna Sinclair's idea of romance, but lifelong friend Daniel Mercy is not a man easily refused. They marry within days of her husband’s funeral, and she prepares for the raised eyebrows of 1762, Charleston society.

Daniel struggles to maintain his faltering shipping company and in the process, he and Anna learn of Seth's involvement with embezzlement, smuggling, and attempted murder. When he discovers the name of Seth's murderer, Anna is kidnapped and buried alive.

Some secrets should remain buried with the dead but as Anna fights to stay alive, she uncovers one secret Daniel has hidden from her.

Too long! My first concern is why does she marry him? It’s not her idea of romance and seems rude, so why does she do it? Why would Daniel? How can Anna uncover a secret if she’s buried alive? There seems to be a lot of holes in this story, and that would make me pause with concern. I like the fact that she’s propositioned at the gravesite, but I don’t see how that connects to Daniel’s faltering shipping company and later Anna being kidnapped. This is another case where I would suggest you take a look at your book first, pitch later. It seems like the book has some plot problems that will need to be addressed before you can start pitching.

69. deborah
Pregnant and fleeing an arranged marriage, Dianna Marshall sets sail for America on board the Titanic in the company Margaret and William Stewart, a childless couple who offer Dianna sanctuary in exchange for her unborn child. But when the Titanic sinks, and William Stewart dies, Dianna is catapulted into a world completely foreign to her where she faces desperate choices: will it be the life she's been raised to lead, the man her heart desires, or the unborn child she's come to love? She can't have everything, but the wrong choice may leave her with nothing.

This is an odd case where I think the ending works better than the beginning. I think this could be tighter: “Pregnant and fleeing an arranged marriage, Dianna Marshall’s only hope is to accept sanctuary from a childless couple in exchange for her baby. But when the ship sinks (does it need to be the Titanic?) . . .” Now we need specifics. Why is the world foreign to her? Why must she face these choices? Why can’t she have the man and the baby? Why will walking away from both leave her with nothing?

70. anon 7:00
Rane is in a bind. He has a few weeks to break a witch’s curse or all his friends will die. They’ve been soul chasers for hundreds of years, blithely inhaling the spirits of nearby villagers. But now, three of them are dead and four are trapped inside their castle. As the only one who escaped, Rane must find their estranged creator, Markin, before it is too late. Along the way, he discovers the last vampire and quickly learns that the soul chasers evolved from this very creature. Rane will fight off wild chasers, fall in love with a mortal and break the curse before it’s all over.

I think your beginning is wonderful, it’s the end where I think you try to push in too much information. I think this is nearly perfect, but needs a little tightening. What about, “Rane has only a few weeks to break a witch’s curse or all his friends will die. They’ve been soul chasers for hundreds of years, blithely inhaling the spirits of nearby villagers. But now, three of them are dead and four are trapped inside a castle. As the only one who escaped, Rane must find their estranged creator, Markin . . .”? And this is where I feel it fell off. Let’s get to the point of what he must really do. Could you just say that he must find the creator and break the curse? Or is there something even more? Is time ticking? Does he learn something along the way? Many books have a similar plot line—time is ticking, someone must find the cure. What makes yours really pop? The things that I think were cool here are the soul chasers, and the last vampire. What else do you have to make it jump out at me?

71. Loquacious Me
In addition to being a loving father and devoted husband, Jesse Dawson is also a modern samurai and champion of lost souls. When his fellow champions begin to go missing, he has no choice but to complete his current contract to save the soul of an aging baseball player. But the forces of darkness want his soul, and when demons are involved, things literally go to Hell.

An instance where I feel like you’re telling instead of showing me your pitch. I don’t get any sense of atmosphere or voice from this. What about something like, “Jesse Dawsom is a loving father and devoted husband. He’s also a modern samurai and champion of lost souls. It’s Jesse’s job to . . . But when fellow samurai champions go missing, it’s up to Jesse to save them, and the only way to do that is . . .”? And I think your last line is great. You need to put some more energy into the first paragraphs to make me want to read this.

Great work, everyone. And now to the readers and your feedback. . . .



Mark Terry said...

What occurs to me after reading all these pitches and your responses is:

Do you ever wonder if you miss out on a really great book because the pitch is so-so?

I was reading the one about the revenge comment here and you were asking what makes it unique, which isn't unreasonable, but it's a little bit like:

An obsessed whaling captain drives his crew to destruction in revenge for a fishing accident that took his leg.

You can make the same comments about Moby Dick, but it doesn't really change that a 3-sentence pitch doesn't take into account the things that generally make books wonderful--characterization, unique setting, writer's voice, etc.

Just wondering.

Anonymous said...

I would tend to agree with Mark Terry. These pitches by and large seem to try to sell a lot of corn.

Unknown said...

Some folks drink Starbucks; I sip on this blog before I begin my morning pages.

It's a learning experience every day.

Thank you, Jessica.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for continuing to do this. For me, pitches are harder than writing the actual book, so I'm learning as I go...

How much quicker my first book might have been published if I only knew how to write a decent pitch. Of course, that's the problem, I thought I knew how to write a decent pitch, now I realize how very, very wrong I was/am.

Writer's can't afford that whole ignorance is bliss thing, can they?

Anonymous said...

Re: # 68 -- I was confused as to who "Seth" is. Is he an employee? A trusted friend?

Since this story takes place in the 1700's you could condense the opening sentence to say... "Wrought with grief and with no other means to support herself, Anna marries her friend, Daniel. But her attempts to live a peaceful life collapse when... ( and then get to the plot points of the story)

Anonymous said...

I wrote #70. Thank you so much for your feedback! I really appreciate that you took the time to do this, it is a great way to learn.

Diana said...

Thanks for continuing to do this. For me, pitches are harder than writing the actual book, so I'm learning as I go...

I understand this feeling completely. This pitching thing has made me insecure. I thought I had a really strong manuscript. And now I find myself thinking things like:

"Do I even know what my book is about?"

"Is my book about anything at all?"

"If I'm such a good writer, why can't I come up with a couple of brilliant, witty sentences that demonstrate how brilliant, unique and witty my manuscript is?"

Anonymous said...

Diana-- you just took the words out of my mouth, "...Is my book about anything at all..."

Ugh. Yes, my book IS about something, but how do I define that in a handful of exciting sentences?

tkersh said...

Pitching must be the worst way in the world to sell a book... except I can't think of anything better! Often the blurbs on Amazon sound far worse than many of the "bad" pitches. Often I fall in love with a book based on the blurb and I just can't stand the writing. I don't envy anyone on either side of the pitch process.

To 69. Deborah:
This is different than your original pitch, but I found this idea captivating: What if the wife dies in the shipwreck and the husband offers Dianna the chance to assume her identity? For me that opens a lot of really interesting possibilities.

Good luck

Loren DeShon said...

Besides the obvious - an effective pitch may enable you to obtain representation and sell your book - working on the pitch strikes me as an effective writing exercise in itself.

As I've struggled to write a succinct, alluring paragraph about my book I've felt my writing muscles gain tone. Also, working on said paragraph has helped me to better understand the gist of my own work - just exactly what have I been writing about all this time?

The discouraging thing is that I have eight (8!) rewrites of the original pitch that I submitted to Jessica, each of which I think is an improvement on the last.

Holy Crap! Given eight rewrites on one paragraph, how many rewrites will I need for the whole book?

I've resisted the temptation to resubmit the pitch. I want to see if Jessica suggests the changes that I have already made.

Jessica, even if you don't get down the list to mine, thanks for efforts to help us improve.

K.A. Stewart said...

I've almost been dreading you getting to mine, because I knew it was sorely lacking. It's encouraging that you like the last sentence though! Thanks so much for doing this. ;)