Monday, 23 September 2013

Honing your pitch

I'm hopeless at trying to condense my story into a couple of sentences - just hopeless.

Fortunately, Juliet Pickering ran a session at York where she encouraged us to try. Now I have to admit that during this session, I was struggling with a migraine that made my head feel like it was filled with cotton wool and needles. Juliet must've thought I was mad, sitting in a corner with my sunglasses on...either way, it didn't make writing a pitch very easy.

As a starting point, she suggested we write a pitch for a book you know and love - in no more than two lines.

Then we tried it on our own WIP. Boy, did I struggle. In two sentences, I needed to give a clear indication of the genre as well as what happens to the main protagonist. It needed to be hooky, as it'll probably follow the book right through the publishing process. Oh - and I had to try to include the unique selling point too. So...

'When Rurik arrives on Ring Isle as a servant, one of the five rings of power has been hidden to protect it. Rurik's accidental adventure to find it leads him to the ring - and a destiny he never dreamed of.'

Guess what? *sigh* Rings - Juliet picked up on that straightaway.

Now you'll know from an earlier blog that this is a problem with Rurik. They aren't rings for your finger, but because I mention 'rings' quite frequently there's been an assumption that Rurik will be a Tolkien derivative. (It's not - but first impressions count).

So what IS the USP for Rurik if it isn't rings? Mandy, a fellow cloudie sitting in the session, has read Rurik. She suggested an I came up with this:

'By the time Rurik realises that the auras he can see are ancient powers of protection, he is already on a quest to save them. When he finds the object in which some of the power is trapped, he also discovers a destiny he never dreamed of.'

Cracked it? Not entirely sure...but it doesn't mention rings. Now to rewrite the synopsis - with the same 'no-rings' treatment.


  1. I've had trouble writing my pitch too - it's so ridiculously hard! My trouble was being to general and that using a specific (and like you say, unique) thread is much better. It's good you had someone there who'd read your book. It's strangely easier to describe someone else's!

  2. Perhaps that's what we'll have to do, Elinor - write each other's pitches!

  3. Katherine, if you'll permit a little critique of both pitches, from someone who doesn't know the story in detail?
    Pitch 1: '... to protect it.' The *it* bothered me. What was *it*? There are several components in that sentence, and *it* may refer to any of them: Rurik, Ring Isle, a ring itself, the power. *Which* of these is being protected? I've read it a few times and I'm still confused.
    Also, '... he never dreamed of' is far too too vague (and dangles a participle). I'd suggest you're as specific as you can be. Details, details. One good detail is worth paragraphs of fluff. And you only have a few words to play with.

    Pitch 2: I've heard bits about your tale on the Cloud, and this is the first time I've learnt that they're not metal rings for your finger. 'Auras' sounds much more enticing. You've piqued my interest already. See? Details. It's already better.
    But then you tell us that the auras of protection need saving. So aren't they very good at protecting? [Interest in them dissipates] What (specifically) is the threat? Why aren't they up to the job of saving themselves? And why does it matter? And there are several words not earning their keep. You could delete these and make it stronger: 'some of the', 'also'. In so short a pitch, it's vital that each word works. And 'By the time ... he is already on a quest' suggests that the action is in the past. We've missed it, by the time we start the book. It's a static picture you present, not a happening-now scenario. Where's the present jeopardy, the life, the movement?
    However, the auras in place of the rings, is a huge leap forward, so well done to you and Mandy, and I do wish you success.
    You're right - it's much easier to write someone else's pitch :)
    Sorry if I came over bossy.

    1. Boss away, Whisks, if it means I crack pitch-writing!!

      This made me laugh, as there is so much crammed into my story, I seem incapable of distilling it! The power trapped in the (not-to-fit-your-finger) rings can be seen as an aura...When the baddie tries to take all the power (instead of just the fifth he's entitled to), one particular part of the power - in its ring - is broken from the connected whole to prevent this dastardly deed from happening: it's this missing portion that Rurik ends up on an accidental quest to find.

      Reckon I need to start again! ;)