The evolution of a pitch

Fine-tuning a pitch is more nerve-wracking than writing and revising a novel. You have to condense, tease, and sell your story, all the while showing what makes it stand above the rest. I’m sweating just working these!

My story is told in alternating points of view, adding another challenge to the mix (and forget trying to come up with a Twitter pitch that encompasses this!–another blog post for another time) My truly original try (“First Attempt Ever” below) was crap. It was more synopsis-y, too wordy, but it was a start. It was my first step in condensing this thing I was writing into about 200-250 words. I should also note that I wasn’t finished with my manuscript when I wrote it. Finishing and revising my ms has absolutely impacted my query pitch! But I don’t think it’s ever too soon to start drafting out these pitches. They help you focus, like an outline of sorts.  (Note, it’s also never too early to start fidgeting with query letters or researching agents. That way, by the time you’re done, you’re more comfortable and familiar with them, structure, what agents want, etc. BOTH of these are a MUST!)

After taking a class with agent Mandy Hubbard, I revised my pitch to the “Original” one below. I used it in Lynn Hightower’s class, too, and received positive feedback for both. But I still wasn’t 100% sure of it because it was only from Jimmy’s POV and I didn’t think it captured the stakes in just the right way.

So I kept trying, kept researching, kept looking at samples that had kicked butt and landed the authors agents, and I focused on those that covered the two MCs. I put it out there in #GUTGAA and made it into the Pitch Polish. I used those comments, along with what I’d found online, and revised it further. Then I sent the new versions a gazillion times to my critique partners and friends. I think they’re tired of my by now. O_o

This is where I’m at now: the “Revised” one below. What do you think? I’d love your feedback!

So if you’re starting out, in the midst of drafting out these pitches, don’t freak out. Like with anything writing, the more you work it, the more polished it becomes. Keep kneading and pulling and cutting and chopping–and have people read it along the way, offering critiques–and it will be ready soon enough. Happy writing!

REVISED

There’s only one rule on Soul Mountain: Don’t make contact with the living except to carry out your assignment.

Jimmy Abbott has been saving the living for twenty-three years—not a long time on the Mountain, but long enough to know how to stay in the Elders’ good graces. When he rescues seventeen-year-old Emily Bell, though, he finds that sticking to this rule is almost impossible. And to make matters worse, she can sense him, even when he’s not corporeal.

Emily goes to New York to find closure over her parents’ deaths. Instead, she uncovers a connection between them and the boy who saves her, one that links her explicitly to Soul Mountain.

The moment they kiss, Jimmy realizes he can’t—and won’t—stay away, even if it means being sent to Hell or worse, nonexistence. But when he’s summoned before the Elders, Emily must decide if loving someone who’s dead is worth risking her life.

ORIGINAL

There’s only one rule on Soul Mountain: Don’t make contact with the living except for the purpose of carrying out the assignment.

Jimmy Abbott saves the living from untimely deaths. When he rescues seventeen-year-old Emily Bell from drowning in the Hudson River, he finds that sticking to this rule is a lot harder than he thought. Emily represents everything he lost when he died: life, family, and love.

And to make matters worse, she can sense him, even when he’s invisible.

The moment they kiss, though, Jimmy realizes he can’t—and won’t—stay away. He’s determined to keep seeing Emily, even if it means being sent to Hell or worse, nonexistence.

When he is summoned before the Elders, he faces the hardest decision of his death: give up Emily, or live as a fugitive in the world of the living, guaranteeing that he’ll never cross over.

FIRST ATTEMPT EVER

The most important rule on Soul Mountain is this: Don’t make contact with the living except for the purpose of carrying out your assignment.

Jimmy Abbott is one of the souls on the Mountain charged with saving lives. Though he has no interest in severing the ties to his past or in serving on the Mountain’s elite government, he follows the rules simply to avoid nonexistence.

Emily Bell has spent the last ten years of her life with her aunt’s family, trying to forget the crash that killed her parents. On the anniversary of the accident, she travels back to New York City to confront her past, nightmares, and fears.

When Jimmy saves Emily from drowning in the Hudson River, he finds himself unable to remain faithful to the rules that bind him. Meanwhile, Emily becomes obsessed with the beautiful, mysterious boy who saved her, not once, but twice.

Together, they learn that love has no boundaries, not even those imposed by those living or dead, and they realize they must find a way to stay together, even if it means setting off the wrath of the Elders.

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2 thoughts on “The evolution of a pitch

  1. Hi GUTGAA Buddy & Blog-Lovely!
    Yes, it’s definitely close to perfect, but because a couple of things “stuck” when I read it through I’m going to point those out. JMHO of course, to take, leave, or laugh about behind my back.
    Love the opening pitch-DON’T CHANGE IT!
    There’s only one rule on Soul Mountain: Don’t make contact with the living except to carry out your assignment.
    A coupla minor things here
    Jimmy Abbott has been saving the living for twenty-three years—not a long time on the Mountain, but long enough to know how to stay in the Elders’ good graces. When he rescues seventeen-year-old Emily Bell, though (I don’t like “though” here, it’s awkward and stops the flow – so maybe it could be “When he rescues seventeen year old Emily Bell he falls in love, which makes sticking to Soul Mountain’s rule impossible.” Because he does fall in love with her right?), he finds that sticking to this rule is almost impossible. And (I would omit “and”) to make matters worse, she can sense him, even when he’s not corporeal.
    Next paragraph-Overall good, minor word choice and minor vagueness
    Emily goes to New York to find closure over her parents’ deaths (how does going to NY help with gaining closure?). Instead, she uncovers a connection between them and the boy who saves her, one that links her explicitly(not sure I love this word here, maybe “directly”) to Soul Mountain.
    More major issue in the following paragraph-
    The moment they kiss, Jimmy realizes he can’t—and won’t—stay away, even if it means being sent to Hell or worse, nonexistence. But when he’s summoned before the Elders, Emily must decide if loving someone who’s dead is worth risking her life. (Okay, if Jimmy is on the hot seat how does this in turn force Emily to make the big decision? This needs clarification).
    For what it’s worth I think pitches/queries/synopses are all Hellish. Next time I’m going to come up with the title (something else I find difficult), then write the query, then the synopsis, THEN the book. Maybe it’ll be easier…

  2. Thank you for taking a look! 🙂

    Yeah, I’m not touching the opening line. lol. Thanks for the suggestions! With the last section, I wanted to show they’re BOTH in the hot seat–she’s an “accomplice” or sorts. His soul and her life are at stake.

    I have to tackle the synopsis next…shudder. I have a synopsis I did in one of my UCLA classes, but I think it stinks. We’ll see how that works out. 😉

    Good luck today, btw!

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