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.

Tag! You’re It! More GUTGAA Festivities

GUTGAA (the ” Gearing Up To Get An Agent” blogfest hosted by Deana Barnhart) has a game of tag going on.  I was tagged by the awesome and awesomely talented Jeanmarie Anaya. Check her out on her blog or on Twitter at @janaya75. Her pitch for  her novel OPERATION BREAKUP was selected for #PitchMadness, and I’m betting she’s going to be hearing some amazing new soon. Check her out!

So….since I’ve been tagged, I have to answer the three questions below in the tag game:

  • What is the working title of your book? SOUL MOUNTAIN, a YA romantic fantasy.
  • Where did the idea come from for the book? I’m also going to repeat what I answered in the GUTGAA Meet&Greet: The initial nugget came to me in a dream. It was one scene, the one where Jimmy saves Emily. Dante’s Divine Comedy, as well as from my dad’s former background as priest, also influenced the shape this book took.
  • What genre does your book fall under? I *think* it fits best under YA romantic fantasy.
  • Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? Can I quote Jeanmarie? “Please. A movie deal? Can’t even think about that. Right now I’m just trying to find the perfect agent!”
  • What is the one-sentence short synopsis of your book? Jimmy saves the living. Emily wants closure. When he’s assigned to rescue her, both will risk their very existence for the other.
  • Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? I’m querying for an agent and hoping to go the traditional route.
  • How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? Between the initial nugget/dream and when I actually started writing, 1 year. It was simmering. From the moment I started writing the first draft, ten months. And two months of revisions, though I should also say that I wrote most of this book through my UCLA classes, where I wrote and revised, and wrote and revised, and wrote and revised.
  • What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? If you loved City of Angels with Nicholas Cage, you’re going to like this book! And this is the first in a planned trilogy. 🙂
Now I get to TAG three super talented writers participating in GUTGAA!
Tag–you’re it! 🙂

GUTGAA Meet and Greet

Questions for the Meet and Greet
  • Where do you write?
    I’m lucky to have a nice, orange (yes, orange…) writing office. It’s my writing sanctuary, where I have my desk, dry-erase board, bookshelf, and incense! But I don’t always write there. My other writing space is actually at a local Starbucks. Or anywhere. I’ve been known to take my laptop to doctor appointments and sit in the waiting room… writing.
  • Quick. Go to your writing space, sit down and look to your left. What is the first thing you see?
    Nothing too exciting. A closet. But between my desk and the closet door is a magazine holder where I have Poets & Writers Magazine, SCBWI bulletins, and other magazines.
  • Favorite time to write?
    If I had a choice, daytime hours when my mind is still working but I’ve woken up! But I’ll also write early in the morning or late at night, when everyone at home is asleep.
  • Drink of choice while writing?
    Decaf or half-caf caramel macchiatto with extra foam. 🙂
  • When writing , do you listen to music or do you need complete silence?
    Music! I have a playlist for my story and anytime I want to think about, write or revise, I listen to it. Sometimes during revision, though, I need absolute quiet.
  • What was your inspiration for your latest manuscript and where did you find it?
    The initial nugget came to me in a dream. It was one scene. As I started mulling over this dream, the characters, and where it was going, I realized much inspiration came from Dante’s Divine Comedy, as well as from my dad’s former background as priest.
  • What’s your most valuable writing tip?
    Keep writing. If you want this enough, then you have no option but to keep going. When doubt settles in, push through it. Perseverance and patience will pay off.