Perfect Pitch: Chapter 5

Practicing Pitchcraft

“You need to distill your brilliance, your wisdom, and your expertise into one potent page-long brew that will leave a reader reeling from its power.” -Sheree Bykofsky

  1. “The writing you do about writing is as important as the writing itself.” -Katharine Sands
    1. “For fiction I’m really just looking for good writing, I think the letter should really pique my interest in some way.” -Anna Ghosh
  2. Reduce your novel to one paragraph…Show Don’t Tell
    1. Setting
    2. Protagonist
    3. Problem He/She Faces
  3. Build Your Platform:  How are you already promoting your book?
    1. Interview Yourself-Create Your Pitch
    2. Practice Your Pitch in the Form of a Soundbite
      1. “Pick a set of complementary descriptive words that work well together.” -Katharine Sands
    3. Identify Your Hooks
      1. “The most exciting elements to compel your reader and propel your story.” -Katharine Sands
      2. “The best query letters have a strong hook in the first two lines.” -Sheree Bykofsky
    4. Think of Your Pitch as a Movie Trailer
      1. “Your argument for your book’s life…” -Katharine Sands
      2. “Do the descriptive words, tone, and intention match?” -Katharine Sands
    5. Communicate the Excitement

Agent:  Katharine Sands with the Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency

 

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Perfect Pitch: Chapter 3

Notes to the New Writer

  1. Have Spirit
    1. “An effective query letter is a distillation of the work’s spirit or essence.  It is not the place to impress with the minutiae of your research or to encapsulate all the twists in your novel.” -Anna Ghosh
    2. “Find that magical phrase or two that expresses its core idea, the key element that sets it apart.” -Anna Ghosh
    3. “A query letter must inform, but it must also enchant.” -Anna Ghosh
  2. Know Your Reader:  This is a business.
    1. “An agent has to sell the writer’s project to a publisher.  A publisher has to sell the finished books to booksellers.  And finally a reader has to put down 25-odd dollars for their copy.” -Anna Ghosh
  3. Prove That You’re a Writer, Not a Dilettante
    1. I had to look that word up:  Dilettante-a person whose interest in an art or in an area of knowledge is not very deep or serious

Agent:  Anna Ghosh with Ghosh Literary

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Perfect Pitch: Chapter 4

I Am Willing to Be Seduced, Amazed, Charmed, or Moved

Share your enthusiasm with beautiful writing.

  1. Write, don’t call.
  2. Do a little research first.
  3. No gimmicks.
  4. Be confident, not boastful.  Be Personable
  5. Seek the wonderful one-liner.
    1. Crafting Your Novel’s Pitch Line
    2. Pitch Please
  6. Be authentic.
  7. Be honest.

“You can be as provocative, outrageous, sentimental, cynical, vulnerable, or humorous as you choose–whatever reflects who you are and what you have to say.” -Sarah Jane Freymann

Agent:  Sarah Jane Freymann with the Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency

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Perfect Pitch: Chapter 2

Five Questions to Ask Before Sending Your Query Letter

  1. Is it polished, error-free, & professional?
  2. Does the tone of your query letter reflect the tone of your book?
  3. Are you sure that the agent you’re pitching works on this type of project?
  4. Do you know your market?
  5. Are you emphasizing the best aspects of your project?

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Agent:  Kristen Auclair (I am unable to find current information on Kristen)

Perfect Pitch: Chapter 1

A Morning in the Life of a Literary Agent

Your agent has received 100 queries in her inbox, she has 1 hour and will only consider 2 pitches.

What to Do:

  1. First Sentence:  establish main character & central conflict
  2. Next sentences: reveal complications & plot
  3. Entice your agent to contact you for more…

What Not to Do:

  1. Ramble
  2. Please Don’t Be Sardonic
  3. Avoid Irrelevant Personal Revelations
  4. No Pictures

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Agent:  James C. Vines (no longer a literary agent)

 

Round 3…My First 250

The first 250 words in your manuscript are important, and I’m having a heck of a time nailing it.  But, I’m not one to stay down long.  Here’s attempt 49…or 50…or 60…

The opening page, or in essence the first 250 chances us authors get to prove to readers we know what we’re doing, is critical.  Through my revisions I’ve learned the following things

  1. Make sure your writing gets readers to ask a question?
    1. Why is this happening?
    2. Who is following them?
    3. What is the deal with…?
  2. Avoid cliches at all costs.
    1. Don’t have your character look in the mirror, check the date, analyze the weather, etc.
  3. Is the character in the moment?
    1. Leave the backstory and flowery details for later.  We don’t necessarily need to know what he/she/it looks like either.  Avoid starting with a dream.
    2. Start with something in process.  Give the reader a feeling that something is about to happen, and it might not be in the best interest of the protagonist.
  4. Develop your character.
    1. Give the reader an idea of who they are going to be spending the next few hours hanging out with.

Critiques/Feedback from Round 2:
1.  Add the part about the “intervention,” it creates conflict.
2.  Get rid of the school report details, these words take up valuable space.
3.  Be careful about the cliche of starting a story in a car. (I couldn’t address this one)
4.  When talking about the “intervention” make sure to show that Sarah is sad instead of telling the reader she is sad. (I need to reread my post on Showing vs. Telling-this writing gig is hard work.)

Under Western Skies…Round 3
Inspirational/Sweet Romance

Tag Line:
When Sarah’s long-time boyfriend meets a tragic end she is left with a ring box, but no ring.  Despite ten months without him, Sarah remains faithful, until a green-eyed surfer threatens to challenge her devotion.

Chapter 1:  You Should Be Here

I’d been waiting for this moment since my fifth grade report on California.  My stomach fluttered around the peanuts I’d eaten earlier on the plane as my heart thudded rapidly against my chest.

“It’ll be a minute,” Brian said, noticing my tapping foot.

I made an effort to steady my leg.  “Sorry,” I said.  It had been a long time since I’d looked forward to anything.

The last ten months had sucked the life out of me.  I knew I need to take steps to get better, but I hadn’t anticipated my family throwing an intervention on Christmas Eve.  Eight days after opening the beach towel from my parents, I was on the plane to San Luis Obispo, CA.

Brian, my oldest cousin had been in on my emotional hiatus.  He was going to school in the college town that would be my new home, and got the lucky job of being my chaperone for the next six months.

Despite the disappointment I felt about being sent from Wyoming, I was still excited to see the ocean for the first time.  With each bend in the canyon road I expected it to come into view, but after rounding each bend my heart would sink.  It wasn’t until we reached the top of the canyon that it appeared, springing into view like a gigantic, blue, jack-in-the box.  Even though I’d been expecting it, the sight of the endless blue landscape took my breath away.

“So, what do you think?” Brian asked.

I brought both hands to the window, awestruck as wave after wave beat against the cliffs below.

First 250 Revisited…Thoughts?

My goal on this blog is to share the process I am going through as I travel the road to authorship.  Is that even a word?

I put my first 250 words out there for the Twitter, Blog, and Facebook world to critique…talk about scary.  Can I just say, you writers are some of the coolest people.  I got some amazing feedback, which I will share with you now.

Suggestions:
1.  The intro is a bit confusing, maybe start with the last paragraph.
2.  The word “had” is overused (I need to revisit my post on Crutch Words)
3.  Avoid backstory and start in the heart of what’s happening in Sarah’s life.

Drum Roll Please…here’s the revision.  FYI, I am still open to feedback.  You writers ROCK!

Under Western Skies
Inspirational/Sweet Romance

With each bend in the canyon road I expected it to appear, and with each bend I was disappointed.  I’d been waiting for this moment since fifth grade when I’d given a report on California as part of a history unit.  Two other kids had chosen California, but the teacher wanted each student to report on a different state.  She jotted our names on a piece of paper and dropped them into a coffee cup.  Mine was the one pulled out first…I may have done a happy dance in my mind.

“It’ll be a minute,” Brian said, noticing my tapping foot.

Brian, my oldest cousin, lived in San Luis Obispo.  He’d been bugging me to visit him for the last three years, knowing how much I wanted to see the ocean.  It wasn’t until now the opportunity to visit presented itself, which was good because he would be graduating from Cal Poly in June.

After picking me up from the airport he suggested we go to Pismo for dinner.  I was hungry from a long day of travel, and when he told me the restaurant was on the beach he had me sold.

I felt a tinge of excitement at the prospect of seeing the ocean for the first time, despite how things had been going over the past year.  It felt good to look forward to something.  Turn after turn I waited for it appear.  It wasn’t until we reached the top of the canyon that it popped into view like a gigantic blue jack-in-the box. ­­

Pardon the Interruption

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What does an interruption cost?  According to an article written by Steve Pavlina, even a small interruption can:

      1. Delay work by 20-30 minutes
      2. Increase stress
      3. Create greater room for error
      4. Can even kill a task completely

My family is constantly interrupting me when I write, no wonder I can only finish one paragraph in 45 minutes.  I want to become  a more effective writer.  My time is precious and I want to make it count, so how do I do that?

“Highly productive people know the importance of working in uninterrupted blocks of time with good focus and concentration.  Consequently, they take steps to guard against interruption…” -Steve Pavlina

I want to become an author one day, I want my romantic story to sit on a shelf at the local bookstore, and to have people lose themselves in its pages for a a few hours of their lives.  But, unless I continue to write, that dream will never reach fruition.  I can no longer afford to wait for “writing time” to present itself, I must become proactive, this is my Third Act.

1.  When will I write?
1:00-2:30 Monday-Thursday

2.  Where will I write?
My living room recliner, I like to write with my feet up.

3.  How will I cancel out noise?
I have a playlist of Piano Guys songs, yummy.  I will plug in my earphones and hit play.

4.  What steps will I take to guard against interruption?
The time slot I have chosen is when I have only one kid at home, and it’s her nap time.  Happy dance!

Tell me your plan.
How will you guard against interruption and get your book written?

Crutch Words Become Active Verbs

Watching is just a really boring verb.  If you cut it, you can almost always use a cooler verb that paints a clearer picture.”- Naomi Hughes

Crutch words, we all have them, the problem is they are different for each writer, so how do we identify them?  What is a crutch word?  It’s our writing tic, the words we overuse.  In this post I will teach one way to identify crutch verbs and how to replace them with words readers will find more interesting.

Step 1:  Identifying Crutch Verbs
My go-to word is “back.”  My characters walk back, go back, look back, it’s plumb crazy, and honestly, boring.  How did I identify my crutch word?  I built a wordle at Tagxedo.  Just click “create” then add the text of your entire novel, or go chapter by chapter, it’s up to you.  Here’s a list of crutch words writers tend to repeat from Writers Helping Writers (scroll down until you find the PDF titled “Crutch Words).

This is embarrassing, but here is my wordle for my 7th draft of my work in progress.  What crutch words do you see?

Draft 7

My stomach just did a flip flop, I’ve got a lot to work on, but it appears I have fixed my “back” problem.  Now I will address the following crutch words:  looked, walked, and turned.

Step 2:  Replace Crutch Verbs with Active Verbs
1.  Use the “find” feature on your word processor and look up one of your crutch words.
2.  Refer to the Writers Helping Writers List to find another, more exciting verb and use it to replace your crutch word, see my examples below.

Example 1:  Looked
Crutch
“I stayed with him, watching the sun disappear from the sky and when I looked back to where he had been, he was gone and I was alone.”
Active
I stayed with him as the sun disappeared from the sky.  After the last sliver of light sunk below the horizon, I glanced in his direction, but he was gone, and I was once again alone.”

Example 2:  Walked
Crutch
“Behind her walked the surfer and I felt my heart fall straight into my gut, right on top of the cheerios I had just eaten.”
Active
“Behind her the surfer sauntered.  My heart fell into my gut, right on top of the cheerios I had eaten for breakfast.”

Example 3:  Turned
Crutch
“We had reached my door when I turned to look at him, curious if he really meant what he was saying.”
Active
“We had reached my door when I peeked at him, curious to see if he really meant what he was saying.”

May we all tighten our writing and make it more succinct, keeping our readers reading instead of getting hung up on overused words.

Do I “Tell” Too Much?

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“Show vs. Tell,” that’s a phrase we hear a lot on the writing circuit, but as a new writer it can be hard to identify those places where we need to show more.  Here are two easy steps to help you “show” your story, giving your readers a chance to step inside your pages.

Step 1:  Do a search for emotion-themed words
I recently finished an excellent book called Deep Point of View by Marcy Kennedy where she recommends doing a search for “emotion-themed” words in your manuscript.  At the end of this post you will find a list of words you can search for in your work in progress.

Step 2:  “Show” the emotion instead of “Telling” the reader about the emotion
Now that you have identified your “emotion” words, what do you do with them?  How do you turn them into something a reader can see, hear, touch, taste, or smell?  I like to use the Emotional Thesaurus.  Here’s an example of how to turn a “show” into a “tell.”

  • Telling Sentence:
    1. “Jeremy’s forearms flexed as he removed the saddle from off my horse.  I was so in love with him.”
    2. I “told” you Sarah was  in love with him.  Let’s see how I can “show” you she is in love with him.
  • Identify the Emotion:  love
  • Identify What Love Looks Like (This is where the Emotional Thesaurus comes in handy.  It has many examples, I just chose three for the sake of convenience.)
    1. Physical Signals
      1. hard to breathe
    2. Internal Sensations
      1. fluttering feeling in the stomach
    3. Mental Responses
      1. unaware of surroundings
  • Now I can write a sentence to “show” how Sarah feels about Jeremy:
    1. “Jeremy’s forearms flexed as he removed the saddle from off my horse.  The muscle definition on his tan arms caused my stomach to flutter, and I had a hard time drawing a breath.   Stepping out of his way, I tripped over a grain bucket.”

Wasn’t that fun!  Maybe he’ll reach for her hand, or even better, she’ll fall and he’ll catch her with those sexy cowboy arms.

Another great resource I would recommend is a video clip by Ellen Brock on “Showing vs. Telling.”  Ellen is a freelance editor with a great series of short messages on YouTube for writers.  I recommend giving them all a view, she is A-mazing!  Another book by Marcy Kennedy I recommend is, Showing and Telling in Fiction.

Don’t forget to check out the list of “emotion themed” words below.

Happy writing!

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List of Words That “Tell” Emotion

adoration, afraid, agitated or agitation, alarmed, amazed or amazement, amused, angry or anger, anguish, annoyed or annoyance, anticipation, anxious or anxiety, ashamed

bitter, bored

calm, cautious, cheerful, comfortable, compassion, concerned, confident or confidence, conflicted, confused or confusion, contempt, curious or curiosity

defeated or defeat, defensive or defensiveness, denial, depressed or depression, desire, desperate or desperation, determined or determination, disappointed or disappointment, disbelief, disgust or disgusted, disillusioned, dismayed, disoriented, distrust, doubt or doubtful, dread

eager or eagerness, elated or elation, embarrassed or embarrassment, enthusiastic, envy or envious, excited or excitement, exhausted

fear, frustrated or frustration

grateful, gratitude, grief, grumpy, guilt or guilty

happy or happiness, hateful or hatred, helpless, hesitant, hopeful or hopeless or hopefulness, horrified, hostile, humiliated or humiliation, hurt

impatient or impatience, indifferent or indifference, insecure or insecurity, insulted, interested, irritated or irritation

jealous or jealousy, joyful

lonely or loneliness, love

mad

nervous or nervousness, nostalgic or nostalgia, numb

optimistic, outraged, overwhelmed

panic, paranoid or paranoia, peaceful or peacefulness, pity, proud or pride

rage, regret or regretful, rejected, relaxed, relief or relieved, reluctant or reluctance, remorse or remorseful, resentful or resentment, resigned or resignation, restless, revulsion

sad or sadness, satisfied or satisfaction, scorn or scornful, self-conscious, shame, shock or shocked, skeptical or skepticism, smug or smugness, somber or somberness, sorrowful, spiteful, stressed, stunned, surprise or surprised, suspicion or suspicious, sympathy or sympathetic

terror, tired

uncertainty, uncomfortable, unease

vengeful

wary or wariness, weary, worry or worried