Tuesday’s Tip

Time for the tip of the week for writers: The two minute pitch.

Whether it’s in a scheduled session at a conference or on the heels of a chance encounter with an editor or agent in a generous mood, sooner or later every writer has to “pitch” her work–and usually she has only a minute or two to create enough excitement about the project to garner a request for a partial or full manuscript. Here’s an outline of a quick pitch every writer should have on hand for a project looking for a home.

1) Main characters. Describe only the main characters. By describe, I don’t mean physical attributes. The editor doesn’t care if the heroine is blonde or brunett. Get to the heart of what makes this character special, and what makes her identifiable to the reader. For example: a single mom, struggling with a child’s medical bills, who has just been let go from her job during a corporate downsizing. Or an undercover FBI Agent who is beginning to feel more like one of the bad guys than the good ones.

2) External Conflict. This is you one sentence plot summary. For example, that single mom character you described struggles through a series of dead-end, low-paying jobs in an effort to make enough money to provide the surgery her child needs. Or maybe she finds the perfect job but is confronted at every turn by backstabbing coworkers, corruption and bosses that are more concerned about the “favors” she’s willing to do them than the quality of her work.

3) Emotional Conflict. One sentence about the character’s core inner turmoil. Maybe your heroine is afraid to fall in love because she fears she’ll have to sacrifice her independence to maintain the relationship. Maybe your hero thinks he’s not cut out for family life because of a failed past marriage. 

4) Satisfying Conclusion. Whatever you do, do not leave the editor or agent hanging, and especially don’t use the “You’ll have to read the manuscript to find out how it ends” line! Wrap up both the external conflict (single mom gets promoted and a pay raise, the bad boss is kicked out) and the Emotional conflict (Miss Independence learns that having a guy doesn’t mean she has to give up being herself). Story tip: your external conflict (plot) should exacerbate the emotional conflict–push the characters to their limits!

Other things to remember while pitching:
– Breathe
– Smile
– Keep it concise, coherent and to the points listed above. In other words…don’t ramble on until the editor has to stop you. Being concise will leave time for the editor or agent to ask questions about points she needs more detail or clarification on rather than leaving her wondering because time ran out

Happy pitching!

2 Responses to “Tuesday’s Tip”

  1. 1 Jennifer Wiginton March 13, 2010 at 11:26 pm

    Thanks for letting me know your profession today — enjoyed meeting an author I’ve actually read! Thanks for your dedication and self-control to getting the books done. I don’t have enough for a novel; sure glad people like you do.

  2. 2 DumansArk April 1, 2010 at 1:16 am

    Well said!

    I think this is something I have the most trouble with – and I just don’t have a knack for verbal storytelling.

    My sister on the other hand? She can have you shouting, “And WHAT happens NEXT?!” Laugh or cry, she can make you feel it just using her voice as she spins a story.

    She’s a natural – and I wondered just how she did it.



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