Wednesday, 6 July 2011


Introducing the Pitch Pitch feature, in which you get the chance to pitch your book to readers of this blog for their comments. If you would like the chance to do this, instructions are on the Over To You page above. 

I have three different pitches for you today. These writers are being brave but they also do want comments to help them hone their pitches. So, please be constructive, objective, fair and decent, please. If you don't normally read or like books of the sort described, either don't comment or else make it clear that you're speaking from a position of unfamiliarity.

Each writer only had to provide the pitch part of the covering letter - genre and word count were not requested because they would already have been given at the start of the letter. Each of these three writers has obeyed instructions! Oh, and it's NOT a competition.

Gap Years are Wasted on the Young is Eat Pray Love on HRT.  I set off round the world in my fifties with nothing more than a rucksack and general ignorance.  Brave or foolish?  I hadn’t realised this is something most middle aged women believe is impossible.

Dramas happen when I’m lost: marooned on a beach in Australia with the tide rising and nothing but cliffs behind me; negotiating with a gunman who wants to marry me in Lucknow; recoiling from snakes and leeches in the jungles of Malaysia.  One guide steers me safely through Nepal; another abandons me outside a massage parlour in Kerala.  And no, I wasn’t always brave.  But now I know almost anything is possible.
A NOVEL (YA, paranormal)
BLACK HEART HIGH by Dan Holloway
3 years ago street artist Spark and class dreamer Kayla made a promise to keep each other safe. Whatever. Years of bullying and abuse later, Spark’s body is falling apart from self-harm and addiction when a brutal attack by classmates leaves Kayla unconscious and Spark half dead. Now Kayla is about to find out what “whatever” means.

In a desperate bid to keep him alive, she steals a teacher’s car, straps Spark into the passenger seat, cuts a deal with his dealer, and runs. When they end up at the Forgotten and Alone Club in London’s underworld, it feels like they’ve found a home at last. But it soon becomes clear it’s too late for Spark, that their past is closing in, and that there is something very wrong about their new friends. And the way they look at Kayla.

A CHILDREN'S NOVEL (for 9-11s)
Twelve-year-old Oliver Normal’s life just got interesting. His twin sister Sarah has been sucked into Funnyold World, and he’s the only one who can get her back. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Funnyold World is under threat of dullification from the staggeringly tedious grey man who is chasing Oliver with grim determination. Why would he want to do that? Well, Oliver has picked up the Bright Book which is the only thing protecting Funnyold World from a deathly dull demise.

Funnyold World is the kind of place where armchairs decide, for no apparent reason, to change into ironing boards; where bags of feathers dump themselves on your head; where talkative girls called Flossie stop time for five seconds so you can cross the road. While Oliver is coming to terms with all of that, Sarah is in the eccentric company of Mr. Lancelot Z. Twootleberry and his trusty-but-grumpy donkey Woof. Armed only with a clobbaphone and instructions from Lancelot’s increasingly tetchy house, they set off into Funnyold World to find Oliver, joining him in the magical Humhall for a noisy showdown with the grey man and his slimy sidekick Sylvester Drib.
Thanks to all the writers who have pitched - treat them respectfully, please!


Michael Offutt said...

On the first selection, I didn't know what HRT was and that is the only thing that I would maybe correct.

On the second one, is it important to know that Spark is an artist and that Kayla is a class dreamer? I think I might cut those descriptions and just go with Spark and Kayla. I also think I would focus on the brutal attack and omit the details on addiction and self-harm as at the end of the sentence, they are still half-dead and that seems to be sufficient to explain what's going on.

In the third pitch, I think it goes on too long for me to wrap my head around all of the chaotic elements. After about a few lines, I know that it's an "Alice in Wonderland" type place where anything can happen. I think that the plot points get lost in all that narrative and that it could be made simpler.

Anonymous said...

While I think they are all good I'm going to focus on the first one. I think the premise is superb and the first sentence is really strong - the kind of thing that gets publishers and book clubs talking - but that the rest of the pitch needs tightening.

I think we need to know HOW difficult it was for Jo to set off around the world in her fifties - had she ever traveled alone before? What kind of job did she have before making this decision and did that help/hinder her?

Something like: "Stockbroker/Divorced mother of three/Lawyer Jo decided to leave it all behind ..."
We need a picture of who Jo is, so that we can identify. Otherwise, it feels like a travelogue and I sense it could be so much more than that.

Then we need to know WHY - was it a journey of self-discovery, was she running away (if so, what from), was she running towards something (a new version of herself). This is one of the reasons E,P,L was so successful: because women could relate to the personal journey described in the book. What is Jo's journey?

I like the paragraph about the adventures but I think Jo could cut out some of the unnecessary words. I would cut "Dramas happen when I'm lost" and head straight to the WHAT: "Marooned on an Australian beach with the tide rising and nothing but cliffs behind me, negotiating with a gunman ...., meeting snakes and leeches in ..."

Cutting out the extra words could tighten the last two sentences: "Facing fears I didn't know existed taught me that anything is possible."

Good luck, Jo! I think you're onto a good one there.

Nicola Morgan said...

Michael - huge thanks for being the first to comment. I guess that HRT is understood instantly by the intended reader (women) so I think that's OK. I do agree with your comments on the other two. My comments follow.

The gap year book - my issue would be with the title. I think that sounds more like a strapline (subtitle) and that as a title I don't think it has "pull" or a lyrical element, which I think it needs. I'd also like to know a bit more clearly whether this is pure travelogue or whether it is also an almost self-help revelation of some kind of meaning. I *think* it's both those things, but I'd like it nailed down.

Black Heart High - "3 years ago street artist Spark and class dreamer Kayla made a promise to keep each other safe. Whatever. Years of bullying and abuse later, Spark’s body is falling apart from self-harm and addiction..." - I struggled to know what a "class dreamer" was until later in the paragraph when I realised that it was class in the sense of school class. I also read "whatever" in the wrong sense the first time. Also, you don't need to say "Years of bullying and abuse later" - just say "Now," because you go on to say "addiction and self-harm" anyway. I agree with Michael's comments.

Lev's story - again, I think there's too much illustration of the chaos. Because we're not yet into the book and the voice, it feels random. It might be more effective to say that it's a chaotic world and just pick one or two of the more interesting examples. Thing is, because the choas seems so random, we're left wondering whether we're going to be able to relate to the MC. I'm also wondering if (and I may have missed the point) we'd be able to relate to Oliver more easily if he actually had a more normal name than "Normal"! Try to avoid clichés such as "deathy dull". And would you consider choosing a more interesting and modern name than Funnyoldworld? The book sounds as though it could be great fun, a riotous romp - I just think that the pitch itself raises too many doubts for the agent or publisher. As it stands, I think I'd probably read the first page just to see, but I'd be expecting doubts to be confirmed. This is why the pitch can be so important even when the sample is attached - it sows confidence or doubt. Get your pitch right and you could sow great confidence.

More comments, please! Thank you to all my brave and clever pitchers!

Nicola Morgan said...

Charlotte - I think you are spot-on in all you say, but I don't like your suggested sentence "Facing fears I didn't know existed taught me that anything is possible." I agree that we need something that conveys that, but i think "anything is possible" is a cliché and "fears I didn't know existed" is ambiguous because i'm not sure whether it's "fears I didn't know I had" or "frightening things I didn't know existed". But I think you've given great advice about this pitch - in fact you have put your finger on what I was trying to work out and hadn't succeeded in!

JO said...

Thanks to everyone who has commented so far - and please, I'm robust - these comments are so helpful. Don't flinch from saying what you really think.

Dan Holloway said...

Wow, what lovely company - thank you, Nicola! I've read much of Jo's book and it is just wonderful, and I love Lev's writing.

Thnak you in advance to everyone who comments - please don't feel you ave to treat me with respect - I am positovely pachydermic.

Anonymous said...

I, on the other hand, get a serious case of lower-lip-wobbles if someone makes so much as a passing comment about the colour of my socks. ;-)
Seriously, thanks to Nicola for having the idea in the first place and for her perceptive comments. Also to Michael and any future commenters. It's all incredibly useful.

catdownunder said...

Hi Jo...I agree with Charlotte and Nicola - and I think it has made me think I would like to read the book.
Dan - I am not sure enough of your genre to speak but yes, I think you could cut back on some of the description. I think it would help it sound even darker.
Lev - could I ask if this pitch is intended to hook children? If it is then I think you have told your potential readers too much - that you do not need all of those examples. I read it to my father (who knows he uses too many words) and he said, "It's too long."
Oh I hope I have been kind to all of you - you are very brave! Thankyou for letting the rest of us see your pitches.

Dan Holloway said...

I think Eat Pray Love on HRT is an inspirational strapline - I'm a 39 year-old bloke and know instantly what HRT is - I think it's absolutely common parlance - though nowadays one or two people may think first of F1's Hispania Racing Team!

On "class dreamer" I take Michael's point that leaving out the descriptions makes it snappier (I was thinking a two word epithet gave people more of a connection, but evidently not necessarily so) - Nicola, line one of the letter would have stated this is a YA novel so would that remove the ambiguity (made it clear we're not talking Orwell!). Absolutely, the "years of..." is ersatz. I hadn't seen it but that's spot on. Michael has also highlighted a lack of clarity. It's the self-harm and addiction (brought on by the abuse) that she's rescuing him from, not the attack as such - that's the catalyst. I agree the pitch doesn't make that clear.

I wonder if I may "cheat" here - the book is YA dark urban fantasy/paranormal romance, which would be "elsewhere" in the pitch letter. Does the second paragraph make the paranormal element clear enough? And, given it would be mentioned in the body of the letter, does it *need* to? Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Cat. As I understand it, the pitch is meant to be from a covering letter to agents/publishers - not a back-cover blurb, which is a beast of a different hue (usually a sort of pale pink, I believe). I trust your father - as I recall, he said nice things about one of my blog posts a few weeks ago. Obviously a man of impeccable discernment and taste. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Dan - I only get the paranormal element from 'something very wrong about their friends', but if that's mentioned in the opening para I don't think it needs elaborating.
I agree re 'Eat Pray Love on HRT' - high concept indeed. I look forward to reading both books.

Nicola Morgan said...

Dan - I blame myself for not asking you to tell me what genre/age it was, and then I'd have put it above your pitch. With Lev, because i knew it was for kids, I asked him the age. I'll know for next time (and will go and add the info in a minute.) But actually even with the YA tag, "class dreamer" still isn't clear enough. First, it could still be class as in "class act" or "she was a class player". Second, the idea of a class dreamer isn't strong enough - not like class clown or class swot. Also, is her being a dreamer really a strong enough hook? But you're right that since you would have said it was paranormal, that bit about something not being right would be clearer - but if it really is billed as paranormal i still think the pitch needs to give a clearer sense of the paranormal aspect, which, after all, can cover many things.

Cat - it's the pitch for the agent/publisher, not for the potential reader.

M Louise Kelly said...

Gap Years...
Sounds like it would be a good read. Like others i'd want to know what it was i was going to get: travelogue/self-discovery and who she was.

I also have a technical question - from someone who doesn't really read much travel fiction. As this is autobiog non-fic it seems logical that this is written 1st person present, but is that the norm for this kind of work? I've only ever written fiction pitches and this really stands out as different.

Black Heart High...
This pitch prompts me to ask: Do we need to have the title explained in a pitch? I did get it later (i'd read 'class dreamer' as something akin to class warrior so didn't get the school reference till someway down the line) but it made me wonder if it's something you need to do in a pitch if you do have an obscure title.

Oliver Normal...
I've tried to write for this age group so i was really interested in this pitch. Thanks so much for sending it in.
You started by defining the story Goal really clearly: Oliver has to get Sarah back from funnyoldworld. And you set the motivation for the story in a way that made sense and had a purpose - though i wasn't sure exactly why Sarah needed to find Oliver here "Armed only with a clobbaphone and instructions from Lancelot’s increasingly tetchy house, they set off into Funnyold World to find Oliver"
What i'm really interested in, however, are the comments on how much detail to put in. Is the idea that we need 2 or 3 examples but much more than that looks over complicated? Or is it sticking to the main plot line and leaving out subplots that is the trick? I always struggle with this myself so thanks for prompting a discussion of this with your pitch.

The tone of the pitch also brought out some interesting issues. Is this echoing the voice of the book itself? I suppose you'd be trying to get across the eccentricity of such a world and Oliver's response to it, but at the moment (maybe because of the abundance of detail) it seems like he'd be irritated by it all rather than amused. Phrases like 'for no apparent reason' make it seem more random than you'd want it to be. It's making me expect something like The Enchanted Faraway Tree and i'm not sure that's what you intend. Anyway, thanks again for sending this in - it's really helped me.

catdownunder said...

My apologies - I misunderstood.

Dan Holloway said...

Nicola, sorry for not putting that in - I was trying to be good and follow the rules :)

The first sentence will definitely get a tweek then. And I will also make sure the paranormal element is clearer. I guess it's important for agents to know what you're doing that's different in a crowded market. In this case the paranormal element comes from ghosts rather than vampires/werewolves/zombies/fae.

M, interesting you found the title ambiguous - I'll definitely see if anyone else does. In the genre I'd assumed it was clear that it referred to a school - maybe that's a little American though

Thank you all - fantastic to get me thinking

Lesley said...

Black Heart High sounds really interesting, I read a lot of paranormal books (okay, vampire books), although I'm probably getting a bit old to be a typical YA reader. I got what you meant straightaway by "class dreamer", although I can understand why other people might not have realised what you meant. Maybe calling her "the class dreamer" would help make your meaning a little clearer?

I was, however, a bit confused by your use of "whatever". I thought you were using it in a typical teenage not-caring kind of way, possibly because it was separated from the sentence. Once I'd read the rest, it became clear, but maybe you could link the two parts together, or say something like "whatever it took" or "whatever was necessary" just to make that a bit clearer.

I read it knowing that it was a paranormal story, so I can't honestly judge whether that was clear enough in the pitch. I thought it was clear, but that might only because I was looking for the element that made the story paranormal. I hope that helps.

Michael Malone said...

Fascinating exercise, Nicola. Thanks to you and your intrepid writers for putting it "out there". I'm too green at all that stuff to pass comment, but it did strike me that Dan needed a wee bitty more on the paranormal thing. Which has already been said. #leavestheroombackwards

JO said...

I can't begin to tell you how exciting, and humbling, it feels to be on the receiving end of all your efforts with my pitch. Thank you all.

re: BLACK HEART - I’ve read some of Dan’s stuff – and so would expect this book to be wonderful. I agree with Nicola about the need to scrap the ‘years’ in the second sentence – it makes it sound much more than three.

However, I did get the ‘whatever’ – it’s a word your target readers use all the time, and I like the way you use it to turn that paragraph and draw us into the darker corners of the story.

If you need to tighten the second para, do you need the name of the club in London – if you call it a ‘basement’ club, is that enough to give us the picture. (But then I don’t write paranormal stuff, so what do I know)

OLIVER NORMAL - I know even less about writing for children, so my comments here may be even more off-centre.

I love the use of humour – the quirky words and names. It sounds like a great story for children who are really getting into their reading stride. But I think this pitch could be tighter – ‘staggeringly tedious grey man’ feels several adjectives too far. And does this pitch introduce too many people in a couple of paragraphs – though I’ve no idea how else you get across that this is funny.

to GAP YEARS. - and a special thanks to Charlotte, who was so thorough with her comments. I can add something along the lines of ‘Thirty Years in Child Protection is long enough. Widowed, and with daughters launched, I set off round the world etc etc. just to see if I could.

And I need to add, somewhere, that it’s part travelogue, part memoir, and mostly a reminder to women to that there is no need to bury their dreams under the weight of work and family.

I’ll give serious thought to the title. If anyone has any ideas – please let me have them.

Anne A said...

Cool, thanks to all of you for being brave! I'm already learning stuff. Here are my ideas -- I hope they're not too repetitive.

Gap years - definitely made me want to read it! I have to admit an embarrassing blank on HRT until Nicola's first comment. Now that I understand it, I like it, but I do worry if the reader is an agent's assistant, maybe 20-something (either sex), it may not click. Rest of the first paragraph: brilliant! I liked the list of adventures. It wouldn't suffer to be one shorter, but I'd say fine as it is. The "Drama's happen" bit felt flat, almost passive, and I didn't notice the "lost" first time around. Is that perhaps a hook? I also very much like the sentence "And no, I wasn't always brave.", so I wouldn't want to combine it with the following. Although I agree that the very last sentence doesn't quite give the punch it could. I keep spinning all sorts of suggestions in my mind, and they keep falling flat -- I wonder if something more specific and personal than "anything is possible" would work?

Black Heart High - I also had the "Whatever" misunderstanding. Perhaps as simple as connecting with a comma to the previous sentence would help. I'm also having trouble reconciling their ages -- if someone was a street artist three years ago, I'm imagining them past high school by now (I could be completely out of touch, though). I got "class dreamer", but I was one... :) At the end, I feel I need a little bit more. I'm guessing the "wrong" has to do with paranormal, but I can't connect it with the way they're looking at Kayla (and thus not Spark). Is there anything about Kayla that can give this more substance? Basically, I'm intrigued, but I think it might need a little more fleshing out to provide more umph.

Oliver Normal - I love the title! (And I like the name "Normal" :) ) It feels like a right old romp, and I'm happily reading along until I got to "While Oliver is coming to terms with all of that", which felt a bit more boring. Then all the new words coming right after were hard for me to follow. Also, it seems that Sarah is the protagonist of the second bit? I wonder if only concentrating on Oliver for the pitch (even if you do have a Sarah POV) would be good.

Anna Bowles said...

OLIVER NORMAL: We see a LOT of books called 'Name Name and the Thingy Thingy' and they instantly make me suspect the author is trying too hard (though this is a better title than most). But as I think some of the other comments have said, the problem with the pitch is the chaos and the level of elaboration. 'Funnyold World' and 'dullification' suggest the author is trying a bit too hard to be funny, and I rather switched off that that point. It looks like the author should stop trying to write a Mr Gum book and trust in his own creativity a bit more - if he did so maybe he could produce something genuinely charming.

BLACK HEART HIGH: Issue novels are a tricky sell and the emphasis on self-harm etc in the first paragraph makes me think this is going to be one. I would lose some of the specific grim detail in the first paragraph and make more of the action in the second paragraph - the set-up there seems much more promising and made me want to read more.

(Sorry if these verdicts makes me sound even more crabbit than the Great High Bat herself, but I'm trying to be useful to the writing public in the last few minutes of a lunchbreak!)

Anna, children's editor

Cat Dean said...

Much respect to you pitching people! I’ve tried and it was extremely hard ;-)

Here’s some feedback:

Jo – I loved the concept of E,L,P on HRT – fantastic. Would love to get more of a sense of you, Jo, not just your adventures. Agree with the comment that 'you can do anything' sounds a bit too generic. Maybe you end with a tiny extra teaser about one of the situations you already mentioned? (Personally, I was most interested in the proposal & how you managed to turn it down! Mind you, the Kerala massage parlour sounded interesting too!)

Dan – when I read your final, I wished you had said more about this earlier, as that was when my interest was really piqued. The ‘whatever’ confused me a bit too – it made me think they had been in a relationship but it had finished / cooled off (I was reading the ‘whatever’ in a sort of teen / sarky / bored kind of way). So I was then a bit surprised to find that Kayla is in full throttle saving the guy. 'Cut a deal with his dealer' jarred slightly - I know people say that but it had one too many 'deals' for me. I see you posted another question about whether or not it is enough to show that it is paranormal – I think it does.

Lev – I think I’m echoing what other people have said here, l liked the overall idea but was just a bit overwhelmed by the detail, and I guess suddenly introducing Sylvester Drib (great name!) right at the very end contributed to that. I’d suggest cutting down on a bit on the detail, and giving us just a 3-4 of your best ones to focus on.

Dan Holloway said...

This is so incredibly helpful - the double meaning of "whatever" had completely passed me by - one of those mental blocks as I hear it used like that almost every day - I had, of course, meant it in the "whatever it takes" sense (I also found myself with the inevitable images of Prince Charles' engagement faux pas).

Anna, you're right - it's not an "issue" novel despite involving issues.

Anne/Michael - the reason they're looking strangely at Kayla is that she is but doesn't realise yet that she is a ghost - whereads Spark isn't.

Cat - yes, the deals *are* one too many.

Jo - thank you! I just love Gap Years - I can't see beyond that marvellous strapline which is all I can imagine you need, though I know that an agent will want more info.

Lesley - thank you!

JO said...

Thank you all - so many comments, so much to think about.

And a special thank you to Nicola - for giving the three of us this opportunity.

womagwriter said...

These are all good - well done those brave writers!

The one thing I felt was missing from all three is the bit about what the novel is really about. Not the surface plot, but the underlying theme.

Jo in a comment wrote that her book is "a reminder to women to that there is no need to bury their dreams under the weight of work and family". That's brilliant - that's what her book is about, and I think this line definitely ought to be in the pitch. I love the line about Eat Pray Love on HRT as well.

womagwriter said...

Oh, and just wanted to add Dan's title made sense to me straight away. I wouldn't think you'd need to waste words explaining it in your pitch.

Anonymous said...

First, what a great chance for writers to test their pitch!

In many ways I like the sound of the children´s book, but Funnyold World? No, that name sounds heavy and clumsy. If I were an editor, I would be interested to see the manuscript, but I would most definitely encourage the writer to change that name.

Dorte H.

Anonymous said...

Coming back to so many more comments - thanks all for taking the trouble to read and think about my work.
Louise - I'm glad it was helpful to you. I've tried to pare it down as much as I can, but most of the comments seem to be on the lines of 'there's too much to take in', which leads me to wonder how best to tackle an alternative world in a pitch. It seems from these comments that less is indeed more in this case. As for the voice - I have tried to make it similar to the voice in the book (and Oliver is indeed irritated, or at least bemused, by all the random stuff that happens to him while he's trying to find his sister.)
Jo - thank you for yours. I'm sorry I haven't commented on your pitch - that'll have to wait till tomorrow when my head is on the right way.
Anne - thanks too. I suppose I introduce all the names because they're all involved in the main plot, but I can see that it's a whole load of information to take in in two paragraphs. The words that are cropping up in people's comments are 'chaos' and 'romp', which is good in a way, because that's kind of what I intended, but a bit difficult for the reader coming to it for the first time...
Anna - thanks for curtailing your lunch break and for your perceptive comments. Sorry it didn't grab you. 'Trying too hard to be funny' - story of my life...
Dorte - you're not the first to have problems with the name. Others think it's perfect, though. Life is so confusing...
Nicola - thanks again for choosing my pitch. Your comments about relating to Oliver strike an all-too-familiar chord...
I have cluttered the comments with enough ellipsis for one day. Thanks all.

Tamlyn said...

A little late but here goes. I’m only really comfortable enough with Dan’s genre to comment on his (sorry other folk!). Though on a side note, I had no idea what HRT was and had to divert to Google – I guess I’m just not old enough.

It’s already been mentioned, but I also got thrown by the whatever – Lesley sums up my reaction the best.

The paranormal element: you mentioned the reason they’re looking strangely at Kayla is because she’s a ghost – I didn’t get that at all. I thought they were looking at her because she’s a, well, her. The only part that said paranormal to me is the ‘something very wrong with their new friends’ and I think the only reason I didn’t presume they were just perverts was because I knew it was meant to be paranormal.

Class dreamer made sense to me. I tripped on the connection between the abuse/self-harm and the attack. I had to reread to realise one didn’t prompt the other. Then, as Spark was left half-dead, I presumed the desperate bid to keep him alive was related to that and the stealing a teacher’s car came pretty much straight after the attack – but wait, wasn’t Kayla unconscious? And shouldn’t she be running to a hospital or something... not a London nightclub? I realised there must be more time between happenings but that was my first impression and first impressions are important, right?

The title, I understood it straight away, but it threw me because your pitch makes it sound like only the very start of the novel is set in the school and the rest is set escaping/in the club in London.

Sorry, long comment. I hope something in it's helpful :)

Inkpen said...

Thanks everyone who pitched so bravely - fascinating to read.
My comments are on two and three as YA is my interest (but I did get HRT!).
With BHH, the second paragraph intrigued me but there was much in this pitch that puzzled me. I didn't get 'class dreamer' (I too thought of 'class act'), and I had to read 'whatever' twice to be sure of where it was going (tho' I'm told that indifference is now 'meh'!). I also didn't see the paranormal element but from later posts I really like the idea of Kayla as a ghost.
With ON - the title concerned me because I couldn't see my children at 9-11 understanding 'the forces of tedium' and so they would be less likely to pick it off the shelf. A title is easy to change but I would think it needs to be squarely aimed at its audience to prove that the book itself is written for its age group and not an older audience. I was also hesitant about 'Funnyold World' which seemed a little bit dated and again made me wonder about whether the story would hit the mark for today's 9-11s. However, I liked the first two sentences a lot. I agree with other comments on the slight confusion of the mass of information that follows but there were great individual details - the one I really want to hear more of is the talkative girl who stops time for five seconds - loved that!
I think the hardest thing with a pitch (and I include myself here) is to take something you know SO well and put yourself in the position of a reader who knows nothing at all of your work. So even if my comments only reveal my own misunderstandings, I hope they are useful in suggesting where ambiguities may lie!

Catriona said...

Well done to the three brave pitchers! I may be reiterating points already made but here are my thoughts.
Gap Years – I also like the first sentence about it being Eat, Pray Love on HRT. I wasn’t sure about the sentence: ‘I hadn’t realised this is something most middle aged women believe is impossible.’ I had to read it a couple of times so I wondered if it could be re-worked slightly? In particular the word ‘this’ seemed a bit abstract. Could you be more specific about what ‘this’ is?
Black Heart High – Like a few others, I took ‘whatever’ the wrong way. I also got a bit confused by the time scale. It starts off saying three years ago, then it says years later, which made me think they’d left school. However then classmates are mentioned which made me think they were still at school. I’m also not sure you need the final sentence – ‘And the way they look at Kayla.’ I think the line before that is quite a powerful one to end on and the extra bit diminishes that.
Oliver Normal – Like a few others I wasn’t sure about the name ‘Funnyold World.’ I immediately thought of The Faraway Tree stories by Enid Blyton and the strange lands at the top of the tree. I also thought that there’s possibly too much information. As you are using your own lexicon, it makes what you are saying slightly detached. Obviously as you read the book these words will make sense, but I thought there was too much going on in the context of a pitch.
I hope that helps! As I said at the start, well done for being so brave.

JoMacdonald said...

Well done to all three 'pitchers', I really admire how brave you are.
I'm only going to comment on the second one because that is the genre I am also trying to write in.
(although I would add that I got HRT straightaway and agree with the others that that sentence makes a great strapline)
On Dan's pitch - I really like the names Spark and Kayla and like the dark element of this story. Unfortunately I read "Whatever" wrong and took it as a sarcastic teenager saying "What-eever!" and I wasn't sure if it was suggesting that Kayla was the abusive bully.
I would also agree with some of the other comments that there's perhaps too much description and 'back-story' as opposed to what's going to happen in the novel. By the end of the pitch I got the impression that Spark actually isn't a big part of the story ("it becomes clear that it's too late" for him) which I felt a little disappointed at as the name, the fact he is a street artist and has this self-destructive side all make him a pretty intriguing character to me.
Having said that I would probably still pick this up and try reading a few pages.
Hope this is of some use, and well done again all three!

Dan Holloway said...

Jo, I am definitely losing the whatever and making the second paragraph leaner. And I'd be more than happy to send you (or anyone else - just let me know) a copy as a thank you!

Sarah Duncan said...

I'm the target reader of the Gap Year book! But I wouldn't read that one because I didn't really understand what sort of book I, the reader, was getting. It came across to me as her travel diary, full of adventures that were undoubtedly exciting for her at the time, but didn't connect with me sitting at home.

I found the writing style of the pitch to be neutral, even pedestrian (sorry about the pun). Will the book be funny, emotional, informative...? No idea. EPL is, IMO, a hugely self-indulgent book, but it is exceptionally well written with style and humour.

Jo's writing in the comments were actually far more engaging than this pitch, and showed me what the book would be like.

‘Thirty Years in Child Protection is long enough. Widowed, and with daughters launched, I set off round the world just to see if I could. Part travelogue, part memoir, and mostly a reminder to women to that there is no need to bury their dreams under the weight of work and family.'

I'd buy that one.

(I'm not commenting on the others because they're out of my genre, but I was confused by the Whatever too.)