Friday, 30 September 2011

Pitch your book in 25 words

Next weekend I'm doing a gig at Wordstock, a festival of words organised by 26, an organisation that aims to "inspire a greater love of words, in business and in life." They call them gigs in order to play on the Woodstock/Wordstock thing but I promise I will not have a guitar with me, and I will not sing, not even a little bit.

But you have the opportunity to send a part of yourself to Wordstock with me, in my briefcase. Here's how.

My gig is about pitching your/our/a book in a few words. It's about hooks and blurbs and straplines and all manner of pithy succinctity. I will spend a bit of time demonstrating the necessary ingredients of a great hook and then we will have a shot at creating them - either from our own books or from books we know and love, or even hate.

One thing we will do is analyse some actual or imagined hooks and brainstorm what's wrong and right with them. This is where you come in: would you like to sling your hook this way and let us analyse it?

You would? Fantastic! So, give us your max-25-word hook/pitch in the comments below. Then, blog readers can comment on them and we will discuss some at Wordstock. I will report back with what we thought.

To get you started, here are some tips for hooks - tips, not rules, but do be careful about how and why you would break the rules.
  • Focus on the main character only
  • Include (with knobs on) the conflict/goal/problem
  • Make us care by highlighting what the MC will lose if he fails - the stakes
Over to you. Fiction, non-fiction, whatever - pitch it to us and make us desperate to read it.

117 comments:

Julie-Ann said...

Annie meets Isabella at her grandad’s funeral. Together they begin to unravel the mystery of what happened to their relatives during the Spanish Civil War.

Sulci Collective said...

You can tell much about a society from its murderers and Simon Moralee's gift-curse is that he can reclaim their faces from the dead.

marc nash

eleanorpatrick said...

Obviously I need to attend Woodstock and learn a trick or two, but you've made me think, so here goes (isn't it hard to leave out the fabulous stuff?!):

"The cost of being true to herself is too high for Tash, 15, in her already grieving family – until a homophobic predator shows up."

catdownunder said...

Jonathon, age 11, has found a (long dead) body. Now his parents have been killed. He is on his own and on the run.

Julie-Ann said...

Okay. Another attempt.

As a troubled Annie unravels the details of her Grandad’s appalling experiences in Civil War Spain, she comes to understand where her own destiny lies.

Catriona said...

This was really hard, not sure if I like what I've come up with or not?

Music, memories and madness: a chance encounter with a homeless stranger changes Davie’s life irrevocably, but can he ever escape the ghosts of his past?

Leela Soma said...

Tina is torn between her Scottish parents and her Indian roots.
She embarks on a journey to India that will change her life forever.

Jim Murdoch said...

What would you do if the truth knocked on your door? That’s what happens to Jonathan Payne. Not Death, Truth, the literal personification of truth.

Neal... said...

Is it bad form to use your best friend’s dating advice when you start to fall in love with his wife?

Nicola Morgan said...

A tip for everyone: using the MC's name is a waste of space in a 25-word pitch. We don't care about the name. We care WHO the MC is, what makes him burn/fear/cry/struggle. So, omit the name and give your MC an epithet to make us understand who we are to care about.

You can pitch as many times as you want, by the way... (Within reason!)

Nicola Morgan said...

I'm going to be ruthless, as i'm in a hurry!

Cat - on the run from what? What are the stakes?

Eleanor - what does being true to herself ential? We need more if we are to care/engage.

Julie-Ann - second one is better but "where her destiny lies" is way to vague. Where? Luton airport?

Catriona and Jim - too vague. Leela, also - "change her life forever" could mean almost anything.

MArc- intriguing but I still want to care more, know a little more.

Neal - who is the book about?

All need to be much more focused and specific. Now, I'm dashing out - do try some more. And thank you VERY much for contributing. keep them coming!

Tamlyn said...

Current attempt. Pre-eminent is one word, okay? Using a non-name actually feels kind of squirmy and I think I'm missing the goal (and also sounds kind of YAey, which it's not. Anyway, before I have double the commentary than actual post...).

A bungled summoning drops a hobbyist witch into a parallel world where the supernatural abounds and her own family - pre-eminent witchhunters - want to kill her.

Nicola Morgan said...

Tamlyn - yes, pre-eminent is one word, but I wonder if "famous" or "expert" or "wellknown" might be better? Also, I think "bungled summoning" sounds a little clumsy/odd? Yes, it does sounds a bit YAey, and also perhaps unlcear as to whether light-hearted or thrillerish?

What about: A woman takes her hobby - witchcraft - too far, and becomes trapped in a supernatural world where her family are the witchhunters and want her dead.

Rik said...

"Kal's having a crisis: his friends have deserted him; his city has changed; and the man in whose head he lives knows he exists."

Helen said...

This was harder than I expected! Here goes...

A father is prepared to sacrifice his moral code to save his relationship with his teenage daughter and protect her from an unsuitable boyfriend.

Anonymous said...

How can you care for a MC who doesn't have a name. This is one bit of 'advice' that I find wrong.

stephen terry said...

On Hawaii, three murders, two in hospital, and Shayne (a beach-bum) is the fall guy - duped by a killer with no conscience except greed.

Nicola Morgan said...

Anonymous - the MC *has* a name but it's a waste of space to put it in the 25-word pitch. (Though you would usually put it in the paragraph pitch in a covering letter or query.) The point is: why would I care WHAT the name is? Why does his being called Martin make him or his story more compelling than knowing what makes his blood run cold or his heart sing? That's what we need to know, not what name his parents happened to give him. A name is merely a handle - what we want is the vessel and its contents.

Does that make sense?

In Sulci Collective Marc's pitch, the name does seem helpful, but really only because of how he has constructed his sentence. However, I still think he's wasted words with the "You can tell much about a society from its murderers" - because we don't necessarily want to learn about society (yet), but more who this character is and what he wants/fears/needs or why we should fear him or care about him. It's intriguing but needs focus (in my opinion).

Ellen Brickley said...

A fairy-hunter puts her best friend's life at risk to win a war that her bosses are too scared to fight.

Philip Ardagh said...

"Who is Neal's book about?" The narrator, that's who. Neal has told us about three characters -- narrator, lover/wife and husband -- the situation, and also set the tone (talking to the reader about talking to the husband of his lover) in very few words. Quite an achievement! It makes me want to read on and/or know more. Like it! Nicely pitched.

Tyler Tork said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tyler Tork said...

When Ruby's weird guardian is arrested, she'll lose her happy home unless she finds the killer, without exposing their agency's "ripped from the tabloids" clientele.

Joanna Hickson said...

After Agincourt France descends into chaos. The king’s youngest daughter is desperate to escape his madness and abuse from her mother’s vicious lover – but how?

Carol Lovekin said...

Cadi wants the truth. She is tired of her mother's silence. Finding out who her sister was, and how she died is all that matters.

Redleg said...

A zombie wakes up naked and facedown in a pool with no memories of his former life. He vows to track down his own murderer.

steviebab said...

A long-awaited reunion ends in a murderous stand-off. The only only thing in doubt is who will live and who will die.

Janet O'Kane said...

She found the first body and guessed where the second one was. But nobody likes a smart-ass. Especially a killer.

Rebecca Brown said...

I think I may regret this but here goes *gulp*:

Teenager learns to cope with corsets, curtseys, crushes and an impossibly perfect older sister. And that's without the odd murder to solve.

*wipes brow and reaches for bottle*

steviebab said...

A lonely woman creates fantasy lives for the strangers she sees in the street. Harmless enough, except for those who lose control of their lives.

Charlotte said...

In her battle to save an endangered butterfly and its forest habitat, a journalist uncovers a corporate world fuelled by murder and corruption.

Theresa Milstein said...

Sixteen-year-old Lucienne’s prosthetic eye can see truths behind lies. If she pursues the truth behind her father’s disappearance, Lucienne stands to lose more. Her life.

Julie-Ann said...

Another go...!

Unravelling details of her Grandad’s appalling experiences in Civil War Spain, Annie herself is confronted with the devastating effects on both a country and a family.

Lindsay said...

Xanthe still has it, but at 50, it’s a lot harder to flaunt it. Follow her disastrous dating journey. Chicklit for the menopausal has arrived!

steviebab said...

Everyone needs some time alone but few aspire to be a cave-dwelling hermit. David does, but how can he explain this to his family?

or, but another way...

David wants to be alone. Permanently. He's found the perfect cave, now all he need to do is escape his wife and children.

I'll stop now and get back to work.

Anonymous said...

The writer of this blog has many good ideas..

Nicola has many good ideas...

As a reader, who would you relate to?

Names connect.

Catriona said...

Take 2 - this is so difficult!

An MP3 player which plays healing songs to strangers in pain. Davie discovers that escaping from reality doesn't always mean you can escape your past.

Cyndy Aleo said...

When your wife comes back from the dead, first you have to accept the impossible. Then you have to learn how to live with it.

Nicola Morgan said...

Philip - I took another look at Neal's pitch and I agree that yes, we do know something of the MC and the situation. I still think the reader has to work too hard (well, I did) to deduce the importance of the situation. For example, is it only that it's bad form or is there something more dramatic or compelling about the situation? I'm assuming there is but I don't want to have to assume. If still feels too abstract. Need more character, higher stakes.

Wow, some seriously interesting pitches coming along now! That prosthetic eye - :(0) Naked zombies!

Janet - "She found the first body and guessed where the second one was. But nobody likes a smart-ass. Especially a killer." Love it.

Rebecca - "Teenager learns to cope with corsets, curtseys, crushes and an impossibly perfect older sister. And that's without the odd murder to solve." Love it, too!

And others - great examples. Do comment on each other's, too.

eleanorpatrick said...

You're absolutely right, Nicola. How about this?

“The cost of admitting she's attracted to a girl is too high for Tash in her already grieving family – until a homophobic predator shows up."

Carol Lovekin said...

Second attempt; sans MC's name.

A ghost story laced with magic, birds, a lost sibling, rain, a couple of lesbians and some knitting. And a girl who wants the truth.

Alison Runham said...

Gulp. Here goes. It's the WIP.

Her father's not the man she thought he was. Her uncle could ruin them all. Only she can put things right - 'at midnight, on the moor'.

Nicola Morgan said...

Anonymous - to be completely honest, two things: first given the choice between taking advice from "the writer of this blog" and "Nicola" I'd definitely take the former. Second, if it was a pitch, you wouldn't just say "the writer of this blog", you'd say "a multi-published, award-winning writer" - and that would win hands down over Nicola. Though possibly not over Stephen King :)) Names are used to make connections, absolutely, but on their own they convey little. Srsly. There's nothing wrong with using a name - it's just that it's not (or very rarely is) the strongest way to convey your story.

Neal... said...

Nice to have my synopsis discussed and thanks for the comments.

I see what you mean, Nicola, about names wasting words here, but as I've gone away to try and re-do the synopsis to make it clearer from the off, I find I'm actually having to put the name in... With 'bad form' I'd been trying to use something that would indicate it's a comic novel through a bit of understatement, but can see it looks vague without the context I have.

So anyway I've ended up with this:

Dan hadn’t expected when he signed up for his best friend’s dating boot camp that he’d fall for his best friend's wife.

And this:

All the dating advice in the world can’t help Dan when he discovers the woman of his dreams is the wife of his best friend.

Is there a risk with this kind of limit that you end up writing the synopsis you think catchiest, rather than necessarily the most accurate? Or is that just me?

And is that a bad thing if so?

Neal... said...

Steviebab interesting sounding idea. How about:

'When David said he needed to spend more time in his man cave, his family didn't realise he meant it literally.'

Or:

'For most people picking your Desert Island Discs is a parlour game, for wannabe hermit Dave it was the top of his To Do list.'

Nicola Morgan said...

Neal - if after consideration, you end up finding that the name needs to be there, then it definitely should be. I'm a great believer in the "all rules can be broken when you know them" adage, so i totally respect your decision.

You ask: "Is there a risk with this kind of limit that you end up writing the synopsis you think catchiest, rather than necessarily the most accurate? Or is that just me?" Excellent question! Possibly the subject of a whole new blog post. You are quite right - I'm afraid that catchy wins over accurate (within reason). The reason is that the purpose of the pitch at this stage is to hook interest, to make the listener/reader want to know more. Now, clearly this doesn't mean you can or should lie, but it does mean that you select the story's most compelling core, rather than trying actually to embody the book.

In your new pitches, I like "dating boot camp", because it's catchy and different. Falling for a best freind's wife is definitely something we can all imagine is a strong pull to the story. What I'd like to see is a little to suggest what sort of thing then happens - funny? Emotional? Fatal Attractionish? Also need to avoid rep of "best friend". "When Dan joins a dating boot-camp, falling for his best friend's wife isn't part of the game-plan. [...insert phrase - hilarity? Emotional trauma? Murder?...] ensues."

What do you think?

steviebab said...

Neal, I like your versions, especially the second one, although a desert island is a very different place to a cave! I can imagine lots of people wanting to escape to one of those.

Ro said...

An inhumanly strong woman watches the son of the man who tortured her for information chauffeured into the rebel sanctuary she escaped to.

Nicola Morgan said...

I'm just going through all these again so I'm going to have a few comments about some I haven't mentioned.

First, Carol Lovekin: you started with "Cadi wants the truth. She is tired of her mother's silence. Finding out who her sister was, and how she died is all that matters."

Your second attempt, after my comments, was: "A ghost story laced with magic, birds, a lost sibling, rain, a couple of lesbians and some knitting. And a girl who wants the truth." WOW, that is so much better! Not sure whether rain adds anything and I might need an adjective or epithet for the girl, but otherwise that's a transformation.

Back in a minute.

nettiethomson.com said...

She falls in love for the last time when she is 12 years old and spends her life looking for her knife thrower and circus.

Nicola Morgan said...

Steviebab - many thanks for your comments and joining in today. You've given two versions of your book: "Everyone needs some time alone but few aspire to be a cave-dwelling hermit. David does, but how can he explain this to his family?" and then "David wants to be alone. Permanently. He's found the perfect cave, now all he need to do is escape his wife and children." I think the second is much better. There are all sorts of possibilities that you're hooking us with, and it's snappy. I still think his name isn't helping - could we have a phrase instead, something that goes to suggest what sort of thing is either compelling him to want to be alone or else what sort of thing he might do to achieve it. Is this going to be light or dark? I'm guessing light?

Nicola Morgan said...

Cyndy Aleo "When your wife comes back from the dead, first you have to accept the impossible. Then you have to learn how to live with it." We need the character and something more to go on. It's an intriguing idea but needs more focus.

catdownunder - "Jonathon, age 11, has found a (long dead) body. Now his parents have been killed. He is on his own and on the run." I'd like to know what he's on the run from - yes, i'm guessing a killer but give me something more to hook my mind? Also, age 11 is a bit limp. And "long dead" will be necessary to the longer pitch but not here, I feel. That will give you more words to play with.

Nicola Morgan said...

Carol - btw I should also point out that your two pitches feel like two very different books, in tone/voice - the second one is humorous. Make sure that your pitch voice reflects your story voice. No point having a humorous pitch for a deadly serious book...

Nicola Morgan said...

Janet - although, as I say, I really liked your pitch, I'd like to know a tad more about the MC other than that she's a smart-ass. Give her some flesh and you'll give the story some flesh.

Nicola Morgan said...

Lindsay - " Xanthe still has it, but at 50, it’s a lot harder to flaunt it. Follow her disastrous dating journey. Chicklit for the menopausal has arrived!" I like it a lot but I'd again like to know something more about Xanthe or her situation/setting/conflict. Yes, I can see what the conflict IS - I just want it rammed down my throat a bit.

Nicola Morgan said...

Eleanor: "The cost of admitting she's attracted to a girl is too high for Tash in her already grieving family – until a homophobic predator shows up." Some intriguing aspects to this, and some emotional tugs, but it's hard to see how the elements fit together. You know how they tie together, of course, but I think you need to make it a little clearer for us.

Neal... said...

The repetition of 'his best friend's' was deliberate for the rhythm, but no-one ever believes me when I say things like that. Probably quite rightly...

OK, one last go and I’ll step away. It’s too long by a word, but I’m leaving ‘haplessly romantic’ in as I think it sets the idea up as funny. I’m trying to make it clear it’s funny without saying ‘it’s funny’, because nothing says unfunny more than someone saying ‘it’s funny’.

I really do have to stop with the repetition already.


Haplessly romantic Dan expected ‘no pain, no gain’ on dating boot-camp. He didn’t expect to fall for Rob’s wife, or that the pain was only starting.

Thanks for the feedback so far Nicola.

Stevieb, how about something along the lines of 'Everyone knows we're descended from cavemen, but Dave's family are beginning to think he's going a bit too far to get back to his roots.'

Probably too vague, but it's much easier thinking about someone else's idea!

Nicola Morgan said...

Neal - I like it so much that you can have an extra word :) It is so much better. Well done!

Janet O'Kane said...

Thanks for the encouragement, Nicola. Gosh this is challenging. How about:
Hiding her past was easy, until she found that first body and guessed where another one lay. Because nobody likes a smart-ass. Especially a killer

Sulci Collective said...

Gift-curse & an implied psychic power didn't swing it then? :-(

Nicola, I really want to come along next saturday as "26" is my (typographical) inspiration, as of course are you. But I wouldn't be able to get there until about 11am, would that be a problem do you think?

many thanks

marc

eleanorpatrick said...

Just wanted to say thanks, Nicola, for the time you spend encouraging writers day in day out. You are very generous. I'll go forge a medal ;-)

Elanor Lawrence said...

In the year 2500, it's sixteen year old Astrid's job to fight all of the New American Union's battles inside a mental simulation known as The Web. She's won every battle for the past four years, until a strange boy appears and kisses her... then kills her.

Michele Helene (Verilion) said...

This hook business seems a lot easier when you a) put it like that and b) now that I've finally worked out who the MC is. As always, thank you Nicola.

Joy said...

Wow! Talk about fab pitches. Hope it isn't too late to join in ... though I may regret it ;o)

'Unexpectedly losing both parents, Lamorna flees into the unknown to protect her infant brother, and learns of the forbidden religion of an ancient goddess.'

Rachel Levine said...

A summer surrounded by girls, but the only one he wants is taken. Does he have a chance? Not if he toes the family line.

Nicola Morgan said...

Joy - is it more interesting to us that she lost her parents or that she unexpectedly lost them? I mean, how often do you expect to lose your parents, except through old age...? Just asking.

Michele - :)

Rachel - "A summer surrounded by girls, but the only one he wants is taken. Does he have a chance? Not if he toes the family line." Too vague. Avoid rhetorical questions. I agree there's an intrigue there but it's not strong enough.

Elanor - erm, 25 words...

Marc- I just think you, with your fab linguistic powers, can make those words work harder. Especially since I'm struggling to understand a gift-curse :) OOh, I'd love to meet you on Oct 8th - my event is 11.45. I don't know how the whole day works, though, so not sure about arrival times. Let me know. x

Katalin Havasi said...

A burglar breaks into a seemingly abandoned mansion at night but discovers that he is not alone: a 'colleague' is already working there.

Anonymous said...

A lonely pharmaceutical quality controller struggles to find acceptance and love in a gritty northern town. Mayhem ensues as our hero negotiates daily life.

Margaret Morton Kirk said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rachel Levine said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rachel Levine said...

A summer surrounded by girls, but the only one he wants is taken. Losing his virginity requires more than smart plans. He needs an education.

Margaret Morton Kirk said...

A very late entry:

The girl on Winter's Hill died eighty years ago. But her murderer's very much alive...and if her grand-daughter can't track him down, she'll lose everything.

Tyler Tork said...

Katalin, interesting situation but doesn't suggest a plot.

Kappuke-ki Mummy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
catdownunder said...

Hmmm...I am curious... would you like this more?
"Jonathon has found a body. His parents have been killed. Now he is running for his life - from people he should be able to trust."

Tamlyn said...

Another attempt. It's 26 words though and the second half is very clumsy.

Trapped in a supernatural world, a woman is caught between family trying to murder her and friends who would if they knew of the shared name.

Stu Ayris said...

Obsessed with The Beatles, alcohol and cricket, diagnosed schizophrenic Simon Gregory resolves to find the wife and son he abandonned twenty-four years ago.

Nicola Morgan said...

Stu - "Obsessed with The Beatles, alcohol and cricket, diagnosed schizophrenic Simon Gregory resolves to find the wife and son he abandonned twenty-four years ago." Lots of good stuff there. I'd like to know more about what the quest involves and what driving his "resolve". Just a couple of adjectives to drive home what the book will feel like - will it be scary, emotional, sinister?

Others - am running out of tinme to reply to you all but THANK YOU. I will come back and comment more if I have time.

Nicola Morgan said...

Catdownunder - second attempt much tighter! Good!

Tamlyn - as you say, second half of sentence a bit clumsy and unfocused but the first half great!

Rachel - bit more about who "he" is / what he's like? It's punchy, though, just a tad vague.

Katalin - intriguing, but need to know something more about the MC. Esp since burglars are not usually the heroes, so we need to know why we should care about this one. Just needs something else to hook us. But good start.

Leela Soma said...

Thanks for the advice Nicola. I had to rush off to a boozy lunch, too many glasses of bubbly and rest of the day wasted(lovely actually)it was hard to switch computer on. What a fantastic lot of writers here!

Stu Ayris said...

Thank you Nicola! Good point. Restricting the word count is a great exercise in terms of being able to respond with in a more succinct way when people ask you "so what's the book about?"

I have thought about what you said and....

"Beatles fan and schizophrenia sufferer, Simon Gregory, bravely confronts his illness and society to find the wife and son he abandonned twenty-four years ago"

Nicola Morgan said...

Stu - I liked the alcohol and cricket bit! (Though the cricket makes it sound light-hearted, so only includebit if that's right.) How about putting alcohol back in and say "battles" rather than "resolves"?

Nicola Morgan said...

Stu - PS abandoned - one n...

Cyndy Aleo said...

Attempt no. 2:

A grieving widower must overcome doubt when his wife returns from the dead, then confront everyone from stunned family to a public wanting a miracle.

Joy said...

Yeesh! So obvious when you say it like that *blush*

Attempt #2:
'A young orphan must face the unknown to protect her infant brother with only her faith in a forbidden moon goddess to help her.'

Stu Ayris said...

Thanks again Nicola!

"Beatles fan, schizophrenia sufferer, cricket lover and alcoholic, Simon Gregory, battles his illness and society to find the son he abandoned twenty-four years ago"

Getting there!

Nicola Morgan said...

Stu - remove the comma after Gregory and you've got it!

Joy - getting there but a) be more specific and dramatic than "the unknown" and give as a clue as to whether the moon-goddess is evil or benevolent or what. Except, if she's benevolent then she'll solve the MC's task - and they should always solve their own!

Stu Ayris said...

Beatles fan, schizophrenia sufferer, cricket lover and alcoholic, Simon Gregory battles his illness and society to find the son he abandoned twenty-four years ago

Joy said...

Once more time? Shall keep fingers crossed that you manage to have a quick look but don't want to mess too much with your weekend ;o)

'Pursued by soldiers, a young orphan fights to protect her infant brother, guided only by her faith in the now-forbidden goddess of her ancestors.'

Nicola Morgan said...

Joy - the first half is now excellent! I can't quite see how to improve the second bit because I don't know about the story but I feel that some info is not interesting and so you could omit it to make room for more. This is what I think you can omit: "guided ... faith ... of her ancestors." Make it more dramatic and scary (or whatever it's meant to be.)

Stu - :)

Stu Ayris said...

Phew!!

If you ever feel like helping me out further....

http://tollesburytimeforever.blogspot.com/

; )

Joy said...

Ooooh, can I sneak in one more attempt please??? *grovel grovel*

'Pursued by soldiers, a young orphan's fight to protect her infant brother leads her to wolves, moon magic and an ancient goddess.'

Stu Ayris said...

Nice one Joy!

Joy said...

Aaaw thanks Stu :D

Nicola Morgan said...

Joy - you had wolves and you DIDN'T TELL US???? OMG! Wolves are fab and sinister and very very compelling. In fact. I even think Stu should try to fit some wolves in somewhere. Your pitch is now pitch perfect.

No, Stu - keep the wolves out of yours; schizophrenia is quite enough.

*wipes brow*

To those of you I have seemed to ignore - i'm so sorry. It's not personal but this was a mega post, comment-wise.

Stu Ayris said...

And there was me about to re-edit by turning each character into a woodland animal...

Margaret Morton Kirk said...

Happy to fit in wolves somewhere if you think it might help mine :)

Margaret K. Westfall said...

Philosopher Kat declares her new life, envisioning teaching and writing. Psychics, danger, and discoveries in career, friendship, and love open worlds she'd never imagined possible.

Joy said...

Woo-hoo!! Thanks so so much Nicola! Didn't think wolves would get such a reaction *slaps self* That was the most fun I've had being whipped into shape ;o)

Would the woodland animals have been schizophrenic, Stu?

catdownunder said...

Curiouser and curiouser. Thankyou. I have to be honest and say, to me, my own 25 words now sound - well, pretty run of the mill. On that, I would not pick it up. This needs thinking about - but thankyou!

Tamlyn said...

Attempt 3. *nervous*

Trapped in a supernatural world, a woman seeks protection with friends who would turn on her if they knew her would-be killers were her family.

Margaret K. Westfall said...

I've been puzzling all day on this. How would you pitch, say, Pride and Prejudice in 25 words? I'd love to see some suggestions. It might be a helpful exercise, too, as we can be more objective than with our own work.

Lynne Connolly said...

Well, i have one I use for my Department 57 and STORM series, but it's shorter than 25 words, and I think it might be a bit vague:

"James Bond with fang and claw."

They're two spy series' with vampires and shape-shifters.

And for a series I'm currently pitching, a paranormal historical:

"In the eighteenth century, aristocrats were treated like gods. What if they actually were gods?"

It's really, really hard to do.

Lynne Connolly said...

For the first book in the STORM series:

"Hunting his kidnapped brother, a dragon shapeshifter falls for the woman whose nightmares hold his only clue. But he can’t promise her anything. Because he's dying. "

Looking at it again, I'm a word over. Oops. But that pitch did get my foot in the door.

Buttons said...

Tales of life after an unexpected auction where you buy a farm long deserted. Lots of heartache and tears. Lots of hard lessons learned.

Nicola Morgan said...

Re-posting my comment after proof-reading! Prob still some errors - am in massive rush and eyes going funny:

Answering all your comments is now impossible, as I have to keep scrolling about five miles each time I need to refer to one and I'm really sorry for those in the middle who got left out.

Lynne - "James Bond with fang and claw." is great for a strapline. Similar to my "Robert Louis Stevenson on caffeine" which I used for my highwayman books and which the sales team loved. But, since you have more space, it's worth using more space. The fact that you are one word over in your longer one is no problem in real life, unless you've (as in this post) been told it must be 25 words max, which is not normal for a genuine pitch. However, you could try: "Hunting his kidnapped brother, a dragon shapeshifter falls for the woman whose nightmares hold his only clue. But he can’t promise anything. Because he's dying." On the other hand, I am a bit confused as to why promising HER anything is going to save his brother. Since I think it's the saving the brother which seems more important (to us, at the moment) I think you should focus on that. BUT, it got you in the door so who am I to find fault?! It's good and sounds dramatic. I like your aristocrats one but it would be better without a question and with a main character, I feel. It's an interesting premise though.

MArgaret Westfall- re Pride and Prejudice, since I don't know it well enough I can't suggest what the pitch would be but I see no reason why it should be difficult.

Cat - I agree, it's still not compelling enough but the second one was better because it left out the unnecessary bits and was clearer.

Tamlyn - "Trapped in a supernatural world, a woman seeks protection with friends who would turn on her if they knew her would-be killers were her family." - "seeks protection" - a bit weak? It's hard for me to suggest what would be better, as I don't know the story but you're saying they "would" turn on her "if", which makes it a bit vague. How about "Trapped in a terrifying supernatural world, a woman is hunted by her own family. Her dabbling with witchcraft could cost her friends and her life." ?

Dan Holloway said...

Steph thought Alice and Simon, the closest people in her life, died in tragic accidents. Until she finds Alice's suicide note on Simon's bedside table.

1950s Housewife said...

Will's a young, American at notorious Exmoor Prison. Lauren knows he'll die there. Can she help him escape when iron bars and 200 years separate them?

Katalin Havasi said...

Thanks, Nicola. I appreciate your time and advice. How about this:

A star-reporter breaks into a seemingly abandoned mansion at night but discovers that he is not alone: a burglar is already working there.

Margaret Morton Kirk said...

Can't remember where I've seen this, but there is a good one for Pride and Prejudice:

'In a world where she must marry for money, Lizzie is determined to marry for love.'

Josiphine said...

A girl who's already been a slave all her life, kidnapped by Vikings, one of which can't stand the sight of his own blood?


*Not a romance

steviebab said...

Nicola, thanks for all your comments, I really appreciate the advice. I still haven't come up with a 25 word summary I am happy with although I've drafted hundreds. What this process has done is help me realise what the book might be about and opened up a number of angles I hadn't previously thought about.

This is the latest version:

"A desperate man is compelled to abandon his family and disappear. He must choose whether to leave them without explanation or without hope."

This makes the book much darker when originally the tone was much lighter, as you suspected.

steph said...

What else could I do when death knocked on the door. I slammed it shut and ran, I'm still running.

Carol Lovekin said...

Thanks Nicola - all your comments hugely appreciated & noted. (Do you have elves? You seem to get so much done.)

Andy said...

Hello Nicola, it's been fascinating to watch the process of distilling thousands of words down to a handful without losing the 'wow!' of the story. Good luck with the weekend, and good luck to everyone's pitches - time for me to distil my 25 words now...

Sulci Collective said...

This is no time for a crisis of conscience over your 'gift', not when another psychic has joined you to his deadly game

marc nash

(see you tomorrow :-)

The Writer 2011 said...

In 916, 16 year old Harold Storm, the greatest Hunter of the Supernatural to ever live is on his first quest to save the earth.

S. Dotson said...

A young attorney resigns his small-town practice, becomes the target of revenge and must stand trial for a crime he did not commit.