Monday, 6 February 2012


Announcing the beginning of PITCH WEEK! Every day this week, another brave writer will see his or her proposed pitch here for your constructive feedback. This is the "hook" paragraph for the covering letter of the submission. It needs to have "must-read" factor suitable for its intended genre and age-range. It should be more informative and concrete than the blurb on the back of the book and should give a sense that the writer has created a story that really works for the intended group of readers. It should also at least hint at how the story finishes - something which the back-cover copy obviously won't do.

If you would like us all to look at your own pitch and help, do go here to see the guidelines. And to see how other pitches were tackled, click the label "Pitch Pitch" on the list to the bottom right of my blog.

For more specific help with crafting the pitch paragraph and a fuller synopsis, there's a useful method in Write a Great Synopsis.

The first intrepid writer is Elizabeth Dunn. She describes her novel as a humourous children's novel for 12+. (In fact, 12+ is teenage, or YA, so that's all she needs to say, though she could say, for example, "a YA novel aiming at younger teenagers.")
ANTHONY WISH HITS PAY DIRT by Elizabeth Dunn  -  12+When Anthony Wish’s father is hit with a lawsuit,  his family’s finances enter previously unchartered disastrousness. Anthony’s yearnings for a Ducksbridge scholarship and a respectable adult life in the professions are clearly destined to squelch in bogland Wrigley Field forever. Disillusioned, Anthony visits his grandmother’s grave and soon after discovers a knack for writing horoscopes that come true. He finds himself at the helm of a cash cow but with the villagers frothing for more and fearful for his good name Anthony makes two final predictions, this time for personal use. Which is not cool with the cosmos because Anthony finds himself, in Venice, in unrequited love and up to his aquaphobic neck in trouble. When his mother runs riot with a rock star and his father disappears Anthony understands Grandma had a message from the grave about true riches. But love and money can go together even in his jinxed family and he’s determined to prove it. 
My comments:

  1. "unchartered disastrousness" - actually, you mean "uncharted"! But otherwise, that's a nice phrase to indicate a light and slightly comic tone to the book. 
  2. "visits his grandmother’s grave and soon after discovers a knack for writing horoscopes" - visiting the grave isn't given any sense of importance - either make it so or leave it out. And I'd want more than "discovers a knack" because it doesn't seem likely to congruous on its own.
  3. "helm of a cash cow" - a) I don't think you can be at the helm of a cow and b) it's far from clear how this is a cash cow anyway - you need to be clearer
  4. Not really sure that unrequited love feels apt for this story.
  5. I don't like the title - Just ANTHONY WISH could be better? 
  6. I love the tone of the pitch but the content feels like a mishmash of many different things and I'm not sure what the core is - and particularly the emotional core, the thing that will make us desperate to read. So, it feels as though you may have managed a complex plot cleverly but failed to describe your story in concrete, focused terms. Does that make sense?

Readers, do, please, comment below. Please be respectful and absolutely constructive. It's pointless to say you don't like something without saying why. Do indicate whether you have any professional or other experience of this type of book, so that Elizabeth knows where you are coming from.


JoMacdonald said...

Hi Elizabeth
I'm writing Young Adult fantasy for slightly older teens so I'll admit first off that this isn't exactly my area.
However, I really like the idea of the book and you get across the sense of comedy. I particularly like the phrases "which is not cool with the cosmos" and "runs riot with a rock star". However I have to admit I found the pitch slightly confusing. I feel that perhaps you've tried to mention too many bits of the plot in, for example Anthony going to Venice, or visiting his grandmother's grave. I do really like the last line because it gives a sense of what Anthony wants to achieve and hints at the heartwarming element to the story. I'd maybe suggest trying to get this across earlier in the pitch.
Hope some of this is useful. Well done

Gooseghost said...

I like the hints this is a caper - finishing in Venice, up to his neck in trouble.
I have a small problem with the level of humour though. It's great that you use jokes in the pitch, thus indicating that it's a comic novel. However, some of the jokes in the pitch are dependent of having an adult's view ('life in the professions'; 'for personal use'). It would worry me that the tone of the book might be too adult.
I also found some of the sentences quite long and had to re-read. But then, I am only of my first coffee of the day!
Good luck with this, it sounds like fun!

catdownunder said...

I think Nicola is absolutely right about the title.

JO said...

I really like the idea of this - but it's hard to work out where the core of this book is. Is it the money? Or the horoscopes? Or his wonderful Grandma? I think you can strengthen this by highlighting the central theme of the book.

I love the comic bits - 'squelch in bogland Wrigley Field' - and I've like to see more of that and less of the more adult (eg respectable adult life in the professions).

And I agree with Nicola about the title. It doesn't tell me what the book is about - and it doesn't trip off the tongue easily.

The very best of luck with this.

Elizabeth Dunn said...

Thanks everyone for being so kind. I have already learned so much. Got to get that theme nailed as you say. And focus. And stop repeating myself. I cringe to see "and finds himself" twice plus the "unchartered". Oops. I promise I knew that Nicola!

I am surprised at how important the emotional core is rather than getting the story down - pitch vs synopsis? RE Anthony sounding adult,that's his voice. I think it suits overall but maybe jars in the pitch. He does take his desperate life very seriously and yearns for respectability.

Nicola Morgan said...

Elizabeth - yes, emotional core, added to a concrete context for the story, are what make a book sound a) interesting and b) graspable. Re Anthony craving respectability - I'd definitely play this down because your average self-respecting teenager does not care a bar for respectability. Of course, some do, but it's not enough of a teenage trope to be one to major on in their books. Unless you can weave it into a truly wonderfully original and inspiring (to teenagers) character. You say "I think it suits overall but maybe jars in the pitch" - yes, this could very well be the case. Glad the comments are helping!

Gooseghost - you are spot on about that professions comment. And everyone else, too - I think it's great that we seem to be in agreement, because that makes the message stronger and easier to accept.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the comments about the title. Maybe its just me but there's something awkward about Anthony's name when its apostrophised (is that a word?) 'Wish's' is difficult to say and it might be a little distracting to read. A teenager wouldn't be interested in entering the professions but Anthony would be interested in earning some money for his family. He could be aiming for a well-paid job - footballer, entrepreneur, stock market whizz kid - instead of the professions. But I like the idea of the book and the character.

Elizabeth Dunn said...

Breakthrough! Been doing some tinkering. I've cut the respectable life in the professions because what he really wants is buckets of money. Obviously. Thanks so much to everyone for knowing it all before I did. Lesson? Know your teenage trope, right Nicola?

Nicola Morgan said...

Yup! And yup to buckets of money, please :)

womagwriter said...

I'm not a YA writer so feel free to ignore this!
I like the sound of this but I would want to start with him finding he can write horoscopes, then say that he can use that to help get his family out of the financial trouble. I'm not sure teens would read on past the first sentence or two about the family finances. The horoscope writing is the hook so shouldn't that be first?

Jeannie said...

Hi Elizabeth, I agree with the others but have a couple of ideas that I hope might help:

Instead of "When Anthony Wish’s father is hit with a lawsuit, his family’s finances enter previously unchartered disastrousness" how about "A disaster hits Anthony's family when his father is hit with a lawsuit."

The reasons I took out "previously uncharted disastrousness" are:

1) I usually try to edit out adverbs when I can. Why?

a) It is assumed that his family is not hit with a lawsuit everyday. So when someone is hit with one, you can assume it is going to be a calamity of some sort. "Previously" is not needed.

b) I have found that being verbose tends to muck up the writing and creates obstacles that the reader has to then dodge around, which makes it more difficult to get to the point of what you were trying to convey.

2) "Disasterousness" is a word that is best left tied to a mast of a ship and buried at sea to live out its own meaning. Why?

a) It is wrapped in layers of extras that the reader has to then unwrap, and all of this takes time away from what the reader should be doing, which is absorbing your story.

b) Your reader may not remember anything about the story except for this strange word, and you wouldn't want that to happen!

Hope some of this helped. And good luck! :)

Gail_M said...

Hi Elizabeth

It's been many a year since even my son was a teenager, so I have no recent experience of the genre, but I really like the central idea and the quirky tone of your pitch.

I can't quite place the voice, though - British? American? It probably doesn't matter, but I mention it because it puzzles me.

I agree with some of the other comments in that there seems to be a lot of information crammed in to your pitch, but I know from experience how hard it is to decide what to leave out!

If Anthony's sudden gift for horoscopes is the core of the story, then perhaps it would make sense to start with that?

I'm no teen, but I'd love to read this - good luck!

Julie Nilson said...

The mention of the lawsuit in the first sentence made me think that the lawsuit was going to be important to the main idea of the story, but it seems that it is not. So perhaps it doesn't need to be mentioned in the query--"When Anthony's family suffers a financial crisis..."

Otherwise, I agree with what some of the other posters have said about focus, but I think it's a great idea for a story! Also: I like the title. :)

Katalin Havasi said...

Hi Elizabeth,
I don't have much experience in fiction of this sort but I find the name of the main character a bit confusing linguistically. Wish, Wish's, wishes? Hmm. I understand its logic, but sounds weird. Maybe Anthony Whim?

I agree with Jeannie that 'disastrousness' is an odd word. Perhaps misfortune is better?

'Anthony finds himself, in Venice, in unrequited love,' is not an elegant structure in my opinion.

I hope I could help and good luck with your novel.

Sharron said...

Great comments!

I'd change the title. Anthony Wish is just perfect.

I'd start with Anthony's yearnings for a scholarship - delete the adult life and professions and bogland Wrigley Field. I write YA but am not familier with this term.

Cash cow sounds outdated. Sorry. I'm not sure a kid would be fearful of his reputation.

I loved villagers frothing.

Thankfully, you're the author and you can chose for yourself. But it does sound like a fun book.

Jeannie said...

Yes, I would leave the lawsuit out if not integral to story :). Also, please do not not use cliches when you can avoid them ("cash cow"). Strive for clarity. Will you resubmit so we can see the final? Thanks for putting up with our comments. You've been a good sport!

Elizabeth Dunn said...

Jeannie I'll do a re write when I pick myself up off the ground. Juss kiddin'. I've been so lucky to have you all spend time on me, I wouldn't want to push my luck and bore you all to tears again. Anyway point taken - no cliches. Slay the cash cow NOW. Gail M. your comment about what nationality my voice is is freaking me out. I'm one of those unfortunates - a transplanted colonial. Aaargh. You snuffled me out.

Woosh said...

The title is dreadful. It is off putting. It makes you want to wrongly judge the writer's writing ability without reading the manuscript.

Gail_M said...

Hi Elizabeth

It was the words lawsuit, cashcow and paydirt that made me wonder about nationality, although I was thinking more in terms of the character or setting rather than where you're from. They contrast (to me) with the English-sounding place names of Ducksbridge and Wrigley Field, and it was that contrast that puzzled me.

That contrast could be a clever way to attract a wider audience, though, so don't let my puzzlement get in your way!

Kirsty said...

Hi Elizabeth

Sorry to be getting to this so late (this week has been manic so been working by way back and reading through everyone else's comments).

Here are my thoughts to add - hope they are helpful.

I agree about the title - just stick to Anthony Wish for now.
When is this set? For me the opening almost sounded Dickensian but then the trips to Venice not so much so. I'm thinking it is more modern based on what you said in response to other people.

I've recently watched the film 'When in Rome' with Kristen Bell and for some reason the latter part of the pitch reminded me of that though I don't quite know why (here's the link to the film on imdb -

For me the really interesting bit is this gaining the power to write horoscopes. Is this something his grandmother did? An inherited trait. Or is it just that she wants him to learn a lesson. If it is the latter we need to get a sense of why he needs to learn it - at the moment he sounds pretty nice.
My only other thought would be why would he start writing horoscopes. I wondered whether this was more of an instantaneous - something that happens at the grave gives him the power to predict what was going to happen. Horoscopes are a bit broader really - does he write a horoscope for one star sign that comes true for the whole town or is it more for individual people.

I loved the name Ducksbridge and wondered if we needed to come back to that at some point - it was his yearning so does he get it or do things change?

Have lots of fun and please do share your revised pitch with us - I'd love to know more about what happens.


Elizabeth Dunn said...

Kirsty, thanks so much for your comments. They just show how absolutely useless I was at getting the story across. I have rewritten the pitch but am afraid to post it in case it's still ALL WRONG. Maybe tonight..after a beer. Ha. Pitch Party for one.

Kirsty said...

Hi Elizabeth

Not useless at all. I guess when there isn't enough info people's (well my mind anyway) goes filling in the gaps.
Hope the Dutch courage works.

Lisa Shambrook said...

Elizabeth, don't think you're useless! Like you, I hadn't realised how hard this would be, trying to get so much information into a tiny pitch! I really appreciated your comments on mine! I didn't want to comment on anyone's pitch as I knew mine would be coming up and the thought of all the mistakes I might have made...didn't want to be hypocritical!
I think the biggest thing this has taught me is trimming, not explaining so much, and making it more succinct...not something I'm always good at!
Anyway good luck with your rewrite and with the book!

Elizabeth Dunn said...

Thanks Lisa, I tried writing a word of encouragement on your blog too but...erm... something about Name/URL wasn't working for me.