Friday, 15 June 2012

Pitch para - Witch, Nun, Shaman's Drum

A pitch paragraph for you to consider and comment on.

WITCH, NUN, SHAMAN’S DRUM by Cameron Lawton – fantasy romance, self-published.
I know Cameron via Twitter and she's very serious about getting her work (various genres) published and learning as she goes, so she will welcome your constructive advice. But be gentle - writers bleed!

Cameron’s pitch:
A Pagan re-telling of the Romeo and Juliet story. In a future world where the monotheistic religions have been banned and the old beliefs are now the norm; two young people from the opposite sides of magic-practice have fallen in love. Riga is a woman assassin and Iamo is a Priest of the Great Mother. The rules forbid them to be together and they have to accept a quest in order to be allowed to marry. After thwarting renegade priestesses, fighting a Demon Prince and freeing hostages with the help of Hedge-witches, Druids and an under-cover Christian Granny, they succeed. The climax of the book is a Black Shaman Drum ceremony and a Hand-fasting. Iamo, however, has negotiated the one thing he knows his lover really wants: a child.

My thoughts:
On the positive side, there are lots of emotional tugs here, and several elements that suggest a rip-roaring story with lots of variety to interest readers of fantasy and romance, genres which go well together.

However, there is room for improvement, I feel. For example, there are some confusing phrases and words which we need to understand, otherwise they are wasted: magic-practice; woman assassin (do you mean female assassin or an assassin of women?); hand-fasting. The second half of the pitch (from After thwarting) needs work. First, pretty much the whole story is given in one sentence consisting of a list of events, suggesting no shape or suspense. Second, the sentence which tells us the climax doesn’t sound very climactic. And third, the final sentence doesn’t sound very final at all! Those three sentences that make up the second half of the pitch feel disjointed. I’m also a little discombobulated by the mismatch between the dramatic action and the sudden whimsy introduced by the “undercover Christian Granny”, which feels as though it has a different tone, one of humour. And I’m not convinced that this is a re-telling of the Romeo and Juliet story: it sounds slightly inspired by it at the beginning but I don’t really see it justifying the tag of “re-telling”. And finally, I’m not sure that Riga’s desire for a child quite sounds right in that context: you’ve got a feisty, warrior-like, assassinesque (I think) woman, determined to fight for and alongside her man, and her desire for a child sounds like an appendage. Of course, built into the story, I’m sure it fits beautifully – it just doesn’t quite feel right for the pitch.

This is going to be hard to rewrite as there’s too much I don’t know, but I’ll try.

My revision:
“It’s a future world; monotheistic religions are forbidden and the old Pagan beliefs hold sway, with druids, hedge-witches and shaman[istic?] ceremonies. Riga and Iamo, two young people from opposing [warring??] sides of magic [?], have broken the laws and fallen in love. There is only one way for them to marry: they must succeed in a terrifying quest. Many obstacles face them, including villainous priestesses and a cruel Demon Prince holding the hostages whom Riga and Iamo must rescue. But the two lovers will conquer all their enemies and face any danger or ritual in order to be together. [I can’t find a way to include the needing a child bit… But I would like a sentence that indicates that they perhaps changed the views of the warring factions, or something bigger than the two of them?]”

Comments, please, lovely readers. Cameron awaits! And if you'd like to read a sample of her book, and even buy it, here's the link. Her blog is here.

I'm doing school events this morning and then getting stressed about a keynote speech tomorrow, which I'm not fully prepared for, so I may not be around to comment much. Over to you. :)


DT said...

The rewrite adds a sense of rhythm and escalating drama. Hand-fasting could be explained as 'bonding' and shamanic is probably a more common term than shamanistic. I think it's a great premise and what the rewrite has done successfully is to see it from the reader's perspective - what will engage them and keep them turning the pages. I can suggest a couple of magazines to contact for promo purposes if you want to drop me a line.

catdownunder said...

I wondered about "a woman assassin" too. I did not know which way to read it.
Reading it felt as if I had taken a deep breath and galloped to the other end. I think I would rather prowl because it sounds interesting.

Anonymous said...

I was distracted by the capitalisation of a lot of words that didn't need it - if this goes on in the novel as well, it's going to need fixing. If you google on "what words need capitals" you'll find some useful information.

Anonymous said...

This is the type of novel that I would love to read. It wouldn't be easy to write because there is a lot going on at the same time. Good idea. Good luck!

Cameron said...

Thank you all so much. I take on board all the helpful suggestions and will include them in future pitches. I,m on holiday so not on line a lot but pleqse do keep them coming.I need all the help I can get. Xx Cam

Deborah Jay said...

I really like the sound of this novel but the original pitch is too much of a 'telling', relating the bare bones of the plot without giving us the flavour of your writing. Nicola's re-working engaged me instantly, although I have to say I missed the under-cover Christian granny - she made me smile!
I think you can rework this so that it gives a clearer insight into the mood of the book: serious or lighter toned. The Romeo and Juliet comparison really doesn't work, unless you are writing a tragedy, and your ending sounds anything but.

Elizabeth Dunn said...

Love the Christian granny more than I can say.
In an effort to get as much action in as possible, the pitch maybe fell into listing events instead of a storyteller's telling. Which is I think what Deborah meant in bare bones sacrificing writing flavour. Also, as she says, is it serious or lighter toned?
The quest seemed tucked away. Nicola brought it out and made it terrifying. Small things such as 'many obstacles face them' is the sort of the thing I shy from because I think it takes up four precious words but it does engage and ease the reader through the story. Also the Demon Prince 'holding' hostages is very clear and adds coherence. I didn't understand he was holding them, I thought it was just another daring act in the list.
Lastly I think stating, 'the climax of the book....' pulls the reader out of the story.
Thanks for posting. Sounds like you've got a real roiling epic on your hands, Cameron.

Cara Cooper said...

I too had a problem with some phrases that I was very unfamiliar with - this book would be outside the genres that I usually read. I think therefore if you want to entice readers in from as wide a population as possible, perhaps a bit more explanation of the more unusual phrases such as hand-fasting would be useful.

Cameron said...

Once again thanks to all. It's very useful to have non-pagan perspective on the pitch and I'll be taking into account all your very generous suggestions and advice in any future pitches.

Also, thanks to all of you who said that you'd like to read it. The new revised edition is under consideration by a publisher at the moment & I'll let you know how it pans out. Cameron