Monday, April 27, 2009

Pitch Contest Critique - Day 1

I thought I would cover a couple of critiques a day to really give people a chance to see the differences and what we are looking for. There is no particular order:

Is she the unknowing subject of a “Get Jillian” conspiracy? Or is she watching too much T.V.? Jillian Kendall, Centurotech’s corporate attorney, hopes that the strange events turning her peaceful life upside-down are a product of her over-active imagination. But as she is drawn into the web of deceit spun around her, she realizes that only way out is to ask Code Hunter, colleague and childhood friend, for help. Can she trust him?

First of all, I think there is a great premise in this initial idea. The problem is that at this point, the pitch is simply too vague and the reader is given really a list of questions instead of simply coming out and telling us exactly what is going on. We need to also know a bit more about the heroine and the hero (especially this last one). Just calling him Code Hunter is not enough.

Also, remember to provide the title, word count and genre in a single sentence. By starting your pitch out with that, you immediatly get the agent or editor immediatly thinking about placement for the story.

SOLUTION: Be more specific, eliminate all of the questions, and make sure to somehow highlight the things that will make this story stand out!

When Isis, a shy teenage girl, accidentally uses magic to save her life, she learns that two magical societies have been searching for her and that she must choose which society to join, while learning to control the magic that threatens to overpower her. Meanwhile Isis deals with a controlling mother and stops a terrorist attack, while making a decision that will not only change her life, but also the lives of everyone she loves.

In this case, I felt as if there was really too much going on in the story. The first part of the pitch is fine but when you dive into the second half, suddenly I am faced with really two different stories. I would really consider just focusing on the first part in a book, or somehow, finding a way to blend that section with the two groups fighting for her into something that has been going on for some time.

Since this is a apparently a YA, I would also encourage some sort of a theme idea running though this one. What is it that we are learning about being a girl at this age.

I did have a feq qestions about the premise. She accidentally uses magic? Why didn't she know? Who were these groups? How does she get involved with such high power world problems?

Like the prior one, make sure to include the genre, word count and title.

Samantha and Maria, two personalities fighting for control of one body, share their mutual obsession for the doctor they transcribe for. When Dr. Luke Lawson crosses the path of the women, will Samantha win his love? Or will Maria destroy all chances for happiness? Does Samantha have the strength to overpower Maria and win a future with the doctor? Can Luke forgive and forget Samantha’s obsessive past? Dictating Desire is a romance with a psychological thread that introduces the possibility of love for someone who believes there is no reason to hope.

I think there is some interesting elements with this story but logistically we need to clean this one up. First of all, make sure it is clear that we are dealing with multiple personality disorder and we know who the main character really is. Also, the fact that the doctor treating her is a problem. Not only would we run into ethical violations but the fact that he doesn't know it is the same person seems a bit strange.

Be careful asking so many questions as well. Make sure you state right from the start what it is that we are pursuing in this story.

Be a bit clearer with the genre and the word count as well.

Three more tomorrow!



  1. Is the title, word count and genre in one sentence eating into your 75allotted words? That only leaves you with (depending on how long your title is) -- not too many words to get the rest down. that's why I think most didn't have this information included

  2. Thanks for doing this, Scott. I learn quite a lot from both the pitches and the critique.

    Thanks to the brave authors for sharing their pitches.

    I also wanted to say that I enjoyed your posts last week -- very helpful and informative.

  3. Pitch C contains 92 words. I thought the contest was limited to 75 words.

  4. Thanks Scott. I did the first post. I didn't really get exactly what I was supposed to be doing even though I read some really informative stuff. Specific feedback is soooo helpful. So, back to the drawing board...

  5. I think we shouldn't nit pick and appreciate the professional critiques we're seeing. Thanks for running this Scott.

  6. Great pointers and all are pretty similar with each pitch, kind of proving a method. Be more specific with word count, genre and title - I like the fact that you say to do this at the beginning of the pitch (if an agent/editor is looking for what you've got, that's half the battle right? They’ll be listening more intently) In pitch A, when you said that you would eliminate all the questions - this really changed the paragraph for me. Just taking away the first two questions - brings you right into the story fundamentals. And it also means that you have more words to use somewhere else - like on identifying your genre, title and word count. In pitch B, I was thinking that maybe if, at the mention of ‘two different magical societies’ there wasn’t the addition of the phrase: with far different agendas? Kind of bringing in the good v.s evil theme? I’m taking a liberty here assuming that they are very different from one another because otherwise there wouldn’t be any need for a choice, I’m thinking. And in pitch C, I didn’t get the fact that the heroine was being treated for a split personality by the doctor - she transcribed for him, right? What I found a little confusing there is the end line: who had no hope? Samantha, Maria or Luke? This certainly helps when you see how someone goes about processing a pitch. Thanks Scott...Now, can I have a do over?

  7. I just wanted to say thanks for the critique. I'm post B. I'm nearly ready to start submitting, and I'm struggling with this part of the writing process. I really appreciated the feedback, and I'll work on making it more clear and succinct. It's tough with so few words to determine what to include and what not to include.

  8. This is great! I think the suggestions are really helpful and give everyone a better understanding. I missed the 'transcribe for' in the last one too and I do think we should all try to stick to the word count when following rules.:)
    Babs: was one of these yours?
    Murphy: tell me you submitted the Zombie pitch I read over at the other blog. I mean it, that was a classic! If you did I hope it gets posted here!!!:D

  9. No, mine wasn't posted. This is very educational. I do hope mine gets posted. Fingers crossed.:)

  10. Mim: I liked your pitch and I don't know whether I should ask questions or not - so, being the shy person that I am, I'm going to ask them anyway (note: you don't have to answer if you don't want)- so no pressure.
    My first question is: Does she conger magic she doesn't know she has to save her life and that's how she is discovered by the two magical societies? Is that what you meant by accidentally?
    My second question would be: Was I right to assume that one society is working for good and the other for bad/evil?
    My third would be: Could you find a better word for meanwhile? I don't know about anyone else but that word with the huge concept of saving us from a terrorist attack seems too small somehow. I’d be more inclined to pair the shy teenage with the ‘controlling mother’ - and the magic that nearly overpowers her with saving us from a terrorist attack. Just my thoughts on all of it. The best of luck submitting.

    Em: That was just for fun. And people are asking me if I’ve written it?! Now, that’s FUNNY!

  11. Murphy

    She's discovered when she does the magic--she doesn't know that it exists. And yes one group is bad (and actually plans the terrorist attack) and the other is good. And yes magic is involved with stopping it. I think if I put secret in front of magical societies it will help with the unknown magic part. It's a contemporary fantasy novel, so our world with these added surprise elements.

    And yes I'm sure I could find a better word for meanwhile. I'm thinking of totally restructuring the second sentence.

    Thanks for the questions and suggestions. They are helping me evaluate the entire pitch.

  12. Barbplmind...
    It is all about word economy. There was just a lot of plot and not a lot of substance on these. Focus on theme and thing GMC

  13. Anon,

    Yes, I understand the count was over. Just wanted to focus on the critique here.

  14. Murphy,
    No do overs. We just learn and move on.

  15. I did pitch C and I appreciate everyone's comments (ESPECIALLY Scott's).

    I think everyone can agree that a pitch/query can be more difficult to structure than the book itself!

    Thanks again. This is very, very helpful.

    (I completely forgot to check the word count, I was too nervous about sending it : ). sorry)

  16. Mim: Thanks for answering all of my questions. I like what you have down. It's all there, but maybe it just needs to be shuffled around a little. When it's written it should be perfect, is all. Again, it sounds great and best of luck with it. When it’s done it’s going to be great!

    Bon: I liked your pitch, despite the word count that some people are so freaked out about (man, some people (ANON) need to get a grip!), there were just a few spots that were confusing. When I stopped to think about them? They eventually made sense but the guys hearing your pitch or reading it, maybe they won't have a minute to stop and think so, anything you can do up-front to clarify, I'm guessing, should be done, right?

    Lynn: I don't think you need to go back to the ‘drawing board’. You need to do as Scott suggested and get rid of all the questions (there are only, like 3). That gives you 21 more words (I counted):) to do something wonderful. Great concept and you're sure to get a good pitch with that!

    And Scott? Sorry, I was joking. There was no need to have answered on that.

    Man, I hope you all know how great this is - to be able to brainstorm with someone who knows what people in the industry are looking for. And I’m warning you all now. I'm going to use this as a huge learning curve. And if my pitch isn't posted, well, then I'm learning from all yours - you lucky devils! (Insert me rubbing my hands together here, in anticipation!) Hey, is there anyone else besides me, taking notes? Come on, someone else has to be taking notes besides me, right???

  17. I don't like it when people break the rules. As writers we should know better. Sure some of us forgive easily and do we really want to? With the way things are shouldn't we be more careful about who gets chances and who doesn't? Good writers out in the "industry" for a long time are passed over for newbies who don't have the courtesy to play by the rules Bah! shame on all those who let them get away with it, I say. In the end it will be to the victor goes the spoils! Look at all the greats. what would they say to this?

  18. Anon? What the...?! Wait, let me tone that down - just a second (I'm clearing my throat).
    I think all the greats are dead so, why would they care what we have to say? And besides I do believe the guy who needed to say something on the topic already did. So, unless you’re into beating dead horses you might want to drop the subject? Sheesh!

  19. Easy words to say when one posts anonymously. Don't you think?

    Thanks so much again. I am most definitely taking notes, not just on mine, but on the very interesting pitches before it.

    Great job and I can't wait to read more! Murphy, would like to read yours. Am curious how it reads. You have a strong voice in your comments. Very interested...

  20. Anon,

    You are so right about the "unfairness" issue in terms of publishing. I have talked to so many writers out there about why they have to follow the rules and the "established" authors don't.

    There are several reasons for this.
    #1 - They are established and have a following. They have proven that they can bring in the sales, even with writing that might not be following the rules.

    #2 - With new writers, it is important that you demonstrate to the editors and agents that you can take direction. This is really important when it comes to doing revisions. Often you are given comments and not a line edit for your revisions. It is up to you to make the changes to the standard the editor/agent wants, without them doing it for you. Can you do it?

    Again, as a reminder, for this contest, this was designed to focus on the content. We learn from all of the writing.


  21. Thanks Bon.
    About my pitch? All I can say is crapatolla! I missed the word count, genre and title inclusion. But, even if it doesn't get chosen to be posted at some point, the way I'm looking at this? I have already learned something big and I will know for next time, right? Like I tell my kids - you learn more by examining your weaknesses than you do from your strengths. And man, I must be weak, because I’ve been examining the long list of them, a lot lately. (Insert a heavy sigh, here)

  22. Again Murphy, it is all about learning!

  23. Don't I know it! This is a great opportunity! Thanks!