Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Pitch Contest Critique Day 3


Love blooms in strange places...

For Miranda Stiltgaard, it began in dreams fueled by historical romances she reads. Loyalty got her by in Alaska. In Chicago, it entangles her in a white-collared crime by a modern-day rake she finds irresistible.

Keegan Stuart thinks she's a thief. He'll stop at nothing to protect the Stuart fortune. He never expects a woman of fortitude to rock that resolve with her fierce sense of fair play and passion.

With this one, I think one of the easiest solutions would be to move the hero information up to the beginning. This part is great. What weakens this pitch is that you start with the heroine and frankly, we really have no clue where she is coming from. This is really rambling and really vague.

The next thing to focus on here is to identify what brings them together.

Finally, the same thing we have been saying all week - genre, word count and title.


As a Nightmare in the service of the Baku, seventeen-year-old Salvador Tariq sees fear with each touch, delivers fear in dreams, and uses fear to collect souls, but when the Baku demands Kit’s soul, Salvador’s own fear becomes reality. SOUL DEBT is an 85,000 word young adult paranormal novel set in present day Portland, Oregon.

I really liked where this one was going to. You had all of the key components here. The only thing to really focus on here are some questions:

What is the connection between Kit and Salvador? Why is this something that he doesn't want to do? Maybe a bit more on what a Nightmare really is?


When a rising star in the pop music world finds himself without a partner at a critical juncture, he reluctantly hires an inexperienced, small-town church soloist whose talent and passion match his own. Galaxies collide as two gifted people from different worldviews battle tradition and an undeniable but impossible love. Neither is prepared to handle their growing attraction nor the careless act that will rip them apart and shake their dreams to the core.

So, for a change, let's get the genre, word count and title out of the way first.
Now on to the nit - picky issues.

This is one of those stories where I just don't get a sense of the uniqueness of the story. Two people from different back grounds. There is also the issue of the motives and actions of these characters. Why would they ever be attracted to each other? If he is a rising pop star, why is there this element of his career falling apart? More importantly, why go to the heroine for support.

Also, watch the stereotypical phrasing of "galaxies collide."


  1. Genre, word count and title seems to be a real problem. Am I the only one who is confused about this? Most times in a pitch contest aren't we told it's not important.
    I liked all three pitches btw.:)

  2. I hope this becomes a regular feature. I'm finding it very instructive.

  3. I agree with Patricia, this is fun, informative and very helpful!

  4. There are so many variations it’s totally amazing to sit back and look all the different styles. One thing that I’m taking away from all this, is the power of a single word. Let’s face it, when you only have 75, you better make each one count, right?
    I had a question on pitch A: I stumbled over the term ‘collared’ shouldn’t it be just ‘white-collar’?
    Pitch B - Totally freaking awesome! How come no ‘word count’ sticklers were counting on this one? Could it be because this person came in far below the word count and got in the genre, title and word count of the MS?! I bow to you ‘ole Salami’. We should all be taking a good look at this one! Great job!
    Pitch C:
    Do they battle or buck tradition? When you say the words/phrases: ‘rising star’, ‘Galaxies collide’ and different world views? It makes me think that one of them is from another place ‘as in’ not of this world’? I don’t know but it’s a point I should be clear on, right? I liked the word ‘rip’ but not a big fan of shake - as it's followed by dreams/core...shatter, maybe?
    Just my thoughts...back to the grindstone for me!

  5. Dang, Murphy! I never even noticed the length of that second pitch. You're right, though. That's pretty cool. I guess I should stop complaining about the pitch length when you have to add all that information.:(

  6. Some of the questions in comments have merit. I agree that it should be collar NOT collared in the first pitch.

  7. What, now that we play by the rules and do what we should. and some better than others we should rejoice? I say we should expect all that was asked and as writers we achieve. The state of the industry with so many places being cut back, we need to do better and hope that our work shines above all others. It's tough out there and it will only get tougher. There's a storm heading this way. Not every one doesn't know better. Watch out people! just watch.

  8. Could you give us an example of the missing genre, word count, and title in one of these that was acceptable? Is it as simple as beginning with, "Wuthering Heights is a 100,000 word historical romance," and then launching into the description?
    I would think the primary reason many did not follow this format is because SO many examples on the internet open with a rhetorical question, or simply begin with the statement of the plot, and end with a title and word count, and they are presented of examples that said agent did like. I see more and more examples in which the agent PRAISES the query for "getting right into the action, asking a question and involving the reader right away," " and this is bound to be confusing in the end, especially with other agent web sites saying that they are turning down a query simply because they did not care for the way in which it was written, as far as the order. Often they will simply say that the format (you) would like to see, is boring, predictable, not fresh and different, and so on. Once more we are looking at No Win for writers. You are either "boring and predictable" in your approach to the agent, or "won't follow the correct form for a query." There is no agreement here.
    Meanwhile, I too am curious as to how many of these you received. Thank you!

  9. Wuthering Heights is a 100,000 word historical romance," and then launching into the description?

    This would work.

  10. And I would be the first to agree that beginning with genre, title, and word count makes the most sense. It is only enormously frustrating to be told over and other by other agent sites that they like queries that "pull the reader right into the story. " It feels like walking into a wall no matter which direction one chooses, which would dsecribe the buyer's market in which we now all find ourselves. So sad, too bad.

  11. And before I head off to swim laps, let me say I don't mean to take this out on you, Scott. I appreciate you running the contest, and sharing your thoughts with us, as always. I think I made a major mistake when I turned down a position on a large metropolitan newspaper ten years ago. I would have had the near-mandatory platform well in hand right now. Oh heck, don't want to peak too soon in this life.
    The absolute stupidity of pure youth! I did not want to live in a big city! Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.
    What else is new? The human race staggers forward. Best to you and your little guys. And I have completely enjoyed my life in the so-called deep country. Can't have it all, as usual.

  12. I am glad everyone enjoyed this. One final thing to remember with all of this critique is that everything is still subjective. What one person likes, another may hate.
    The approach I take is really a business approach. What will it take to "make the sale?"