Thursday, December 31, 2015

You Won't Believe These Amazing Things I Did in 2015!!


Well, it's that time again. Another year has flown by, and the end of 2015 is upon us. So, let's take a look at all the fantastic things I accomplished over the past 365 years.
  1. Created my first (and last) clickbait headline (see above).
  2. Successfully consumed at least 550 liters of pure oxygen.
  3. Passed my own personal record for most consecutive days alive.
  4. Covered self with dangerous dihydrogen monoxide on multiple occasions and lived to tell about it.
  5. Managed to avoid gaining any weight, which could be very surprising news to anyone who is aware of my love for cookies.
  6. Did not kill father or sleep with mother.
  7. In March, I successfully avoided burning my house down even AFTER I found a spider within.
  8. Held a newborn infant without dropping it. BONUS: Child's parents did not call the police.
  9. Successfully avoided becoming any shorter.
  10. Recirculated at least a gallon of blood constantly for an entire year.
So, let's all take a minute, raise a glass, and congratulate ourselves on for making it through the year more or less intact. Cheers!


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

This Book's My Pitch: ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE

As you may be aware, I help host the PitchSlam contest run every year by the amazing L.L. McKinney. Writers submit a 35 word pitch for feedback, then their first page for feedback, then both together for consideration for the agent round. The hosts, with a slew of talented readers, work to pick the most polished entries for the agents to read and request.

This year, someone suggested that perhaps 35 words wasn't enough to do a book justice in a pitch. My reply was that any book could be done in 35 words or less -- and I offered to use my blog to help show how. So, once a week until I run out of book ideas or people lose interest, join me here for This Book's My Pitch.

Personally, the format I like for a pitch is:
When [inciting incident], [main character] must [basic plot] or [stakes]. 
This week, I'm looking at ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE, by Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez, which I've never read. The title sounds vaguely familiar, but I couldn't begin to tell you what it's about. I'm not going to let that stop me from distilling it to a 35-word pitch.

Anyway, here's the blurb from Goodreads:
The novel tells the story of the rise and fall of the mythical town of Macondo through the history of the family. It is a rich and brilliant chronicle of life and death, and the tragicomedy of humankind. In the noble, ridiculous, beautiful, and tawdry story of the family, one sees all of humanity, just as in the history, myths, growth, and decay of Macondo, one sees all of Latin America.
Love and lust, war and revolution, riches and poverty, youth and senility -- the variety of life, the endlessness of death, the search for peace and truth -- these universal themes dominate the novel. Whether he is describing an affair of passion or the voracity of capitalism and the corruption of government, Gabriel Garcia Marquez always writes with the simplicity, ease, and purity that are the mark of a master. 
Alternately reverential and comical, One Hundred Years of Solitude weaves the political, personal, and spiritual to bring a new consciousness to storytelling. Translated into dozens of languages, this stunning work is no less than an accounting of the history of the human race.  
Unfortunately, this tells me absolutely nothing. it could be describing Legends of the Fall, if that were set in Latin America. I don't even get a main character's name. So, how do we pitch the story in 35 words or less?
Follow the ups and downs of a small town through the eyes of one family as they experience riches, poverty, love, lust, war, corruption, revolution and more. Together, they seek the truth and inner peace.
Does that make you want to read the book? Me, neither. Neither did that blurb - unfortunately, I've discovered that when a book gets famous enough, Amazon and Goodreads assume you know what it's about and don't tell you anything useful in the blurb. So I read through a few of the reviews, but that didn't work, either. Finally, I went to Wikipedia. I'm going to be 100% honest - some books do not do well in pitching contests, and this might just be one of them. There appear to be 16 main characters sharing 4 names? So maybe this type of family saga would come across better in a query where you get more words.

Still, I am undeterred. Whether this pitch is the best possible way to sell the book or not, I wrote one that works better than the one above.
The Buendía family leaves Columbia for a city of mirrors, where strange things happen. Over seven generations, the Buendía family members must learn from each other’s mistakes to save la familia - and the magical town.
See how that's better? And that's from someone who has no idea what the book is about (still).

Make this story your pitch. Put your own 35 word pitches in the comments.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

This Book's My Pitch: ALANNA: THE FIRST ADVENTURE

As you may be aware, I help host the PitchSlam contest run every year by the amazing L.L. McKinney. Writers submit a 35 word pitch for feedback, then their first page for feedback, then both together for consideration for the agent round. The hosts, with a slew of talented readers, work to pick the most polished entries for the agents to read and request.

This year, someone suggested that perhaps 35 words wasn't enough to do a book justice in a pitch. My reply was that any book could be done in 35 words or less -- and I offered to use my blog to help show how. So, once a week until I run out of book ideas or people lose interest, join me here for This Book's My Pitch.

Personally, the format I like for a pitch is:
When [inciting incident], [main character] must [basic plot] or [stakes]. 
I've had kind of a rough day.... well, week, well... 2015, and the rest of the books on my list are mostly ones I've never heard of. I decided to give myself a break and pitch a book I know as well as I know the ones I've written myself (if not better). So, I present you a look at one of my all-time favorite books, ALANNA: THE FIRST ADVENTURE (Song of the Lioness, Book 1) by Tamora Pierce. Also, almost none of the books on my list were fantasy (I think).

Anyway, here's the blurb from Goodreads:
From now on I'm Alan of Trebond, the younger twin. I'll be a knight.

And so young Alanna of Trebond begins the journey to knighthood. Though a girl, Alanna has always craved the adventure and daring allowed only for boys; her twin brother, Thom, yearns to learn the art of magic. So one day they decide to switch places: Thom heads for the convent to learn magic; Alanna, pretending to be a boy, is on her way to the castle of King Roald to begin her training as a page.
But the road to knighthood is not an easy one. As Alanna masters the skills necessary for battle, she must also learn to control her heart and to discern her enemies from her allies.


Filled with swords and sorcery, adventure and intrigue, good and evil, Alanna's first adventure begins - one that will lead to the fulfillment of her dreams and the magical destiny that will make her a legend in her land.
So, how do we pitch the story in 35 words or less? I'll be honest, that blurb isn't all that helpful. Som maybe, to make people want to read the book, we should talk about the inciting incident - show how exciting this book is, right out of the gate! That'll work, right?

(DISCLAIMER: I cannot remember how old Alanna is in the first book, and I didn't feel like looking it up. Throw in the appropriate age when doing your own pitch.)
Ten-year-old Alanna doesn't want to be a lady, so she runs away to become a knight instead. All she has to do is cut her hair, change her name, and forge Father's signature.  
Please note that this pitch I've created essentially covers pages 1-5 of the book. Possibly some parts of chapter two. If I picked up a manuscript after reading that pitch, I'd be expecting 200 pages showing Alanna's struggle to even get to the place where she becomes a knight in the first place. Let's try something else:
When ten-year-old Alanna takes her brother’s place in knight training, she uncovers a plot to kill the prince. Alanna must save his life, without revealing her identity, or she won’t make it to next year.
See how that's better? (And I did this in about ten minutes, so I know you can improve upon it).

This was actually tough because I know and love the book and wish there was room to talk about beating bullies and befriending a prince and evil Duke Roger and being the only person who can save Jonathan from the Sweating Sickness, Sir Myles, also being a wizard, and all the other awesome stuff that happens. But I can't. I have 35 words. So I have to boil it down to the essentials.

Make this story your pitch. Put your own 35 word pitches in the comments!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

This Book's My Pitch: JANE EYRE

As you may be aware, I help host the PitchSlam contest run every year by the amazing L.L. McKinney. Writers submit a 35 word pitch for feedback, then their first page for feedback, then both together for consideration for the agent round. The hosts, with a slew of talented readers, work to pick the most polished entries for the agents to read and request.

This year, someone suggested that perhaps 35 words wasn't enough to do a book justice in a pitch. My reply was that any book could be done in 35 words or less -- and I offered to use my blog to help show how. So, once a week until I run out of book ideas or people lose interest, join me here for This Book's My Pitch.

Personally, the format I like for a pitch is:
When [inciting incident], [main character] must [basic plot] or [stakes]. 
So, let's see how it plays out. This week, for a change, I thought it would be nice if I picked a book I've actually read (I mean, other than Harry Potter). I'm going from the list of books people gave me back in October, and to be honest, I'd never heard of half the books on it. I sometimes wonder if it's easier to pitch a book when you don't know all the details, because you're less likely to try to cram in every cool moment. Anyway, this week, we're doing JANE EYRE (which I read in high school). Here's the blurb from Goodreads:
Orphaned into the household of her Aunt Reed at Gateshead, subject to the cruel regime at Lowood charity school, Jane Eyre nonetheless emerges unbroken in spirit and integrity. She takes up the post of governess at Thornfield, falls in love with Mr. Rochester, and discovers the impediment to their lawful marriage in a story that transcends melodrama to portray a woman's passionate search for a wider and richer life than Victorian society traditionally allowed. 
With a heroine full of yearning, the dangerous secrets she encounters, and the choices she finally makes, Charlotte Bronte's innovative and enduring romantic novel continues to engage and provoke readers.
So, how do we pitch the story in 35 words or less? I'll be honest, that blurb isn't all that helpful. One option is to be super mysterious. Make people read the book to find to out what happens, right?
Victorian England. Moors. Strange happenings. Orphans. A mysterious old house. Crazy lady in the attic. Can poor governess Jane uncover the secrets of Thornfield in time to marry Mr. Rochester, or is their relationship doomed?
Not so great, right? See why I say I don't like pitches that are too vague? Or pitches with rhetorical questions? Let's try something else:

Orphaned plain Jane accepts a governess post, never dreaming she'd fall for her rich employer. When she discovers Mr. Rochester's secret wife, Jane must choose between the love she yearns for and society’s harsh constraints.
See how that's better? (And I did this in about half an hour, so I know you can improve upon it). Make this story your pitch. Put your own 35 word pitches in the comments!

(Special thanks to Lana Wood Johnson for reminding me what the heck this book is about. The blurbs I found on Amazon all assume you know the basic story.)