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Pitching Your Novel

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May 23, 2011 by Renee

Every writer, even self published writers, must pitch their novel. A pitch is usually (based on my research) around 50 words. This might be a bit more, but that’s a nice fast summary of what your novel is about. Holy shit, it’s an awful thing to write.

Sorry, just had a melt down thinking about it. We also have to write a blurb. I have fun with these. In fact, I like to make a game of blurbing novels I’ve read. Yes, I need a life, but aside from that obvious fact, isn’t it odd that I can blurb everything but my novels? Seriously, I’ve blurbed a shopping list just for fun. You should try that. Swear, you’ll love it.

In this month’s On Fiction Writing Challenge (Goodreads), I’ve asked fellow writers to write pitches in blurbs for current WIPs or finished novels. The results so far have been very educational. This is a good thing.

I decided on this challenge because I hate shrinking my novels down at all. Seriously, I get physically ill when I try. Why? I don’t know. I like to include twists and turns, little quirks and subplots that give what may be an otherwise “typical” story a unique spin. Of course, we all do this, but how do we convey those in under 100 words for a pitch? Even a longer blurb, where I just have to tease the reader into wanting to read the story is tough. Synopses? Let’s not discuss those right now.

The key to great pitches and blurbs? I know that your choice of words is crucial. Strong verbs and short, to the point sentences tend to grab a reader’s attention immediately. Longer sentences with weak verbs elicit yawns and the occasional eyeroll.

Other than that, I think it’s basically remembering that both of these have one function: To make an agent/publisher/reader want to read the book. Sounds so simple, doesn’t it?

I posted a pitch and a blurb for four completed manuscripts and two seemed to grab OFW members immediately. I’ll share those of course. The other two, well one is a really tough, thought-provoking, emotional read. It’s hard to blurb or pitch because of this. No, it’s not impossible. I know that. But so far I haven’t figured out the right words and how to place them. The last, I’ve confused things and somehow I have to untangle the plot twists to make it sing.

The two that (seemed to) work:

In the Bones:

Pitch

Ryan Cassidy receives an inheritance—with a catch. To claim his grandparents’ estate, he must live in Albertsville for one year. An easy task, he thinks, until he meets the town’s reeve, Carroll Albert.

The mysteries pile up faster than the bodies and Ryan finds “living” in Albertsville is difficult when someone wants him dead.

Blurb

Albertsville, Ontario: Population 397, and falling.

Ryan Cassidy inherits a windfall from his estranged grandparents, with a caveat: to claim it he must live in Albertsville for one year—and survive.

Fear and deceit bind the locals in psychological chains. Ryan struggles to unravel their mysteries, but each clue forges new links to the bonds making the townsfolk hopeless prisoners.

Murder is nothing new to Carroll Albert, the town’s reeve, and if Ryan gets too close to Albertsville’s secrets, he’ll meet the same fate as the Cassidy’s before him.

After Ryan discovers that Carroll tormented his mother, and ordered his grandparents’ murder, he promises to avenge them. The proof he needs is buried with the bones of a family murdered long ago by the town’s founding fathers, but only Carroll knows where to find them.

Ancient Blood

Pitch

Vampires are fiction. Natalie Perry believes this until her new love, Gabriel, bares his fangs, thrusting her into a world of darkness and hunger. Newly changed and not a little confused, Natalie is left in the care of Aedon, the coven’s prince, while Gabriel leaves to take the Test of Ancients. Has Gabriel forgotten that Aedon believes in sharing?

Blurb

Natalie Perry is a singer and exotic dancer. To audition for a job, she enters The Bite, an underground vampire bar where Gabriel catches her eye. Natalie doesn’t know it, but the tall, dark, and handsome Gabriel, has fangs.

An old enemy of Aedon, the coven’s Prince, wants to take over. To stop him, tradition dictates Gabriel must have a Second. He nominates Natalie. Too bad she has no idea what’s going on.

Aedon’s enemy ups his game, forcing Gabriel to go for broke and he takes the Test of Ancients— leaving Natalie to fend for herself among a group of creatures bent on tasting their newest member. If he passes, Gabriel will rule over their kind. But the test is a bitch, two months a long time, and Aedon wouldn’t mind stealing Natalie’s heart before Gabriel returns.

These are still a WIP, and I’m tweaking each time I look at them, but of the four, my fellow writers wanted to read these immediately.
 
Now the other two?
 
Dirty Truths
 

Pitch

Divorced from her abusive husband Daniel, Kristina Riley hopes to begin again. If only Daniel would let her.

Wade Bowen, a much older married man, offers her a job—and his heart. Kristina takes both. Then she looks inside a box Wade leaves at her house. Its contents tell are far more terrifying than her ex-husband.

Blurb

Kristina Riley finds the courage to divorce her abusive husband, Daniel, and determined to make a better life for her infant daughter, she accepts a job at Dirty, a bar owned by Wade Bowen, a much older, married man.

Wade offers more love and security than she’s ever known with Daniel, but his connection to a mob-type organization called the Brotherhood, and his unfaithful wife’s determination to destroy him, weighs heavily on Kristina’s mind.

Wade leaves a box at her home; its contents reveal that he has much more than an association to the Brotherhood. Her problems escalate after a brutal assault from Daniel, when she discovers someone has taken the box.

Now the police have it.

In a tiny room at the police station, fate offers Kristina a solution that would end Daniel’s reign of terror and give her the life she desperately wants. Freedom is within her grasp, but does she have the courage to take it?

Yeah, I know it’s suckish. The plot twists rapidly and there are a couple of subplots involving secondary characters that impact this main plot. My problem is how to show this in a tiny amount of words and still keep it clear? Ugh.

I wasn’t going to share the last, but meh, why not? Maybe some of you have a few ideas that would improve things. I know I’m out of ideas on this one at the moment. It’s an awesome story, but it’s dark. Anyway, here’s my pitch and blurb for I Do…And other Lies We Tell:

Pitch

Four damaged souls clash on one destructive path. As Dana Parsons, Garrett O’Brien, and Ronny Sampson become irrevocably entwined in each other’s fates, the child they all love will challenge them to break the age-old cycle of violence and abuse.

Blurb

Dana Parsons is trapped. Abused by her brother, dirt poor, and miserable, she is desperate to break free. Garrett O’Brien is angry at his father’s cruelty, his mother’s weakness, and the world that has given him no choices. Dana and Garrett meet as teens and eventually marry. After a violent wedding night their marriage tilts into a downward spiral.

Ronny Sampson is not a retard, though everyone calls him one. He meets Vicki Karson and they have a daughter, Amy. Vicki leaves the two year old Amy in an alley, and Ronny returns from a long haul to begin a desperate battle to reclaim his child. He loves Dana, but the demons of his childhood threaten to destroy his chance at happiness.

Years later, Dana’s daughter, Hayley, is desperate for love and approval. This hunger leads her on a familiar path. Dana prays her daughter has the strength to make the right decision, not the easy one.

Now that I’ve bored you with mine, please, feel free to pitch your novel to everyone here on The Edge. No, I’m not looking to critique them, unless of course you want me to. I’m hoping you’ll show me how it’s done. If you’ve got any tips or tricks, I’d love to hear them too.

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One thought on “Pitching Your Novel

  1. Vero says:

    I'll address Dirty Truths, since it's the one that caught my eye before :)I like this pitch, it's crisp and generates a lot of questions. The blurb is just great, Renee! Maybe you could split the first sentence in two, and completely leave out the last paragraph — and you've definitely got a buyer in me. I can't think of anything else I'd change, you've nailed it!

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Renee

Renee

I like to write stuff. Sometimes it's funny. I've published some novels and short fiction. I also battle an addiction to cake and potato chips, and I sometimes have inappropriate fantasies involving Kevin Spacey.

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