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John Adamus @awesome_john
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THREAD: How can I create a better pitch while not also killing myself mentally, aka Pitching is tough, please help.

#ontheporch #writerscommunity #writerslife #amquerying #amwriting #writetip #iamaneditor #thisishowitworks
I think the first thing we have to cover today is that not everything you want to say about your story is going to fit or belongs in your pitch. Many things you think are critical to "understand" the story don't have to come into the pitch.
And this reveals the point of the pitch - not to understand the story (that's what reading the manuscript is for), but to become interesting in it, so that the pitch-audience says "I want more information, I will go check out this manuscript."
One of the reasons a lot of people have such difficulty in pitch construction is that they're used to thinking as the character in the story, they're still operating on that writer-writing level and the pitch challenges them to think at the writer-business level.
A pitch is a view of the story designed to provoke an emotional response and intellectual interest. It is not a rundown of all the features and benefits. It's not a synopsis. It's a lure.

Think about going out to lunch.
You invite me to lunch, and want to go to one particular spot. I've never been there, so you have to make this spot sound like it's worth my appetite and attention.

How do you do that? Do you read me the whole menu? Do you talk about how you chew your food?
When I see a pitch that's fat with unnecessary details and cluttered with things the writer is too used to connecting together for "reasons", it's like reading me the whole menu in order to encourage me to eat lunch. I can read my own menu, thank you. Just tell me a few things.
But what things? How do you know what I'll like and what I won't?

You have to take a guess.

Well, an informed guess.

Informed because you're going to pick not from the whole pool of story-things (the whole menu), but from a set of highlights that you like.
Enthusiasm (not nervous energy, but confident "you're gonna dig this") is going to work together with your sentence(s) to paint a picture that encourages me to pay more attention and want more metaphorical lunch.
For instance, if you're writing a fantasy novel with wizards and croquet, you will probably want to start by talking about wizard or croquet-related things because they're bigger elements in your novel.
You can talk about them directly or indirectly, positively or contrapostiively, so long as those things are talked about in attractive ways upon which you may add other supportive details so we're consistently moving forward through the pitch.
Another thing a pitch needs is some element of tension, conflict, or challenge. Just telling me there are wizards and croquet is nice, but what am I supposed to do with those things? By setting up that there's a problem, you create more context.
A common way (let's be real, it's a crutch and a bit of an easy out) is to frame a sentence with a "But...." like "But when trouble comes through the door."

You're capable of so much more than letting one but always be the fulcrum on which the pitch tilts.
What else can you do?

Frame it as a question - So what's gonna happen when...
As a declarative - Imagine her shock when...
As a spike - Then the lights go out.
etc etc

There is NO SINGLE RIGHT WAY TO PITCH. Stop looking for the magic bullet.
A question I run into is "If this is a later book in a series, should I still have a pitch built?"

Yes. Because that pitch can be elaborated on to become back cover text. It can put in press releases. It can be useful when you switch publishers. It works great in marketing.
Back to our lunch example. The thing(s) you choose off that menu, the things you summarize (because you're gonna say "They have steak" and not "They have a 16oz ribeye done to temp with garlic mash and brandy peppercorn sauce") need to lead me to choosing to eat. Lead to choice
If you don't lead the reader to make the choice for more information, what you're doing is blasting a shotgun of facts and created stuff that's cool for you (you wrote it) and foreign to someone else. So pare it down. What things work better together? Start there.
How do you do that?

With our old friend the list. And I like note cards for this. They're tactile.

One cool thing to a notecard please, and bonus points if you can keep it to under 6 words per card.

Make a pile.

"witches" "kingdom" "murderous wife" "dagger" "spots need to come out" "Macbeth" "Lady Macbeth" "Fucking trees" "prophecy" "tragic Scotland"

those could all be cards.

Will all of them make it into a pitch? Maybe, maybe not.
But when you've got a pile of story/pitch elements in hand, you can find different arrangements and orchestrations.

The reason you want less than 6 words per card is so that you're not crutching on specific language in pitch after pitch.
Like if you always frame Lady Macbeth as the murderous wife, then you're eventually going to get very familiar and comfortable with always setting that up in the pitch. Is it true in the story? Yes, but you don't only have to express it that way. Be willing to think freely.
Remember, the pitch doesn't have to make the reader understand what you wrote, it just has to make the reader interested for more (which is when you hand them the MS).

So, you may ask, what about spoilers?
And I say to you, who gives a fuck about spoilers? You're assuming that knowing what the ending is will eliminate the curiousity of wanting to know how the story gets to the solution. Stop thinking spoilers are precious.
Your goal is to get someone to read the MS, so use every tool in your craft toolbox to get them interested in wanting to know more, and then when you confidently deploy your MS (that's already in its best shape), you'll have them hooked. /THREAD
Thanks for checking out today's thread. For more, you can find me on Discord and the blog

And when you're ready to roll up your sleeves and fire up your writing and your career, let's talk.…

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