Dear Honored Readers,
I wrote the following information to help explain a few things I’ve learned about writing a story and how to entice an editor/agent/reader with a pitch (logline). I hope it helps you. Through writing it out for you, it helps me learn it a little better myself. I really want to get published!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Plan and Polish Your Story.
, an expert editor, gives us important things to remember about writing a short story that I believe are equally as important in writing any story. She says: “A short story is about a character who wants something desperately. It’s a matter of life or death. Unfortunately, he is blocked from having what he wants, but is so obsessed that he will walk on coals, move mountains, or brave the fires of hell to get it. The plot of a short story consists of the actions the main character takes to overcome the obstacle that stands between him and his heart’s desire.”
1. Information you need to know before sending your story off to an agent/editor/or critique group:
Why did I write this story? ____________________________________________________________________.
Why should it be me to write it? Why not someone else? ______________________________________________________________.
Why this story?______________________________________________________________________________.
The non-negotiable parts of this story are _______________________________________________________ because _______________________________________________.
2. Writing a Pitch
Before you write your story or after it is finished, you must have what is called a “Pitch” for your story. It is a summary of the main character, conflict, and universal theme in your story written in as few words as possible to entice a reader/editor/agent to want to read your manuscript. You want to capture their interest in less than a minute’s time. You want to reach head, heart, and soul with your cleverly worded pitch to draw them like a magnet to your story. Screenplays pitches are called log lines. To me, it’s almost the same. You can use your twenty-five word pitch in your query letter. You can also use your pitch for impromptu conversations with editors/agents/readers in an elevator. A pitch is a teaser – a hook that grabs the listener’s attention. If a bookseller is reading a catalog of 300 books, you have 15 seconds to grab his interest.
The following link has an explanation of a logline. A logline is the information about a program you might see in a TV guide. http://www.scriptologist.com/Magazine/Tips/Logline/logline.html
Are you clueless about how to write a pitch? I was.
When I was at the Pike’s Peak Writer’s Conference in Colorado Springs, Colorado in April, 2010, I was fortunate to attend a workshop with Linda Rohrbough, http://www.lindarohrbough.com/home/, who explained how to talk to editors and agents about writing. After the workshop with her, I finally understood how to write a pitch. You can write this information on a 3×5 inch card or 4×6 inch card. Cut one the size to put in your wallet. Be creative.
Pitch Part 1 (Regular Pitch or Logline 1)
My name is ______________________. (Meeting a real agent or editor can do strange things to your speaking ability.)
My genre for this book is _______________________________. My word count is _______________________________________.
This is a story about________________________________(Hero) who is ___________________________________(Flaw)
Whose goal (Life Changing Event) is ____________________________________________________________
Opposed by ______________________________________________________________________________(Opponent)
and helped by __________________________________________________________________________________ (Ally)
in the battle between _____________________________________________________________________________________ and __________________________________.
Pitch Part 2 (Log Line 2 – Linda Rohrbough’s invention)
Linda Rohrbough says to add a second log line to further pull the editor/agents into your book.
Tell the character who changes and how they change (how they change is called the character arc).
Pitch Part 3
Then tell the universal theme that your story has in common with all people. There can be many themes in a story. Choose the most poignant one that represents your story. The universal theme answers the question: What did the main character learn from striving for this goal.
What did the main character learn from his struggle, his journey to reach this goal? ______________________________________
The Universal theme of this story is ____________________________________ )
Here are two pitches I used at the Pike’s Peak Writer’s Conference in April using Linda Rohrbough’s method. I wrote down the names of other completed manuscripts that I could send to her. I would suggest that you write a full two part pitch for each story you’ve finished and keep them in your pocketbook with you at all times. Practice giving your pitches to friends or strangers you meet on the bus or the grocery store. You’ll gain confidence and you’ll get better each time you do it. If you have a face to face writing group, you can practice giving a pitch there. You can do with your online writing group by setting up a free online chat room on chatsy.com
After sharing these pitches with an agent, she asked me to send full manuscripts. She has not made a decision yet, but she told me she really likes my writing.
My genre is Christian, Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Mystery
Fearful of being alone in America in 1902, sixteen year old Immigrant Catarina Ricci fights to save her grandfather from being shipped back to Italy and her father from being fatally poisoned.
By using her detective skills and following her heart, she learns to survive without her father or grandfather by her side.
My theme is when young people trust their brains and their hearts, they can survive in a new environment.
My genre is Christian, Short Story, Humorous
When Sara Brown is scarred by her mother’s pet turkey and taunted by classmates, she is tempted to use revenge.
By praying and facing the turkey square in the gobbler, she is able to work together with the turkey to save her mother’s car from being stolen and gains the respect of her parents and classmates.
My theme is prayer and positive action helps solve problems without using revenge.
Okay. You tell me. Joan, I’m still clueless. Can you explain pitch in a different way?
Here are two different explanations of Pitch Part 1 from Lisa Schroeder and April Henry, Authors who were at the Oregon Coast Children’s Book Writers Conference.
Pitch Guide from Lisa Schroeder
Lisa Schroeder uses this for her pitch guide.
This is a story about _______________________(main character)
Who wants __________________________________ (main character’s goal)
But ______________________________________ (main character’s obstacle) stands in his way)
Until he/she ________________________________________(action taken by main character)
Pitch Guide from April Henry
Here is April Henry’s secret pitch http://www.aprilhenrymysteries.com/
This is a story about ______________________
Who desperately wants ______________________________________________
In order to _____________________________________________________
Prevented by ________________________________________
Until she/he does __________________________________________ to overcome obstacle.
I hope I helped steer you closer to the pitch you desire for your manuscript.
Beyond the Pitch
Here is other items of Information about writing a story that may help you:
Three Tries – Each time it gets worse. I mean really bad.
It’s helpful to know the 3 tries and their outcome of your character before you begin to write. You definitely should know them when the story is finished. If the story is a piece of cake for the main character, you don’t have a story. A story means there’s trouble, there’s a big problem, there’s a problem the main character can’t ignore any more.
Make sure your main character tries three times: Each time he tries, knock him down a notch.
What the main character does and fails ____________________________________________________
Choice 1. Does this and it fails_________________________________________,
Choice 2. This choice makes the character think it’ll help, however it surprises and shocks him because the situation gets really bad. So bad the character is about to give up _____________________________________________________________________
Choice 3. _______________________________________________________________
Pitch Related Links
Short and to the point about a pitch
There Are Two Kinds of Stories
Plot Driven – Character doesn’t change Nancy Drew stories, Sherlock Holmes, Columbo.
Character Driven – where character must change to reach goal – Harry Potter, Ebenezer Scrooge in The Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.
Describe only the essentials.
Show character situations and changes by describing only the essentials:
1. Appearance-Describe only what is necessary to understand the plot and the characters.
2. Dialogue-weave dialogue into action
3. Action-Have action lead character closer to goal or farther away from goal
Show action in scenes – Each scene should have one emotion and change at the end of the scene
4. Setting-have character interact with setting – weather, a particular chair, items that are important to the plot.
5. Thoughts-present both positive and negative points of view (This adds contrast and conflict)
6. Backstory – bare minimum as late in the story as possible. Ask a reader, your critique group. They can help.
All of the characters in the story do not have the same goal as the main character. Some are opposed to main character’s goal.
A character perspective chart may come in handy just to get the idea straight in your mind as the author. http://www.readwritethink.org/files/resources/lesson_images/lesson267/chart.pdf
How much backstory is absolutely essential for the reader to understand this?
How late in the story can I tell it?
How can I interweave it in with the dialogue and description smoothly?
Highlight the backstory of your favorite book. Notice whether all the information is dumped in one place. Usually, a good book will have the backstory interwoven with the dialogue and description in bits and pieces. If you put it all in one spot, it’s too much information at one time. It’s like you’re saying to the reader, “You-hoo. I’m over here. Here’s something you need to know.”
People read stories they can relate to, that have a common emotional feeling that they have had, would like to have, or are afraid to have…a universal theme…a universal reason for reading it that is the same for all people.
Parts of the above information I gleaned from the Oregon Coast Children’s Book Writers Workshop in Oceanside, Oregon and from the Pike’s Peak Writers Conference in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Parts I learned from the website links in this post. Some I learned from personal experience.
Thanks for reading my blog. I hope it helps you get your book nearer publication.
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Have a Flip Flap Floodle Day!
Joan Y. Edwards
Author/Illustrator of Flip Flap Floodle
Copyright 2010 Joan Y. Edwards. All rights reserved.