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, I’ve chosen Outlander. I actually haven’t read the book (or seen the show), but here’s the snippet from Amazon.
Unrivaled storytelling. Unforgettable characters. Rich historical detail. These are the hallmarks of Diana Gabaldon’s work. HerNew York Times bestselling Outlander novels have earned the praise of critics and captured the hearts of millions of fans. Here is the story that started it all, introducing two remarkable characters, Claire Beauchamp Randall and Jamie Fraser, in a spellbinding novel of passion and history that combines exhilarating adventure with a love story for the ages.
Scottish Highlands, 1945. Claire Randall, a former British combat nurse, is just back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an “outlander”—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding clans in the year of Our Lord . . . 1743.
Claire is catapulted into the intrigues of a world that threatens her life, and may shatter her heart. Marooned amid danger, passion, and violence, Claire learns her only chance of safety lies in Jamie Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior. What begins in compulsion becomes urgent need, and Claire finds herself torn between two very different men, in two irreconcilable lives.
So, how do we pitch the story in 35 words or less? One option is to be super mysterious. Make people read the book to find to out what happens, right?
When Claire is magically transported from 1945 to 1743, she’s thrown into a war-torn world. Will she save herself and get back home? Or will she fall in love and stay, leaving behind her husband?
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:
When magic whisks Claire to a war-torn 1743, she seeks refuge with a warrior. After he reawakens her passions, Claire must decide whether to return to her husband or live in the past forever.
Better, right? (And I did this in about 10 minutes, so I know you can improve upon it). Make this story your pitch. Put your own 35 word pitches in the comments!