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!