Monday, 8 February 2010

A welcome boost (and hook)

A post on Nicola Morgan’s excellent blog ‘Help I Need A Publisher’ pointed me in the direction of a blog called Slushbusters. As well as having an excellent name, the Slushbusters consist of seven children’s writers supporting each other to the top of the slush pile, which for non-writers is the nickname given to unsolicited manuscripts. They also had the brilliant idea of a contest called ‘Polish your Pitch’, and invited people to send in their pitch ideas for critique and feedback from fellow bloggers, no matter whether your book is aimed at children or adults.

So I decided to enter.

The original submission rule was to keep your pitch to three sentences, although this was later extended to up to a hundred words. The ‘pitch’ in this case is the hook with which to tempt the agents and publishers – the beginning introduction to your query letter that will hopefully captivate them enough to continue reading.

My main fear is that I will let myself down at this last hurdle, that I will send a query off half-cocked, that I will miss a typo, that I will under-sell my story, and that I will basically screw up the last two years of work. I have been working on my query letter on and off, but this contest seemed incredibly timely. I’d already been working on a ‘hook’ for the story, and had emailed a couple of ideas to good friend C to get her thoughts. Her feedback was enthusiastically positive, and so I sent off my best idea and then sat on my hands so I wouldn’t obsessively click to refresh the page with my pitch.

Didn’t work. I turned into a compulsive clicker!

Here is the link to my original pitch, and the helpful advice I received. You can also read it below:


The Death and Life of Florence Delaney

Florence Delaney expected one of three things to happen when she died – she would ascend to heaven, descend to hell, or wink out of existence entirely. Instead the unforeseen fourth thing happened – she met Max – he of the shaved head and strange fondness for white denim. And Max had a confession to make…

As well as being heartily cheered by the comments, the main things I took from it was that the words ‘she would’ above could be done better, that pitches are usually written in the present tense, and that my punctuation needed to be tightened (and to change ‘he of the shaved head, to ‘he with the shaved head’). I spent the next day or so playing with the idea of present tense, and gave it to good friend I to read, who instantly agreed present tense is the way forward. So this became another revision:

Florence Delaney expects one of three things to happen when she dies. Ascend to heaven accompanied by soothing music; descend to hell by the prod of a three-pronged spear, or to wink out of existence entirely. Instead the unforeseen fourth thing happens – she meets Max, with his shaved head and strange fondness for white denim. And Max has a big confession to make and quite a bit of grovelling to do…

But I felt it had lost the tightness of the first pitch, and so patted it around Word for a bit longer. Good friend A then took a look, and I asked her what she thought of my idea of combining the two into one solid revision. She was in favour, and so this is the final pitch I sent to Slushbusters.

Florence Delaney expects one of three things to happen when she dies. Ascend to heaven, descend to hell, or to wink out of existence entirely. Instead the unforeseen fourth thing happens – she meets Max, with his shaved head and strange fondness for white denim. And Max has a big confession to make…

And I won!

I am so happy! It has given me a large whoosh of confidence in my writing and my story, and has helped make me focus and think about this all-important part of my query letter. And even better, unconnected to this but again so timely and lovely, someone whose writing I admire has offered to be a second pair of eyes over my query– you can imagine my happiness about that!

All the pitches submitted in the contest sound very interesting – please do click here when you have some time to take a look and perhaps offer some feedback to the pitchers. Even though the contest is now over, feedback is the most important thing – it is what keeps us going and helps us get better!

And do let me know your thoughts regarding my pitch – what do you reckon, does it sound like something you would you like to read it someday?

14 comments:

musicobsessive said...

Wow! Congrats! It really is a great hook so you deserve it.

If it had been mine I would've gone with, '...Instead an unforeseen fourth option occurs...', but that's just my nitty-picky mind working.

Good luck with your pitch!

Jayne said...

Occurs. See - that is brilliant. All those revisions, and I didn't notice I had the word 'happen' twice. Thank you so much! Nitty-picky minds are most welcome - in fact, totally lauded and celebrated on this blog! Cheers for the good luck wishes. :)

Michelle said...

Jayne, we're so glad you participated! Congratulations on winning. We've got more critique stuff in the works for the blog.

KarenG said...

You're so awesome, I gave your blog an award. come by and pick it up!

Theresa Milstein said...

I decided to check you out after seeing your award on Karen's site.

Congratulations on your award, which seems well-deserved after reading your pitch. Right now, I'm struggling with a query, so it's good to know there are places that provide support.

Amy said...

I really like your summary. I'd definitely want to read more.

Jayne said...

Thank you Michelle, and for popping over here to say hello! It was a great idea, and I am thrilled to have won the inaugral comp - will definitely stay in touch and see what else you guys have up your sleeves!

Jayne said...

Aw KarenG, thank you! As you no doubt have seen, I have already scurried over, picked up my award, given it a quick buff in photoshop and then displayed it for all to see in the next post to this. :)

Jayne said...

Hi Theresa, and welcome! That is very sweet of you to say, I do appreciate that. I am still prodding at my query letter, but it is slowly shaping up to be... well, something, as opposed to nothing. The slushbusters do seem to be running regular critique contests etc, so do check them out, as entering that pitch contest really did help. And it is so lovely that people offer support like this, warms my heart!

Jayne said...

Hello Amy, and welcome! Thank you so much for letting me know. Yeay!

Rose said...

Yes I would read on after your opening- and it sounds very good! sounds like a really good idea- will check out some other pitches when I can

Jayne said...

Ooo thanks Rose! That is music to my ears!

Cecilia Shandeva said...

Hi love, I was hooked on all versions! I for sure wanted to read more. Congrats! x

Jayne said...

Hi Cecilia - welcome to blog-world! And thank you so much, I am so pleased you like the sound of it! :)