Craft, J.C. McKenzie, Pitches, Workshops

Playing with Pitches

KNOCKOUTOn Saturday I went to an amazing writing workshop with multi-published, award winning author Shelley Bates called “The Dread-Free Synopsis.” My head is still spinning. The woman is  a master at getting you to dig deep. My plot’s been spinning in my head like a crazed lp ready to launch into the air one moment like a deranged flying saucer and sputtering to a stop the next leaving a scratching needle-on-vinyl sound reverberating through my bones. I’ve hardly slept as questions keep floating up in my mind: What if I said this? What if I said that? How do I get the emotion across? …my love for the characters? …the heroine’s wicked sense of humor? Phew. This is hard work.

Anyway, one of the (many) big points I took away from the session is the idea of starting small. That is, instead of directly writing the dreaded synopsis I’m working on the pitch and back blurb.

Sounds like a great idea, but believe me it’s easier said than done. Pitch…back…blurb…three words that require an immense amount of work to get right.

Here are my first attempts at a pitch:

a) Using Nathan Bransford’s method:

When the severed finger of her fence is delivered to her door, covert CIA agent Sadie Stewart has to maintain her cover as a fashion model and hold off the amorous attention of the man she’s falling in love long enough to stop a power hungry arms dealer from stealing an ancient Egyptian artifact from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Or

b) Using Michael Hauge’s method:

When Sadie Stewart, international model by day and covert CIA operative by night, faces off against an arms dealer with an insatiable lust for power, she decides to risk everything. But when a severed finger is delivered to her door she knows she must get closer to the man in order to stop him from stealing an ancient Egyptian artifact from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Closer, despite the fact she’s falling in love with another man.

Where does that leave me?

PROOFING1. I really really really wish the first twist point didn’t involve a severed finger because it sounds icky in a blurb. lol I’ll remember this experience the next time I outline a story.

2. I’ve read the pitches over so many times I don’t even know if they make sense anymore.

3. I have this sinking feeling that I’m leaving out too much of the beautiful guts of the story.

4. Hmmmmm.

On another note:

My critique partner JC has suggested that I name my next story: Fifty Shades of Lay (because of my difficulty with the darned verb). lol

Your turn?

Any comments on my pitches? Any pitches of your own? Have you been sleeping lately?

15 thoughts on “Playing with Pitches

  1. I like the Michael Hauge one the best. You don’t have to broadcast the ‘severed finger’ you could be more subtle and say ‘a gruesome present’ or an ‘unexpected surprise’. That way, the reader can be shocked when they get to that scene.
    I think you could experiment with shorter, snappier sentences.
    For example: She needs to get closer to a man who wants to steal an artifact. But ……

    In the last sentence -I was lost. Who is the other man?

    Just my thoughts this a.m. I’m having a rather sluggish morning with my own work, so it is delightful to look at someone else’s writing.

    Basically, your heroine has 2 important segments to her life.
    !. her job -undercover CIA
    2. her love life

    If you blend the two, without getting too convoluted -you will have a powerful pitch.

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    1. Hey Jodie
      Thanks so much for this.
      I love your ‘gruesome present’ idea. It’s far more palatable than a severed finger and it adds a touch of mystery. So cool.
      When my head stops buzzing I’ll go through them again and look to shorten the sentences. It is too big a mouthful the way it is.
      Hope your day picks up.
      Best
      Jo-Ann

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  2. I agree with Jodie on this. And while you don’t have to be graphic in your pitch a severed finger raises the stakes way high. A mutilated cupcake not so much, LOL. Maybe for a caterer though…

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    1. Hi Pat
      You’ve got me laughing out loud again. A mutilated cupcake – too perfect.
      Thanks for stopping by and adding to the conversation.
      Best
      Jo-Ann

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  3. Really like the second pitch Jo-Ann, it flows really well. My only advice would be how about changing the last line just a little? Maybe something about how is she going to explain this to the man she’s falling for?
    Anyway, sounds really interesting, 🙂

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  4. Hey, Jo-Ann. I like the second one better, too. It’s too hard to follow the long convoluted sentence of the first one. Here’s a pattern I’ve picked up from someone, but I forget who now.
    __________ (adjective) _______________ (heroine’s name) wants to
    _____________ (her goal) but (obstacle or hero or villain) won’t let her
    do it or keeps getting in her way.

    ______________ (adjective) ___________ (hero’s name) wants to
    __________ (goal) but ____________(problem, villain) keeps him from
    doing it. However, their attraction _______________. (sizzles, hinders,
    you fill it in)
    Example: This began with form above and morphed a bit for my next book releasing next month, TRUTH BE TOLD: An Atlanta SWAT member Meg wants to stop whoever is blackmailing her father, but he doesn’t want her to get involved. She’s enlists the aid of her brother and his former homicide detective partner, Scott, who struggles to accept his new physical limitations that in his mind makes him unacceptable for Meg. He wants to protect Meg, but isn’t physically able. Meg doesn’t believe she needs protecting, even when the blackmailer shows up at the house with a gun.

    Here’s my 20-word tag for TRUTH: SWAT member teams with brother’s former partner to stop a blackmailer. Falling in love wasn’t one of their strategies.

    I find using a format helps to get the main stuff in then I can massage it. The 20-word deal is the real killer my publisher insists on. I usually have to ask a friend who’s familiar with the book. Some people write these before they get very far in the book to keep them on point.

    Wonderful post, Jo-Ann. I always feel like I’ve attended the conferences you go to. I don’t get why you struggle with the synopsis on your books. You do a super job summarizing conferences you attend. Guess you’re too close. 🙂 Ah well, one of the joys of being a writer. I’m FBing and Tweeting.

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    1. Hi Marsha
      Thanks for the template. I’ll give it a go. These two were fill in the blank constructions too, but I need to work it more. I think you’re right, my problem with synopsis is I’m way too close to the story and reluctant to cut any of it out. Lots to learn.
      Thanks for stopping by and helping me out. Also thanks for the SM SOs. You are such a good friend.
      Best Wishes
      Jo-Ann

      Like

    1. Thanks Jennifer
      She always makes me laugh, which is a wonderful attribute in both a daughter and a critique partner.
      Thanks for stopping by.
      Best
      Jo-Ann

      Like

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