Guys, just WATCHING the Twitter pitch party yesterday was insane. 140 characters were flying every which way! If you – like myself – couldn’t keep up, GB Skye made a very handy list of the pitches that got requests. It’s a totally handy learning tool that might give you ideas on how to tweak your own pitch. Definitely check it out.
It’s been fun! So glad this post seems like it’s been useful. Comments will stay open in case someone wants to jump back in with a new pitch and get some feedback.
First off: Let it be stated that I in no way consider myself an expert on Twitter pitches, but it seemed like we were all in the same, wig-tastic boat when this new contest was announced – half-excited, half-terrified – so why not bond together and help each other out?
Step 2: Let’s construct this bastard.
I’ve discussed this a little with Jenny Kaczorowski, who – like myself – kind of goes “Ooo” and not “AUGH” over the prospect of Twitter pitches, and she shared some advice she received from the fabulous Shelley Watters. If you don’t know where to begin, here’s a good basic formula:
When x happens, (main character) must do y in order to z.
Nathan Bransford calls it the opening conflict, obstacle and quest. Pretty simple, right? Straight-forward? The hard part is stripping out everything YOU know of your book because you are so intimately acquainted with the characters, the world and all the layers you’ve built in. Twitter pitches are not about layers or themes or subplots or anything except your MC and what the hell happens. Bam.
So the basic questions you have to ask yourself are who is your MC, what’s their conflict and what is at stake for them? Then it’s time to choose your words so very, very carefully. We have 135 characters for this one when you factor in the new hashtag (#WVTP) so take all the time between now and May 24th finding super-strong words – words that kick people in the teeth and make them worry that you made their nose bleed from the awesome.
Nathan also suggest adding “flavor,” if you can swing it – essentially, that dash of something extra that gives it a sense of the voice of the novel. He even provides his own pitch as an example:
Three kids trade a corndog (FLAVOR) for a spaceship, blast off into space (OPENING CONFLICT), accidentally break the universe (OBSTACLE), and have to find their way back home (QUEST)
Common issues to avoid:
Agent Rachelle Gardner compiled a list of pitch problems she saw cropping up in a contest of hers:
- Language that is too vague: This generally happens when you use non-specific cliches that border on being thematic. For example: “When her world is turned upside-down, Izzy must discover who she truly is before she loses herself forever.”
- Overly complicated and/or confusing: Generally happens when you’re being too specific, especially if you’re working with spec fiction. For example: “Angie has inherited all the planet’s danaan and has to escape in Sybil to keep it from the Magistrate.” Also happens when you have disparate elements crammed together: “Zee doesn’t think his inhaler can save the world until a dragon princess shows him an enchanted telescope.”
With this Twitter pitch, I would also add a caution against over-relying on Twitter abbreviations in our case. You want a hook that Vickie and John read quick and go “WANT” – not one they have to puzzle out.
Jenny K.’s for THE ALTERAE:
When Emma’s best friend dies, she must master her ability to manipulate emotions before she’s the next victim of the creature responsible.
If you want to see it’s evolution, take a look at her long-form one-sentence pitch so you can see how she pared it down:
When 16-year-old Emma’s best friend drowns, she must master her unwanted ability to manipulate emotions to figure out what really happened or risk becoming the next victim of the ruthless creature responsible for her friend’s death.
Here are some others I collected – the first three are winning entries from Monica B.W.’s Twitter pitch contest with Hannah Bowman in March; the next one ise from Rick Lipman who just recently signed with Pam van Hylckama Vlieg; and the last is from my super-awesome coach Brenda for her debut LIBRARY JUMPERS:
She’s pure evil and has a plan to take over the world. Thousands will do anything to kill her. There is only one problem. I’m her bodyguard.
Bree thought graduating a virgin would be easy. Now easy is all anyone thinks about her since that night, even though she didn’t consent.
Lost in China without their belongings, 16-year-old Joe and his crush, Lilah, must trek 200 miles to the closest U.S. Embassy.
For her 16th birthday, Tara gets a gift that keeps on giving: a race of androids seeking to use her new power to help them avoid extinction.
Yanked into a gateway book linking the great libraries, Gia finds that she’s a long lost knight & must now fight to stop an apocalypse.
The comments section awaits. Share your Twitter pitch and get feedback from others. You guys are pretty freaking awesome so this should go without saying, but be constructive, not destructive. And if you share your pitch, try to make sure you comment on others. It’s a give-and-take situation.
Most of the advice above has been culled from Rachelle Gardner (The One-Sentence Summary and One-Sentence Summary Critiques) and Nathan Bransford (How to Write a One Sentence Pitch) who both have brilliantly useful blogs that you should follow if you’re not already.