I want to share with you all that I learned while putting together my very first attempt at a book pitch.
NaNoWriMo is teaming up with The Book Doctors for Pitchapalloza 2018! In addition to offering prizes, they will be broadcasting a live critique on March 15th. I am excited to tune in then to hear the pro’s advice on how to put together a good pitch. (They are collecting submissions until February 28th, so if you have something awesome to pitch check out the rules.)
Lesson 1: Just the essentals.
When compressing 65,000 words down into 250 you have to make some tough choices about what to include. I tried to follow the advice of the hosts on the “Writing Excuses Podcast” who recommend keeping focused on character, setting, and conflict.
I have the frustrating challenge of two main characters with chapters alternating between their points of view. So I decided to focus on my two MCs and leave my antagonist vague and the managerie of side characters out of the picture.
Conflict. I tried to hit on what my main characters are up against in the broader world as well as what they need to overcome inside themselves to succeed. Trying to include an internal and external conflict without sounding like a cliche is a huge challenge. I decided clear and cliche was better than vague and original (also probably cliche to people who have read a million pitches). Exernal conflict? Rogue magician. Internal conflict? Being less ridgid.
The hardest part of me was the setting. What to include? My characters travel all over! Do I get into the political systems? How much do I need to share about how magic works in this world? I tried to really focus on only what was vital information to make my characters and their conflicts clear.
Lesson 2: But what is the book about?
This is where I swung for the fences and possibly failed really big. I risked sharing too much by pointing out the theme of my book. When you open yourself to change, you succeed. To be fair, it is connected with the internal struggles of my main characters. And it was a great excersize for me to take the time to pin down my theme.
And if I find out it is too heavy handed or should never be included in a pitch, it is easier to take these things out then try to squeeze them in later.
Lesson 3: Fun and Flavor.
This part was so hard. How can I convey the quirky-yet-ernest tone of my book when I have only 250 word to work with? I tried to be really intentional about my vocabulary, trying to evoke the idea of ‘fun adventure’ without actually saying it. I included words like ‘explore’, ‘swashbuckle’, and ‘volcanic archipelagos’. This is the aspect that I feel I can improve on most once I get the rest of my pitch polished up.
So, without further ado, my (first ever!) pitch of “Mapping Magic”:
MAPPING MAGIC is a 65,000-word fantasy adventure middle grade novel. It should appeal to fans of THE PRINCESS BRIDE and THE TIFFANY ACHING series.
A brilliant student cartographer, Evan Hill, sets out to map the previously unexplored continent of Meridon. His careful plans are abandoned as useless when he discovers that in Meridon, magic exists.
He enlists the help of a native guide, a capable princess/river pirate, Wick, who hopes to earn herself some respect as the lowliest member of the Meridon Royal Family.
Evan’s cautious nature frustrate Wick’s bold one, and Wick’s “swashbuckle first, ask questions never” policy is appalling to Evan’s logical mind. Thrown together by chance, they must examine their most deeply held beliefs to be able to work together.
When they are attacked in their travels, Evan and Wick resolve to warn the King of the danger from a rogue enemy who is gathering magical artifacts. Navigating floating cities, volcanic archipelagos, and royal family drama, reveals their attacker is closer and more powerful than they first thought. Despite the odds against them, they decide to save the Kingdom themselves.
Wick and Evan will have to learn from each other in order to stand against their hidden enemy’s plans that could destroy Magic, the Kingdom, and the world.