Thursday, October 28, 2010

Oh Pitching!

Imagine that you’ve written the most splendid novel. You’re characters are compelling and your plot tense and tight. You’ve edited and re-edited--your story glows. Now what?
It doesn’t matter how stunning your story is, it won’t go anywhere if you don’t learn how to pitch it.
What is a novel pitch?
Pitching is the process in which your awesome story idea moves from your brain to someone else’s. It can be used for recruiting alpha readers—getting them excited to read your book. Or it to an editor to convince them your novel is publishable. Or even to promoting your novel after you’re published. (Note: whatever step you’re at for pitching there maybe be a slight different way to do it. Pitching for an editor might mean you disclose upfront all plot conclusions, where as you wouldn’t want to ruin the end when promoting to someone after you’re published.) Novel pitching is sort of like transferring a document from one computer to another, but unfortunately for us, people do not come equipped with usb ports for jump drives. Whether it’s written or verbal, you have to communicate your pitch effectively.
Here’s an example: I like to bake cookies and some of my cookies I have to say are pretty delicious. I’ll “pitch” my cookies to you—which one would you rather eat?
1. I make these amazing cookies. They’re easy to make and only bake for eight minutes. They are chocolate and mint and quite popular. Want one?
2. I have this amazing recipe for cookies. It takes devil’s food cake mix so they’re rich and chocolaty. When they are fresh from the oven, I put an Andies mint on the top so that it melts and drizzles over the sides. When their still warm, they are gooey—you know the kind where you have to lick it as it drips down the side of your hand. They’re excellent the next day too—that is, if there is any left the next day.
Which would you prefer?
They’re the same cookies—just described differently. But describing mouthwatering cookies, that’s easy. Describing a complex, multi-character, plotted and sub-plotted novel is not.
I’m learning to pitch my novel too. I’d say practice practice practice.
Sometimes that can be difficult. Especially if your novel is in the working process and not ready to be pitched. i.e.: Halfway through explaining to your best friend your idea of a book where people are blue and always get whatever they want no matter what, you realize your plot has no conflict.
How can you practice now? Do you have to wait to learn pitching until you have a novel that is ‘ready’?
Here’s an idea I’ve had this week on this matter.
Have you ever had someone describe a book and it makes you want to read it right then? Essentially, they are ‘pitching’ that book to you.
So there in itself is an excellent way to learn pitching. Think about your favorite book. Can you describe it in such a way to make someone want to read it? That is the essence of pitching a novel—communicating in such a way that another person can see how great a story is. It is hitting their have-to-read-it button.
Here’s the plan. I’m starting a contest. It starts today and ends on November 5, 2010. Pitch to me (in the comments) your favorite novel. Whichever pitch makes me want to read it the most wins. The prize? You win the chance to be my first ever official blog guest! (I’m a college student—that’s all I’ve got.) Good luck and happy writing.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Book Review of The Wizard's Test by Hilari Bell

Honor used to seem so clear to Dayven.  Now it had faded into shades of gray.  Like a wizard's robe.
-Tagline The Wizard Test
Wizards are bad—at least that’s Dayven’s vehement opinion. In seems in his society, wizards create more problems than they solve. They change people’s destinies. Children are tested for magical abilities, a test Dayven too must take. Worst case scenario—he passes the test.
Thus begins the novel The Wizard Test.
It was a fascinating read. What stood out the most to me are Bell’s stunning characters. I picked up this book because I was most impressed with another of her books The Last Knight. Her characterization is superb—the characters simply feel real. They are characters that you want to read more about. Dayven is a good example of this. He grumbles a bit and holds stubbornly tight to his notion of wizards, but he’s obedient and kind. He finds the human side to his enemies. Riddick, the wizard to whom Dayven is apprenticed to is another fascinating character. He’s odd and cryptic, unbelievable likable. The interaction between the two main characters is witty and dynamic. This seems to be a hallmark of Bell’s novels.
The Wizard Test touched on a theme I’ve often pondered. That is the rightness or wrongness of opposing sides in fiction. In a simple way, she shows that things are not always black and white. Granted there are times in fiction for the villains to truly be bad and the heroes to be an example of goodness. We need the occasional Harry Potter-like tale because in reality some situations in life have no grey. But more often than not there is a fine line between who is right and who is wrong. I think of it with the classic tale of Romeo and Juliet. Romeo’s family is thoroughly convinced that Juliet’s family is the epitome of evil and her family feels the same about his. But who is actually right? A person could argue for both their sides and still be right. Every side has their good and every side has their bad. Sometimes, perhaps our enemies are not as they seem.
The only downside to this novel is that, because it was written for younger readers, at times the plot seems simple and a bit predictable. For me, it wasn’t enough to be more than mildly distracting. But for readers more accustom to adult fiction, they might not like that. Overall however, it was an excellent book.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Battling Writer's Block

My first official blog entry isn't going to be about writing—more of the opposite of writing. Writer's block. It happens. What do you do? First I laugh and then I cry—or I try some of these.
1. Look at the story.
Wait what? I've stared at these words for hours. Clearly looking at them won't help, but that's not what I mean. I think about it—reread it. A lot of times, writer's block strikes when I've boxed myself or taken my characters in the wrong direction. Not all of the meandering of plot lines are plausible or necessary.
2. Do homework.
Or housework. The point is, whether subconscious or not, if there is something else I need to do my writing will not flow. Perhaps my muse is more studious than I am. Besides, who wants uncompleted tasks hanging over their novel? Enjoyed chapter seven? Yeah, I failed chemistry to write it. Not classy.
3. Critique for someone else.
Nothing feels better than doing good and one of the greatest joys of writing is helping fellow writers. Even if my story continues to stagnate, critiquing is a benefit. Teaching and helping are the best ways to learn. Plus, guarantee you get to be one of the first to read some awesome stuff. (If you can't beat the writer's block—distract it with awesomeness.)
4. Take a walk.
(This is my dog's favorite option.) Stories don't do so well smothered. Writer's block happens when I need a break. Walking is great because it invokes the Law of Inspiration by Disassociation of Paper. It never fails, inspiration comes when there is no paper or pen around. Don't believe me? Why else do ideas strike in the shower or the middle of the night? Law of Inspiration by Disassociation of Paper.
5. Read books.
Ahh, nothing like curling up with a good book. I write because I love books. I love that tingle from my head to my toes when I read something spectacular. The heart pounding, page turning moments when I cannot get enough. I want to create that feeling in my reader. But a burnt out candle cannot light another. A well written book can burst through my writer's block by the flame of excitement it creates in me.
6. Doodle.
Figure eights and circles and smiles on the edge of my page seem to get the creative juices flowing. I can’t explain it—it just works. Important note: If the doodling gets out of hand i.e. Picasso-style sketches on your left arm, perhaps you should consider another one of the writer’s block bashing options (or consider taking up a second hobby of illustrating).
7. Changing settings.
I don't mean the story setting--though that can be helpful too. (See point one above.) Sitting at the same desk staring at the same window is detrimental to my creativity. I have to change it up. Even if its just outside on the porch or at a restaurant like Chick-fil-a. Another important note: if you find you've stared at that squirrel circling a tree or that man in a funny hat with three kids ordering the chicken nuggets for more than ten minutes, find a less distracting new place.
8. Start a blog.
I'll see how this one goes. :)
Until next time, happy writing!