Michaeline: The Very Short Pitch

ca 1913 A young lady sitting on fence outside of a baseball park, cheering her team on. On her fan is written, "forty thousand tons" -- a reference to the fertilizer she's selling.

We’re all cheering for you as you pitch it right into the catcher’s mitt! (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

So, I was goofing around this morning and stumbled upon something that I didn’t know was a thing: the Twitter pitch contest. I have never participated, and I haven’t done enough research to recommend specific contests, but it sure caught my imagination!

The idea is to write a 140-character pitch (well, probably 130 after you include the contest hashtag and genre hashtag), put it out in the great wide Twitter-world, and then wait for agents and editors and fellow-writers to notice you during the span of the contest.

Wow. One hundred and thirty letters. Talk about your challenge! A good pitch would include your protagonist, your antagonist, your major plot complication and motivations. Could you do it? Why would you even try?

Well, I can think of a lot of reasons for trying. Distilling your novel into a few words is a good way to figure out what is REALLY important to you – the not-so-important things must get left out. So, if you pitch about your heroine’s job search, but you find yourself writing about her sister’s marital problems, you know you have a disconnect. Either you have to find a way to subordinate the sister’s problems, or maybe you really have to find a way to be writing about the sister, not the heroine. This would work at many stages of your novel – I think you have to take it less seriously when you are in the earlier drafts, and more seriously as you really come to know what your novel is about.

It has a limit – you can write 130 characters in a half hour, and move on. Writing out a longer synopsis is also useful, but it can take a lot more time. (Depending, of course – everything in writing has qualifiers.)

Because it takes less time, you can keep your “tweet pitches” in a file as a kind of diary of your progress.

More shallowly, by crafting a tweet about your book, you have a pat answer ready when people ask you what you are writing these days. If you have no answer ready, you mumble something about the main character, and the other person is left holding the conversational ball in many cases. But with a concise, interesting pitch, you may get some reaction from the other end – which, of course, may or may not be helpful. (-: You never know if it will be helpful or not until you try.

Most importantly, it’s fun to play with words. It’s fun to have boundaries, and work creatively within them, or to smash them to bits for Really Good Reasons.

So, let me try something crazy: if you have time, write a haiku about your work to be pitched or your work in progress. Yes, a HAIKU. Post it here. To make things “safer”, add a response tag at the end – (please critique) or (adoration only) or (please ignore the fact I posted). Whatever makes you feel comfortable about exposing your baby in public.

Haikus are even more nuts than 130 character tweets – they conform to a 5-syllable, 7-syllable, 5-syllable rhythm, and should have a seasonal word in them. (-: Mission Impossible. I have a feeling nobody is going to try this . . . but as always, I look forward to your comments today – especially about tweet contests, but I won’t mind (too much) ones about my sanity. (And let’s not be so afraid of failure – failure means we’re trying, after all.)

Bunny Blavatsky, Spirit Photographer
1899
Blizzard. My camera is odd . . . .
We rescue ghost slaves.

(Twitter says that’s 102 characters.) (Please critique.) (Oh, god.) (No, I really want the truth, no matter how much it hurts.)

16 thoughts on “Michaeline: The Very Short Pitch

  1. Yours is great, Micki. You have the time, the main character, and the general premise.

    I tried, but this is the best I could come up with (and it’s so vague):

    She crossed an ocean
    To save her sister. But she
    Found true love instead.

    Granted, it’s 1:30 a.m. for me (can’t sleep). I’ll blame my generic-ness on that!

    • You should put on a title! I love the fact that she crossed an ocean! You’ve packed so much into this, and you’ve also got what makes this different from other Regencies. (-: I don’t think any of Georgette Heyer’s characters crossed the Atlantic, either way.

      • Wish I could have figured out how to get some of Nate in there. Maybe I need 3 haikus. One for S, one for Nate, and one for the Uncle. Oh heck, and one for Brisley, too. Then we have everyone’s “haiku GMC.”

  2. Damn you, Micki, what an excellent idea! I could spend all day playing with this, but then there will be no 8L post from me tomorrow and it will be all your fault 😉

    I like yours, and Justine’s. Unless/until I can manage a better one, here’s mine:

    Designs on the Scotsman

    Rose paints blooms on gold.
    Ian hunts gold, but finds true love.
    Sasha is foiled.

    • (-: This is so charming! I love the way the gold transmutes, like alchemy — from Rose’s materials to Ian’s treasure, and then Sasha is foiled (gold foil?).

      Is that, by any chance, the new title? (Now I can imagine a Happily Ever After where Rose bodypaints Ian for fun and giggles and sexy times. hee-hee.)

      • Good guess, Micki! I’ve been toying with all kinds of titles recently. I got feedback from a couple of contests that said I should make it *even more* crystal clear that my story is set in England and Scotland, not the US. In practice I hope the cover and blurb would help, but to be on the safe side I was playing around, looking for a title that says ‘my hero is Scottish but this is not a historical,’ and this was one of my efforts. And oh yes, I have absolutely no doubt that there would be bodypaint somewhere in Ian and Rose’s HEA 🙂

        • Huh. Well, I like it! “Designs on a Scotsman.”

          What was the deal with something like James Bond? Was it originally published in the UK, and then picked up, so it didn’t have to go through hoops? (“This is the British Secret Service — every title should reflect that so Americans don’t get confused and angry that it isn’t the CIA.” — A conversation that NEVER happened — no, really, it never happened because it would have been stupid — nobody covered it up.)

  3. That is a challenging challenge. Now I’ll be thinking about his all day. I couldn’t think of a title and there is no seasonal word. I thought of Hope springs eternal as last line (has the word spring in it), but it doesn’t tell the reader anything. It’s a good way to try to boil the story down into a few syllables.

    Sarah inherits.
    In town full of corruption.
    Finch hinders, then helps.

  4. That’s great! You’ve got your heroine, her problem, her hero who is part of the problem, then helps her get her goals . . . maybe the title could spell out her goals. “Sarah Builds a Home for Teenage Mothers” (?). You’ve got lots there!

    (-: The nice thing about the title is that you can make it quite long if you need to.

    • Michille, I was thinking about your haiku . . . came up with a possible alternate for the middle line: Corrupt city fathers fight. I was so impressed by how powerful the father/son dynamic was in your story.

  5. I participated yesterday with “Demon’s Wager–the story of Job retold as a paranormal romance.” It clearly needs work, since the only person who favorited it was a guy with a PR firm.

    I really like all of these a lot. The next #ptimad is September 10th–you should all participate!

    Here’s a link to Brenda Drake’s site: http://www.brenda-drake.com/pitmad/

    • Yay! Real data! (-: Must have been a good experience since you are recommending it — and thanks for the heads-up. I want to do this. I want to have a complete first draft by that time, too, so it’s perfect timing.

      (-: The story of Job is such a downer. And your book is not. If you include something about demons and nurses, you’ll appeal to two wider (maybe shallower) demographics . . . . “A demon sent to seduce a nurse. Can she show him . . . .” and I peter out at that point. I want to put “a HEA?” but I’m not sure if it gives away too much, or is too generic. Also, not a complete sentence for the first phrase.

  6. I want to play, too!

    In which Phoebe Gets Fired, the CIA Blows a Gasket, and Chase Finds the Answer

    The spies couldn’t see.
    Can she Chase down the villains
    and fall into love?

    This is hard! And mine isn’t good. Writing a good haiku Twitter pitch is challenging. But definitely fun.

    • I love this! And I love how you make the title really work for you (as well as pun on the hero’s name). You know what, you could do it on the title of the poem alone. First line is a little vague. “Spies bumble around.”? Meh. “Spies bumble and clash.” “Blind spies in Vegas.”

  7. One thing that I notice about my own haiku is that it is in first person. I *like* first person, but have the idea that writing in first person is “bad.” OK, writing in first person can be extremely limiting, but I also enjoy it as a reader when it’s done well. It’s not a great pitch poem, but it did reveal something I need to think about further.

    Tesla enslaves ghosts.
    My odd cam’ra sees through him. (Camera is supposed to be three syllables, but I say it with two. Should I just go with “My camera sees through him.”?)
    Good triumphs . . . for now.

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