Nancy: Help a Pitcher Out

Over the past several months, you’ve been hearing a lot about my Victorian Romance series. On occasion, you’ve also heard about my Women’s Fiction story (or Commercial Mainstream Fiction, if you don’t like the WF label). Today, I’d like to focus the spotlight on that WF story, because at the end of the week, I’ll be pitching it to a panel of agents.

It’s always tough to send a manuscript out into the world. Scary. Nerve-wracking. Heart-wrenching. It’s even more difficult when you have to pare it down to a brief, bare-essence presentation as I’ll be doing this week. I’m participating in the Women’s Fiction Writers Association (WFWA) annual pitch session, and the rules are very strict. The only information you can include is book title, length, WF subgenre if applicable, then a 50-word pitch followed by the first 250 words of the story.

In manuscript terms, that 250 words is less than a page. Yep, the goal is to sell the agents on the main character, premise, and voice of a 300+-page book in less than one measly page. And as if that weren’t mission impossible enough, by 50-word pitch, they mean 50-word summary of the whole. damn. book.

And the gods wept.

But I will not be thwarted! This past week, I pitched my pitch and one-page submission to my book coach, and made a few tweaks based on her feedback. Now I need some fresh eyes on this sucker, because mine are bloodshot and bleary. Want to help me out? If so, post your thoughts, comments, take-aways, or recommendations in the comments. Most important is that the pitch give you a sense of what the book is, and the first page intrigue you enough to request more pages.

TITLE: Take the Money and Run

LENGTH: 95k words

SUBGENRE(S): WF with Romantic Elements; Commercial WF


Sisters of the heart. Partners in crime. Until they got caught. Now ex-con Frannie plans to take the money they stole and run. But her new crush has other ideas, her ex-mark has a score to settle, and her ex-best friend has a plan of her own.

250 WORDS:

As Frannie Willets drove west across the state of Indiana, she wasn’t lucky enough to be swallowed by a sinkhole or washed off the road by a spring flood. So this reunion would happen after all. Still, she blew right past the diner where her ex-partner in crime waited, parked two blocks down Main Street, and climbed out of her beat-up white Chevy into the clean air of Licking, Indiana, population 2,432 if you believed the welcome sign. She locked her car, probably unlike everyone else here, but three years behind bars had made her more suspicious of her fellow humans.

Head up, eyes straight ahead, hands down at her sides at all times – courtesy of the guards’ strict training – she followed the incline of the sidewalk, up the tree- and shop-lined street that said welcome in a plain-spoken Midwestern accent. Lexi must love it here. Must feel safe. Frannie just felt like a drink. When she’s gone to prison, she’d still been too young to buy a legal drink. In the six months she’d been on parole, she’d indulged in an occasional one. Always just one. Just enough to steady her nerves.

Frannie passed a few pedestrians going about the business of life. One old man gave her side-eye, probably seeing at a glance what she really was. Eyes straight ahead. Hands down. Steady. Soon this sordid meeting would be over and she’d be back in her own tiny town. Not that she’d be staying there much longer.


That’s it! That’s all I’m allowed to include in this pitch session. Now that you’ve read it, I have a specific question about the 50-word pitch. Did you get that the ‘sister of the heart/partner in crime’ was the same person as the ex-best friend? I originally started with ‘Best friends. Sisters of the heart. Partners in crime.’ But my coach thought best friend and ex-best friend made it confusing. Thoughts about that, or any other part of my submission?

6 thoughts on “Nancy: Help a Pitcher Out

  1. Hi Nancy—color me clueless; I did not get that the sister of the heart was the ex-best friend. I would go with best friends in the opening fragment, because for me, that ties the beginning of the story to the consequence—first they’re best friends, then they’re ex-best friends. But that’s just me. I loved all the parallel constructions. Very tight. I’d read that book!

    And good luck with the pitch!

    • Thanks Kay! My coach knows the story, so there’s a danger that the pitch could be clear to her but not to someone else. I agree that adding ‘best friends’ at the beginning should help.

  2. I suspected that the sister-of-the-heart was the ex-best-friend, but I think my eye had to go back to make the connection. I do like the rhythm of the two ex- phrases. I’m not as crazy about the sentence fragments, but what can you do? You only have 50 words. I’m not sure if adding “They were” to the beginning would solve the problem, because we talk about story-present in past tense all the time.

    In the first 250 words, you barely insert the conflict — the mysterious meeting with Mx. X (don’t know if it’s Mr. or Ms.). I think I’d like something a little more there, but as a reader, I’d be patient. (-: I do know that I want to read more!

    • Good to know about the Ms. or Mr. mysteriousness. In the intro paragraph, I made it ‘Lexi, her ex-partner in crime’. A few paragraphs past the end of the 250 words, the reader meets Lexi and it becomes clear she’s the ex-best friend, so I don’t think that will be a problem.

      Yeah, the book conflict comes later in the scene (as this is a 2000+-word scene), because Lexi’s the cause of it, so not really a way to front-load that. But I read about a dozen WF first scenes recently in preparation for my first scene revision, and an ‘establishing shot’ (often with a reference to weather) is pretty common. I at least tried to get her inner turmoil and tension into it, though, and I removed my own couple of sentences about the weather. Not kidding. I actually had them in there. I guess when you read in a genre, you absorb the cliches without even knowing it!

  3. Pingback: Nancy: Novella (.5) Cover Copy – Eight Ladies Writing

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