Tag Archives: pitch

5 Things I’ve Learned About Writing Query Letters

I recently decided to enter ABNA (Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Awards) as a test to see if I could get past the pitch round. I’ve written and rewritten my pitch/query dozens of times, but still wasn’t sure if I was hitting the mark. I didn’t make it through the pitch round, and this confirmed for me that I need to work more on my pitching skills before I start querying my MS. Yesterday I wrote and rewrote my pitch a dozen more times. I read blog after blog on writing queries. Then I rewrote again. I’m still not sure if it’s there yet. I’m letting it sit for a few days now before I go back to it. But after reading so much information on queries, I thought I would share some of the most important things I’ve learned about writing queries – not just yesterday, but since I first started researching queries.

1. Make sure you include both the TITLE and WORD COUNT for your MS.

2. You need to include WHAT YOUR PROTAGONIST WANTS, WHAT IS PREVENTING THEM FROM ACHIEVING IT and WHAT IS AT STAKE IF THEY FAIL.

3. Keep your query BRIEF and CONCISE – don’t ramble or try to include every single plot point. 1 – 2 paragraphs is sufficient for describing your MS. Try to keep it under 250 words.

4. In your bio paragraph only include information relevant to writing or your subject area. Include relevant publishing credits and writing associations you are a member of. Don’t include how many dogs you own or that writing competition you won when you were twelve.

5. ALWAYS CHECK SUBMISSION GUIDELINES! I made this red, because most agents will tell you it’s their biggest pet peeve when writers don’t check guidelines before submitting. Make sure you spell the agent/editor’s name right. Make sure the agent/publishing house actually accepts submissions in your genre.

If you’re looking for some GREAT SITES ON QUERIES, here are some of the best I’ve come across:

Query Shark

How To Write A Query Letter

How I Got My Agent (The Parts of a Good Query)

Cover Letters and Query Letters

10 Common Query Mistakes

Checklist for Submitting

Some GREAT QUERY HASHTAGS to follow on Twitter:

#queries

#queryfest

#querychat

And finally, if you head over to Write on Con they have some great query critique competitions running at the moment. All you have to do is comment on the prize you want and you could win a query critique for your YA, MG or PB manuscript.

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Why You Shouldn’t Ask Your Spouse’s Opinion

Many writing sites will tell you that when you ask someone to critique/beta read your work you should never ask your spouse or mum or anyone closely related to you. The reason for this is that they will most likely give you a biased view because they don’t want to hurt your feelings. I’m lucky enough to have both a spouse and mum who are very honest with me, and it’s something I appreciate, because I’m always openly honest (I’m a terrible liar).

I found my husband to be a fantastic sounding board in the drafting stage of my novel. I would ask his opinion on certain plot points, if he thought there was enough tension, if the ending was strong enough, etc. As yet he’s never actually sat down and read my novel. I thought in light of his usual honest opinions I would ask him to read my pitch for some feedback. This is our conversation:

Hubby (having just finished reading my pitch): Uh-huh

Me: So what did you think? Does it make you want to read the book?

Hubby: It’s about a girl.

Me (rolling my eyes): If the main character was a boy would you read it?

Hubby: I don’t read books. (This is true, he’s never been a reader and hasn’t read a novel since he was forced to in high school.)

Me: Pretend it’s for a movie, would you watch the movie?

Hubby: If the girl was hot.

Me: …

Hubby: Maybe you should ask someone else to read it. Someone who knows about this kind of thing.

All I can say is, thank goodness I have a great critique partner who does know about this kind of thing. Thanks Beth!

An Exercise in Pitch Writing

I’ve been working on my pitch for my YA fantasy novel this past week and I couldn’t help feeling my pitch wasn’t hooking the way I wanted it too. So I came up with a little exercise to help inspire me to make my pitch hook more and I believe it has helped me write a more effective pitch. I thought I would share it with my fellow writers.

STEP ONE

Go to your bookshelf and find books aimed at the same age group and same genre (if possible find books with a similar premise/catalyst) as your novel. For example, my novel is a YA fantasy where the main character is transported to a strange land, so I picked books like The Wizard of Oz and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

STEP TWO

Have a look at the blurbs of each book, then on some note paper (or on Word) write out a blurb for your own story based on the blurb for each book. For example, this is the blurb on the back of Alice in Wonderland:

When Alice decides to follow the white rabbit down a rabbit hole, it is the start of a most extraordinary adventure in the nonsensical world of Wonderland.

There she meets some strange and delightful characters, including the King and Queen of Hearts, the Mock Turtle, the Mad Hatter, the March Hare, the Duchess and the grinning Cheshire Cat.

Now here is the blurb again rewritten using my own novel:

When Katie is transported to a strange woodland, it is the start of a dangerous and magical adventure in the mysterious parallel world of Middle Realm.

There she meets new friends and enemies, including oddball Travis, twins Hannah and Ava, an old healer woman, a reclusive wizard and the foot soldiers of an evil sorceress.

STEP THREE

Grab a highlighter and go through all your blurbs (I ended up with six altogether). Highlight the lines that stand out at you. For example, in the blurb above I highlighted ‘the foot soldiers of an evil sorceress’.

STEP FOUR

Rewrite the highlighted parts on a separate piece of paper and cut them out individually (or if you can’t be bothered doing that, you could just cut out the highlighted parts without rewriting them).

STEP FIVE

Rearrange them until you work out a suitable order and stick them onto a piece of plain paper in that order. Use a pen to fill in parts that are disjointed or cross out parts that are repetitive. One of my blurbs was in a different tense to all the others, so I had to change the tense with that part to make it fit.

STEP SIX

Write it out neatly in its new form. Use this ‘blurb’ as inspiration for writing your pitch. Just remember when you write your pitch to avoid ambiguous words like ‘mysterious’, etc., which are often used on book blurbs. And please DO NOT plagiarise the wording of the original book blurbs in your pitch. Make the pitch your own. This is all about inspiration, not copying from other books.

Have fun with it and see if you can’t improve the hook part of your pitch.

More Helpful Writing Sites and Blog Posts

Fresh back from my holiday away I thought it was time for another post on helpful sites and blog posts I’ve come across in the past month.

Twitter Chats for Writers

A comprehensive list of the various twitterchats for writers (from children’s writers to script writers to genre writers) and the days and times they take place. It also outlines what twitterchats are and a few tips for those who are new to twitterchat.

25+ Favourite Twitter Hashtags for Writers

A list of the best hashtags for writers on Twitter (with links).

Three Act Structure

Jenn Johansson posted on her blog this great article about the three act structure of a novel, including a diagram of what the 3 act structure looks like.

Three Simple Stages of Self-Editing

If you are in the process of editing or about to start editing your novel then Jody Hedlund’s blogpost is worth a look. She describes the three main types of edits: Substantive/macro-edits; line-editing; and copy-editing/proofreading.

Workshop: Writing the Novel Synopsis

This in-depth article by Sheila Kelly sets out step by step how to write an effective synopsis for your novel.

Secrets of a Great Pitch

If you ever go to a writer’s conference or happen to meet an agent in an elevator, do you have a pitch prepared? Literary agent Rachelle Gardner outlines the important points you should include when pitching your novel (and also what you should avoid).

Process of Writing: From Draft to Published Novel

In this four minute video author Kate Forsyth describes her writing process, with visual examples, from the initial idea all the way through to receiving her author’s copy of her book. It’s a bit of insight into the entire process.

Hopefully there is a little something here for everyone, no matter where you are on your writing journey.