February 28, 2014

Pitch Madness!

I am trying desperately to finish the first draft of G&H before the end of February, which is tonight in case you forgot, so I've decided to forego my usual Flash! Friday entry.  So, I'm taking this opportunity to remind you all that this spring's Pitch Madness is almost here!  Many of you may know that my own deal with Swoon Romance started as a Twitter pitch, and the combination of Pitch Madness and its pair event, #PitMad, could lead to some great new agent + writer matches – and of course some invaluable experience.

Pitch Madness is a twice yearly online pitch contest, hosted by Brenda Drake. Each round works with a special theme or game, and this time around it's the murder mystery game, Clue.  Submissions include a 35-word (max) pitch and the first 250 words of your manuscript. 

The schedule, from Brenda's website:
  • Hosts and their teams Introduction on March 3
  • Agent Introduction on March 4
  • Rules of the Game on March 6
  • Formatting Instructions March 7
  • Submission window will be on March 10 and will be open for 24 hours
  • The top 60 picks for the agent round will go up on the blogs on March 18 at 12:01AM EST (NY time)
  • March 20 at 12PM EDT (Noon) the agents requests are revealed, and right afterward is the tying agents challenge round
  • There will be a #PitMad Twitter Pitch Party on March 25 from 8AM to 8PM EST. 
Remember to only submit if your manuscript is polished and ready to be seen by an agent, but otherwise, get those pitches ready.  And if you're working on a pitch and would like to give & get some feedback, feel free to use the comments section! (Please make sure any comments on others' pitches are constructive).

67 comments :

  1. Hi Aria, my 35 word pitch so far...

    Gerald was demoted an inch. Pretty disastrous when a wizard's power is measured by his height. Surely causing a devastating earthquake which allowed the escape of a dangerous wizard didn’t deserve that level of punishment.

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    1. Hi Carl – interesting system of measurement! However, is that system of measurement really the central focus of your manuscript? Is it important enough to include in a 35-word pitch?

      You introduce your main character, which is good, and we know that something bad has happened, but we don't actually get the stakes of the story going forward – is Gerald the only one who can recapture the wizard? Is the wizard after him? What? What is the central conflict now that Gerald has been demoted and the wizard is out?

      Hope that helps – feel free to post a new version! :-)

      Delete
    2. Hi Aria,

      Height is crucial to a wizard's power so the demotion is a huge deal...

      I'll work on the pitch and try to get the crux into 35 words. By the way the novel is Upper MG, Humorous Fantasy :)

      Delete
    3. The demotion is, but is the height / definition of the demotion the most important part of it?

      Delete
  2. Yeh, Gerald is 5 feet tall and the minimum height for wizards is 4' 8". Once they fall below that they revert to normal jobs until they reach the minimum height again. i.e. Gerald will end up shoveling poop like his father. Also the taller they are the more powerful they are. They are also promoted inches for success which means they can grow quicker than a normal person if they excel. Obviously this means that if Gerald continues to screw up and lose height he will be weaker as a wizard and less likely to rectify the damage he has already caused. Sort of a catch 22 :)

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    1. So how about:

      "Gerald's last prank (mistake?) freed a dangerous wizard. If he's demoted one more time, he'll lose his own wizard standing. He needs to fix things, fast, if he wants to save his job, and the world."

      (But of course, written more specifically based on your story.) Play around with focusing on the main stakes. & Good luck!

      Delete
    2. Hi Aria,

      When Gerald’s latest blunder freed an evil wizard his demotion cost him more than just an inch. If he doesn’t fix it, the end of his career and possibly the realm loom in his future.

      Delete
    3. The first line is much stronger! Maybe say "his stature"? Instead of "an inch" – that leaves it ambiguous if people haven't seen your previous drafts. Also, why is he the only one that can fix it? I imagine he wants to, to save his career, but why wouldn't someone else be able to, for the sake of the realm?

      Delete
  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    1. Hmm, you start with the consequences and then give us backstory, which seems weird to me. How about something like:

      "Between her parting argument with her dead dad ["dead dad" is more personal than "deceased father"], ignoring her troubled best friend, and that [adjective!] night with her ex, Shelby has plenty to feel guilty about. Moving doesn't help, despite how nice (cute? sweet? intriguing? charming?) Dane is."

      Basically, I think we need a hint as to her mindset before the major conflict – the potential relationship with Dane. :-)

      Delete
  4. Hi Aria!
    I made several versions. Can you help me advice on the best pitch?

    A dark retelling of Alice in Wonderland has Alice falling into a medieval world filled with monsters. Alice searches for a way home, but instead finds herself caught in a war between monarchs and rebels.

    Alice falls into a medieval world and becomes caught in a war between monarch and rebels. She must fight to get home or trapped in forever in carnival of horrors. ALICE IN WONDERLAND retelling.

    17yo Alice wakes up on a violent battlefield in a medieval world where dragons govern the skies and demons rule the land. She must find her way home and survive from predators preying on humans.

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    1. Ooh, I like "carnival of horrors" and " a medieval world where dragons govern the skies and demons rule the land"! So, maybe…

      "Seventeen-year-old Alice awakes on a battlefield in a medieval world where dragons govern the skies and demons rule the land. She must fight her way home or be trapped forever in this carnival of horrors."

      Or…

      "A dark retelling of Alice in Wonderland traps Alice in a war between medieval monarchs and rebels. With dragons in the sky and demonic predators abundant, she must fight for a chance to find home."

      What do you think?

      Delete
    2. 17yo Alice falls down the wrong rabbit hole and ends up in a medieval world ruled by demons and dragons. Trapped in this carnival of horrors, she must battle monsters in order to get home.

      This one sounds so cool.

      Delete
    3. I really like "17-year-old Alice falls down the wrong rabbit hole" as an allusion to the original!

      Delete
    4. Thank you. There are so many to choose from. I don't know which one is the best!

      I like that "A dark retelling..." one, Aria. I wrote another one:

      Alice in Wonderland meets Graceling. Set in modern-day London, until Alice wakes up in a medieval world thrusted in the middle of a battlefield. Demons, war and a reluctant heroine disguised as a man.

      I wish there's a poll where everyone can vote lol

      Delete
    5. Personally, I like this newest one the least – the fragmented style reads more like bullets than a crafted pitch. & If you have a blog, you could certainly ask readers to vote on your options!

      Delete
    6. Hi! Great premise! I'm chiming in to say that the newest one isn't my favorite either. I think the earlier ones set a more consistent tone (the newest one tries to cram too many different aspects in, I think). "Carnival of horrors" should definitely be included since it shows the most voice and sets a really cool, dark atmosphere. Maybe...

      17yo Alice falls down the wrong rabbit hole into a medieval world ruled by demons and dragons. She must fight to get home or be trapped forever in a carnival of horrors.

      or

      A dark retelling of Alice in Wonderland traps 17yo Alice in a demon-ridden war between medieval monarchs and rebels. She must fight to get home or spend forever in a carnival of horrors.

      or

      A dark retelling of Alice in Wonderland traps seventeen-year-old Alice in a medieval world where dragons govern the skies and demons rule the land. She must fight her way out of this carnival of horrors.

      Delete
  5. When Alex interns with the Xavier Corporation, the last thing she expects is to fall in love with a sentient cyborg and risk her career to help him escape the iron-fist control of his creators.

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    1. Oh my gosh, I love this! The one thing I catch on rereading it is whether the stakes of her potential career are sufficient – was interning there her lifelong dream? But, of course, tough to add info to 35 words. If I was a Pitch Madness slush reader, I'd probably go for this :-)

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    2. Thanks for your comments. 35 words is rough! hehe.

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    3. I'm thinking of I Robot with Will Smith when I read this one :) love it!

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    4. Hi Jodie - I agree with the others ~ awesome concept! If working for the Xavier Corporation is her dream, maybe add that to the pitch - "When Alex interns with the Xavier Corporation, the last thing she expects is to fall for a sentient cyborg and risk her dream career..." Otherwise, sounds great to me!

      Delete
    5. Hi! I really like this! One thing that caught my ear is it should be ironfisted control, since it's an adjective (I just double checked in a dictionary because it sounded wrong to me). If you want to get "dream career" in there, you could replace "the iron-fist control of his creators" with "his creators' ironfisted control" to keep it at the right word count. Hope this helps!

      Delete
  6. Here's mine for a NA horror:
    After his vocal coach and lover dies, Ash is heartbroken---until her spirit returns. When she kills to further his operatic career, love turns to horror. ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD meets PHANTOM OF THE OPERA.

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    1. Creepy. (In a good way!) The only comment I have is are you sure you want to sacrifice 9 (out of 35) words to the comparison rather than the particulars of the plot? If you didn't have that, maybe you could add info about his age or how she returns, or what his choice is (though it is implied) after she kills?

      Delete
    2. I wanted to leave the comp titles in. But I could take them out. Thanks for the input!

      Delete
    3. Here it is without the comp titles:
      After his vocal coach and lover Isabette dies, 18yo aspiring opera singer Ash is heartbroken---until her spirit returns. When she kills to further his operatic career, love turns to horror.

      Delete
    4. I personally always feel iffy about comp titles – I always wonder, if I tell you exactly who did it before me, why would you want mine? Haha.

      Grammar nitpicking: you need commas around "Isabette." Maybe..
      "When she kills to further his operatic career, Ash's love turns to [helpless?] horror."

      Delete
    5. Hi Kathleen - just wanted to throw in that I love this concept! Definitely think you're on the right track with your pitch. Best of luck! :)

      Delete
    6. I think this pitch really works. I like the revision of "helpless horror," too. Good luck!

      Delete
  7. When Clara’s home is raided, her daughters taken, and her husband jailed, she must figure out who she can trust…and why everyone is calling her Diana.

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    1. The biggest thing is that we don't know who Clara is - how old she is (so how old-ish her daughters might be), what her life looks like beforehand (maybe they're a crime-fighting family so it's not all that surprising), etc.

      I'm curious what happened to her family and who Diana is, so that's good!

      Delete
  8. Please remember that you can comment on each other's pitches – I'm sure everyone would appreciate all constructive feedback!

    I know I would:

    A frustrated muse unwittingly casts a spell that materializes her in mortal form – right in front of her latest ungrateful charge. Brett's entirely nonplussed by the interloping apparition, but he just can't throw her out.

    Or:

    A frustrated muse unwittingly casts a spell that materializes her in mortal form – right in front of her latest ungrateful charge. The blocked writer's nonplussed by everything about Alexandra, except how inspiringly sexy she is.

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    1. How does she "unwittingly" cast a spell? Give us her name early on. What about: The muse, Alexandra, annoyed by her latest ungrateful charge of a good-for-nothing writer materializes herself into mortal form right in front of him and is immediately attracted to the human she's supposed to be helping.

      Or something similar. I'd keep it in her POV.

      Delete
    2. I did consider writing it all in her POV, but the story is in 2 POVs. I also considered just leaving it as the first sentence.

      And she accidentally forces him to write the words in her head, instead of inspiring his, and those words cast a spell she didn't mean to cast because she invokes the fates, and they punish her. "Unwittingly" seemed like a concise way to hint at that haha. Oy.

      But definitely more thinking to be done. . .

      Delete
    3. Hi Aria ~ my two cents on your pitch. Fun concept - my mind immediately went to Xanadu, for some reason, lol. :) I'm not sure the conflict and stakes are crystal clear. I think the reader might need to know that her mortality is a punishment and her goal is to regain her status as an immortal muse, right? This is probably terrible - but, here's my attempt:

      When a muse’s inspiration goes awry, the fates punish her with mortality - right in front of the writer she tries to help. Regaining immortality challenges her when his passion shifts from writing to love/lust.

      For what it's worth ~ best of luck!!

      Delete
    4. Okay new attempt:

      A frustrated muse unwittingly casts a spell that materializes her in mortal form – right beside her latest ungrateful charge. Trapped, she must depend on the writer's generosity while attempting to regain her rightful place.

      Delete
    5. Hi, Aria! The only thing that threw me in the original pitch was "materializes her in mortal form" which is a little hard to digest in such a short pitch. What about, "A frustrated muse unwittingly casts a spell that transforms her into a human/mortal"?

      I also really like a hybrid of the second sentences from your first two pitches. Maybe something like: "The blocked writer's nonplussed by the interloping (noun), but he just can't throw her out."

      "He just can't throw her out" has personality and internal conflict to me (plus it hints at romance).

      I also like the latest version (see above note about "materializes her in mortal form), but I think it would be stronger if you could hint at the romance a little more. What genre is this, by the way? If romance is central, then you should try to get that in there. If her trying to be a muse is more important, you can probably leave that sentence as is.

      Delete
    6. Hi Tobie,

      It is a romance! I'm just not sure how to make that clear other than having the second sentence from his perspective, but then he kind of sounds like a letch so far…

      Thanks for the suggestions!

      Delete
    7. I like it, Aria! Your last one is the best so far!
      Ugh, I'm having trouble formulating a CC (which is why this tab has sat open for a day), so I will try my hand at writing something!

      A muse's job is to inspire people, but when NAME gets trapped in her human form, and stuck with her latest charge--an ungrateful writer--instead of inspiring words, NAME inspires love.

      Er,or something!

      I really like this one though:
      A frustrated muse unwittingly casts a spell that materializes her in mortal form – right beside her latest ungrateful charge. Trapped, she must depend on the writer's generosity while attempting to regain her rightful place.

      Good luck, my friend!!!

      Delete
    8. Um, I REALLY like TAH's version. It clears up the wording and gets in the romance angle. I vote for that one.

      Delete
    9. Thanks, Tana! Trying to be subtle with "rightful place" as she thinks it's as a muse but of course it's a romance…

      Meanwhile, how's your PitMad pitch coming?

      Delete
  9. Hi Aria - thanks for the offer to post and crit. I'd love any and all feedback on my MG:CF pitch:

    10-year-old Sara jumps into a story, hoping to find help she needs to defeat her stepbrothers. But, licking magic dandruff and dealing for body parts with a mad queen isn’t what she had in mind.

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    1. First, "licking dandruff" is wonderfully weird, telling, and confusing all in one :)

      That being said, I think you're right about stakes not being clear in mine, and I think you may have the same issue – it sounds like a bizarre world, there's a crazy queen, and back home there are (evil? abusive? power-hungry?) stepbrothers. But what happens if she doesn't defeat them? What happens if she can't get home? Or, what happens if she chooses to stay in the crazy world?

      Delete
    2. Thanks, Aria! 35-words is just sooo hard! I think you're on the right track with your new attempt, however. The conflict is implied pitting "ungrateful charge" against "generosity" and her goal is now clear. Nice!

      Here's my new attempt - any better?

      Jumping into a storybook may help 10-year-old Sara deal with unwanted new Stepp-brothers. But when she falls into the wrong book, even licking magic dandruff may not save her from the crazy Queen of Parts.

      Delete
    3. Is it? Thanks!

      How about:

      10-year-old Sara jumps into a storybook to escape her unwanted step-brothers. But when she lands in the wrong story, even licking magic dandruff might not save her from the crazy Queen of Parts.

      I also figured out what bothered me about that image – dandruff is flakes. How do you lick flakes? Of course, that could just be the craziness of that world :-)

      Delete
  10. Well, her immediate goal is to regain her place as an immortal muse, right? Of course, as things progress with her writer...that might change. But, I don't think you need to focus on that in your pitch.

    If it helps, I envision the magic dandruff like Sara is dumping a pixie stick in her hand and then she licks it. :) Thanks, again!

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  11. Hi, everyone! I'd love your feedback on which pitch you're more drawn to and, of course, I'd welcome any other suggestions you have! Thanks!

    17-year-old mermaid Lia is safe in Malibu’s secret community of land-dwelling Mer. Then an evil siren brainwashes the boy she loves and Lia must embrace dark Mer magic to save him—by sirening him herself.

    17-year-old mermaid Lia has never lived in the ocean. She’s safe in Malibu’s secret community of land-dwelling Mer. But she’ll risk the war-torn seas and the Little Mermaid’s curse to save the boy she loves.

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    1. Hi Tobie – I like the first one better, but I think the last bit of it should be tweaked. Right now, you're giving away the story a bit – she'll embrace dark magic, and she'll save him – rather than letting her decision be a question, with consequences. We know the consequence if she doesn't embrace dark magic (losing the love interest), but we don't know them if she does. So maybe:

      ...When an evil siren brainwashes the boy she loves, Lia must choose: lose him or embrace dark Mer magic, and forfeit her soul.

      (Not sure if that's true for your story, just an example.)

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    2. Thanks, Aria! That was actually a concern I had, but I couldn't figure out how to get the decision into the word count. Using the version you came up with as a jumping off point, I came up with this:

      17-year-old mermaid Lia is safe in Malibu’s secret community of land-dwelling Mer. Then an evil siren brainwashes the boy she loves. Lia must choose: lose him or embrace dark Mer magic and control him herself.

      Thoughts?

      Thanks!!

      Delete
  12. With heinous murderers, deciding to end their lives is easy.
    Given a choice of whose life to save, his wife or his father, unthinkable.
    Detective Tony Thomas contemplates both, as well as his own life.

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    1. HI Dave,

      Honestly, I'm confused as to the stakes, and not really a fan of the fragments (but I'm big on proper grammar). Why would even heinous murders mean deciding to end "their" (the parents' and detective's?) lives? If I lived somewhere with a rash of murders and thought I was in danger, I would find a way to move – not commit suicide or consider killing my parents.

      So, getting that "why" from murders to the choice in your pitch would be really important!

      Delete
  13. Thanks for the reply, Aria. But I think you need to re-read what I wrote. I said "murderers", not "murders". I'm sure this was just a slip-up. With this word, it could be easy to do. And there are two different choices here. 1) Ending the life of a heinous murderer. 2) A choice of saving the life of his wife or father (niether of them a murderer)
    Thanks again for your feedback.

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    1. Whoops, you're right, Dave – I did read that word incorrectly. That being said, I am still unsure what the choice is. He's a police officer, so he's okay with taking out murderers. Why is there a choice of saving the life of his wife or father? Were they kidnapped? Is one of them the murderer? What's the conundrum?

      Also, "contemplates" implies this is lit fic, is that right? Otherwise, there should be a stronger, more active verb. Hope that helps!

      Delete
    2. You're right, Aria. There was a kidnapping. But 35 words really limits how much of the story you can get across to someone. But at least I have peaked your interest. My novel is a crime mystery. (Actually, it's a sequel to my first crime mystery.) I would like to explain more to you, but not sure if I should do it here. (People are listening) Let me know and thanks again.

      PS: I will use a stronger active verb.

      Delete
    3. So how about…

      Detective Tony Thomas doesn't hesitate when it comes to taking out heinous murderers. Choosing between saving his wife or father from [adjective] kidnappers is an entirely different story.

      Delete
    4. That's good, Aria. I did some rethinking and came up with this.

      Detective Tony Thomas encounters life threatening experiences daily. With heinous murderers, deciding to end their life; done. But when confronted with saving the life of his kidnapped wife or his dad; all bets are off.

      Delete
    5. I'm confused by the "With heinous murderers, deciding to end their life; done" bit. It's a fragment attached to another fragment with a comma, attached to another fragment with a semicolon, and they all only have a vague correlation. Because you're missing the one person performing the action, Tony, it lacks clarity and punch. And on top of that, is this piece of information actually relevant? You only have 35 words to make an impression. Every words counts.
      Your first line is rather generic. He's a detective, so it's already implied he'll face life-threatening experiences. I suggest splicing the second and third line together. Something like: "Choosing to take out heinous murderers is a no-brainer for Detective Tony Thomas, but when faced with saving either his wife or his dad, he doesn't know how to make the final and fatal decision."
      Keep writing!

      Delete
    6. Anonymous,

      Thanks for your input. Being the author of this novel, of course I understand what it is I'm trying to convey. But from your comment, I can see where I might not be getting across my pitch to someone unfamiliar with my story. And like you said, 35 words isn't much, so they all need to count. I appreciate your thoughts and will revise again. I'll keep your ideas, as well as Aria's, in mind.
      Thanks again. You both have been a great help.

      DC

      Delete
  14. Hello Aria,

    Here's my pitch for my new adult, urban fantasy novel. Thank you for your time and assistance.

    Eighteen-year-old Aleksandra Naryshkina’s skills include pissing people off, seducing men, and hunting ghul covens, but until a ghul and his druj attacked her school, she’d never had to use all three skills at once.

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    1. Hi there,

      Definitely intriguing!

      A couple things: what kind of school? High school? University? At 18 that isn't clear. Also, a "ghul and his drum" sounds a little like "a ghul and his dog" which I'm assuming isn't right – "and his druj army"?

      The other thing I think is that your pitch isn't active. "She's never had to use all three skills" tells us that now she does, which is an interesting visual, but it doesn't actually sound like stakes. She has to use all three skills at once, but presumably from your pitch she can do that, and then she beats the ghul et al. so where is the conundrum? Is she the only one who can save the school, but she has to manage a curfew and classes to do it? (a la Buffy) What is the potential consequence of her using those three skills?

      Your pitch is pithy and the character seems interesting, but you're missing a bit of that focus on the stakes.

      Delete
    2. Thank you for your feedback. Druj are the only undead mentioned in the first 250 words of my MS, so I think I can leave the ghuls out.

      How about...?

      Along with pissing people off and seducing men, eighteen-year-old Aleksandra Naryshkina excels in hunting the undead, but against a druj siege on her school of undead-slayers, she may only excel in getting herself killed.

      Delete
    3. If it's a school to train slayers, she's not fighting alone, right? What makes her the focal point, then? Why is it her responsibility? Or does she act like it is, though perhaps it's not?

      Maybe:

      "Along with pissing people off and seducing men, eighteen-year-old Aleksandra Naryshkina excels in hunting the undead, not following the rules. When druj lay siege to her school, she may only excel in getting everyone killed."

      Delete
    4. Third times a charm?

      Along with disobeying authority and seducing men, eighteen-year-old Aleksandra Naryshkina excels in pursuing vendettas with the undead—at least, until druj attack her school of undead-slayers. Now, she may only excel in getting everyone killed.

      Thank you again. And a quick question. MSWord counts this as 35 words, but that's because it counts the hyphenated terms as one word. Do you know if the pitches will be officially considered in the same way?

      Delete
    5. Best one yet, I think! Yes, they go by MS Word counts, with hyphenated terms counting as one. One thing would be to say "vendettas against" – otherwise it might sound like she's pursuing the undead's vendettas with them.

      Delete
    6. Great! Thank you very much!

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