Friday, February 20, 2009

Are you ready for it?

As the pitch contest comes towards its conclusion, I have to say I have learned a LOT about pitching. It makes a huge different sitting in the other seat - the seat where you are reading the pitches and not writing them. I can see things in the ones that were sent to me that perhaps my blinders prevent me from seeing in my own. It's been a good thing.

I promised to critique everyone's pitch, and that's pretty much done - if you entered and haven't heard from me by the end of today, drop me an e-mail at donna@donnaalward.com .

But the hardest part for me is critiquing. For one, I look at the few paragraphs in front of me and what I see is, well, what I see. I don't necessarily know who is on the other end, or at what stage they are in their journey to publication. I have two objectives when it comes to critiquing. Once is two encourage. If nothing else, every single person who entered is writing, is wanting to tell stories, is interested in publishing. That in itself is a big step. I always say something positive. If it doesn't seeem so, let what I said sit for a while and come back. There are positives in there. I promise.

The other objective is to be honest. I will shoot straight with you. I truly, TRULY believe that I am not doing you any favours if I am not honest. You will not find snark. I promise that too. Behind every critique is, as I told someone last night, a sincere desire to help you get to the finish line.

So do you want to know what I learned from you?

Since most of the pitches were for either Harlequin lines or single title romance, here's some common things I picked up on and in the process figured a few things out for myself.

1) Your pitch can be a few lines or a few short paragraphs, but what it MUST include is enough information about the story so I can visualize it. It has to grab me, I have to see it.

2) The leave 'em guessing tactic doesn't work. Go figure...I'm guilty of this one. You don't want to reveal too much. You want to dangle the carrot. Well, the carrot isn't enough. The information you give has to be concrete.

3) Many of the pitches simply missed having some zing - and many were easily improved by a little bit of tightening and getting rid of unnecessary words. I also learned that it is easier for ME to eliminate those unnecessary words in someone else's pitch than it is my own!

4) In the end, what I wanted to see were the high points: the hook - what premise throws them together, the inner conflict - what are their goals and how do their goals complicate things, and the romance - the reason why these two set sparks off in each other.

One pitch in particular I worked on with an author last night and I felt in the end we really ended up with something that would grab an editor or agent's attention. I was certainly excited about it.

I just wanted to say to those of you in the trenches, don't let any feedback or rejection slip get you down. As my CP drilled into me enough times - Dedication, Determination, Desire and Discipline. I hope something I might have said in my replies helps the teensiest bit on your journey. That was and is my objective in holding the contest.

And thank you for trusting me with your work. It isn't always easy sending things out into the world...especially to be judged.

Next week I'll be back with the big winner. :-)

UPDATE:

If you are in the 12 that didn't hear back yet, I truly truly meant to get back to you today and things went sideways. The hope is to finish them all this weekend. Right now...I have 2 more chapters to polish before I send my revisions back. Abject, sincere and groveling apologies!

10 comments:

  1. The competition was a great learning curve for me. I left the TWO most important things in a romance out of my pitch. They are there, but I didn't state them. I know from my pitch how NOT to do it and now from Donna's advice how I SHOULD do it.

    Thanks!

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  2. Thanks Donna,

    I'm sure I speak for everyone when I say how hugely impressed we all are about the time you've put into helping us. :-)

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  3. Thanks again Donna! Your ideas have definitely helped me.

    Cole

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  4. I just can't thank you enough for your suggestions and advice. It's difficult enough getting the story out on paper...but well enough to capture the attention of an editor or agent seems impossible. Your time and advice is invaluable and very much appreciated.

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  5. Thanks so much for the encouragement and advice. We're all so grateful you took the time to run this contest. Thanks.

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  6. Thanks again, Donna. Your generosity and candidness was very much appreciated. And with your very busy schedule, the time you put into this was even more amazing.

    Looking forward to the unveiling - good luck to the five finalists.

    Janet

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  7. Hi Donna,

    Thanks again for taking the time out from your busy schedule and doing this.


    Sri.

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  8. Thank you so much Donna. I appreciate every moment you took out of your busy schedule to comment on all the pitches. I have a lot to chew on in the days to come. Thanks for your valuable comments!

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  9. Just want to chime in to add my thanks as well, Donna. I feel I'm a lot clearer on the querying process now, thanks to your tutelage.

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  10. Nikki Cole3:38 PM

    Good luck to the other finalists and thanks again to Donna for running the pitch contest!

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