Monday, December 30, 2013

Surviving the mosh pit

So I tried my luck and talent at the recent Twitter #PitchMas fest, which is kind of like standing on the trading floor of the literary stock exchange and screaming what your book is about while a couple hundred other writers do exactly the same thing. If your pitch gets a "favorite" star from an agent, you get to send your query and pages to the agent who favorited you.

I kinda felt dirty. And I got sniped at by the Pitch Police for doing exactly nothing wrong. Still, I kept offering my manuscript up on a 140-character platter throughout the day. And then I thought, I have an MFA. I went through three cancer surgeries this year, and you know what? I don't have to put up with this kind of crap.

But yeah... sour grapes and all. I wasn't anybody's favorite.

Still, twitter pitching is a good exercise because it forces you to condense your novel into one very tiny sentence, and doing this helps you gain some interesting perspective on your story. When you're starting out, it's hard to get your query letter down to a one-page letter. It's even tougher to get your manuscript described within a paragraph. Try a sentence. Now try 140 characters. Can you do it? You should be able to. (Oh, and did you save room for the hashtag?) Having that focus on the most important elements of your novel will force you to ask yourself if you're maintaining that focus throughout your manuscript.

Get help from someone who's done it already. (Thank you, awesome Melissa Gorzelanczyk. I wish I'd listened to everything you'd said.) Having an unbiased pair of eyes on your pitch will force the important questions: Who is your character? What is most important about his/her journey or the plot? Why should we care? And yes, you can say it in 15 words or so.

It's also a good thing to get to connect with other writers and see what sorts of things people are doing these days, as well as what's attracting interest. Trends come and go and come back again, and as long as you have a good story it doesn't matter if it's got zombies or talking dogs or whatever. But it's good to see how writers are choosing to think outside the usual literary genre boxes.

And these pitch fests offer another venue for writers to connect with agents. Lots of people were getting requests for queries and manuscript partials, and that's exciting. (Really.)

Want to give it a shot? There's another Pitch fest coming up Jan. 8. Search #PitMad on Twitter to find out more. Dive into the pit, if you dare.

1 comment:

Colleen Sutherland, storyteller said...

You have to keep pitching and then in the end, it's serendipity. I wrote a piece once for Highlights for Children that was accepted. But it was never published and I was never paid. But then Highlights started a book publishing company and because I had that story accepted, I was on their list when they sent out a prospectus. I sent in a story next day that Highlights had rejected for the magazine and what do you know, they accepted it as a book. And that is how Jason Goes to Show and Tell was published. Serendipity. So we keep on writing, keep on pitching.