Yesterday, Jodee asked me for some advice for her daughter on pitching her novel. She’ll be attending the Writer’s Digest conference in January. Thought I’d post my two cents and quote from “You Can Write a Novel”, by James V. Smith, Jr.
First I’ll give my personal advice:
1. Focus on your main character.
2. Focus on the main characters points. What moved your character from A to Z?
Now in the book, “You Can Write a Novel”, Mr. Smith suggests finishing the novel, of course, before you try to sell it. Good advice. Next, he suggests paring down your entire novel into about forty words (even thirty-eight if you can).
Here’s his example:
Force Recon: Action-Adventure
A Marine lieutenant’s elite band fights a running battle against terrorist behind enemy lines – in Canada. French separatists trap Navy SEALS and Army Rangers, and Force Recon rescues the Americans and erases all evidence of a U.S. invasion.
Then he asks “What’s explicit in that very short story”?
- The heroic character-a Marine lieutenant
- The central issue of the story (plot line)-fighting terrorists in an attempt to rescue Americans
- The heroic goal-to punish terrorists and rescue other elite forces before the United States is accused of invading Canada
- The worthy adversary-the terrorists, all of Canada, public opinion and (implied) elite teams of other services
- Action-explicit in running the battle and rescue
- The ending-Force Recon rescuing the Americans and erasing all evidence of an invasion
He also suggests your thirty-eight words should include:
- The grabber-fighting terrorists and rescuing SEALs and Rangers
- A twist-the United States invading Canada
Mr. Smith also suggests that you “write your nugget as if your telling your best friend about a movie you’ve just seen. Don’t worry about the word count at first. Use specific present-tense verbs that describe the action as if it were happening here and now. Use precise nouns. Tighten. Don’t stop refining until you get to thirty-five or forty words”.
More of my suggestions:
- When you meet the agent/publisher, introduce yourself, shake their hand with confidence.
- Remember to give the title of your novel, genre, and word count after you’ve introduced yourself.
- It’s okay if you bring a cheat sheet. Let them know that it’s your first novel. From my experience agents/publishers are gracious and polite people.
- Remember, you’ve got ten minutes to pitch. That’s it.
- If they want to read your manuscript follow their implicit instructions they give you.
And finally, if you’ve written your chapters in their own separate documents you’ll have to copy and paste them into one. After you do this, make sure you have someone else go through it to make sure you didn’t post duplicate chapters, leave out chapters, and that they’re numbered correctly( believe me its embarrassing when you have to write back to the agent/publisher that you screwed up…I know… because I did that).
You should do this beforehand so you get the correct word count. Trying to tally up each chapter with a calculator is not a good move. I know. I did that,too. Didn’t work for me. Believed I had 80,000 words, told the agent/publisher that and now I’m eating it because Shelly is a dufus sometimes.
Learn from my mistakes people. Take precautions.
Anyway, I hope I spelled it out. If not, can any of you give anymore suggestions on verbally pitching your novel?