Monday, April 11, 2011

Pitching Your Heart

Last week, I talked about getting to the heart of your story. This week, I want to talk about how that can give you a leg up when you’re ready to send out your queries. In other words, I want to talk about the pitch.
What is a pitch? Well, it’s pretty simple, right? Basically, it’s a one to two sentence summary of your story. BUT. It’s also not that simple (how many of you knew I was going to say that?).

I’ve already said that your elevator pitch can get you on the right track toward finding the core, or heart, of your story. And I believe that’s true. Once you have that, sit down and compare it with that early elevator pitch. Do they match? Chances are, there are some differences. What does that mean? It means your pitch is wrong.

When you write your pitch, you are writing about the heart of your story. That one, single most important aspect. The one thing that you want your readers to walk away with. This is the piece that’s most important to you, the writer. It is specific and detailed (i.e. not a general theme), and then you turn that into a hook, using your main character’s voice.

I know many writers who search their manuscripts for a great hook, but leave out the heart of the story. It’s an easy thing to do because great hooks have a ‘wow’ factor. But it runs the risk of setting the wrong expectations for an agent or editor. When they read a pitch, they are assuming it’s the heart of your story. If you give them something else, it might be too jarring of an experience for them, and then they might turn you down.

If you start with the heart of your story, then they know what they’re settling into, and you can build on that with your great characters, setting, and plot.

So, the heart of your story will not only help you when revising, it’ll also help you sell your work. I can’t see any reason not to know it. Can you? :)

13 comments:

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Eek, you've reminded me that I have to work on my pitch for an upcoming conference. Not that I'm doing the pitch session. But I better create one just in case I save an agent from a burning building and she wants to know what my book's about. ;)

C.R. Evers said...

great post! A good pitch is so hard to master, but remembering the heart of the story might help. Maybe I'll go back and try working on my pitch again.

Tabitha said...

Stina - it's always good to be prepared. :)

Christy - I hope you'll share if you make progress!

Danyelle said...

Awesome post, Tabitha! Especially the part about how writers sometimes focus on finding the hook so much that they leave the heart of the story out. Very wise words. :)

cleemckenzie said...

That's so true. I even find that when I read queries writers focus on plot and forget that their book has a heart.

Catherine Stine said...

Good advice--Usually if you can write the 2-sentence pitch, you've found the heart/core.

Natalie Aguirre said...

Great post. I so struggle with the pitch. It's hard to narrow it down to the hook or the heart sometimes.

Tabitha said...

Thanks, all. :) The pitch is incredibly difficult to figure out, but if you've figured out the heart of your story already, then you're in good shape when it comes time to write your query. :)

Jessie Harrell said...

you know what I'd love to see are some examples?! This sounds like amazing advice, but I'm not exactly sure how to impliment it... feeling a bit slow.

Tabitha said...

Hmm, yeah, that would've helpful... You know, I'll take some published works and see if I can write a pitch for them. I'll post them next Monday. I'm going to try to focus on books that don't have a huge, obvious hook, so maybe the heart will come through clearer...

Any requests?

Chuck Warren said...

I like the idea of finding the heart of the story. It's kind of like finding the theme, only said much better.

Dawn Brazil said...

The pitch is the hardest part of the whole process. To take that 65 - 100,000 word book and compress it to 140 words or less. It's seems evil. But it's necessary. Great post!

Mary Witzl said...

Pitches are agony for me because I'm essentially long-winded. I know I need to learn how to distil loads of information in a short, pithy sentence, but my pitch always ends up being a little too long.