Monday, February 25, 2013

WriteOnCon Pitch Fest 2013 "What I Like"

To all those wonderful writers submitting pitches:
First of all, here's a round of applause to you. I find these blog posts I write to be the limit of my writing abilities. How you're able to write a book is beyond me. And then you, after taking so long to write and perfect your manuscript, must put it out there to be criticized and teared apart piece by piece. God, if I put that much work into something only to have somebody  point out all the would ruin me. Which is why I like to do the breaking apart, and leave the writing to you guys. Laugh at others before they laugh at you. Same basis. Not that I'm laughing at you or anything. Theoretically. 
So, I'm a teenager who loves to read, and sometimes I write a post on my thoughts on a particular books, though I don't write reviews - rating books is about as far as I go. And because half of the pitches at this pitch fest are going to be geared towards YA, YA opinion is the best criticism you can get. Again, I'm not a writer, but when I read the pitch of a book (the blurb on the back cover or, more often than not, the Goodreads description) there are a few things that either make me pick up the book or put it down. I would also like to note that I read all YA genres, and occasionally some MG - all I need is for the description to be enticing enough.  Here's my version of the things I like in the pitch of a book.

What I like (failing to follow these guidelines will result in me failing to think of reading the book):
  •  Carry the tone of your story unto the pitch. It gives the reader a taste of what's to come. I hate when a pitch portrays the book in one way, and then I start reading the book, and surprise, surprise!
  • A catchy title. You know what makes me pick up the book and read the pitch? An interesting title and cover. Obviously, there's no cover yet, but make sure your title's the best thing you can think of.
  • Keep some things secret. You want your pitch to have the reader wanting to know more. Create a sense of urgency. Whatever you call it - the hook, the attention-grabber - make sure it's in there, intriguing the reader.
  • That first sentence! You want to catch your reader from the first sentence! I prefer having a catchy first sentence and leaving the setting description for later on in the pitch. Unless the setting description is the attention grabber (like, "New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., have been abandoned. The Bill of Rights has been revoked, and replaced with the Moral Statutes. There are no more police—instead, there are soldiers. There are no more fines for bad behavior—instead, there are arrests, trials, and maybe worse. People who get arrested usually don't come back." from the description of Article 5 by Kristen Simmons...though I have yet to read the book)
  • Emotions. God, how I love books that play with my emotions. Well, not exactly play, I have a love-hate relationship with those (think Before I Fall and Reason To Breathe), but something like that. And on the topic of emotions, make sure to show relationships. The main character should care about other characters - whether it's the protagonist's family or crush. What's at stake?

 What I don't like (think of them as the signs of a bad writer. I frequently commit all of these things, so this is, like, based on experience - not that I write pitches or anything) :
  •  No spoilery. Puh-leez. I know this sounds extremely basic, but there are lots of pitches out there that do this. Ideally, you want your pitch to include what happens in the first %20 of the book. No more. I do not want a summary. I want a pitch.
  •  Misleading Pitches. Obviously, you can't know whether a pitch is misleading or not until you start reading the book, but I hate pitches that, for example, don't mention the word "vampire" in the whole pitch, and then I open the book, and ta-da, "There was once a vampire girl..."
  •  The character has no feelings. She cares for no-one. She is portrayed as being flat in the description (even if she's three dimensional in the story). There is no reason she is even living. She cares for nobody, and nobody cares for her. Including the reader. This goes back to the emotions and relationships thing I talked about. 
  •  Not going directly into the action. Just like the first chapter of book. If it's boring, than that's a turn off. So, jump right into the midst of things. (My personal favorite example is Brandon Sanderson's book Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians , which I read a long, long time ago. He starts of with "So, there I was, tied to an altar made from outdated encyclopedias, about to get sacrificed to the dark powers by a cult of evil Librarians. As you might imagine, that sort of situation can be quite disturbing. It does funny things to the brain to be in such danger – in fact, it often makes a person and reflect upon his life. If you’ve never faced such a situation, then you’ll simply have to take my word. If, on the other hand, you have faced such a situation, then you are probably dead and aren’t likely to be reading this," and then later informs you that this is not true, and he was never tied to an altar, but it was the best way to keep you reading. That book taught me so many things back in fifth grade. Read the first two chapters here)
  • Making it too long. Make sure you're not just going on and on and on (like I am). Keep the Best and throw away the Good and the OK.
What I don't particularly care for (meaning it has no effect on my decision to read or not read the book):
  • That little sentence on the bottom. On every book blurb, it's always there. Like "With complexity and richness, Nova Ren Suma serves up a beautiful, visual, fresh interpretation of what it means to be lost", "In this action-packed debut, Glitch begins an exciting new young adult trilogy", and "Everneath is a captivating story of love, loss, and immortality from debut author Brodi Ashton". Almost every pitch has a sentence like that at the end, that tells what the book is going to be about instead of shows. As long as you show me what the book's going to be about earlier in the pitch, feel free to add that. It can say "this book is stupid and has not received one positive review from date of publication" and I still wouldn't care. Maybe.
And remember, no matter how bad your writing may seem, there are still a whole bunch of people out there with writing that's worse. Hopefully. I've seen lots of great feedback from community members on the Pitch-Fest forums, and I really do recommend you take advantage of that before it's over (which is in, like, five days?). And remember, each pitch is different, so these are just overall general rules. Thank you sooo much for reading through all that - I know there was a lot of off-topic-ness. What do you think? And finally, good luck with your pitch!