Crafting Story Pitches

Now and then a publisher will issue a “call-out” for submissions to a new line of books they plan. These are usually from genre publishers, but all novel writers can benefit from learning do write a good novel pitch.
Writing Tip for Today: You can use a pitch to analyze a work-in-progress, for a completed novel or for already published novelists, one you’d like to write.

  • Boil it down. Lead with your character, and add up to three descriptive words (EX: Sue, a fourteen year-old girl sleuth). Mention setting/time period if it’s not contemporary. Plug in character’s desire/goal, add obstacles and say what the character MUST do to overcome obstacles and meet the goal. If this is difficult, go back to the “stakes” (as in what’s at stake?) and up them. 
  • Keep it Short. This whole pitch should take about 100 words, give or take. If it requires more words, you may not have a clear idea of your story.
  • The When/But Method. Using “when” as a lead off, you can quickly set up your character and the goal, throw in that “but” for the obstacles and use a strong verb such as “must” “battles” “struggles” or “overcomes” to describe how the protagonist meets the goal. A short pitch will benefit you as you are writing, as you revise and when you agent-shop. It’s a versatile tool you can use in a proposal, query or in person.

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About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

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