Wednesday, September 17, 2008

What's Your Book About?

Once you reveal that you’re writing a book, it’s a natural question and one that you should be able to answer briefly and without hesitation. If you’re talking to an editor or an agent, you’ll need to pitch your story in a concise sentence or two.

For an example, think of a brief description of the last movie you saw. Here’s mine: A girl who is about to be married wants to know who her father is. She finds her mother’s diary and secretly invites the three possible candidates to her wedding. Add an exotic Greek Island and a slew of ABBA songs, and you’ve got the hit movie, Mama Mia.

If you’ve got a plot-driven book, it’s not as difficult to say what your story is about, but character-driven stories can be harder. You’ve created as much conflict as possible, then added a many-layered character, so it can be difficult to boil your story down to a sentence. You may flounder when asked, “What’s your book about?”

Author James Scott Bell offers this pitch formula:

An ADJECTIVE, ADJECTIVE NOUN (describing main character) does BLANK and BLANK (verbs).

A rebellious Southern Belle risks everything to save the family home.

Naval Historian and CIA Analyst Jack Ryan deduces that the captain of a Soviet sub wants to defect and aids the sub in escaping the Soviet fleet.

Award-winning Author and Physicist Randy Ingermanson, a man who thinks in both the left and right sides of his brain, has developed “The Snowflake Method” of writing a novel. See his web-site: www.advancedfictionwriting.com/art/snowflake.php.

Step one creates your pitch:

INGERMANSON: Take an hour and write a one-sentence summary of your novel. Something like this: "A rogue physicist travels back in time to kill the apostle Paul." (This is the summary for my first novel, Transgression.) The sentence will serve you forever as a ten-second selling tool…

Author Kathy Carmichael has developed an Interactive Pitch Generator. See her cool web-site for an automatic pitch: http://www.kathycarmichael.com/generator.html.

The next time we’re asked about our books, we’ll have a ready answer.

~ Roxanne Sherwood ~

1 comment:

Lisa Jordan said...

Since I've been home from the conference, I've been more confident about telling others what my book is about. Having repeated the pitch so often at the conference, the words slide off my tongue with ease. They may smile and nod because they don't get my enthusiasm for the book or my characters, but I'm gaining confidence in telling something I used to guard like a watchdog.