I interrupt your day with some news. Although I have been quiet online I have been very busy doing that thing writers are supposed to do…writing.
I have a double dose of news to share with you all.
I interrupt your day with some news. Although I have been quiet online I have been very busy doing that thing writers are supposed to do…writing.
I have a double dose of news to share with you all.
We all have had those moments of spine-chilling fear…when the shivers of chill make their way slowly down our spine, every hair on our body rises, our bones seem to turn to water and the back of our necks prickles. Our bodies surge with adrenalin and we fight the instinctive response to flee or fight. Fear is one of the core base emotions. We all know what it is. We all know when it has struck…
Sleep, those little slices of death, how I loathe them. – Edgar Allen Poe
I am a part of a stellar group of authors called TESSpecFic ** We are “The Emissaries of Strange: A Speculative Fiction Writer’s Collective” is a group of writers whose fiction fits under the speculative fiction umbrella. Our captain, the lovely Marie Loughin set us a question that stirred in each of our hearts this week: What is Horror?
This is a question that I faced at the end of 2011 when I was getting ready to pitch my WIP to an agent. Genre can be a tricky question. Especially these days when there are so many variations on the classic genres and so many sub genres to further muddy the genre waters. When I set out to write my WIP, I was not thinking in terms of genre. I was thinking STORY and CHARACTER. I wrote the story that poured forth and decided to leave the question of genre until it was absolutely necessary to come up with an answer.
Right up until the moment that I sat before the agent, I was second-guessing how to genre-alise* (Yes, it is a term I made up.) my story. The days before my pitch I researched other stories similar to mine to see how those authors had genre-alised their stories. One term kept on cropping up: Horror.
There is a quake that rips the soul asunder. . . it is the pain of remembering. – Nrb
The day of my pitch arrived and as I sat before the agent and she asked me what genre the WIP was, out came the word: Horror. She allowed me to continue with my allotted 10 minute pitch and then kept me talking because she was intrigued and wanted to know more. After I had basically given her the synopsis, she sat back, clicked her pen on the table-top between us and told me that though she could see how I genre-alised the plot into HORROR, she thought it would sound better as a Paranormal Historical. She was concerned that the term HORROR would limit the marketability of what she thought was a very marketable story.
We make up horrors to help us cope with the real ones. – Stephen King
Mmmh I wonder what Stephen King would have said if someone had told him HORROR would make his market limited? Seriously, who has not heard of a Stephen King story whether in books or movies. I think the HORROR genre has served Stephen King very well and he has done more than ok with finding a market for his work.
So what is HORROR and why are so many people afraid of that term? Pun intended*
I think Hollywood and B-Horror movies have given us a vision of blood, gore, guts and general grossness. But that is just one variation of HORROR. Below is the Dictionary.com definition of HORROR…
horror |ˈhôrər, ˈhär-|noun1 an intense feeling of fear, shock, or disgust: children screamed in horror.• a thing causing such a feeling: photographs showed the horror of the tragedy | the horrors of civil war.• a literary or film genre concerned with arousing such feelings: [ as modifier ] : a horror movie.• intense dismay: to her horror she found that a thief had stolen the machine.• [ as exclamation ] (horrors) chiefly humorous used to express dismay: horrors, two buttons were missing!• [ in sing. ] intense dislike: many have a horror of consulting a dictionary.• (the horrors) an attack of extreme nervousness or anxiety: the mere thought of it gives me the horrors.2 informal a bad or mischievous person, esp. a child: that little horror Zach was around.ORIGIN Middle English: via Old French from Latin horror, from horrere ‘tremble, shudder’ (see horrid) .
I think the very origin of the word answers the question: What is Horror? Horror is an involuntary trembling and shuddering from sheer terror. For me however, true horror is those scenes that play with your mind. Psychological fear is far more intense and horrific than mere physical fear. The mind is a scary place. It’s capacity for imagining the worst and the darkest is scary. Think of your favourite horror movie, the imagined monster behind the shadow at the foot of the door that is ajar is far scarier than the monster that is seen and can be fought. What is unknown is far scarier than the known? For me, that is true HORROR.
We do not have to visit a madhouse to find disordered minds; our planet is the mental institution of the universe. – Johann von Goethe
So I take the stand on my trilogy. It is HORROR
Paranormal Historical. It deals with death, ghosts and revenge. There are scenes that gave me the creeps as I was writing them. There are scenes that I still don’t like reading after midnight because they literally have me seeing the ghosts I have written become real.
It is dark. You cannot see. Only the hint of stars out the broken window. And a voice as old as the Snake from the Garden whispers, ‘I will hold your hand. – John Wick
Horror is the difference between the UNKNOWN vs the KNOWN and the UNTHINKABLE vs the IMAGINED. Horror is those shivers down my spine, that prickling on my skull and the bone-deep chill that makes my heart want to stop.
This is how Stephen King defines Horror:
“The 3 types of terror: The Gross-out: the sight of a severed head tumbling down a flight of stairs, it’s when the lights go out and something green and slimy splatters against your arm. The Horror: the unnatural, spiders the size of bears, the dead waking up and walking around, it’s when the lights go out and something with claws grabs you by the arm. And the last and worse one: Terror, when you come home and notice everything you own had been taken away and replaced by an exact substitute. It’s when the lights go out and you feel something behind you, you hear it, you feel its breath against your ear, but when you turn around, there’s nothing there…”
What is Horror to you? Is it a misunderstood and misaligned genre-alisation of a core human instinct? Is HORROR just a label or is it more a style of story-telling?
Join my fellow TESSpecFic members on their blogs below as they delve into: What is Horror?
Schedule for blog tour: What is Horror?
Marie Loughin – Wednesday, 9th May
Jaye Manus – Thursday, 10th May
Paul D. Dail – Friday, 11th May
Aniko Carmean – Sunday, 13th May
Jonathan D. Allen – Monday, 14th May
Penelope Crowe – Tuesday, 15th May
Two things have really struck me over the last few weeks and I felt I needed to blog about them. Both lead into the same subject but from different angles. The subject that has been niggling at my conscience: (Warning: this will be a long post.)
Write from the Heart
For the past 6 weeks I have been working on the final edits of my current WIP. Let me tell you…when I say “working” I mean just that. Anyone who says that writing a novel is difficult has obviously never got to the editing stage. For me first drafts are simple. The words, plot and characters flow out onto the page like opening a tap. Why is writing a first draft simple for me? I am a pants-plotter. I am not 100% a pantser nor am I 100% a plotter. I like some form of an outline but I it is just strong enough to light the next 500 words of each scene. But I am a night owl. Which means that I don’t write by day….In a way you could say that I drive at night if my driving is my novel, my headlights are my plot and my time of day is ruled by the light of the moon. I write like a driver who takes a journey at night. I can see just far enough ahead to know I am not going to crash into anything but there is still enough darkness and mystery that I can still be surprised by what turns the journey can take me on.
I would say that I plot 30% and free-form write about 70%. For me the story has to be written as it comes to me. If I plot too much I tend to lose that emotion that fuels my writing. I plot myself out of the story if I think too much. So, yes, viscerally it is vital that I write that first draft from the heart. I don’t subscribe to writer’s block. I think you write the story as it comes to you. But I do think you can out-think yourself out of the story and ultimately out of the writing which would in turn lead to a brick wall: the notorious writer’s block.
“There is no rule on how to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly; sometimes it is like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges.” ~ Ernest Hemingway
There are so many writer’s books, writer’s classes and workshops out there both online and in real-time. The information network through these channels as well as social networking can be wonderful but adversely can also be really overwhelming. Information is freedom. Or is it? Can too much information be overwhelming? Like the wise people say, too much of a good thing can be overkill. Yes, sign up for writer’s classes, attend conferences, read craft books and network with other writers and mentors…but when push comes to shove, you have to stop the information overload long enough to shut out the world, open the heart and start writing. To be a writer you have to write. To be a novelist or short story author, you need to finish a novel to a short story. Nobody said it would be easy. In fact, I guarantee you that most people love the dream but fear the reality of being a writer. But you knew this when you decided to write. You have to write because otherwise this story and these characters will not let you rest: they haunt your every hour, day and night. Yes, you must write. So the birth of a first draft starts.
First draft is just that. Your work is not done when you have got to those magic words “The End” of your first draft. Pat yourself on the back for finishing that story or that novel. Unfortunately though, now the real labour pains of the birthing process start. Writing the first draft was just your pregnancy. It may not have been the smoothest pregnancy and you may have had morning sickness but overall you know your “baby” is growing, changing and getting ready for entry into the real world. Your first draft is just like pregnancy in that it is really something intimate and the writing is for you. It is your chance to get to know this story. It is something that nobody else can do for you. Your real work has not even started until the “9 months” is up and your water breaks. Writing “The End” on your first draft is that water breaking.
But the real guts and glory are in the labour pains of birth. Writing is not easy but editing is painful. Editing a first draft should not be easy. It should be pain-staking, heart-wrenching and pure “work”.
If writing is sitting down and opening a vein…Editing is sitting down and cutting the vein.
I always thought that if you write from your heart, you must edit from your brain. In theory this is accurate. But can you out-think your first emotions from your first draft? Can you over-analyze to the point of killing the heart in your story?
I have realised that unfortunately you can over-analyze a story. I talk from very fresh experience. Funnily enough, I am usually my own worst enemy when it comes to critiquing my own work. However it is also true that like all writers, I can also miss certain elements that need to be corrected in my own work. This is when writing partners and beta readers come into play. If you have good writing partners, they are honest and forthright with you at all times. They are your headlights in the editing journey. But say now you get through that first and second edits (your second draft) with your mental health intact and your manuscript looking better for the cosmetic surgery…What now?
After both you and your writing partners are satisfied you have done all you can to edit your story, you start submitting and pitching it. If you are lucky enough to get an agent or editor to love your first pitch and they request a partial or a full manuscript, you have to put your hard hat on again and enter the final edits. Of course I am not even mentioning the edits that take place after a manuscript has been accepted by a publisher. No, I am just talking about the edits that may be required of you by the agent or editor in the initial request.
How far do you take those comments on your manuscript? Do you do a complete edit and rewrite again? Do you tweak only a little using both your intuition for the story and the advice you have been given by agent/editor? When does too much change become overkill for your story and your characters?
From very fresh personal experience, I can tell you that you can over-analyze your story into overkill. You can also change and rewrite your story so many times that after a while you wake up one morning, look down at the screen or the page and wonder who wrote this story? Too much editing and following too many pieces of advice, no matter how well intentioned, can cause you to fall out of love with your own story. You become an amnesiac and the story that you first wrote has disappeared into the ether of too much editing. If you get to this point, you must stop! If you try to push through determined to follow advice and to get that manuscript just perfect, you will start to feel like you are taking dictation and not creating. You become a secretary and stop being a creative writer.
If the advice you are getting is making you change your story to the degree that you are hating your own story and wanting to put off working on it, you must stop! You need to stop and recognise that your cosmetic surgery is becoming ugly and morphing your story into something unrecognisable. If you have fallen out of love with your story because of over-editing, that lack of emotion will come through and stain the story for any readers.
“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.” ~ Robert Frost
There comes a point where you have to follow the initial stirrings of your heart. At the end of the day you are the writer and this is YOUR story. These characters came to YOU. The story’s idea may not be original in that isn’t every romance like any other or a thriller just a thriller. What is unique and what is special to your story is YOU and YOUR heart/ YOUR emotion. Great emotion that is tenderly written into the spaces between the words is what makes a story a great story.
Ultimately advice is just that: advice. You choose what information to use and what to throw away. Ultimately YOUR story has to be YOUR story. You have to write from YOUR heart and you have to write YOUR story that you feel. Let that emotion come through and your story will be the better story for it. So yes: write the first draft with your heart, edit the second draft with your brain but the final checks need to be with your heart and your emotion. Be true to that initial emotion and that initial excitement when you first met your characters and heard their story. If you are true to your story and your characters, the story will be true for your readers. Essays come from the brain but stories come from the heart.
Write from the Heart .
Write Your Story.
Edit with your brain but let your heart be the final check.
Editors and agents are not writers. They are salesmen who help you polish up your story, promote it and market it to sell it. Don’t ever forget YOU are the Writer. It is YOUR story. If you feel strongly enough about keeping something in your story, then you MUST be true to that. It is called instinct. It is called creative license. It is: You writing Your story. Be true to it! Be true to you!
“There can be no knowledge without emotion. We may be aware of a truth, yet until we have felt its force, it is not ours. To the cognition of the brain must be added the experience of the soul.” ~ Arnold Bennett
Have you ever over-edited the heart out of your story? Or have you ever been told to remove something / change something vital from your story? What did you do in the end?
- Taking Off the Pants by Sonia G. Medeiros (aroundofwordsin80days.wordpress.com)
- Plotter vs. Pantser (all-things-andy-gavin.com)
- What to write about? (madgeniusclub.com)
- Tips for Writers – Finding Your Personal Writing Style (teacherwriter.net)
- Editing Drafts (iverb.wordpress.com)
- Help! My Manuscript is Bleeding… (melleamade.wordpress.com)
- “It Is Written”, Author’s Forum (excellenceorelse.wordpress.com)
- Writers Must…Write! (blogher.com)
- Ray Bradbury wrote this just for me! (lindacassidylewis.com)
- Writing from the heart (karunamettacat.wordpress.com)
- Write from the Head or Write from the Heart? (kadja1.com)
- Flow (nilaewhite.wordpress.com)
- The Ironic Reward of the Writer’s Life (thewritersrefuge.wordpress.com)
- A slippery slope (strawberryindigo.wordpress.com)
- Sometimes It Gets Messy (twowritingteachers.wordpress.com)
- Write it down, make it better: Editing tips (cnn.com)
- How Hard Can It Be? (turenn.wordpress.com)
- Zero Drafts and Unfinished Business (mappingtheedge.com)
- Not A Quilt (newauthors.wordpress.com)
- Stop Paying For Advice! (efharvey.wordpress.com)
- Guest Post: Two Infallible Writing Truths (the-time-capsule.com)
- Own Your Creative Process (parkinglotconfessional.com)
On Tuesday I posted on The Writer’s Achilles’ Heel where I told you there were two words that struck fear into a writer’s stalwart heart: Synopsis and Query. I posted on how I write up a synopsis and promised you that today I would post on the second part of that post.
This brings me back to knowing your peers. Your WIP is finished and is perfectly edited. It is submission time. First you look for an agent. Do you approach any agent? Do you hold a lucky draw for the agent that will love your work? If you submitted your YA fantasy to an agent that specialised in medical thrillers, do you think your bait would take? In all probability, even if the agent is intrigued, the agent will reject your WIP. So how do you know which agent to submit to?
You research. You compare. You do your homework. It is safe to be said that the largest accomplishment of actually finishing your WIP is the hardest part of writing. Suffice to say, the creative end of the process is basically complete but now the business end of the process begins. Your precious WIP that you have spent hours of grueling energy over is now just a “product” in the “shop of publishing“.
You have made a choice on which agent you will be pitching to. Now comes the query letter and the submission.
This query letter is your first rung on the sales game. You have to consider that your prospective agent has very little time to waste on reading every submission on the “slush – or unknown writer’s – pile”. So this is your chance to sell your novel.
In this query letter it is important that you not think like a writer but that you think like a salesman.
If you are planning on securing a literary agent for your work, you will need to know the ins and outs of queries. Agencies are very helpful in that they put up submission guidelines on their website telling you how they want you to submit to them. Each agency has an individual approach to submissions but one thing they all share in common is they want to be hooked by a great query.
So the question is: How do you Hook that Agent?
or should the question rather be:
How NOT to Hook that Agent?
Don’t ignore the submission guidelines on the agent’s website.
Do not submit the incorrect genre to an agent.
Do not query a manuscript that you have not completed and polished.
Do not address your letter with: Dear Sir/Madam / To whom it may concern / Dear Agent
Don’t bribe the agent with food/alcohol/vouchers/money.
Don’t tell the agent your life story starting when you were four and started reading.
Don’t tell the agent that your family and your friends think you have the next bestseller in your hands.
Don’t “pretty” your query email by inserting pictures, font colours and/or emoticons.
If it is a manual query: don’t send on pretty pink paper with stickers on.
Do not write a 10 page essay as a query letter.
Do not include attachments or links to Dropbox (or any other online storage facility) where they can download your novel.
Now: How do I HOOK that Agent?
Do your homework by checking out the agent’s website/blog.
Always follow the Agent’s submission guidelines.
In an email query: In the subject write – Query: (insert your ms title)
Use the standardized 12 point for font size.
Personalise your query letter by addressing the Agent by their name.
Write a strong first sentence hook.
Always include your title / word count / genre.
Write 1-2 paragraphs on the main premise of your manuscript.
Write 1-2 paragraphs on yourself: Give only the relevant writing credits/background that is pertinent to the story you are submitting.
End by thanking them for their time and consideration.
If indicated by their submission guidelines, include your 1 page synopsis.
Always check your grammar and use spell-check.
Keep the letter professional, clear and concise.
If your query is not successful. No matter what response you receive: Do not take it personally. Respond professionally and courteously.
Remember, you are using this query letter as a cover letter, not as a resume or a short story on yourself, to sell the Agent on your Manuscript. This is not an opportunity that you want to miss because you have not done your homework on either the Agent or how to write queries. I like to think of a query letter like a short advertisement.
It must entice, intrigue and grab the Agent.
The query is important because within the first few lines the Agent will decide if they want to know more about either the manuscript or the writer or not.
This is your first impression. No matter what you think, First Impressions can happen only ONCE and it is ALWAYS the first impression that counts.
Make this First Impression be the BEST Selling tool for your manuscript.
The Writer’s Achilles’ Heel | Part 1 (kimkoning.wordpress.com)
Synopsis: Are you in or out of Sync? (dragonflyscrolls.wordpress.com)
Publishing your book: Be market savvy. Be reader savvy. (dragonflyscrolls.wordpress.com)
Query, query. (leighevans.wordpress.com)
Publishing Simon Says… (writeami.wordpress.com)
Before Ever After (kikiandlalaland.wordpress.com)
The Art of the Query (writeami.wordpress.com)
Help Yourself (madgeniusclub.com)
- The Two Best Websites (of all time) for Writers Seeking Agents (donweston.wordpress.com)
There are two words that strike fear and tension into a writer’s mind:
But if you want to be published, these are two steps that you will need to take to walk through the gateway of publishing.
Why do these seemingly simple processes strike such fear into most writers?
It is time to take the arrow from Achilles’ Heel and use it to point you in the direction of Success.
After all haven’t you already achieved something incredible by creating a plot, writing a story and finishing a manuscript. Why then should these words stop so many writers in their tracks? Why are these two steps sometimes the ultimate Achilles’ Heel in a writer’s path to publishing success?
There are so many different “standardized” versions of a synopsis and a query. Perhaps this is one of the reasons that these two words can turn a confident creative into an unsure person filled with doubts. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if there was a definitive list of rules of writing a good synopsis and thereby insuring an effective query.
Most writers will try to put the SYNOPSIS off as long as possible until eventually we get that magic call/email that our manuscript has been found interesting enough to submit it. The excitement is soon paled by the looming terror of having to sit down and write a synopsis.
Perhaps as writers we are looking at this process back to front. Perhaps instead of leaving the synopsis to the end of the manuscript completion, we need to start compiling the synopsis during the writing process or even before we even start writing the story.
This is what I do. I start writing the synopsis while I am writing the first half of my first draft. For me a synopsis is not just a summarized version of the story that I am creating but it is a map that I am using to help plot my journey to my final destination: the climax and resolution of the story.
There are no fail-proof methods to attack a synopsis, but here are some points that help me create a synopsis.
- Think: Protagonist | Antagonist
Every story I write or read starts with a character. Whether this be the Antagonist or the Protagonist, a story cannot happen without the main characters. You cannot stage a play without the principal actors. Once the main character is introduced, the story can begin. Everything else is just back-story that helps set a scene for the character to step into. Every protagonist needs an antagonist. This creates the CONFLICT which leads to the CLIMAX. The antagonist is usually the spark that sets the whole story alight. He/She is the reason that the Protagonist needs to ACT.
- Think: Climax | Resolution | Beginning
This is the ultimate breakdown of your story. These are the most important points in your story, no matter what genre you write. Funnily enough, when I first get a story idea, what comes to me first is the crisis point then the what ifs start happening. That’s when I dig some more to get the beginning of the incident/story. Everything else in the plot arc of a story is just padding of these three plot points.
- Voice & POV (Point of View)
Who is telling this story? Are you, the writer, narrating it? Is your Protagonist telling the story? Is your Antagonist telling the story? Or is there a secondary character telling the story? These are the questions you need to think of to hear the VOICE of the story. The POV and the Voice gives the story and the characters life. Depending on which POV (who is telling the story?) you choose, the Voice will change. Like chinese whispers, each different person never tells the same story. The core elements may remain similar but the story is guided by who tells it.
- The Story Arc | Conflict
This is your check list to make sure your story makes sense. Fiction must make sense. Truth can bend the rules of sense vs nonsense but fiction needs to be believable. Your story needs to have a timeline that works smoothly and each step in the journey needs to lead both the writer and the reader into the next step.
Once I have these four points worked out, I can write my story’s synopsis. Sometimes if I find that I am not sure of my character’s pathway to this story or their motivation, I will also use these four points to write a character synopsis. The synopsis does not need to be difficult nor does it need to be put off until the last unavoidable minute before you have to scratch one together in a wild panic. I also find that when I write a synopsis at the beginning of my first draft, it keeps me from hitting a block or stumbling point. Like a map, it gives me a clear path to my final destination. There may still end up being unexpected roadblocks but with just a few minutes looking back at my road map (SYNOPSIS) I am back on track.
If your story’s synopsis has become your Achilles’ Heel, try simplifying it for yourself. Even if you find you struggle with road blocks in your story, this way may just help you past them. By targeting these four points you may just find that writing a synopsis can in fact be a key to the difference between a good story and a great story. Don’t complicate things for yourself by over-analyzing the synopsis. You already have enough to do with writing and finishing the story as well as submitting it for acceptance or rejection.
Part 2 – Query will be posted on Friday so look out for that.
Coming up on Thursday, there is a guest post on a very common writing road block: Middle Book Blues.
- To Pitch or not to Pitch? (kimkoningink.com)
- Who is Achilles and what was the importance of his heel (wiki.answers.com)
- The World of Querying (tracikenworth.wordpress.com)
- The Synopsis: The Power Is In Your Hands (deberelene.wordpress.com)
- Reader Question: How to write a logline of my story? (gointothestory.com)
- A Writer’s Notebook: query plot synopsis (snoekbrown.wordpress.com)
(Aside: This will be a long post but you may learn a new way to pitch your next story. Let’s find out how to hook that agent/editor.)
Recently, I attended a writing conference. Now, why do writers attend writing conferences? For the camaraderie of fellow writers. For the many workshops on offer. To meet and greet your favourite authors, editors and agents. Yes to all these reasons. For me the biggest draw-card of a writing conference is the opportunity to talk to agents and editors about your book/s and your writing. This is when the inevitable question will present itself to writers:
To Pitch or not to Pitch?
How many opportunities do you get to pitch your WIP face to face with either an editor or an agent? If you answered zero to none, that would be pretty accurate. So if given the opportunity to pitch, why would you say no?
There is a clichéd saying that you should not look a gift horse in the mouth. The same could be applied to the Pitch appointment. The first rule when offered the opportunity to Pitch is:
- Take the chance. Take the Pitch.
What is a Pitch? Is there a right or wrong way to Pitch your WIP?
A pitch is basically your sales pitch for your WIP. This is your chance to sell your story. I think a lot of writers have confusion around Pitching. Yes, your WIP is your baby. But that is only while you are writing it. When you start the editing process your “baby” needs to become your “product”.
A year ago I wrote a post on my creativity blog called:
“Your WIP is finished and is perfectly edited. It is submission time…Suffice to say, the creative end of the process is basically complete but now the business end of the process begins. Your precious WIP that you have spent hours of grueling energy over is now just a “product” in the “shop of publishing“…Writing your book is a creative and personal process. Submitting your book for publication is a marketing game. Publishing your book is a sales game…”
So the biggest disservice you can do to both your WIP and your pitch is to still think of your WIP as a “baby”. But I hear you say that you have never been a salesman; that you don’t know how to sell your book. Have you ever gone for an interview? Have you ever applied for a loan? The chances are you have done at least one of these things. Which means you have sold something: you sold yourself as an investment product. Aren’t you trying to get an agent or editor to take your book on to publishing? Then you’re selling. You are the best salesman for this job. After all nobody knows this manuscript like you do.
So is there a right way or adversely a wrong way to pitch your manuscript? I think that there is a right way that will at least get the agent or editor listening to you intently. I am going to teach you how to sell your WIP to that next agent or editor that you pitch to.
This little acronym is one that is well known to the sales industry across the world. It is an acronym that I used to train people in selling and turning “lookers” into “buyers” when I was in the sales industry. But this is also an acronym that you can use in the Pitch session. So do you want to know what this acronym means and how it will change the way you look at Pitching? Well I am going to tell you anyway. So if your WIP is your product, how are you meant to sell it? This is how.
Your book is your product but it is not your feature. Your feature is that one aspect of your WIP that will make an agent or an editor want to take this book on. So you have to figure out what your feature is. It may be the specific genre, it may be your intended market, it may be your plot, it may be your POV, it may be your characters. Your feature is that one feature of your book that makes your book marketable and readable. So find out what your feature is.
Example: Product = Pen | Feature = Ball-Point Pen
The advantage is what advantage does your book’s main feature have that will have an agent/editor peering up with interest. This must relate to the feature you have chosen to sell/pitch.
Example: Product = Pen | Feature = Ball-Point Pen | Advantage = Ball-Point pen with a Fine writing tip
The benefit will make the difference in whether your WIP is the right manuscript for that agent/editor. In other words, how will the feature’s advantage benefit the customer. The customer in this case being the agent/editor.
Example: Product = Pen | Feature = Ball-Point Pen | Advantage = Ball Point pen with a Fine writing tip | Benefit = writes legible words with ink that will not run on most surfaces.
- Grabber / Clincher
The grabber is that last GRABBER of a selling pitch. It is what will make the agent sit up and start nodding his/her head without even being aware that they are agreeing with you. The Grabber is basically a summing up of feature + advantage + benefit rolled up into a short, concise and assertive statement.
Example: Product = Pen | Feature = Ball-Point Pen | Advantage = Ball-Point pen with a Fine writing tip | Benefit = writes legible words with ink that will not run on most surfaces | Grabber = Don’t you want your pen to be able to write on most surfaces without running?
- The second rule is: Dance according to the tune.
This means knowing who you are pitching to and what you are pitching. This means doing your homework before the pitch session. Find out what other mss this agent/editor has signed. What do they like? What don’t they like? This also means knowing where your WIP fits in when compared to other books in the same genre. If you are writing a YA, you do not want to be pitching your book in a monotoned professor-like voice (actually in most instances you do not want to be pitching like that). Pitch it in way that it will appeal to Young Adults. This is what will make your pitch stand out in the agent’s/editor’s mind.
- The third rule is: First Impressions count.
Be professional: in both grooming, attire and body language. Be punctual. If you do not have an appointment, pitch at an appropriate time – not in the bathroom. (Don’t hijack the agent/editor. The right time will present itself usually by them being interested in you while chatting.) Be concise in your pitch. Be market savvy: if the agent/editor asks you who is the market for this book, you need to be able to answer without hesitation. Be assertive. Be confidant but not arrogant. Sell not preach your book’s idea/s. Be gracious.
- The fourth rule is: Short but Sweet.
Be salient and succinct in your pitch. Use only the most necessary plot points and talk about only the protagonist and antagonist in your story. At most pitch sessions, you have 10 minutes to pitch your WIP. Use that time wisely. A writing partner gave me the best advice: sum up your story and the main conflict + climax in 1 sentence. If you have picked the correct sentence, the agent/editor will ask you to elaborate and if you get to that stage, half the battle is won already.
Good Luck with your next Pitch. Just remember that once you are at the Pitch stage, your book is no longer your “baby”, it is now your “product” and you have just been made a salesman. Other than that, you need to realise that it is still up to the agent/editor whether they want your particular WIP. Do not despair if your pitch failed. It may be that it is the right story, wrong time. Keep on persevering. Keep on pitching. Those are the most important rules of thumb.
Share some of the insight you may have from one of your pitches. Why have some pitches been more successful than others?
[Aside: At the conference, I followed my own advice and had one successful pitch and one pitch that didn’t take. The one that didn’t take was simply because it was not the genre/market that the editor was looking for. Again, this publishing industry is all about timing and what’s hot and not. You won’t know unless you pitch. Most editors/agents will give you some good feedback. Of course just because a pitch is successful, does not mean the end of the journey. It is only the second step. The first was finishing a full novel in the first place.]
Where has the time flown? The eight month of 2011 is here. August is the waning of Winter in my Southern Hemisphere and the waning of Summer in the Northern Hemisphere. I don’t know about you but August and April tend to be times of planning for me. Perhaps it is because they are both “in-between” months – neither are quite Summer or Winter. But this year I have decided that August is going to be my Attitude Month.
What does this mean? An Attitude Month?
An Attitude Month is a month where no excuses or procrastination is allowed to rear their heads. An Attitude Month is a month when I get real with my writing. If self-doubt, perfectionism or procrastination come looking I am going to rebel with Attitude.
So for August I have decided to submit the current WIP that has been holding me ransom these last few months. Then the plan is to start on Book 2 of the series. I have given myself deadlines until December 2011.
Deadlines are only effective if they are met and if someone holds you accountable.
So over the next few months I will be working on and finishing:
The Black Prince (15/09) – Book 2 in the Raven Chronicles (Supernatural Horror)
The Ring of Fire (15/10) – YA Dystopian
The Gemini – Mythological Fantasy (15/11)
The Dream Catcher – Fantasy (15/12)
At the same time I am going to be forging ahead with Shadows, my suspense thriller with an end date of 01/12.
First task at hand is to finish polishing The Raven’s Court (Book 1 in The Raven’s Chronicles) and submit by 18/08. My betas are chomping at the bit to get their claws on Raven’s Court so I dare not leave them waiting.
How will I be attaining these goals? Word Count! Word Count! Word Count! I am going to aim for 6 days writing per week with a minimum goal of 4000 words per writing day. Another way that I am going to forge ahead is by taking up my Morning Pages again. I have been very lax this year with Morning Pages and after the very strange dreams I have been having lately I realised that I really need to get into that daily habit again of “stream-of-consciousness” writing. But this month I am going to be doing it longhand with the old fashioned pen and moleskin method. Tried, tested and true. There is something magical that happens when your pen scratches away on a blank page.
As for procrastination I am going to employ Anti-Social. This is a nifty little download (unfortunately only available to Mac users at the moment) that shuts off Twitter and Facebook for a solid 8 hours. Four of my projects require intensive research so I will be leaving the internet on but will not be able to access the social networks for at least 8 hours every day. During which time I will be working on my writing goals.
Then on the third weekend of the month I will be attending my second writers’ conference. I am looking forward to this year’s conference because of the focus it has. Both the three authors attending and all the workshops are geared towards suspense writing, fantasy, paranormal and YA dystopian fiction. I am also looking forward to this year’s conference because I am not the newbie. I know what to expect and I know what to look forward to. On top of that I get to attend with one of my favourite people and dear friend. Conferences are so much more fun when you get to share the experience.
So that is what my August looks like so far.
We all have the same 44,640 minutes this month. We can choose to waste away or procrastinate the time away. Or we can choose to use the best of that time to run for our goals, achieve our dreams and form our own path to success.
What are your goals for August?
What are you going to do with your 44,640 minutes?
What is your August Attitude?
Today’s thought ~
Attitude sealed with concrete determination is the brick that lies in the foundations of success.
Time Saving Steps for your WIP (kimkoning.wordpress.com)
Forgiveness and Procrastination (colleensharen.wordpress.com)
Common causes of unhappiness and smart ways to cure them #4 (dialoguewithyou.wordpress.com)
Three Ways to Overcome Procrastination (divamm.wordpress.com)
Creating Bite-sized Life Goals (marcia-richards.com)
July Writing Goals: End of July (shannagermain2.wordpress.com)
Note to Self: Get Serious About Your Writing (donweston.wordpress.com)
Picking up the Pace (ericswett.wordpress.com)
New Attitudes; New Altitudes! (montagprint.wordpress.com)
The Challenge (anotherpieceofpie.wordpress.com)
August Theme for NaBloPoMo and a Writing Contest (blogher.com)
Why I’m Dragging My Feet (kimberlyabettes.wordpress.com)
The Power Of Writing And Why I Write At Least 750 Words Every Morning (healthmoneysuccess.com)
When Willpower is Trumped by Bad Habits (zenhabits.net)