Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Novel - Writing the Pitch Letter

I had great plans for the week gone out.  I was in that 'focus, focus, focus' mood, the one that floats into my arena every so often and reminds me that the only way to get things done is to do them!!

But unfortunately, and I can't really work out the 'why' as yet (still submerged in my own confusion), things went badly wrong.  It was a bit like when you KNOW you are going to start a diet, you can nearly see those tiny jeans escaping from the wardrobe, and then you get on the scales 7 days later and you have gained 3 lbs. 

Well that was me, in the metaphorical sense, I will keep my real diet wars for another day.

What I did manage to end up with this week though was the infamous 'Pitch Letter'.  One thing I've learned regarding this novel writing thing, is that the challenges of the writing is one thing, but the synopsis, the pitch letter, the working out the who and the why you should send your manuscript off to, is like doing homework in a subject that you are not particularly fond of at school.  And for me, the 'Pitch Letter', turned out to be my worth nightmare.

For some reason even though I said I was going to write it, a big part of me was fighting against doing it.  I planted seeds for wild flowers in the garden, I made a list of jobs that needed doing, I watched endless hours of television about the election that has to be OVER soon, I even worked at night on things that are part of the day job, along with playing solitaire into the early hours, all in the hope of avoiding this dreaded thing (that I, not anyone else had decided to do).

I wondered was it being Irish, because we are not good at talking ourselves up and hate other people that do it about themselvea.  Or was it that secretly I thought my novel wasn't very novel at all?  The prospect of working out 'why' anyone would publish or read my book brought up all the inferiority complexes that any decent, self critical, forever doubting individual like yours truly could muster, but eventually, because, as I have had to admit in the past, I am a bit of a 'goody two shoes' when it comes to doing homework I did it, for if I said I was going to do it, then hate it or not I was bloody well going to.

One of the first things I had to do was get over was believeing in the novel, now that might not seem difficult to most people who have written 105,000 plus words, but to me it was monumental.  So in order to limit my pain, and on the principle that often less is more in a busy publisher's life, I decided to stick to a max of 300 words for the pitch letter and also because I read somewhere that one should 'make it brief, make it accurate and make it interesting', I figured I had the beginning of a plan.

So brief I could do, accuracy was also within my grasp, but making it sound interesting was kinda caught between blowing your own trumpet whilst at the same time thinking this might be a load of rubbish.  For what it's worth, I ended up with the following shape on it:

Paragraph 1
Stating the genre, with a four word depiction of what the novel was about, a bit like the famous pitch for the movie Alien  'Jaws in Space'.  I didn't use that one because remember you have to be accurate!

Paragraph 2
Expanding on the 'why' of the novel and more importantly saying 'who' would want to read it.

Paragraph 3
What makes it interesting.

Paragraph 4
Pitching how the novel would appeal to others outside the constraints of the genre.

Paragraph 5
A bit about me, sort of to hide that I might be a complete failure, you know the stuff I am talking about .........  At the age of 5 I won a race!

Paragraph 6
Rounding up after pitching my novel and little old me, by being polite with a touch of humility but not completely self-deprecating etc etc.

All in less than 300 words!

Not sure if this will be my 'Pitch Letter', in fact I am pretty sure it will be subject to a lot more editing, but even though I didn't achieve my other plans for this week, I suppose at least I've made a start!

For other nonsense click HERE


  1. sounds like a great start - professional, focussed. cool. Check out Query Shark for some pointers on pitch letters, they can be interesting...


  2. Thanks Niamh, I'll check it out.

  3. 'make it brief, make it accurate and make it interesting' - good! My novel is mouldering. If you need a fresh pair of eyes or a proofreader or anything, you know where I am :) *points to the corner with the beanbag and the chocolate*

  4. Thanks Jessica, I might take you up on that if I get my act together. I always arrive with a good supply of chocolates, they are my current inspiration!

  5. I find that side of things so much like homework too, even the word "pitch" makes me shudder.

    I'd probably end up lying to make it more exciting! Not that I've ever sent a pitch letter yet, I'm more comfortable with three chapters and a synopsis, a pitch is for agents is it?

    6 paragraphs in less than 300 words! Good for you for doing it, (and explaining it here) i might give it a go myself!

    I just discovered your novel writing posts, I'm on an almost final draft but my novel keeps shrinking everytime I spend time editing it, from 60,000 eight months ago to 48,000 this week. I hope it doesnt continue at this pace or it will be a haiku by xmas!

  6. Hi Niamh,

    Yes the whole marketing, pushing, competitive side of things I absolutely hate, I think because writing is so blinkin personal it's like selling your soul or something.

    I probably should have named the post pitch/cover letter, I guess I just wanted to make a stab at it either way.

    Shinking words are necessary but good even if they are disheartening. I did edit as I went along but not to my usual edit things to death method, I tried just to make the end game, if you get a chance to read the other posts you'll get the drift. I think I was trying to trick myself into just keeping on going.

    Anyhow mine is not a piece of litery genius in any way, I just wanted to write a fast moving, interesting page turner, but the jury of course is still out on that one.

  7. VERY interesting - I wonder how far it extends into other forms of writing...

  8. Oh wow - I went back & read your synopsis. This is my favorite kind of book! I hope hope hope you can get it published. Because I'll buy a copy, for sure!

  9. Oh God, I am so there with you. I feel your pain as I will be crossing that line so soon it kills me just thinking about it. Don't go to the dark side and keep looking at the light up ahead.

  10. I think you're a lot further on the submission track than I am. I totally hate the pitch thing (but love to write and want to get my work pubbed) so I feel your pain.

    What you have sounds like a plan - a REAL plan - so stick to it - and go with what you've got. And best of luck to you.

    (I must show my writing group this post tonight, by the way - just for inspiration!)

  11. Dave not sure how far it extends to other forms of writing but I guess we do learn something from viewing the process of promotion!

    Bug thanks for the support, hopefully there will be plenty of other like minded individuals out there.

    L.A.Speedwing,yes it is NOT the most enjoyable side of things, we must all be mad!

    And Lightverse, would love to hear any feedback from your writing group.

    Thanks all for the supportive comments.

  12. I'm new to reading your blog and I find your writing very interesting and I wondered why it would be difficult to write a pitch letter (I haven't gotten this far, but I hope to). When you began to explain and lay it out I can see why it is difficult. I suppose mostly because it is the kind of writing that we writers don't normally do. We can hopefully tell a good story, but self promotion is a whole different way of writing, this a bit difficult.

    Be confident in your ability, you write well. And good luck with the pitch letter. Maybe a friend's objectivity could help?

  13. Well I have no experience in this area whatsoever but u always give me great advice, thus if u listen to urself u won't go far wrong. Everything u have said u have done sounds great to me. So all I can say is good luck and I have great faith that u can achieve anything you set ur mind to. Your no1 fan & 120th sock (Derek :p) xxxx

  14. Thanks tattoodevil13 as always!


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