Sunday, June 26, 2011

Honing Your Pitch

Attending a writers conference can be a stressful undertaking—even for a seasoned writer. A lot of writers have gravitated toward our profession because we’re not comfortable with crowds, especially crowds of strangers.

That’s why I’m posting this series on writing conferences. It’s not to add to your stress—but to alleviate it. For me, when I know what to expect and am prepared, I’m less anxious. No one likes to feel like they're under the gun. I assume I’m not alone in this feeling.

So the first subject we’re going to tackle is the one that makes most writer’s stress levels spike off scale—pitching.

Over the years I’ve had people tell me they’re not worried about pitching—they’re just going to learn. Nice thought, but not based in reality. I hate to break it to you, but if you’re standing in line or sitting beside someone and they ask you what you’re writing, if you answer them, you’ve just delivered a pitch. I could post pages of stories from writers who wished they’d been prepared for this unassuming little scenario.

The idea behind a pitch is to get the person you’re talking with to ask for more.

Simple concept, harder to execute. So here are some of the do’s and don’ts of pitching.

  • Set up an intriguing scenario.
  • Introduce your main character.
  • Give a hint about their situation and goal.
  • Tie in the disaster or obstacle to that goal.

  • Go over 2 sentences—try to keep it to one sentence.
  • Answer all the questions the listener might have.
  • Substitute cleverness for specifics.
  • Give away the ending.

Now, here are some real life hooks or tag lines from popular movies. I’d love to read some of your favorites as well. 
  • "She brought a small town to its feet and a huge corporation to its knees." —Erin Brokovich
  • "To enter the mind of a killer she must challenge the mind of a madman." —Silence of the Lambs
  • "What if someone you never met, someone you never saw, someone you never knew was the only someone for you?" —Sleepless in Seattle 1993
  • “A businessman falls in love with a hooker he hires to be his date for the weekend” —Pretty Woman
  •  “When you can live forever, what do you live for?” —Twilight
  •  “Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water.” —Jaws 2
  •  “In space, no one can hear you scream.” —Alien 

Now it's your turn to chime in. Do you have any questions or is anyone brave enough to try their pitch out here?

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