Sunday, January 28, 2007

Technical Topic -- Pitching Your MS

Sometimes, at a conference, you'll have a chance to pitch a book to an editor or agent.

The editor knows she will not come out of this session knowing whether you can write,
which is what she really wants to know, of course.
She has to open the ms to find out whether you can write.

At a conference pitch session the editor asks herself five, fairly simple, questions.

-- Is the ms finished?

-- Is it, indeed, a Romance? (Or whatever it is claiming to be.)

-- Is the mss in a subfield of Romance and of a length she handles?

-- Is your storyline hackneyed,
or poorly thought out,
or wildly improbable,
or one she has just bought three of?

-- Do you understand enough about writing to have constructed a workable plot?

You want to answer these five questions for her.

First -- give her the title, type of work, length and your assurance that 'yes, it is done.'
Next give her a 100-word summary of the story.

That answers the first four questions.

Then you'll show her you understand the process of constructing a story.

Here's how --

Instead of spending the rest of your time relating the INCIDENTS of your story ...
(... then Fordham goes to Philadelphia, see, and meets her father and they quarrel about the land distribution and when he comes back to the farm, Milly has a fight with him because he upset her father and then she ..)

you will talk about the PLOTTING ...
(... has to choose between her father and her lover. One choice, she grows and takes responsibility for what she's done, the other, she remains a child. This is set up to be a painful choice for her ... I do some backstory stuff with her mother's death to establish this as an emotional trigger. She blames Fordham for forcing her to make this choice. That anger motivates the big fight scene which forces the hero and heroine apart for the next hundred pages or so. We continue with two lines of parallel and intersecting action. His action is ...)

You don't tell the editor the story.
(She has no interest in hearing about Milly and Fordham's tribulations for 5 minutes. Trust me on this.)
You tell the editor ... 'I understand writing.'

Once the editor has answered her five crucial questions
she will just want to chat.

Chatting, she will discover if you would be easy to work with
and if you're crazy.

Reassure her on both these points.

Standard ettiquette all round ---

Shake her hand only if she offers it, do not wear perfume to the meeting, keep an eye on the time, get up when she starts to, thank her warmly but not effusively, leave promptly, do not hand her mss or writing samples, do not assume she will recognize you if you run into her later.

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