#TheWritersVoice: Building Your Twitter Pitch #WVTP

Update

Guys, just WATCHING the Twitter pitch party yesterday was insane. 140 characters were flying every which way! If you – like myself – couldn’t keep up, GB Skye made a very handy list of the pitches that got requests. It’s a totally handy learning tool that might give you ideas on how to tweak your own pitch. Definitely check it out.

It’s been fun! So glad this post seems like it’s been useful. Comments will stay open in case someone wants to jump back in with a new pitch and get some feedback.


First off: Let it be stated that I in no way consider myself an expert on Twitter pitches, but it seemed like we were all in the same, wig-tastic boat when this new contest was announced – half-excited, half-terrified – so why not bond together and help each other out?

Step 1:

Step 2: Let’s construct this bastard.

I’ve discussed this a little with Jenny Kaczorowski, who – like myself – kind of goes “Ooo” and not “AUGH” over the prospect of Twitter pitches, and she shared some advice she received from the fabulous Shelley Watters. If you don’t know where to begin, here’s a good basic formula:

When x happens, (main character) must do y in order to z.

Nathan Bransford calls it the opening conflict, obstacle and quest. Pretty simple, right? Straight-forward? The hard part is stripping out everything YOU know of your book because you are so intimately acquainted with the characters, the world and all the layers you’ve built in. Twitter pitches are not about layers or themes or subplots or anything except your MC and what the hell happens. Bam.

So the basic questions you have to ask yourself are who is your MC, what’s their conflict and what is at stake for them? Then it’s time to choose your words so very, very carefully. We have 135 characters for this one when you factor in the new hashtag (#WVTP) so take all the time between now and May 24th finding super-strong words – words that kick people in the teeth and make them worry that you made their nose bleed from the awesome.

Nathan also suggest adding “flavor,” if you can swing it – essentially, that dash of something extra that gives it a sense of the voice of the novel. He even provides his own pitch as an example:

Three kids trade a corndog (FLAVOR) for a spaceship, blast off into space (OPENING CONFLICT), accidentally break the universe (OBSTACLE), and have to find their way back home (QUEST)

Common issues to avoid:

Agent Rachelle Gardner compiled a list of pitch problems she saw cropping up in a contest of hers:

  • Language that is too vague: This generally happens when you use non-specific cliches that border on being thematic. For example: “When her world is turned upside-down, Izzy must discover who she truly is before she loses herself forever.”
  • Overly complicated and/or confusing: Generally happens when you’re being too specific, especially if you’re working with spec fiction. For example: “Angie has inherited all the planet’s danaan and has to escape in Sybil to keep it from the Magistrate.” Also happens when you have disparate elements crammed together: “Zee doesn’t think his inhaler can save the world until a dragon princess shows him an enchanted telescope.”

With this Twitter pitch, I would also add a caution against over-relying on Twitter abbreviations in our case. You want a hook that Vickie and John read quick and go “WANT” – not one they have to puzzle out.

Examples:

Jenny K.’s for THE ALTERAE:

When Emma’s best friend dies, she must master her ability to manipulate emotions before she’s the next victim of the creature responsible.

If you want to see it’s evolution, take a look at her long-form one-sentence pitch so you can see how she pared it down:

When 16-year-old Emma’s best friend drowns, she must master her unwanted ability to manipulate emotions to figure out what really happened or risk becoming the next victim of the ruthless creature responsible for her friend’s death.

Here are some others I collected – the first three are winning entries from Monica B.W.’s Twitter pitch contest with Hannah Bowman in March; the next one ise from Rick Lipman who just recently signed with Pam van Hylckama Vlieg; and the last is from my super-awesome coach Brenda for her debut LIBRARY JUMPERS:

She’s pure evil and has a plan to take over the world. Thousands will do anything to kill her. There is only one problem. I’m her bodyguard.

Bree thought graduating a virgin would be easy. Now easy is all anyone thinks about her since that night, even though she didn’t consent.

Lost in China without their belongings, 16-year-old Joe and his crush, Lilah, must trek 200 miles to the closest U.S. Embassy.

For her 16th birthday, Tara gets a gift that keeps on giving: a race of androids seeking to use her new power to help them avoid extinction.

Yanked into a gateway book linking the great libraries, Gia finds that she’s a long lost knight & must now fight to stop an apocalypse.

Your turn

The comments section awaits. Share your Twitter pitch and get feedback from others. You guys are pretty freaking awesome so this should go without saying, but be constructive, not destructive. And if you share your pitch, try to make sure you comment on others. It’s a give-and-take situation.

More reading

Most of the advice above has been culled from Rachelle Gardner (The One-Sentence Summary and One-Sentence Summary Critiques) and Nathan Bransford (How to Write a One Sentence Pitch) who both have brilliantly useful blogs that you should follow if you’re not already.

215 thoughts on “#TheWritersVoice: Building Your Twitter Pitch #WVTP

  1. Wow. Great post, Becca! Those are some excellent pitches, and they certainly all make me want to check out the book!

    Ok, I’ll post what I came up with yesterday for mine. I’d love any thoughts…

    Julia discovers a secret super collider being run by her parents – and an army of ninjas about to kidnap her to stop the research.

    I can’t wait to read everyone else’s pitches!

    1. Great job! These few characters tell us so much. I did wonder, “What’s a super collider?” but I guess that would make me want to request the ms to find out, right? 🙂

      1. same here re:the super collider, but it also makes me ask questions like, why’s she being kidnapped? what kind of research? etc…which is all good. definitely gets my interest flowing.

    2. I think this sounds pretty good – maybe “dark energy detector” instead of “secret super collider” if that seems to be confusing people?

      For the sake of playing Devil’s Advocate, though, let’s play a little to see what else could come up. What’s at stake? I.e., what happens if the research is stopped?

      1. Great feedback, everyone! Thank you so much!

        I think dark energy detector is definitely better than super collider since it’s tripping people up.

        If the research is stopped, the stakes are that then no one will find out where dark energy is coming from.

        But I’m not sure how to fit that in….

        1. I’m playing around with ways to up the ante – I don’t know what you think of this one: Julia discovers a world-saving dark energy detector being run by her parents and an army of ninjas willing to kidnap her to stop them.

          This is honestly me just horsing around with ideas…

    3. Also tripped-up by super collider.
      And (you’re gonna shoot me for this) Julia comes off as passive here. The structure of the sentence means that she’s “found” two things, but hasn’t DONE anything. Maybe,

      “The dark energy detector her parents invented will save the world, but only if Julia can stop the ninja army from destroying it”

      Or, whatever. That probably doesn’t actually resemble the story of your book very well.

    4. I’m not sure on some details, but this is what makes the most sense to me:

      Julia learns her parents dark energy detector could save the world. But an army of ninjas kidnaps her to stop their progress.

      Not sure if the ninjas are trying* to kidnap her, or if they actually do*. Also, in all the comments I haven’t seen what SHE does to stop THEM (the ninjas). I think that’s probably the more important part. Just my thoughts 🙂

      1. Ooh, all your suggestions are great. Unfortunately, I don’t feel like the actual book is matching up with them well enough. Like the dark energy detector isn’t going to save the world; it’s more subtle than that — like change the way people look at the world around them — and that’s not exactly the kind of powerful concept you can squeeze into a twitter pitch. The other problem is that Julia doesn’t want to stop the ninjas until the very end. She does get kidnapped, so she spends a good deal of time trying to get away, but she’s pretty darn pissed at her parents (and doesn’t know what they’ve discovered until the very end of the book), so for a good chuck of the book she could care less whether the ninjas screw up her parents’s plans. She just wants to get back at her parents for lying to her (and many other aspects of their dysfunctional relationship) by finding out for herself what they’ve been up to and proving to them she’s not some stupid little girl that can’t understand what’s going on.

        Sorry for the long ramble…

        Anyway, your points are excellent. It’s just going to take me some time to figure out how to work them in. And any other insight, is highly appreciated. 🙂

    5. Oddly, I know exactly what a super collider is. Does that make me a geek? Remember the fears a few years back that the CERN supercollider was going to cause the planet to blow up and create a giant black hole? No? It was the the big panic news story of the week. It’s one of the largest man-made structures on earth, and smashes atoms together at insanely high speeds, just to see what happens.

      1. Knowing what a super collider is makes you infinitely cool, Mittensmorgul! And also perhaps a geek — not mutually exclusive!

        Anyway, here’s my revision…

        Ninjas are about to kidnap Julia to stop her parents’ dark energy research – but she’s not the type to sit quietly tied up in a closet.

  2. Yes! Those are awesome examples! Can’t wait to see more from the rest of the gang.

    Here’s mine. This is the first time I’ve tried to condense this manuscript this short, so any and all comments are welcome!

    WWI-era ballerina Wera falls in love with Wolf, but when she contracts a fatal illness, she must find her way to him as Rilke’s muse. #WVTP

    1. I’m reading a little disconnect between the first half of your pitch and the second. I’m not seeing how getting an illness means she has to go be his muse or how being his muse is going to bring her to Wolf, so I’m going to be nosy and ask questions. 🙂

      What’s Wera’s conflict? What’s at stake for her? No character limit – just talking it out.

      1. Maybe since there are only 140 characters, I can come out and say it: Wera dies 2/3 way through the ms. I like Derek’s tweaks, so combining those with this, how does something like this sound?

        During WWI, ballerina Wera falls in love with Wolf, but when she dies from an illness, she must find her way to him as Rilke’s muse. #WVTP

        1. Hmm. What’s the conflict prior to her death? If that occurs 2/3 of the way through, that’s maybe a twist we don’t want to give away…

          1. Yeah, I’ve been withholding that info for that reason. Her earlier conflicts are:
            1) She wants to be a famous ballerina but the war has shut down the ballet and she doesn’t know if she’ll ever get to dance on the stage. Likewise Wolf wants to study music and poetry (Rilke) but the war stands in his way too.
            2) She wants to be with Wolf but when she comes down with a fatal illness, she doesn’t want to tell him since he’s about to ship off to the front and she’s hoping she’ll beat it.

            I think the fact that she becomes Rilke’s muse is a great hook, but it’s problematic in a 140-character pitch because it’s only loosely tied to her conflicts during life.

            Must ponder. Any further thoughts welcome!

        2. I think you’ve included the key elements, but I think the second half still feels a bit abrupt. I wonder if rephrasing things a little would help (also, with so many paranormals, I almost think it would be better to not name Wolf, just so no one gets confused.)

          What about something like…
          A WWI-era ballerina falls in love, but when she dies suddenly she must become the poet Rilke’s muse to find her way back to her lover.

          1. Oop, I hadn’t refreshed recently enough to see that last series of comments. I must say that even though she doesn’t die until 2/3rd of the way through the book, her illness dominates a lot of the first part, so I’d stick with the original elements personally.

          2. Thanks, everyone! Another option I’m realizing I could do is focus on Wera’s other goal, not just to find Wolf beyond the grave, but to achieve immortality through art. I cover both the romance and the idea of art as our salvation in my query, but maybe that might be a better aspect to focus on in a pitch as short as this. How about something like this?

            During WWI, Wera hopes to gain immortality as a ballerina, but achieves it in a way she never expected–as the poet Rilke’s muse. #WVTP

    2. I like the last one you posted, with the focus on immortality through art, probably the best so far. I think that hits the bigger conflict that it sounds like your book is tackling and gives it that nice, rich, Girl-with-a-Pearl-Earring kind of deal.

      1. “During WWI, Wera hopes to gain immortality as a ballerina, but achieves it in a way she never expected–as the poet Rilke’s muse. #WVTP”

        THIS ONE! Of all the versions, this is the one that made me sit up and go, Hell yeah, I want to read that!

    3. Reading over the comments, I’m still not clear on the exact central conflict from any of the pitches. I also admit that I am 1.) not the audience for this book and 2.) have no idea who Rilke is so I didn’t connect with that at all. That’s all my problem, not yours 😉

      1. Thanks, Becca! Yeah, this is definitely a literary sort of novel, so I want (need) to get that feel across.

        TL, the conflicts are
        External: the war stealing sensitive young people’s lives (I only have space here for “during WWI,” gaaaaah!)
        Internal: desire for immortal fame and love, even after death

        Maybe if I switched “during WWI” to “despite WWI” it would give more of a sense of conflict.

        Oh, and I’m totally with you about the poet Rilke. If you don’t know him, you might be “meh,” but if you do, this manuscript might drool. Here’s just one example:

        http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/love-song/

        Thanks for the help, all!

        1. I agree – go with the last one, changing to “despite.” I really like the sound of it – plus it takes out a name you don’t really need… there were a lot of W’s in your first one 🙂

          1. i agree with most of what’s been said. and this one:
            During WWI, Wera hopes to gain immortality as a ballerina, but achieves it in a way she never expected–as the poet Rilke’s muse. #WVTP

            really had me. also, i like you qualified rilke as a poet and not just some dude names rilke who’s in need of a muse, you know? ; )

  3. Ok, this is tough. I’m posted my 5th attempt and even still, I’m not sure. 140 characters is rough AND there’s so much going on, it’s hard to pinpoint that wow moment that needs to sell it. THANKS so much for posting the info and allowing us to practice on your blog!
    Here’s mine:
    Learning she’s the cure to a curse, Ophelia must find her craft before her killer finds her. Problem is, she’s just fallen in love with him. #WVTP

    Any and all insight is MUCH appreciated!

    1. Hmm. I’m not sure what Ophelia’s craft is, but it seems she WANTS the curse lifted? And she’s dead? Is the killer trying to maintain the curse? How about something like:

      In order to lift a curse (and thwart the man who killed her / cast it), Ophelia must (come to terms with being dead / learn how to be a ghost / master her ghost powers). The problem is (She’s grown to love the man who killed her).

      And my only problem is not knowing the circumstances that endear a killer to his victim. Too much to try to fit, probably, but something to think about.

      1. thanks derek! based on your comments, i’ve completely lost it with this one. it’s the charactor count that’s killing me! #majorfail

        so, she’s not dead, she’s a witch without witch’s powers. and she is the sole cure for a curse that was cast centuries before by her ancestor (who has come back from the dead to warn her) against another family of witches….which takes us to her lover elwyn: he is among the last of his line (because of the curse) and the curse will eventually kill him if he doesn’t kill ophelia first (since she’s the cure). like yours, there’s so much MORE going on, but that’s the jist. make sense?

        so, different direction here…what about:

        When young witch Ophelia is warned of a curse, she must make a choice that risks ruining a ghost, killing her lover, or ending of own life.

        1. One comment on this version: I really like how you’re calling her “young witch Ophelia” here. In the initial version, I’d wondered if this were a retelling of Hamlet, but that short description lets us know right away that this is a different story, so I’d definitely keep something like that in here.

    2. I’m definitely seeing some potential in here, but I think we can hone it more if you’re willing to share a bit more info. What’s her craft? What’s the curse and how is she the cure? Not all of it is going to fit, but we can take a look at all that’s there and start figuring out what to leave in and what to toss.

      1. thanks becca! so i wrote this long rambling explanation, but decided to delete it and just post my plot summery…hello?! thanks in advance!

        Practical Magic collides with Romeo and Juliet in THE CURSE, a modern love story where witches time travel, jaded ghosts misbehave, and young love is tested with the ultimate sacrifice.

        Execution for the crime of witchcraft is a thing of the past. Still, in these modern times, Ophelia and her family of witches shroud their identity. A silence that has held Ophelia safe, until now.

        Ophelia’s family has done well to hide their secret. So well, they’ve lost touch with the ways of the witch, Ophelia’s lack of powers a testament to their detachment. But their past pursues them. A dead relative is tracking Ophelia, the same witch who, by cursing another coven, forced Ophelia’s family go into hiding centuries prior. Margaret, the spirit, visits with a purpose: To protect Ophelia from a killer.

        When Ophelia falls in love with Elwyn, she has no idea that he too is a witch or that their families share a dark history; The curse cast by Margaret is slaying the men in Elwyn’s coven, leaving him the last of his line. Knowing death pursues him, Elwyn has come to town on a mission – the remedy to the hex lies in the killing of a witch, little does Elwyn know, Ophelia is that witch.

        When the truth is divulged, Ophelia faces a curse of her own: A choice that risks condemning a dead woman, murdering Elwyn, and ending her own life.

        1. I really like that first line of your query and I feel like that does a great job of telling us what kind of (awesome) story this is.

          What about something like this?
          Magic collides w/ Romeo+Juliet in a love story where young witch Ophelia must either condemn a ghost, kill her love, or kill herself.

          1. I like Ann’s too. But I’d take out “in a love story,” since the Romeo & Juliet mention already tells us it’s a love story. Saves you a few characters, too.

        2. I’m actually not sure I’d put in the Romeo+Juliet part :-/ I have a feeling agents might think that a little presumptuous (even though it works GREAT in the summary!). I actually really like the END line. There’s her options and what’s at stake all in one.

          1. wow! i went out on an anniversary date with my husband, but boy did i miss a lot of action over here!

            thanks a bunch for the comments! i’m not sure on the R&J front either…could either help or hurt ‘the cause’. how about:

            When Ophelia discovers she’s the crux of a curse, she faces a curse of her own: one that risks condemning a dead woman, murdering her lover, and ending her own life.

            it will need to be shortened to fit the twitter space. i’ll be back in the morning to check out/comment on the pitches i missed. thanks guys!

    3. not sure if this was seen…so much great stuff going on here!! would love some insight on this attempt (which is over on word count, but a jumping off point none the less):

      When Ophelia discovers she’s the crux of a curse, she faces a curse of her own: one that risks condemning a dead woman, murdering her lover, and ending her own life. #WVTP

      1. What if you cut out the middle part

        Ophelia discovers she’s the crux of a curse: one that risks condemning a dead woman, murdering her lover, and ending her own life. #WVTP

        I am a bit confused about whose lover is in danger Ophelia’s or the dead woman’s.

        1. ah, i see that now sarah. how about:
          Ophelia, a young witch, learns she’s the cure to a curse; A burden that risks murdering her lover, condemning a dead woman, and ending her own life. #WVTP

          still too long, but i figure i can shorten once i’ve got it down.

          thanks so much guys…am struggling here!

          1. I think you can trim some words and leave the same meaning in order to get this to 140. The example below is only 136.

            Young witch Ophelia is the curse’s cure; a burden that risks murdering her lover, condemning a dead woman, and ending her own life #WVTP

          2. thanks sarah (and everyone)! so…here’s what i’ve got it narrowed down to:

            1. Magic collides with Romeo+Juliet, where young witch Ophelia must kill her lover, condemn a dead woman, or end her own life.

            2. Young witch Ophelia is the cure to a curse; a burden that risks murdering her lover, condemning a dead woman, and ending her own life.

            3. When young witch Ophelia is warned of a curse, she must make a choice that risks killing her lover, ruining a ghost, & ending her own life.

          3. i know it’s the final hour, but i would love anyone’s 2 cents on my final 3 if they get a free moment. thanks in advance! i’m off to look at those still in the conversation…

          4. My preference is the second one. I’m not a fan of the R&J option, but I like that the 3rd ones mentions a choice. I would say that one, but the first clause isn’t as strong as the second one.

            So that was a long way of saying I like #2

    4. Narrowed down to these 2:

      1. Ophelia is being haunted by her past, a dead witch, and a curse, burdening her with a choice: kill her lover or end her own life.

      2. Young witch Ophelia is the cure to a curse; a burden that risks murdering her lover, condemning a dead woman, and ending her own life.

      Please help!

      1. Ohhhh, J. I think you’ve got it. #1 is almost perfect. I’d suggest to cut out the word being so it’s just “is haunted”. I love what this says. She’s a witch, her life is a bit crazy and now she must make an impossible choice. Yeah!

          1. one thing i just noticed…i don’t say she’s a witch in #1 (only that she’s being haunted by a dead one) and i don’t think i have room enough to add it in. thoughts? ack!

          2. Ok, Jessica. I played with this and if you leave out the space before the hashtag this is exactly 140 characters:
            Young witch Ophelia is haunted by her past, a dead woman, and a curse, burdening her with a choice: kill her lover or end her own life.#WVTP

          3. k, i do have enough room, but it makes it too ‘witch’ heavy. so i have:

            1.Ophelia is haunted by her family’s past, a dead witch, and a curse – burdening her with a choice: kill her lover or end her own life.

            2. Young witch Ophelia is haunted by her family’s past, a ghost, and a curse – burdening her with a choice: kill her lover or end her own life.

            ehhhh…?

  4. Okay, so I’ve never been sure about mine because the obstacle for Trig comes across so vague. Throughout the course of the novel he comes to terms with his past by facing things (his fathers legacy, the law, a big scary alien) hes run from all his life, and learns to face his problems and to depend on others. ANYWAY, here’s the pitch:

    Space pirate Trig thought by stealing the fastest starship built he could outrun his past; too bad for him the ship has other ideas.

    1. i think it’s hard not to be vague in a 140 character pitch…no matter how you, ahem, pitch it. i like yours, to the point, unique yet not too bizarre, and compelling.

    2. I think this one is pretty good, even with the vague phrase. Suggest cutting “for him” in the second half – I don’t think you need that and it frees up a few characters.

      If you wanted – if the “outrun his past” is bothering you – some suggestions you could use after cutting “for him”: “outrun the law & his past” or just straight “outrun his father’s legacy”.

      1. Yes, this seems really close! I stumbled over “built,” and am not sure you need it. Maybe something like “the galaxy’s fastest starship.” I love the idea of a stolen ship to outrun one’s past.

        1. Agree w/ kiperoo about stumbling over the word “built” If you’re worried about character economy you could just say “the fastest starship” and then you could focus more on the second half and say something more specific than running from his past.

    3. I have the same “obstacle sounds vague” problem. But I LOVE this.

      “starship built” trips me up, it’s a bit awkward. I second “galaxy’s fastest starship” better as suggested elsewhere. Also ditch “for him”. And then I think you’ve got it. Also I want this book.

    4. I’d go one step further than what the others were saying and take out all of this: “too bad for him.” I think it’s unnecessary verbage. Also, the first part seems awkward (not just because of “built”). Maybe flip the order, like this (other suggestions added, too):

      Space pirate Trig thought to outrun his father’s legacy by stealing the galaxy’s fastest starship, but the ship has other ideas.

      With the hashtag, that leaves you with 6 characters.

      1. I really like this last one. I think you use the word megaverse rather than galaxy, though, so that might eat up some ch’s, but this is the right track I think. It sounds great.

        Space pirate Trig tries to outrun his father’s legacy by stealing the megaverse’s fastest starship, but the ship has other ideas.

        ^^ THAT leaves 11 ch’s. What do you think?

    5. OKAY, took everyone’s awesome suggestions into consideration and ended up with this:

      Space pirate Trig stole the fastest ship in the multiverse thinking he could outrun his past; too bad the ship has other ideas. #WVTP

      1. It’s funny to scroll down through these comments and see someone say exactly what I would have said! I love that opening! What if you tried it in present tense? This gives you a few more characters to give a specific X.

        Space pirate Trig steals the fastest ship in the multiverse to outrun “X”; too bad the ship has other ideas. #WVTP

  5. Okay… Mine might be a bit vague, so any help would be appreciated! I have a TON to do today, so I won’t be able to leave comments on anyone else’s until Monday or so, but I already like what’s going on 🙂 Here’s mine:

    Receiving her divine calling, Kolina must pass 3 God-given tests to prove her abilities or her kingdom will fall under a madman’s fist #WVTP

    ??? :-/

    1. i like it…not so vague. my only question is, what is she? a princess? non-human being? queen? other than that, i think it’s pretty straight forward.

      1. I agree with Jessica that I wanted to know what she is, as well as who the madman is. I was thinking she was some kind of a priestess with the divine calling, but it did make me wonder who the madman was–a wizard?

    2. In my opinion, I’d say cut out the divine calling part – give yourself those extra characters to work with. I went back and looked at your query, and I would go for more about the kingdoms reuniting. What do you think about something like:

      To reunite her sundered kingdoms, Kolina must pass 3 Gods-given tests, evade a mad king & prove worthy of her grandfather’s legacy.

      I dunno…thoughts?

  6. Thanks for doing this! Here is me taking a crack at it (140 characters exact!)

    Maggie, a Soul Collector, gets stuck inside a teen girl’s body & searches for the missing soul while battling her own innate darkness #WVTP

    1. Not sure what “innate darkness” actually means here, or what a missing soul looks like, or how she gets stuck inside a teen girl’s body or if that’s really a key part of the story. Is being a teen an obstacle in her quest or is it helping her?

      1. My main question here was: what is the missing soul? Whose? The teen girl’s?

        Maybe something like

        When Maggie, a Soul Collector, is stuck inside a teen girl’s body, she must battle her own innate darkness while searching for the girl’s soul.

    2. Like I said, my first try, lol! Thanks for the tips let me try again:

      Soul Collector Maggie gets stuck inside a teen girl’s body. She must battle her inner darkness while searching for the girl’s soul. #WVTP

      1. I feel like I’m missing a connection. Is it the teen’s inner darkness or Maggie’s? Either way, I want to know why she’s so dark to give me some interest. Not sure if that’s possible with the word count.

  7. i’m really enjoying this conversation and the fabulous post. i’m not in the contest, but i am submitting to agents and have had to work on my query and elevator pitch quite a bit recently. still not sure if it’s on target. won’t know until those rejections start piling up. i thought i’d give this a try just for fun (and because becca is so awesome at queries).

    here’s mine:

    Stuck in a psych ward as a drunk runaway, Sara’s pleas of sanity are ignored. She must act crazy & break rules to survive life inside.

    1. The first thing that popped into my head was, “It’s 28 Weeks (not the zombie movie, the Sandra Bullock film) meets One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” That may or may not be a good thing depending on your story LOL

      “drunk runaway” tripped me up. Drunk conveys to me a temporary state (although I realize it’s also sort of a colloquial term for alcoholic) and neither of those things seem clearly linked to a psych ward. Rehab, yes. Jail, yes. Or is the point that she’s drunk (when she arrives) but they think she’s crazy and thus won’t let her leave when she sobers up?

      How does breaking rules help her survive? I’d imagine it would have the opposite effect.

      I’m curious about the story! Just very confused lol.

      1. she is classified as an alcoholic when admitted – drunk was shorter for the word count. going into treatment for alcohol/drug abuse and being oppositional/defiant, i.e. running away from home, is actually very common. i used to work in a private psych hospital on an adolescent unit.

        many not familiar with actual treatment centers like this do conjure up images of state-run psych hospitals (like in one flew over the cuckoo’s nest) which have patients that are much more severe.

        breaking the rules helps her survive because the baddest bitch on the unit – clearly a sociopath – is a queen of manipulation and likes pushing buttons to get others in trouble. she agrees to teach Sara how to work the system so she can snow the staff into believing she’s ready to be discharged. the price for this help is that Sara must help her circumvent the rules by doing whatever she asks, including cheeking her own meds to give to the bitchy sociopath. On a different note, she also breaks the rules in order to spend time alone with one of the male patients – with him she finds her only solace from the disturbing reality of the unit.

        it’s difficult to put this into 140 characters, but if that doesn’t make sense, it obviously needs more work.

  8. This is a great prewriting exercise before the final pitch. Thank you for hosting this on your blog! I found this very helpful, especially the formula above, which I totally used, btw! So, without further ado, here’s my first stab at the pitch:

    When recurring nightmares at school cause Joel to be bullied, he must man up & find the root cause or lose his chance w/Amber forever. #WVTP

      1. My problem is that it’s a false choice — we know he has to man up and face his problems or else there’s no book. What happens if he maintains status quo? Why would he want to? And what risk is there to him in manning up? There’s not a clear enough sense of stakes. Also I think ditch Amber’s last name and use the characters for something more elucidating.

        1. Yep, I think TL is right. What if you tweaked the first example to only show us the obvious path?

          When Joel is bullied because of recurring nightmares, he must man up & find the root cause so he doesn’t lose his last chance w/Amber. #WVTP

  9. Thanks for this practice area 😀 Also I’m getting addicted to pitching things. It’s getting kind of ridiculous actually.

    “Adrian’s search for a missing child leads him to a faerie world where dreams are alive. To escape, he must defeat his worst nightmare.”

    That comes out exactly right with the hash tag.

    1. Hey, this works for me. My only question is the connection between the faeries and the dreams, because w/out the word “faerie” the premise is already interesting and having the word there makes me wonder if they are controlling the dreams or what. But maybe that curiosity is a good thing here. 🙂

    2. I like this version more than the original I saw on Twitter. Changing the wording to where the dreams are “alive” made the sentence much more interesting.

      So, win. I like the pitch the way it is now.

  10. Oh gosh. I’m totally late to the party! This is the finalized version of my pitch I have so far. Any feedback would be appreciated, as always:

    Exiled, Colette must forge an alliance with her brother’s killer to save her empire from slavery or face her soul’s destruction. #WVTP

    1. Rachel, this sounds great up until the ending. “soul’s destruction” sounds like too much epic with spirituality, unless it means something else. Maybe a different word would give it the nudge it needs to really pop? Keep going with it! I think you’re almost there.

          1. Exiled, Colette must forge an alliance with her brother’s killer to save her empire from slavery or face her own ruin. #WVTP

            Does that pop better?

    2. So two versions I need to choose between:

      Exiled, Colette must forge an alliance with her brother’s killer to save her empire from slavery or face her own ruin. #WVTP

      OR

      Exile Colette must forge an alliance with her brother’s killer to save her empire from slavery or face her own ruin. #WVTP

      I know it’s a nit-pick, but changes the flow and pace of the pitch depending on which version I go with.

  11. This is fabulous! Thx so much for doing this. It’s great practice. Especially for someone like me who only got on Twitter at the beginning of The Writer’s Voice!

    Here’s what I’ve got:

    Ana doesn’t know her blood is key to creating bodies for the incorporeal Damned. Or that the sexy guy who rescues her is a bounty hunter for Hell. And he’s after her. #WVTP

    1. Wow… this sounds intriguing already! I’d suggest losing the word “incorporeal” (if they’re damned, I’d assume they’re probably not living anymore). Other than that, I really like it. I have no idea what her choice is, or what the stakes are (except that SHE might go to Hell) but the language you use makes it enticing to me. I’d like to see what others think 🙂

    2. I like this a lot! I agree with Darci that you can lose “incorporal,” and that’s good b/c actually this is about 20 characters too long — it needs to be 140 or less.

      What about…
      Ana doesn’t know her blood can create bodies for the Damned. Or that the new sexy guy is a bounty hunter for Hell – who’s hunting her. #WVTP

    3. I like Anne b’s suggestion, but I also like how you had the three ideas in separate sentences. I feel like it gave more punch. Maybe this:

      Ana doesn’t know her blood can create bodies for the Damned. Or that her sexy rescuer is a bounty hunter for Hell. And he’s after her. #WVTP

      1. Okay, thanks for the help guys. What about this?

        Ana doesn’t realize the sexy new guy is a bounty hunter for Hell. And he’s after HER. Ana must figure it out, or her blood will be used to create bodies for the Damned. #WVTP

        1. This may be too vague at the end, but I thought I’d share-

          Ana doesn’t know it, but her blood can create bodies for the Damned. And the sexy new guy? He’s hunting her for all the wrong reasons. #WVTP

  12. This is such a great idea!

    This is all I’ve got so far:

    Alita, a powerful psychic, frees the horsemen of the apocalypse & is stuck in a wager between God & Lucifer she’s destined to resolve.

    1. This has an interesting feel for is, but I’m not sure I understand everything going on. A wager makes me think of a bet, which isn’t something resolved as much as something one person wins and one person loses. So what exactly is Alita trying to do? More info might help us.

  13. Yes, help me. Please. 🙂 This is sooo hard.

    Nine wants to be Remade into a boy to become brave, but she crashes en route to the Remake facility and learns girls can kick-ass too. #WVTP

    1. I really like the second half, but something about the first part of the line isn’t sitting quite right. Maybe “Nine can’t wait to ditch her weak girl body, but a crash en route to the Remake facility teaches her girls kick-ass too.” You have some extra characters here so lots of room to play with.

      1. One totally random and completely picky thing: I’d switch kick-ass to kick ass. You’d use the hyphen with an adjective (kick-ass heroine for instance) but not with the verb. Don’t want your pitch to get ignored on a picky technicality!

    2. Thanks! How’s this version? Does it make sense, especially with the term “Remake”?

      Nine can’t wait to ditch her weak girl body for a braver male one, but a crash en route to her Remake teaches her girls kick ass too. #WVTP

  14. Here’s what I’ve got. Thanks for the help!

    16 year old mind reader, Stacie, could spy on her hot neighbor, but fighting the forces of evil is probably a better use of her time. #WVTP

      1. Some other comments have suggested adding more detail about the ‘forces of evil’. What do you guys think about this version? I had to remove some grammatical commas to make it fit. Do you think that’s going to be an issue?

        16 yo. mind reader Stacie could spy on her hot neighbor. Fighting bad guys who feed on happiness is probably a better use of her time. #WVTP

        1. It still reads pretty clear. I love the idea of wanting to spy on her crush. That’s totally what I would’ve done with superpowers as a teenager 🙂

          Bad guys sounds really vanilla to me. Do you have a term for them? (they sound like Dementors)

          1. Why did I give my bad guys such a long name? 🙂 I’m not sure having them named helps though I agree that ‘bad guys’ is pretty generic. Gah, this is hard. Here are three options I’m looking at

            1. 16 yo mind reader Stacie could spy on her hot neighbor. Fighting Antagonists who sow destruction is probably a better use of her time. #WVTP

            2. 16 yo mind reader Stacie could spy on her hot neighbor. Fighting the forces of evil is probably a better use of her time. #WVTP

            3. 16 yo mind reader Stacie could spy on her hot new neighbor. Avoiding complete annihilation is probably a better use of her time. #WVTP

            Thoughts?

          2. I like the “feed on happiness” bit and am sad to see you lose it. I don’t mind ‘bad guys’, but maybe you could try: scoundrels, baddies, rogues, crooks, criminals, idk.

          3. Hmmmm…ok, what about this option? My bad guys are called Antagonists but my characters shorten the word to Ants. Does this make it sound like they are crushing bugs or does the capitalization create a distinction?

            16 yo mind reader Stacie could spy on her hot neighbor. Fighting evil Ants who feed on happiness is probably a better use of her time. #WVTP

          4. The Ants aren’t working. I’m thinking bugs, still. I vote go with #3…I like the snarky sound of ‘avoiding complete annihilation’. I like the ‘but’ between the phrases too, to connect the thoughts. So, there’s enough room for:

            16 y.o. mind reader Stacie could spy on her hot new neighbor, but avoiding complete annihilation is probably a better use of her time. #WVTP

          5. I like the feeding on happiness thing and I also like the complete annihilation thing. Arg! Twitter is hard! But I agree w/ Sarah that Ants sounds like bugs w/o the context. Hmm… I think fighting is a better verb than avoiding. Maybe something like this:

            Mind reader Stacie could spy on her hot neighbor. Fighting baddies to avoid complete annihilation is probably a better use of her time#WVTP

            16yo mind reader Stacie could spy on her hot neighbor. Fighting baddies to avoid total annihilation is probably better use of her time#WVTP

          6. Ok, I’m feeling pretty good about this one. I think I need to let it marinate for few days before I edit the voice right out of it. After a while 140 characters start to lose all meaning.

            16 y.o. mind reader Stacie could spy on her hot new neighbor, but fending off total annihilation is probably a better use of her time. #WVTP

  15. I’m pooped and can’t concentrate enough to read and be any help to everyone else, so I’ll be back to join in tomorrow. In the meantime, here’s what I just came up with for EVER, my YA Paranormal romance. Its really hard to get in there that she’s in love with the ghost of her dead best friend, as well as the hot soul collector who moves in to dead best friend’s old house, AND that eventually, because of said love triangle, MC will discover that her soul is in danger. Ugh. Anyway, here’s one attempt:

    Exactly 140 characters:

    Torn between loving two boys, she never knew more than just her heart was on the line. Until she discovered a countdown for her soul. #WVTP

    1. I’m not a fan of leaving out the MC’s name. Can you sub it in for one of the ‘she’s and still have enough space? Also, countdown for her soul is a bit muddy. Maybe “Torn between the love of two boys, MC thought only her heart was on the line. Until she discovered a bounty on her soul.”

      Not sure if that makes sense for the story. Hope it helps!

    2. I agree that I’d like to see her name. I think the fact that one of the boys is dead is also important. Love triangles are common. Love triangles with ghosts, not so much.

      Maybe: Torn between 2 loves, 1 living, 1 dead, Girlname had no idea more than just her heart was on the line. Until the countdown for her soul.

      1. Hi Sarah and SueJay! thanks for the input!! Here’s my latest version:

        A ghost and a soul collector fight for Ever’s heart. If she makes the wrong decision, one of them could steal her soul. #WVTP

        What are your thoughts?

  16. Hi All,

    I’m so impressed with the entries. I’d love some help with condensing my summary into a twitch pitch. Any and all comments are welcome!

    A political storm is rising, his fiancee is dead & school has just begun. To stop his execution five friends must master their magic. #WVTP

    1. Al, I am not seeing a connection between the first 2 sentences. Also, we have 5 characters and no names or a sense of the genre here. you have political thriller, murder mystery, and fantasy. I can’t tell from the school comment if your MC is a student making this YA or a teacher keeping this an adult. I don’t have any suggestions on how to fix this yet without more information. Can you give us a few paragraphs summary on what your story is about?

      1. Hi Sarah,

        Thanks for the reply. It’s a YA High Fantasy novel that revolves around five teens. If I put in the names of the characters (Maride, Allorna, Vedaris, Sidimo, Sitara) I would lose almost 30% of my 140 character allotment. Didn’t think it was worth it. But I’m more than willing to change that.

        The story is told from the 3rd person POV of all five characters – none is more important than the other. It starts off with Maride (who’s 15) being put on trial for the murder of his fiancee. After various circumstances Maride, a boy more interested in books than intrigue; Allorna, a royal guardian trainee; and Sidimo, a glyph-reading healer, escape to an academy where along with Sitara, an amnesiac storm-caller and Vedaris, a dragon with no powers they must figure out their way through classes, tests and face the murder charge.

        I do get how this pitch comes across as a murder mystery / political thriller. The murder is the prompt which brings the students together but the academy forges their bond.

        I worked on this second version through Twitter suggestions. What do you think?

        His fiancée’s death leaves Maride accused of murder. School has begun, his execution looms & five friends face the trials together. #WVTP

        This third version is an attempt to incorporate their skills:

        At a magical academy four unlikely & untried allies forge a bond: A dragon, a healer, a storm-caller, a librarian and a guardian. #WVTP

        1. Al, You are up against a trial to incorporate 5 characters here. 🙂 I like this last one the best since it is the only one that tells us the genre is fantasy. The only problem is that we don’t know what the conflict is. It makes it sound like a coming of age story with magic. What if, instead of giving us the character snippets just start with “At a magical academy five unlikely & untried allies forge a bond to…” Then tell us the conflict/goal. This way we get the fantasy and ya elements along with a sense that all 5 characters are important. Then we can get a small taste of their end goal.

          This is starting to draw me in.

          1. haha yes, I am. I worked on the #WVTP on Twitter a little while ago with friends. This is latest version that we came up with to incorporate the 5 characters, ya and fantasy elements. In this case ‘fire’ is both literal and figural. There’s an actual firestorm and a political fire storm. I felt that leaving it a little vague enhanced the anticipation.

            Version 5

            After a mysterious death, five unlikely allies forge a bond at a magical academy to save their kin from the fire storm that’s brewing. #WVTP

  17. Thanks so much for hosting this! Having the guidelines certainly helps, but what do you guys think about using a different structure to stand out? I realized after reading the pitches above that I was recommending the same beginning to everyone– for example, “Space pirate Trig steals…,” “Exile Colette must forge…,” “Soul Collector Maggie gets stuck…” Is it too risky to try something really different?

    1. I think you might be right. A different sentence structure might stand out. If you can, do something different. I started out with the stakes “Ana has no idea her blood can create bodies for the Damned” But then I realized I didn’t have enough room to put in what she had to do, so I tweaked it so it’s closer to the formula. Still not exact, but you can take a look and see what you think. Who knows maybe it doesn’t work 🙂

  18. I think I’m getting closer with mine, but I can’t be objective! Here are two options:

    If teenage trespassers Gabriel and Etta can’t stop arguing to escape a primitive tribe, they may lose their necks to the altar stone. #WVTP

    And trying a different format:

    One tribe free from sickness and pollution. Two teenage trespassers who could ruin everything, if they escape the altar stone. #WVTP

    1. Laurie, I have a clearer understanding of what is going on in the first one. The world building in the second is nice, but I don’t think it’s as important. The first sets the stakes pretty high and gives us a peek at the dynamic between the characters.

        1. Hmm. I hate when there’s not a single word for what you’re trying to say. Especially since ‘give and take’ is a nice way to explain the dynamic, but doesn’t make for a good verb 🙂

          Verbally sparring is too long. Quibbling? Bickering? Maybe if you shortened primitive tribe to natives you could spend more characters on the relationship.

  19. Since I gave you examples, I’m trying a new angle on mine! Thoughts?

    Emma’s ability to push & pull memories & emotions makes her soul irresistible. She’ll have to use it as a weapon if she wants to survive.

  20. Thanks for the opportunity to practice our pitches! Here’s mine:

    When her autistic son’s life is threatened, Stevie uncovers a 300 yr old secret & learns exactly how far she will go to protect him.

        1. Do you think this is better?

          Stevie learns exactly how far she will go to protect her autistic son when the discovery of a 300 year old secret threatens his life.

          1. The first one, but the name at the beginning does help. Could yo combine them sort of like (as a suggestion, nothing more; this is just a quick idea):

            When Stevie’s autistic son is threatened, she learns a 300 year old secret and just how far she’ll go to save her son’s life.

            ???

            Either way, the first one sounds better when I read it aloud, but that might be personal preference. Good luck!

  21. I am beginning to think I have pitch addiction, I love reading these so much and the great comments and suggestions are super instructive.

    Here is what I have so far…

    Will guards Picasso @SFMOMA. Violet clicks away in her bright green heels. When The Big One hits the City, can art save their lives? #WVTP

    1. I wondered what @SFMOMA was, then it finally occurred to me to check Twitter. I like that you are able to use Twitter to your advantage in your pitch. What a great way to save on characters!

  22. So great to have this resource- I’m a huge fan of “practice makes perfect”.

    Here’s but one of many attempts:

    Congress wants to eliminate pennies. Can one 10 yo so shy it’s cringeworthy risk wallflower status to save all that good luck? Comm. MG #WVTP

    Would love to hear feedback.

    1. Whats a stake here? Why is it important that she save the pennies? The first line “congress wants to eliminate pennies” isn’t exciting enough. If your character has a huge fascination with pennies show us that. Show us why it’s important to your character, first (unless you gave something awesome to pull us in to start with, but congress isn’t it. At least not to me =)

      1. Thanks, Stacie! So hard to convey so much in 140 characters. But a fun challenge.

        Here’s a little background on the story for anyone who might want to chime in. Ten year-old Penney is an utter wallflower who can’t even yell out “Stop” to the bus driver when he zooms past her stop. When she discovers pennies- her obsession- are facing elimination, she hatches up The Penny Project online to save them. She thinks she can hide behind the computer screen, but when the project goes viral she has to risk her wallflower status to promote it on ever-bigger stages. It’s a sweet-but-not-saccharine MG story, along the lines of Frindle.

        How does this work:
        Penney believes in b’day wishes & goodluck pennies more than in herself.With pennies facing elimination, will she fade away or fight?!#WVTP

        or:
        When her quest to save the penny goes viral, Penney, 4th grade’s biggest wallflower, faces a decision . Fade away or find her voice? #WVTP

        OR (same, just tweaked)
        When her quest to save pennies goes viral, it’s decision time for 4th grade’s biggest wallflower. Fade away or finally find her voice #WVTP

        1. I love your premise. I vote for the first one, gives more insight into who Penney is more than ‘wallflower’. Though I do like the line about her quest going viral…maybe combining the 2 ideas?

        2. I think it would be interesting if, instead of using the term ‘fade away’, you somehow worked in a money-related phrase, like, ‘pulled from circulation’ or something 🙂

  23. This is for my upper YA historical Bildungsroman:

    #WVTP Jakob DeJonghe plots revenge after his father’s murder in WWII Holland, but is slowed down by a serious injury & unexpected love.

  24. Seems fun!

    …here’s my 125 character stab…

    Six months after a twisted bet goes bad, one teen is dead and two others need to clean up the mess before his parents get home

    1. I want an MC’s name to cling to. It feels vague. All I know is that there was some kind of bet?? that took half a year to work itself out?? and some kid is dead??

      Needs more meat!

    2. I definitely support adding some sort of name to make it more striking. Was the corpse there for six months? If so, why not do it sooner? Did he just die now? Is the mess the body?

  25. Twitter Pitch #1
    The Surgeon Generals are liars. The life squirming inside the guts of Katia and the other clones isn’t a parasite. It’s a Freeborn. #WVTP

    Twitter pitch #2
    As the parasite squirms in Katia’s gut, she must choose to submit like an obedient clone, or fight to keep the creature alive. #WVTP

    Q: Which one should I bank on? Suggestions?

      1. That ambiguous “Freeborn” is the reason I was wary of using this version.
        1) It is the title of the book, so I like the idea of including it in the Twitter Pitch. I could capitalize the whole word to try to indicate that
        2) It is indeed a non-clone human. After 200 years of mass-sterilization and cloning, Nature fights back with an “Infection”. Spontaneous pregnancies begin occuring in the clones. However, I do not want to reveal that aspect in the short pitch.

        1. Hm, maybe shorten it by cutting “guts” and using plurals?

          The Surgeon Generals are liars. The lives squirming inside of Katia and the other clones aren’t parasites. They’re humans-THE FREEBORN.

          I think using the title is smart. Are these the last humans? Is there something inherently wrong with cloning that they could fix, but it’s the government trying to stop it? Maybe this idea just brings up a lot of questions in my mind that would be quelled by reading it.

          Definitely go with the first one. Sorry if this didn’t help.

          1. It did help. Thank you. I have been struggling with the wording. Although it is “gramatically correct” it ((felt)) like there was a plurality issue due to the multiple subjects of Katia and clones.

            12 hours to make a decision!

  26. Just wanted to take a minute to say good luck to everyone entering the #WVTP tomorrow. The amazing feedback and encouragement posted on this site over the past few weeks is exactly why I love being a part of the writing community. Here’s hoping everyone has lots of interest and full requests!

  27. I’m late to the party, but I’m slowly reading through all of these!

    How’s this for a beginning:

    After losing her arm in a failed attempt to save her nation’s heir, Adalmund seeks redemption by starting a revolution to stop a war.

  28. Can someone give me some feedback on my pitch? If it works/doesn’t and why? Thanks:

    To rescue children, Oliver Bradshaw enters the monsters’ world armed with his best friend, his worst enemy, a monster, and some magic.

  29. With #PitMad coming up, are people still willing to comment on possible twitter pitches? I noticed there’s been no updates since May 2012…

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