It’s a post. On my blog. Try not to faint.
So I just realized this morning that the #PitchMadness contest is, like, SIX DAYS AWAY, which is a lot closer than I thought. If you haven’t heard of it yet, it’s a pitch contest run by Brenda Drake for completed adult, new adult, young adult or middle grade manuscripts. This post has a lot of the details + a list of the fabulous agents who will be vying for the entries.
Interested? Fabulous. All you need is the first 250 words of your manuscript…and a 35-word pitch/logline.
Thirty-five words. That’s all you get to describe your ENTIRE manuscript.
You’re probably not alone. But if you’ve formulated a Twitter pitch, you can definitely come up with a logline. The basic tenants are the same. The key is to focus, focus, FOCUS. Agents need to know who the main character is, what his or her driving goal is, and what’s the obstacle that stands in his or her way. Basically:
When x happens, (main character) must do y in order to z.
It’s easy to get caught up in the details, to want to mention something about all of the little elements you crafted elegantly into the narrative, but you gotta knock that shit off. Clarity is the name of the game. If you bog down your logline with unnecessary stuff that isn’t vital to the central conflict, you’ll end up with a pitch that’s so confusing that the hosts and slush readers would rather just skip it than try to parcel everything out.
Be clean, be clear, be efficient. Think about every word you put in there. Is it a strong word? An effective word? Is it pulling its own weight with all the other 34 words? No? Get it the hell out of there. If it’s not contributing, it’s just dead weight.
Clarity, in my opinion, is most important. After you’ve distilled the essential conflict of your book down to a logline-length, then you can go in and try to add voice (or, as Nathan Bransford refers to it, “flavor”). Substitute different words here and there to see how that affects the tone; experiment with connotation. You want voice if you can, but don’t get so caught up with being clever that you lose the core narrative.
If you can’t get the voice into your logline, then sell it hard in your excerpt. After all, both elements of your submission factor into the decision of who makes it into the finals.
A few words of caution:
Avoid the vague or non-specific. For example: “After her parents die in a car accident, Elaysia discovers she has a great destiny and powers she never knew existed. But pursuing it may mean a choice between life and love.” Nothing about that stands out. It’s just big general phrases with nothing to draw me into the particular world or conflict Elaysia is facing. It leaves so much ground to cover for the excerpt that those 250 words would have to be pretty mind-blowing to bridge the gap.
On the flipside, don’t be so specific that the whole thing just becomes a cluster. This mainly applies to any genre fiction where you have inventive worldbuilding terms. Without context, those words are just noise. For example: “Meeza’s arunaya has finally come to full power, but now the Chancellor’s iman will hunt her across the galaxy to steal it from her.” By the same token, cramming together disparate elements to try and make it sound unique also just comes off as confusing. Like, “Jimmy discovers an enchanted Port-o-Potty, but it isn’t until a talking wolfhound shows him the world in the stars that he discovers the true meaning of family.”
Avoid rhetorical questions. Just…no. Not in queries, not in loglines. Any question you pose practically dares an agent to reply to it with “No” or “I don’t care,” at which point they move on to the next pitch.
Okay, how are we doing? Clear as mud?
Excellent. Because here’s the real point of this post: I’m opening up the comments for people to try out their loglines on the community and hone them before Saturday. Anyone can post. Please keep the feedback constructive.
And if you post your pitch for critique, it’s just good karma to go give some feedback to others. Don’t be the douche who takes but doesn’t give.