Tag Archives: Pitch

Middle-grade fiction? I’ve got that!

Excited to have finished Little Bird in time for this spirited little person's first birthday!

Nice to have finished Little Bird in time for this spirited little person’s first birthday!

Excited to share the completion of my first middle-grade fiction manuscript, Little Bird & the Graveyard (23,000 words). While everything is a work-in-progress, from the title to the pitch below, it is exciting to be on the road to publication, (traditional or otherwise). I get a lot of questions about what my story is about– below is a peek:

Eleven-year-old Indie has a lot of questions. Not only is she on a mission to find a ghost in the graveyard across the street from her house so she can ask what happens after we die, but she also wants to know why her mom left her and her brother with their dad a few months earlier. She figures if she understands why her mom is gone, then maybe she can stop feeling so upset.

To find answers, Indie will have to be brave. She needs to befriend the family of caretakers who live at the graveyard, which means coming face-to-face with the old man who hates her dog and dealing with a boy who is a year older and clearly does not want her around. Her quest will also push her to snoop through the creepy apartment downstairs and visit the graveyard with her brother at night. While none of these adventures will keep Indie out of trouble, they will lead to life-changing revelations, including the realization a ghost has something to do with her mom’s absence.

***

I was inspired to write middle-grade fiction while working as a classroom teacher with fourth and fifth grade students. During our read alouds, I noticed certain themes resonated more than others, like growing up in dysfunctional families and chasing ghosts. While on maternity leave, I began writing Little Bird and finished in time to dedicate the book to my daughter for her first birthday. Indie embodies the independent spirit I hope to instill in my children and students alike. And, of course, I am also hopeful she will reappear in many more books to come!

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In other news, I see why it’s easy to reject manuscripts.

I just stopped by the pitch party over at Brenda Drake’s site and scrolled through dozens of pitches only to realize my attention span is quick– authors either had me or didn’t in the first couple lines and only a few got me to read their whole entry. Likewise, I realized I have distinct taste in what I will read and won’t, as some genres were an instant skip.

This is not to say the entries I did not read were bad, but rather I now empathize a bit more with agents. They know what they like/are looking for and if you send a query to an agent who doesn’t rep your genre, you’re wasting your time. If you write, I challenge you to go read through some of the entries, really puts everything into perspective to imagine an inbox full of pitches. It also takes a little of the burn out of rejections to recognize your own narrow interests.

The good news, there are a lot of different tastes out there…

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I Always Love a Contest to Pitch my Book…

As I wrap up my final re-read and contemplate how to move forward with self-publishing and a last round of queries, I can’t help but enter a pitch contest. You know, if it could really all be so easy as to submit a 35 word pitch and the first 150 words of my book and then kaboom– agent/published/hurray. I guess the little kid part of me knows it happens for someone, so it might as well be me.

Information on this latest pitch contest can be found here. Per usual, I’m not over-thinking my entry because I question whether it is worth much of an effort, however, I will share in hopes you will consider entering as well!

My 35-word pitch: 

After a jarring miscarriage, Jake and Kristen embark on separate journeys. Kristen departs for Europe in search of independence, while Jake sets off on a cross-country adventure. Torn between old and new, they must choose.

The first 150 words of my manuscript:

It began as a drop. One smooth drop of blood running down her pale thigh. She touched the moisture with her fingers and looked to see the crimson stain on the back edge of her beige, linen skirt. Aware of her coworkers in the neighboring cubes, she fought the urge to fall to her knees and cry in the small break room. She clutched her glass water bottle tighter, careful not to let it crash to the ground. Her heart ached. Dizzyness followed. She needed to sit.

The cessation of pregnancy symptoms left her in denial, the nausea gone, the sore breasts once again pliable. She read on the internet it could be a sign of miscarriage but did not know what to believe. She refused to call the doctor, unwilling to shatter the illusion. It made her happy to imagine a child growing inside her. A dull ache echoed…

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Help me write a better pitch (Please and thank you)

Here is my revised pitch as it currently stands, (the old one can be viewed under the Expecting Happiness tab):

As Jake sits on the bathroom floor and holds his crying wife, he knows something needs to change. Stable jobs and a house are not enough. A child seemed like the answer, but Kristen lost the baby and now she locks herself in the bathroom to be alone.

Emboldened by their loss, they say, “Fuck it all.” They quit their jobs, sell their house, and embark on separate journeys. Separate because they want different things–

Kristen wants to face the world without Jake around to hold her up. She departs for Europe looking for independence but inches her way closer to an old friend living in Paris. His name is Gustavo and he makes her blush.

Jake, on the other hand, wants to find a place to start over, somewhere he can convince Kristen to begin a family. Of course, he also craves a little adventure. He sets off on a cross-country road trip but instead finds himself on another continent, a part of someone else’s family.

Even with new faces and changing scenery, life is not complete. Torn between the allure of the unknown and their unrelenting longing for one another, Kristen and Jake must ultimately choose which life holds the secret to greater happiness.

***

So, there you have it, months and months of painstaking tweaks… And still not quite right!

Here are a few questions I have grappled with:

Do I need to include physical descriptions of the characters and/or their ages? (Leaning toward no after my last post…)

Does my ending work?

How can I make this stronger?

If you have any thoughts, I would love to hear them. As long as feedback is offered constructively, I am very open. My goal, after all, is to make my pitch better and I know it’s not quite there yet. If you feel more comfortable offering input privately, feel free to email me at olivia@oliviaobryon.com. And, if you write, post your pitch and I’ll be happy to return the favor! (Cough, cough:: Kozo it’s your turn!)

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Who would you cast in the movie of your novel?

Okay, so I got a bit distracted this morning as I rewrote my pitch. See, I could not decide whether or not to leave in my physical descriptions of my characters. The Book Doctors suggest brief physical descriptions, but for some reason it still feels a little clumsy to me, (new pitch to follow soon).

This got me thinking about what my characters actually look like to me in my mind’s eye. Visualization is not my strength. I see fuzzy versions of my characters, not concrete people, which is not to say I don’t know my characters, but rather nailing down an exact picture in my mind is just not the way I think. I need to see the faces of real people.

So, I decided I need to cast my characters– a useful exercise that happens to also be fun:

Kristen: I imagined her with dark hair, blue eyes, someone who would fit the inspiration of the song “Galway Girl.”

Today I realized she would probably look like Olivia Wilde, which I assure you has nothing to do with her great first name. She’s classically beautiful but can also pull off a punk rock, peace activist college kid, which is important to Kristen.

Kristen.

Kristen. Photo credit: Pinterest.

Jake: He was a bit harder for me to cast. Does Paul Rudd have a younger brother with brown eyes? I imagined a guy that is attractive in a charming smile kind of way, maybe a bit goofy. In my book I describe him as lanky because I see him as athletic and charismatic, but in a real way. Today’s winner: Okay, Paul Rudd wins even if he might be a little older than Jake and maybe not into playing a role that is not purely comical… Guess I’m on the look-out for a younger Paul Rudd willing to mix drama with humor.

Jake.

Jake. Photo credit: Pinterest.

Or, on second thought, maybe Josh Radnor… He did a good job writing/directing/acting in HappyThankYouMorePleaseso he might also be a good Jake.

Other Jake?

Alternate Jake? Photo Credit: Pinterest.

Decisions, decisions… Of course there are half a dozen other characters to be cast, but I’m pretty sure it would take me two hours to pick them all, which seems like a case of diminishing returns. Focusing on my two main characters, however, worthwhile.

Have you cast your protagonists?

And, on a side note, do you provide physical descriptions of your main characters in your pitch? I’m conflicted, as usual.

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Blogging and the Writing Process: My Evolving Mass of Words

Blogging makes the writing process different.  It is faster, without the ongoing revisions and drafts that other writing generally entails.  For me, this is sometimes challenging.  I find myself wanting to obsessively reread everything I post, hung up on word choice, grammatical errors, and length, realizing ten minutes after I walk away from the computer that I left some gaping hole for all to see.

While this can feel very vulnerable, blogging can also be the rare opportunity to just get your words out, perfect or not.  For me, it is also an exercise in moving away from perfectionism, something necessary to improving my voice as a writer.  And, it provides the opportunity for instant collaboration that does not always occur in the regular drafting process.

As such, I’ve decided to be brave about blogging my pitch for my query as it improves, (or worsens, depending on the day).  I am working on it bit by bit as I digest feedback and finish polishing my manuscript.  The feedback is amazingly helpful, gradually resulting in a transformation that I am excited about, (even if somedays I totally mess it up as part of the process).

So, if you’re interested to watch this evolution, I will keep editing here:

https://oliviaobryon.com/2012/06/16/drafts-and-drafts-and-drafts/

I am not so self-absorbed as to imagine that people care to watch it change, but somehow its existence as an evolving mass of words in a public space is liberating for me.

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200 Words to Sell Myself!

Oh how I love Nanowrimo… It really has changed my life, pushing me to write copiously and quickly. Today it pushed me into action with its newest challenge: pitch your book in 200 words or less. February is Pitchapolooza month and the winner gets hooked up with an intro to an agent. Now, I realize that my chances of “winning” are slim, but pitching needs to happen regardless, so this afternoon I set to work putting my book into 200 words.
I found this pretty tricky. I don’t know how much to reveal and how much to keep as vague hints about the contents of my book. The pitch that I ended up with below errs more on the vague side and I am curious of opinions. Better to give more actual details? Did I put you to sleep with not enough action and too many esoteric thoughts? Online advice was pretty slim and ranged across the board in suggestions, so I turn to you instead, my sweet little online audience. I welcome any thoughts, emailed, texted, commented, whatever. I’m not fishing for compliments, so real thoughts expressed kindly, please! Writing a pitch feels harder than writing a book! Help!

CAUTION: Before you read the revelation of my book soul, please know that the characters and experiences therein are fictional!

Attempt Numero Uno at a Pitch (And, a transforming work in progress!):
Six Weeks

At first it began as just a drop. One smooth drop of red blood running down her pale thigh. She felt the moisture with her fingers and looked down to see the bright crimson stain emerging on the back edge of her linen skirt. She felt an immediate wave of horror followed by, to her shock, relief.  

Losing the baby was symbolic of something greater, of letting go of a flailing dream of happiness, a jolt back to reality that something needed to change. Instead of allowing their discontent to fester, Kristen and Jake decide to say “Fuck it all” to their meaningless jobs and sell their house to embark on individual journeys of self-discovery. Both aware of the ambiguity of this mission, as well as the risks to their marriage, the late twenty-somethings find themselves in Europe, experiencing parallel adventures that may or may not bring them back together. Intent that there must be something better, they forsake the predictable for the unknown, trusting in themselves to manifest their own destinies on the other side of the world.
***

For some reason, that still feels off to me. Like maybe I need to give more actual pieces of what happens in the book? Or, better yet, maybe I should re-read it when I have not just spent ten hours at school!
Welcome to my brain.
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