Just incase you haven’t been paying attention to the Twitter Writersverse, Brenda Drake is at it again 😉
PitchMadness is currently in session. It’s had two submission windows so far, and the last one will be held on September 4th at 10am EDT. Go here to check on how to enter.
I’m not one of the hosts, just one of the people helping Brenda, Shelley, Erica and SMJohnston by sorting through the copious amount of entries. Keep in mind, I got my agent Judith Engracia in March’s Pitchmadness. So it really can work.
We’ve only had two of the submission windows so far – 200 entries. They get leafed through and sorted into yes, no and maybe piles. Looking forward to the final batch!
Now – yes and maybe are good things. But for the No pile, I did notice a recurrence of the same things that turned me off in both the pitches and the first 150. I thought I’d list them here, incase people are curious as to why. Please note any examples are made by me and not taken directly from anything.
Pitches with redundant stakes.
Will she throw away her soul to harness her dark power, or let everyone she loves perish?
How is this a stake? What a bitch if she doesn’t harness her dark power?
Or – to use an absurd example:
Will she make soup for dinner, or let the children starve?
When the choice is not a true choice, it makes the interest wane.
Good example of a stake: She must find and defuse the bomb before the whole world is infected with the zombie virus.
This becomes a race against time, instead of a question as to what type of person the MC is.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t care about average characters. I really don’t. So don’t tell me that Joe Bloggs is an average so and so. Because really? Why would I read on? There’s no hook in being average and it’s a waste of what could otherwise be good character development space. Pick something other than average to focus on.
Clichés in the first 150 words.
Yes, sometimes clichés work, however, you can often work around them. If your MC isn’t human for example (Data from Star Trek) then they can find amusement in clichés and you can use it as a source of humour. However, in everyday reading/writing they can come across as being used in lazy ways. Because you couldn’t be bothered to find a better description yourself.
You especially do not want to waste your pitch by including clichés.
Please, please when in 3rd person, do not head hop (or in first or second person either). I want warning before I have another character’s viewpoint thrust on me. Give me a scene or chapter break, but don’t do it mid sentence when I think we’re still talking about the original character.
Redundancies in the first 150 words.
When I put in my Pitchmadness excerpt that got me my awesome agent back in March – I fine-tooth combed that whole first scene. I managed to get my first 250 words down to 160 (mid sentence was 150), and every single word in them had specific purpose.
If he thought about it, Joe knew…
No, you don’t need to add the If he thought about it. That’s a waste of 5 words. Just start with Joe knew. You only have so much space to hook your audience/agent. Don’t squander words that are completely unnecessary.
Spending half of your small excerpt informing me of how things work in the world and telling me what the main character is like and what the history is, is far less likely to entice me into wanting more.
Sensory Detail – or lack thereof
Show me through actions and sensory details. Make me taste, smell and be inquisitive about the world without just telling me what it’s like. I want to feel what I’m reading, not just read it.
As you know, Joe
Admittedly this is one of my pet peeves.
“Well, you know Joe, it’s always been a horrible spring in KS, what with all the tornados and things.” Where Joe has lived in KS his entire life. There is no need for this in a story, ever.
Having a character reveal backstory to another character in this way is just plain lazy.
I looked in the mirror to see my green eyes reflected back at me, stark in my pale face. The black hair doesn’t help the contrast.
This is not the way to do appearance. There are many other ways, even in first person to leak in the appearance. Books like this make me feel like the author has been lazy, just not bothered to put in the effort to weave the appearance in seamlessly.
There – they were the common things. No entry had all of these. Most had a couple to a few of them and just didn’t feel polished enough yet.
Always make sure you’re putting your best foot forward. Polish it until it shines. If you need to – back away from it for a while and leave it alone. It’s always easier to polish our work when we have some distance from it.
I have to say though – there were many good entries too. And remember, all the ones put through can’t make it into the competition. Only 60 entries will.
Thank you all for giving us the opportunity to glimpse the works you’ve poured so much effort into. It’s great fun and an honour to go through them.
Hope this has helped. If you have any questions, just let me know, in the comments here, @me on twitter or else use the contact form if you’d prefer.
My #Writemotivation post will go up Tuesday this week instead of Monday.