Here are my notes from the CTRWA April meeting…
Next month is the CT Fictionfest one day conference. There will be 13 editors/agents in attendance and 128 attendees. And there is still availability if you’d like to attend.
- There will be:
- Cold reads of the 1st page of blind submissions during lunch and agents/editors will critique them.
- Agent/editor pitching sessions.
- Amazing workshops.
- A silent auction. Donations are currently being accepted.
Laura Moore was the guest speaker at our meeting. She talked about writing her romance trilogy.
- Her advice on the saggy middle? Resort to sex.
- She has had readers complain about not continuing characters in previous books. But she switched publishers and it is hard to get the later editors interested in her old characters
- It’s important to remember that readers get very invested in emotional lives of the characters you write.
- In a trilogy, it’s important to have an arc. Each book must be a complete story, but you have to unite all the books with a golden thread.
- This thread can be fine and weave seamlessly though.
- Her trilogy is a story of coming home/finding home. She wanted to explore the idea of sisters since she didn’t have them growing up.
- So she decided to write a story about three sisters coming together to save their family horse farm and find love.
- The sisters love lives waxed and waned throughout the books.
- Also, be honest with yourself about your personal life commitments and make sure you take them into consideration in setting deadlines.
- Moving, buying new house, college applications for kids–these all impact your writing life.
- She confessed to not having a feel for sentences and doesn’t think in terms of their beauty or rhythm. Instead, she strives to not make them flat or boring.
- She warned against making a heroine too perfect. In her first book, her heroine was gorgeous, a model and rich. Hard to make her sympathetic to readers. She had to have a weakness.
- As a writer, she finds herself more interested in backstory than what is happening in the novel. So she works to dole it out sparingly. Keeping in mind that backstory slows the pace.
- Her heros tend to be outsiders that come in.
- She loves prologues.
As a bonus session, Peter, Kristan Higgins and Jessica Andersen offered to be an “American Idol” panel to critique people’s pitches as preparation for CT Fictionfest. They were awesome. Gave honest, tactful and insightful feedback. And super thoughtful to do it before the conference so people have time to really hone their pitches.
Jessica started off with a quick overview of pitching:
- As a member of CTRWA, you can download from the members only section her pitching handout.
- She is doing the pitching workshop at CT Fictionfest next month.
- What are the key points of a pitch? Introduction, Mini-synopsis, and writing credits (if any).
- Introduce self and then state the title, wordcount, genre and hook.
- Introduce the main character and their challenge.
- Talk about who assists them.
- Tell what the twist is in the story–what works against the character?
- What are the stakes? Why should the reader care?
- The key is to make the pitch sounds like the back cover of a book.
- You are not trying to sell the entire story.
- You are trying to interest the editor/agent enough to get them to read 30 pages of the manuscript. You want to get a request so you skip the slush pile.
- Be coherent enough so that the agent/editor can see where you work fits in the universe.
- Kristan added that when an agent asks a follow-up question, take a breath and think, then only answer that question.
- Agents want to find a good book.
- Keep in mind great pitching doesn’t equal a great writer. But if you cannot talk about your story concisely, there may be a plot hole. Also try to keep the tone and presentation in line with your genre. Bring the voice in your story into your pitch.
Onto the actual pitches. Here are some points that were brought up by our fabulous “Idol” panel.
- Make sure your logline is specific. What sets your story apart from every other story?
- Keep it short. 1-3 minutes max. This allows time for questions and doesn’t allow agents’ eyes to glaze over.
- Make sure to tell the listener what is likable about your hero/heroine.
- Focus on the conflict of the story. What most the main character overcome.
- Be careful of x meets y comparisons.
- Avoid reciting your synopsis. They don’t want a blow-by-blow plot description.
- Talk about the most interesting stuff in your book. Dazzle them.
- Don’t get lost in the details or your own world building terminology. You’ll lose the listener.
- Voice in pitch is a definite plus.
- Don’t focus on setting up story and only talking through first 2 chapters. The best stuff may happen later. Give them a glimpse of the whole book. Intrigue them.
- Include inciting incident for story.
- Don’t talk about how to market the book for too long. A line or two is fine, but give them the meat and potatoes of the story.
- Practice reading pitch aloud because written sentences don’t always translate well into spoken word sentences.
- Shorter sentences work better in a pitch.
- Don’t talk about more than 3 names in the pitch. It confuses the listener. Don’t list all your characters
- Don’t ever say it’s a 10 book series. Way too big a gamble on an unknown commodity (unpublished writer). Say standalone with series potential.