Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Pitch #5

I think one of the best ways to understand the pitching process is to practice giving and receiving pitches with other authors. In recent weeks we've talked a bit about the way "hearing" a pitch is much different from reading a pitch. We've talked about the importance of organizing information in clear, linear sentences that are easy to listen to. We've talked about questions and have practiced thinking up likely questions for a particular pitch.

This time, instead of a targeted focus on one or another aspect of a pitch, I'm going to ask for general feedback. Use this to test whether you've been able to pull together all the points we've discussed so far.

The rules:
Read the pitch through one time only. There are no do-overs when you're listening, so there can be no re-reads here if we want to accurately mimic the pitching experience.

Be gentle. One of the unwritten rules of pitching on my side of the table is that there's nothing to be gained by crushing anyone's hopes. If you have negative feedback -- and it does happen sometimes, of course -- present it with kindness. You're face to face with a real person, full of hope and probably sweating from an intense case of performance anxiety. Humaneness counts.

Your goal is to make one decision, and one decision only. Do you want to see the manuscript?

If your answer is yes, please let us know in the comments which part of the pitch sealed the deal for you.

If your answer is no, please let us know in the comments where the pitcher lost your interest. (But remember -- we are not sharks, and this is not a feeding frenzy.)

If you have questions after reading through the pitch, post them in the comments. Questions help a writer prepare for an actual pitch.

So, without further ado...

Pitch #5

Miracle Maker tells the story of a young woman pursuing her dream of commanding an interstellar warship like her grandfather. Unlike her grandfather, she joins the multi-national United Nations Defense Service rather than her home world's Space Militia, because she wants to escape her family's pity and sorrow over the defects in her genetic enhancements that have drastically shortened her life expectancy. She soon finds that hiding her advantages and weaknesses from the suspicious 'Normals' is harder than she ever anticipated, especially when she's assigned as a junior officer to a ship that encounters action far more frequently than its peers. The pressure to abandon her dream rises as she first falls in love with an officer in her chain of command and then accidentally kills a fellow crew member during a boarding action. Feeling guilty and longing for an ordinary life, she's on the verge of resigning her commission when circumstances force her to take command to save her ship and the lives of her crew and herself. When she succeeds despite very difficult odds, Defense Service Fleet Operations gives her a choice: Resign to be with the man she loves, or realize her dream of command in the face of a grueling war.

Miracle Maker is a 125,000 word science fiction novel intended to appeal to fans of the works of Elizabeth Moon, David Weber, Catherine Asaro, and Lois McMaster Bujold.

I have some thoughts on this which I'll share later. But for now, we'll use this one for more group practice.



Anonymous said...

I'd look at the manuscript, because the writer seems to have a really clear idea of the plot and where the story's going. If I did refuse, though, I think I'd do it because just from that read-over I get the impression that the protagonist is passive up until the end, letting the plot just happen to her along the way.

Anonymous said...

The first two sentences almost lost me in mentioning the grandfather twice, when I feel like (for the pitch) mentioning the grandfather isn't really necessary. I became more interested by the "genetic enhancements that have drastically shortened her life span" and remained fairly interested until the end. Why is this the choice presented? I don't feel there is the crucial detail (is it forbidden that crewmates be in love?) present to clue the listener in as to why this should be the paramount choice of the narrative.

Also, a question: I've seen recommended that the cover letter include a synopsis of the novel including how it ends. . . This pitch doesn't do that, but does the same hold true for pitches? I feel like if I knew what choice she made I might be more (or less) interested in reading the book.

Natalie Hatch said...

Similar to Nancy, I found the re-mentioning of the grandfather threw me. But as she spoke of her genetic enhancements I became interested. Perhaps a better hook at the start would help.
The genre being science fiction, but with romantic elements included perhaps narrow it down further.
It's a bit wordy, but I like the fact that she has to make a choice love or career, sounds interesting.

Anonymous said...

Just a newbie here wondering, having never pitched before, what about using simpler, more folksy speech when making a verbal pitch?

When the sentences are more complicated, the writing may seem more impressive, but isn't it just making it unnecessarily harder to follow verbally?

green_knight said...

I would pass. The beginning of the pitch raised my interest - I'm always happy for SF with female protagonists, and this sounded as if there might be a female Miles lurking in the background of this pitch.

What lost me was that my expectations were on a grand scale - someone trying to adopt to a space fleet with customs she will misunderstand, family trouble, the feeling of not fitting in. What I get is the question of whether she should give up everything for the man she loves. In the face of a war and a flet that sounds as if it needs her, that *should not be* a choice.

I think there's a strong dichotomy between the novel as pitched (which will - quite probably with a somewhat different pitch, appeal to Romance readers) and the people who read E Moon, Bujold, and Weber. (I'm not familiar with Asaro's work.) To work as MilSF, it needs to have a stronger external conflict.

(It would work for me if the climax was her taking command because there's no-one else and carrying the fight to the enemy despite her misgivings.)

If this were pitched as a Romance, I'd want to know less background and more plot - what are her individual challenges? What makes this guy so great that she would even consider giving up her dream?

JV said...

Overall the concept is interesting. The hook is there just not in the right place. Should start at "Miracle Maker ... she wants to escape ..." and then fill in the other conflicts. Pass as written, but with reconsturction of the elements mentioned may ask for the first three chapters.

Anonymous said...

I have a strong interest in SF and am hugely interested in this subject area. I might look at this for this reason.

Reasons why I would decide against it would be:

I find the pitch written in overly wordy, dry and unemotional language. I'd be a bit worried about verbosity in the book itself.

While lots of exciting stuff happens, I can't really see the character's influence in it. She sails wherever the currents take her.

I am a bit disappointed in the ending of the pitch. I mean - here we have great stuff. Space ships! Battles! And in the end the only thing the character has to do is choose between career and love? How 2008. Fine if it's SF romance, but is there a way you can make it sound a bit less... mundane?

Dave Shaw said...

Thanks for your comments, everyone. Sorry I couldn't respond sooner - my father passed away suddenly and I didn't have internet.

I tossed this pitch off in rather a hurry, so I'm pleased y'all didn't hate it. Thanks.