Thursday, April 9, 2009

Get to the point

What writer hasn't dreaded 'the pitch'?

What writer hasn't obsessed over the need to have a succint description of their story in a nutshell to present to a potential editor?

Say you meet your dream editor in an elevator and he/she tells you, What's your plot? You start to go, my story is about this girl who gets divorced and then she comes back home and realises life has changed and then she decides she must put up with it and-- Ding!!

The elevator door opens and out glides your editor. Unless you got stuck between floors for at least an hour would you have been able to lay out all your story is about.

That's too true, you think? Actually yes. And unfortunately for the editors, and to a great measure the writers too, we miss a lot of good stories this way, because the writer wasn't able to grab our attention.

I've been there before, even if it wasn't in an elevator. As Lady T.J. already pointed out, I've known the barb of, And your point would be? What's your plot, girl?

What many of us do not realise is that editors know their job, or at least, a good editor should know his/her job. This implies that a brief description in the appropriate language/words will convey more than a drawn-out monologue will ever convey in this circle.

Take the story I just started outlining up above. A divorcee comes back home and realises society views her in a new light. Amidst all this chaos, she meets the man she had loved and given up on in the past, because she hadn't had it in her to pursue this 'impossible' relation in her youth.

That pitch would take at least 2 minutes to convey, and that is way more than the average elevator trip, unless you're on a ride to the top floor of the Empire State Building.

Now, I meet an editor and I go - the plot is about Maturation in the setup of Man V/s Society/Nature/Man with underlying hints of Forbidden Love.

This might not make sense to you. How the heck did that explain your plot or the uniqueness of your story?

Believe me, to an editor, you just exposed the very uniqueness of your plot, because you related it to the basic framework that is predominant in the publishing world. This tickles the editor, because this description tells him/her what you have done and he/she can relate it immediately to what's already been done.

Take a moment to study the basic plots and the master plots. Like Lady T.J. already said, they are going to be your road map, and through this road map, however silly/overstretched/far-fetched your story, laying it down within the framework of the basic and master plots will mean you never lose the way and what you write will ultimately make sense.

I give you another analogy, that of the medical world. You bring someone to ER and the paramedic says to the resident- this man was brought in with shortness of breath, near paralysis on the right side, excessive sweating, erratic heartbeat, difficulty to articualte resulting in slurring speech. By this time, the pateint may already be dead. Why do you think the paramedic goes, man of fifty, possibility of a massive stroke to have occureed within the past hour? The resident knows what a stroke entails, and he knows what to do with this description.

Same goes for your editor. Be brief, succint, and know your jargon - in other words, know your plots. Your words will only speak louder and your writing path for a story will only be clearer.

Any question, feel free to holler!

Aasiyah Qamar - Cultural Romantic Fiction, With a Twist
Coming out October 2 - Light My World - Eirelander Publishing
Nolwynn Ardennes - the Promise of Fulfilment
Coming out in early 2010 - Storms in a Shot Glass - Eirelander Publishing

Aasiyah Qamar/Nolwynn Ardennes - Romance the world over


Chicki said...

I'm considering pitching to editors at my RWA chapter conference this fall, and the whole idea freaks me out. Because I am so long-winded, it's hard for me to be succinct. Guess I need to practice, practice, practice.

Z(Aasiyah/Nolwynn) said...

Hey Chicki

Yup, practise makes perfect. Just write your pitch, and like your story, edit and tighten. Find that absolute perfect word that conveys an idea of 5 words in a single word. You'll end up with a tight, concise pitch that doesn't take ages to deliver then.

Best of luck!!



Sandy said...


I'm like you. Long-winded. lol The last RWA conference I went to, I pitched to an agent and a editor. Guess what I did? I read my whole pitch to them. lol
Terrible. Right! It did work, and I got a request, but ultimately they turned it down.

Not all of us have quick minds like our Z.