Tuesday, February 17, 2009

In My Judgement

by Mary Margret Daughtridge

As the other Casababes and I have already discussed in this blog, the need to pitch, and pitch well, doesn’t go away once you’re published. In fact, it intensifies. It behooves us all to keep polishing our skills. As soon as she's approved one manuscript for publication, do you know what Deb wants? A pitch and synopsis for another book. Thank God she doesn't demand I cram it into 50 words or less, but trust me, she'll judge it by exactly the same standards as she judged the Casablanca Pitch contest.

All my life I've been a teacher of one kind or another. I tend to view every experience as a lesson. I saw the contest as a wonderful teaching/learning opportunity for myself and everyone involved. I don't know about you, but I learn best by studying examples. Everyone got to see every entry, form their own opinion about how successful it was, and then to see which ones Deb picked.

And for those of a competitive nature (and I’ll be the first to confess there’s more than a touch of it in me) it was a chance to see and measure oneself against the others in the game.

So gather around class. Let's see what can we learn. Let’s look at Kelsey Browning’s In the Red.
Briefs. He writes them. She sells them. When Roxanne retains Jamie as her lawyer and lover, his partnership dream implodes. His firm thinks a woman peddling panties and prophylactics is no match for an up-and-coming attorney. Too bad because Jamie’s already tangled up in her lawsuit, her life…and her lingerie.

The hardest part of writing a pitch is deciding what details to put in and what to leave out.

What’s there: the names of the hero and heroine, a sense of what they do, and Jamie’s conflict. With every word doing double and triple duty, we see the primary ingredients of a romance plot—what will bring them together, and what will keep them apart. The conflict is universal. Liberal standards versus conservative ones. We understand the problem at a glance. Jamie’s internal conflict is equally clear. He’s caught between ambition and love.

What details are not there? Setting. Where or how Roxanne sells underwear. What the lawsuit is about. Is she the defendant? We don’t know, and it doesn’t matter.

What’s also there. Witty writing. Lots of it. Starting with the pun on briefs and ending with the alliteration and more puns in the last sentence. For all its simplicity, and utter clarity, the pitch isn’t dumb and it doesn’t assume the reader is.

All right. I did one. You be the judge now. You pick a pitch and tell us what, specifically, in your judgement makes it work.

Here are the pitches. I don't know if this link will work. You might have to copy and paste. https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=2802601138878132017&postID=3107576917862110213

You can find the list of all the people whose pitch caught Deb's attention in yesterday's blog.

Ground rules: comment only those pitches which Deb selected. Don’t settle for saying “I liked it.” That’s easy. Point to a specific quality, word choice, plot ingredient, or other element that makes it effective. Feel free to add to and comment on other comments.


  1. I was at RWA Nationals in San Francisco, and those were the classes I was the most interested, THE PITCH.

    One thing I kept hearing over and over again was make it HIGH CONCEPT.

    It took a lot of practice to get to 50 words or less. It's like when I first started writing synopses I went from like 15 pages to 7 and now 2. Practice makes perfect.

  2. (Teacher-hat still on)

    True, Amy. Everybody talks about HIGH CONCEPT.

    Today's your chance to apply your understanding of the term. Which pitches did you think contained a high concept, and what specifically was it?

  3. Pat Shaw's A Pocket Full of Ashes - the "Jane Austen but with better sex." Seeing the Austen sequels Sourcebooks publishes, this makes an immediate impact that this is something that could be right for Deb.

    "Crazy woman in the tower included." It's hysterical, shows the author knows the genre and is off-beat enough to catch Deb's eye.

    Very indicative of Pat's writing style, and you just have to love the humor.

    MM - this is a GREAT post!

  4. Right Judi. I LOL'ed at both!

    But a lot of the pitches Deb chose don't follow the "Annie! meets Planet of the Apes" form or "Like this classic but..."

    What can we make of that?

  5. First, Thanks to Mary Margaret for the analysis of my pitch. It’s amazing how long it can take to write something so short.

    I wanted to comment on Renee Fields’ Fairy Curses. Her pitch was:

    Immortally cursed and exiled to Earth realm, Cael’s wish – death. Dying never looked so sweet until the once proud Fey found the lush lips of a Highland lass. When vile creatures from his homeland are unleashed, Cael discovers one kiss has awakened an innocent’s passion that could destroy two worlds.

    I think this pitch works because we get a sense of who the hero and heroine are even though the heroine is never specifically named. We also don’t get Cael’s last name (if he has one) because we don’t need it. The conflict seems clear to me. The hero has brought about potential destruction because he indulged himself with the heroine. And who can resist a hero whose only wish was death before he encountered the right woman?