Pitch Madness Contest & Pitch Help to the Rescue!

Posted by on Aug 20, 2013 in Contests & Hops, Writing Tips | 70 comments

Pitch MadnessIt’s that time of year again! Pitch Madness, hosted by Brenda Drake, will take over Twitter and the blogs of several willing Fairy Slush Godmothers divided into teams, including moi. We will be sorting through your best pitches and 250 words. Once we have chosen our favs, we select you for our team and post your entries on the appointed blog where 15 agents will peruse them to request pages. But here’s the kicker. There’s only a 24 hour window you can submit!

DEETS:

  • Submit your 35-word (max) pitch and the first 250 words of your finished manuscript. If the 250th word falls in the middle of a sentence go to the end of the sentence.
  • Get entries in August 24th between the hours of 12:01 A.M. to 11:59 P.M. EST. All others submitted after will be deleted. Go here for SUBMISSION INSTRUCTIONS.
  • There will be two rounds of slush readers and you will be notified if you have advanced. We will select 60 finalists that will progress to the agent round.
  • MANUSCRIPTS MUST BE COMPLETE. No novellas, please.
  • ALL GENRES ARE ACCEPTED in YA, NA, and Adult.
  • More than one entry is fine! But if you have several, only one will be allowed to advance to the final round.
  • When the contest concludes, there will be a #PitMad party on Twitter where agents will be looking for the best pitches in 140 characters! This is scheduled for Sept 12th from 8 A.M. EST to 8 P.M. EST.

EXCITED? FREAKING OUT? I’M HERE TO HELP!

If you’d like me to take a gander at your pitch, post it in the comments. I’ll give them one hard, fast look and post revisions in the comments as well. I’M NOT PROMISING YOU’LL BE CHOSEN, but I will certainly do my best to give you valuable feedback to help you on your way.

 

THE SCHEDULE

  • Slush Readers Introduction on August 19
  • Hosts and their teams Introduction on August 20
  • Agent Introduction on August 21
  • Rules of the Game on August 22
  • Submission window will be on August 24 open for 24 hours
  • The first slush round will be August 25-28
  • The second slush round will be August 29-Sept. 2
  • The final round will be Sept. 3 – 5 (host and co-hosts)
  • The top 60 picks for the agent round will go up on the blogs on Sept. 6 at 8AM EDT (NY time)
  • Sept. 10 at 12PM EDT (Noon) the agents requests are revealed, and right afterward is the tying agents challenge round.
  • There will be a #PitMad Twitter Pitch Party on September 12 from 8AM to 8PM EST.

 

 

 

 

70 Comments

Join the conversation and post a comment.

  1. Suja

    Thanks so much for helping. Here’s my pitch.

    Tara discovers her cousin had intended to kill her a decade ago, but ended up dying instead. Then her dead cousin’s lookalike moves in next door. Now Tara might not live out junior year.

    • Heather

      Suja, This is actually a pretty darn good pitch. I would only tweak a few words to make it pop more.

      Tara discovers her cousin had planned to murder her a decade ago, but (cousin’s name or she/he) ended up dying instead. When her dead cousin’s doppleganger moves in next door, Tara fears she won’t live through junior year.

  2. Patchi

    Pitch Madness is so much fun. Thanks for helping out 🙂

    On a planet where everyone values merit over birthright, David discovers a secret hereditary rule. But to overturn the deceitful government he needs to expose the woman he loves–she is next in line.

    • Heather

      Hi Patchi,

      Here’s my stab at it. You’ve included a bit of the stakes, but let’s really make it punchier.

      On a planet where merit trumps birthright, David discovers a secret hereditary(genetic?) law that may change everything. But to overturn the deceitful government, he must expose the woman he loves and risk both their lives.

      My question for you is–what does this law change? Can you give us two-three words that make that more clear than my version of “change everything”? Also, maybe you can come up with something a little stronger than “risk both their lives”, but you get the idea. Maybe “expose the woman he loves and face execution/expulsion into space”, etc.

  3. Patchi

    Thanks Heather! I love how you changed the beginning. I never thought of “trumps.” And thanks for picking up on the vague wording. It’s not a hereditary law, but a hereditary government. This is more what the story is about (but 1 word too long):

    On a planet where merit trumps birthright, David discovers a secret hereditary government. Overturning the deceit will destroy the woman he loves, but desire will bind David to a government he needs to change from inside.

    • Heather

      Patchi–
      Gotcha! So you mean a government inherited through birthright? Who is David? You need to make this clear. Is he a soldier, a random citizen, a govn official? This needs to make it into your pitch, otherwise the stakes lose their bite. Try reworking it with that information included and I’ll take a shot at it. Something like…

      On a planet where merit trumps birthright, a XXX must choose between revealing a secret, hereditary government and winning the heart of the woman he loves.

  4. AshleeW

    Thanks so much for the offer! I’d love for you to look over my pitch 🙂 It is truly appreciated.

    Stumbling into a fairytale can be fatal. After being thrust into a role that has been mysteriously abandoned, Posy discovers this story’s author is absent, and its characters are bent on overthrowing their own plot.

    • Heather

      Ashlee, the biggest issue with this pitch is that it’s too vague. The idea is fascinating, though, so let’s look at how to make this shine.

      Questions to think about right off the bat:

      1. Which fairytale? Is the novel based on a real one? It sounds like Alice in Wonderland, maybe?
      2. What’s special about Posy? Is she just your average teen or little girl? An adult? What is her role?
      2. Where is the mysterious hole? A little context (very brief) is important. And who thrusts her there?
      3. Why would the story’s author be involved at all? Authors aren’t usually. This is a very intriguing piece to your pitch/novel so play this up. Possibly even lead with it. You want to emphasize what is unique, especially since fairytales are very popular these days.
      4. I love the idea of the characters overthrowing the plot! But who are these characters?
      5. Be sure to include the stakes.

      Something like:

      When Posy stumbles/is thrusted into a warped version of Alice in Wonderland, she XXX. For she hadn’t expected the storyteller to be absent or the XXX characters to XXX. Now she must XXX or XXX happens.

  5. Kel

    Here’s my pitch. Been revising it today, so hopefully it’s polished =)

    A chance encounter with the town drunk at a green light nearly kills Jimmy Rickliefs. When he wakes, up doctors can’t guarantee he’ll walk again. Without his legs, his career as a drummer is over.

    • Heather

      Hi Kel,

      You’re on the right track! I think the last sentence is what needs the most work. What must Jimmy do in order to overcome this horrible thing that has happened to him? Does he have to surrender his dreams? Must he change his view of life and conquer his inner demons?

      Here’s how I would pitch this novel:

      Famed/Aspiring drummer Jimmy Rikliefs didn’t see what hit him one night at a green light. When he wakes in a hospital bed, his world is shattered and so are his legs. Now Jimmy must XXX or XXX.

  6. MarkNeu

    Thanks for opening up and helping like this, Heather. The whole thing sounds like a blast! Here’s my pitch:

    When Dwarven girl Valda is turned into a Valkyrie it answers her prayers, puts her family in mortal danger and makes her the unwilling pawn in a god’s twisted scheme to overthrow the Nine Worlds.

    • Heather

      Hi Mark,

      The issue with this pitch is that it’s too vague. Answer these questions within it:

      A.) What is a Dwarven girl? A Valkyrie? Why is one better than the other?
      B.) Why does becoming a Valkyrie put her parents at stake?
      C.) What are the Nine Worlds?
      D.) Who are these gods?

      We need more info. 🙂

  7. MeganP

    Thanks for taking a look at my pitch! Very much appreciated.

    Surgical assistant Colin cuts open his patient’s sutures, afraid he left behind an instrument. (He didn’t.) Colin must finally face his OCD, but falling for a cutter from group therapy isn’t in his recovery plan.

    • Heather

      Ohhh, this is interesting, Megan! Here’s my take on your pitch. I’ve just tightened it a bit:

      Colin can’t help but slice open his patients’ sutures—what if he forgot an instrument? As his OCD consumes him, Colin must XXX. But falling for a cutter in therapy isn’t in his recovery plan.

  8. Kelly

    Thank you for offering help!

    When college senior Katie finds comfort following her father’s death, she knew there wasn’t a future with Will. Falling in love with him isn’t the worst that can happen; setting him free is.

    • Heather

      Hi Kelly, 🙂

      I’m not sure what the book is really about because your second sentence is a little vague. What are the stakes? Will she lose her heart to Will? Why does she have to set him free? And “setting him free” sounds a bit like she’s holding him back against his will. What is the big problem that happens that leads to these stakes? Try to answer these questions and shoot me the next version. 🙂

  9. Ashley

    Thanks for doing this! My pitch:

    As far as Ari is concerned, saving her hellnapped father shouldn’t involve kissing a ghost, digging up bodies with a witch named Charlie, or mouthing off to an angel in a cardigan.

    • Heather

      Ashley,

      HA! I love the humor in this pitch. 🙂 I like the imagery a lot! The only thing missing is the stakes. What will happen to Ari if she doesn’t save her father? She’ll lose him? Will she die? Will they both die? Is there a love interest?

  10. Eric Steinberg (@ericgsteinberg)

    Thanks for the offer of help. Heather I really appreciate it. I’ve been struggling a long time with how to succinctly pitch this novel.

    17-year-old Marc is grateful to his alien kidnappers for saving Earth…from himself, future president who starts WWIII. Until Marc learns an alien faction plans to start the averted war and only he can stop them.

    • Heather

      Hi Eric,
      I just want to clarify a few things.

      How do the aliens plan to start the war? And is Marc with them because he has been kidnapped? I’m assuming it’s a different alien faction that plans to start the war? This pitch is a little redundant. You mention two rounds of aliens and there are two references to war. Is there anything else unique/juicy/interesting in terms of major plot points we can pull out? Here’s my take on this pitch, though honestly, I would rework it to try to eliminate the repetitive feel to it.

      17-year-old Marc, future president, starts WWIII by accident. When his alien kidnappers save Earth, he is actually grateful. Until Marc learns the alien faction plans to crush his planet and only he can stop them.

  11. KRiddle

    This is SO nice of you to do! Here’s my 35-word pitch, in all its rough draft glory:

    As 16y.o Shayna struggles to fit in at her stupid new California high school, she debates revealing a huge secret: her neighbor and new best friend is a beloved teen celebrity, who’s in hiding.

    • Heather

      KRiddle.

      I like this premise! Very cool. So question for you: What’s at stake if she reveals her friend’s identity? Will she lose her friendship? Will it cause chaos at school? Is the celeb at the same school? If so, it would be hard to imagine that people wouldn’t recognize her/him.

      As Shayna struggles to fit in at her new California high school, she debates revealing a huge secret: her new best friend is a beloved teen celebrity. But exposing her/him would XXX.

  12. Kel Heinen

    Heather,

    Thank you so much for taking a look at my pitch! (forgot my manners earlier) I like your suggestion and will definitely play with it =). It’s so hard to get the gist of this book across in so few words because there’s so much relevant to why his career might be over. Thank you again!! 😀

  13. AshleeW

    Heather,
    Thanks so much, I appreciate your feedback greatly! 🙂 I am pretty horrible at condensing a lot of info (that’s why I write books I guess! Haha) and realize I do tend to get vague. Thanks for the great tips, I will begin reworking my pitch tonight!
    Ashlee

  14. Hong

    Hi Heather,

    Thanks for offering your help to critique pitches.

    Here’s mine in case you’re still critiquing them:

    Eleven-year-old Linh learns that dark sorcerers from an Oriental world have captured her mother. She must fetch a sacred crossbow for them to bridge the gap between their land and Earth, or her mother dies.

    • Heather

      Hong, KRiddle, and Eric, I’ll be back tomorrow! I’m out of brain power. 🙂

    • Heather

      Hi Kong,

      I didn’t forget you. 🙂 First, the word “Oriental” is almost considered a racist term…or at the very least very dated and not quite p.c. Maybe that’s what you’re going for in this case? If not, substitute Asian. If you’re wanting to refer to a different era, say something like “from an ancient world in Asia” or something like that. Who is Linh? Your average 11 year old? Or does she possess special powers? Also, is this an MG book? I ask because your protagonist is 11, but the issue is, the voice feels more like YA to me. I would begin by flipping the order of the words around a bit. What I’ve given you here will be longer than 35 words which means we need to get snippy. Try to channel that inner 11 year old voice and throw another version at me! 🙂

      When sorcerers from an ancient Asian world capture eleven-year-old Linh’s mother, she sets out on a quest to rescue her. But the sacred bridge between worlds lies hidden…

  15. Melissa

    Hi Heather,

    Thanks for offering to help out! I always feel like I’m floundering when I try to create a pitch (and it probably shows).

    Here it is:

    If anyone discovers Jake’s ability to experience other people’s pain he’ll be arrested. But as he starts to uncover the source of his power he’ll realize that arrest is the least of his problems.

    • Heather

      Hi Melissa,
      This pitch is too vague. Is he an abnormal boy living in a normal world, or is it a fantasy world? We need a bit of setting or context here. Also, what are Jake’s other problems? Who is against him? We need more info. 🙂

  16. KRiddle

    Thank you SO much Heather! It’s really sweet of you to take the time to give us feedback. I’m going to spend the day making the revisions you suggested (this seems to be my major weakness when writing queries or in this case, a 35-word pitch: identifying the stakes. Ugh. Gotta work on making it clearer). THANK YOU!!

  17. MeganP

    Thanks, Heather! Great comments! 🙂

  18. Kelly

    Hi Heather. Thank you for the feedback and opportunity for revision. Condensing a story to only 35 words feels near impossible. Here’s my second attempt:

    College senior Katie can handle falling for the wrong guy. When Will starts to feel the same way, she ends things, thinking it best for their futures. She hates herself for it. So does he.

    • Heather

      Kelly,
      Believe me, I understand! lol. But it just takes practice. Pitches really help you boil down exactly what your novel is about. I’ve tweaked it below. We need to know why Will is “the wrong guy”. Give us a little phrase about what makes him all wrong. Also, I’m sure you can come up with something better than “may just change her mind”, but I just wanted to get you started. 🙂

      When college senior Katie starts to fall for Will, the XXX, she ends things. It’s best for their futures. But when he XXX, she may just change her mind.

  19. Hong

    Hi Heather,

    In case you forgot to critique mine, I posted it yesterday.

    Thanks again for your help!

  20. Patchi

    Thanks so much for your help Heather! Pitches are so hard! Here’s a third try:

    On a planet where merit trumps birthright, the top governance graduate discovers a secret hereditary government. With the woman he loves next in line, David must either expose the deceit or risk wearing a crown.

    • Heather

      Patchi,

      Two things– “governance” and “government” shouldn’t be in the same sentence. Maybe “top elected graduate” instead of “governance”…or leave that and change “a secret h.govn.” to “a secret/underground monarchy” or “a secret birthright government”? Also in the second sentence delete “either”.

  21. d. Nichole

    You are awesome for doing this!

    My Pitch:

    Carrie Reese doesn’t believe in ghosts–until she falls in love with one. And opens a century-old rift to Hell in the process. Sometimes there’s more at stake than merely dying.

    • Heather

      Hi d. Nichole,

      I like the first two sentences, but I’d combine them to make them one. Just ditch the period and combine. But the second sentence is very vague. What’s at stake that’s worse than dying? 🙂

  22. Kelly

    I’ve had time to play and work with it, and came up with an alternative that I think answers your questions better:

    After being burned by a long-distance relationship, Katie just wants to graduate college without any further entanglements. But when she unexpectedly falls in love, she’s faced with a familiar choice: her family or her heart.

    • Heather

      Kelly,
      This is much better! My only question with this new version of yours is–why must she choose him or her family? We need a clue as to why it’s wrong to fall in love with Will. Actually, I just answered from your other pitch below and came up with this:

      When college senior Katie starts to fall for Will, the XXX, she ends things. It’s best for their futures. But when he XXX, she may just change her mind.

  23. Melissa

    Thanks for the advice! Much appreciated. Somehow, someday I’ll get the hang of this!

  24. d. Nichole

    Carrie Reese doesn’t believe in ghosts–until she falls in love with one. When she and Lucas open a century-old rift to Hell, the threat to their love becomes a fight for their souls.

    How’s that?

    • Heather

      d. Nichole– YESSSS! Much better! My only other question is, who is Carrie Reese? A teen? A woman in a normal world? We need a tidbit about who she is.

  25. Terra

    Hi Heather,

    I’m not sure you are still critiquing today, but I’d thought I’d give it a shot! Thank you so much in advance for any help you can provide. Here it is:

    When Sophie loses everything, she’s forced to turn to her “psychic,” aka psychotic mother. Will Sophie discover the great wisdom behind her mom’s smoke and mirrors in time to rise from the ashes?

  26. Terra

    Or this one, it’s a little more specific:

    When Sophie loses everything, she’s forced to turn to her “psychic,” aka psychotic mother. Will Sophie discover the great wisdom behind Mom’s smoke and mirrors needed to rise from the ashes and find love again?

    • Heather

      Terra,

      I have questions for you. So what does “lose everything” mean? She still has her whacky mother. And what does “great wisdom” mean? If Sophie is at odds with her mother and/or is this a mother-daughter story? Emphasize that more here. Also “smoke and mirrors” and “rise from the ashes” are both cliche and yet still too vague. We need more info. 🙂

  27. d. Nichole

    THANKS Heather!!!! SO appreciated!

  28. Hong

    Thanks so much for your feedback, Heather. Much appreciated!

    What about the following revised pitch?

    Eleven-year-old imaginative Linh sets out on a quest when dark sorcerers from an ancient Asian world capture her mother. They demand that she helps them bridge their world to Earth, or her mother dies.

    • Heather

      Hong,
      Hmm…imaginative doesn’t tell us that much…Is there more at stake than her mother’s life? Will the earth be in danger, too? You take a stab at the second sentence. I think this first one is a good hook. We just need a sharp follow up with the stakes–her mother’s death & whatever else.

      When sorcerers from an ancient Asian world capture eleven-year-old Linh’s mother, she sets out on a quest to unearth the sacred bridge between worlds. For without…

  29. MarkNeu

    Thanks for the feedback, Heather! I let myself get bogged down with trying to include too much and ended up not explaining enough in the end. How about this?

    Valda, a 15 year old Dwarf girl, has to win a Trial by Ordeal in the fabled Norse heaven of Valhalla or her entire family will be banished to the icy cold wastes of Niflheim.

    • Heather

      Perfect, MarkNeu! It tells us way more! Roll with it! My only tweak would be to change “has to win” to “must win” and also delete “entire” as it’s redundant. 🙂 Nice job!

  30. Kelly

    Thank you so much for your help on this Heather! He’s the wrong guy because of the long distance–he can’t move and she’s needed back home. Dating long distance isn’t an option. How about this one:

    Freshly burned by a long-distance relationship, Katie just wants to graduate college and move home. But when she falls in love with a roots-deep townie, she’s faced with a familiar choice: her family or him.

  31. Terra

    Wow, thanks Heather. I really missed the mark. Is this any better?

    When Sophie loses her almost-fiancé, job and apartment, she’s forced to turn to her “psychic,” aka psychotic mother. To get everything back, Sophie must see her mom’s true wisdom about life and love. Will she?

    • Heather

      Terra,

      Now that I know it’s humor, let’s play with it. I think I like this first one better. Quick word of advice–never end in a rhetorical question. It doesn’t tell us anything and it comes off amateur-esque, which we definitely don’t want. Try…

      When Sophie loses her almost-fiancé and dot com job, she turns to the only thing left—her “psychic,” aka psychotic mother. But she isn’t sure the third-eye glasses…

  32. Terra

    I think my struggle here is that my book is comedy, which isn’t coming through in the two lines. My challenge seems to be working that in. Here’s my crack at trying to summarize while still catching the humor in the book.

    Almost fiancé, dot com job, fabulous San Francisco apartment…gone in an instant. All that’s left is the one person Sophie’s never relied on before – her psychotic..ehem..psychic, third-eye glasses wearing, “universe shifting” mother. Now what?

  33. Kelly

    Thank you so much for all your help!

  34. Hong

    Thanks for your help again, Heather!

    I’ve revised my entire pitch again to include something about Linh. What about this one?

    Vietnamese fairytales flutter through eleven-year-old Linh’s daydreams. But she’s mystified when dark sorcerers send her on a dangerous quest to bridge the gap between an ancient Asian world and Earth, or they’ll kill her mother.

    • Heather

      How about this, Hong? (We still need to shave off a few words, though. Maybe trade “an Asian world” for the actual name of the place? We’ll cut two words that way. Then we’ll only need to cut two more. P.S. I LOVE what you did to your pitch this time!

      Vietnamese fairytales flutter through eleven-year-old Linh’s daydreams. But they didn’t prepare Linh for dark sorcerers to invade her world and kidnap her mother. Now she must uncover the bridge between an Asian world and Earth, or lose her forever.

  35. Kel

    I didn’t know if we could post revised pitches or not…but here is my revised pitch:

    A drunk driver nearly kills rock star Jimmy Rickliefs. When doctors say he might not walk again, Jimmy has two options: get moving or give up his drums for good.

    Thanks again for all your help!

  36. MarkNeu

    Thanks again, Heather. This has been great practice for me.

  37. Hong

    Hi Heather,

    I’m happy to hear that you love my revised pitch 🙂

    This is the best I could do to cut four words:

    Fairytales flutter through eleven-year-old Linh’s daydreams. But they didn’t prepare Linh for dark sorcerers to kidnap her mother. Linh must uncover the bridge between an Asian world and Earth for them, or her mother dies.

  38. Terra

    Thanks again for all your invaluable help. Here is another revision:

    When Sophie loses her almost-fiancé and tech job overnight, she turns to the only thing left—her “psychic,” aka psychotic mother. Sophie must rebuild her life with a third-eye glasses wearing, “universe shifting” wingman…or wingmom.

  39. Hong

    Thanks Heather, I really appreciate your help!

  40. Marilyn Hudson Tucker

    When I click the “subscribe” button, I get a 404 error message. Is there another way to subscribe? Thanks.

    • Heather

      Marilyn, I’m not sure what’s going on there, but I am in the process of transferring this content to a full-blown website. That might be what’s happening. I can subscribe you by email manually if you like? Just let me know. And thank you! 🙂

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