Conference Writing/Illustrating Challenge #2 : What’s your pitch?

I’m baaaack! Don’t look so surprised. I told you I would be. Hopefully you are finished with last week’s challenge, but don’t worry if you’re not. There is no time limit as to when they need to be completed, as long as it’s before the March 31st conference. Remember, there may be an amazing goodie basket in your future!!

It’s Wednesday and that can only mean one thing: another super-duper inspiring and devestatingly constructive challenge.

I know, enough with the adjectives already. Let’s get started with the second challenge:

So, what’s your pitch?

No, not that kind.

Uhhh..nope, not that either.

I’m talking about that one-line gem that grabs the questioner by the collar and makes them say “Wow, what a great idea!”

Have you ever been asked, “So, what’s your pitch?” about a project you’re working on? And has your answer elicited this kind of response?

It sure has for me. Writing a pitch can be more nerve-wracking then penning a 200-page novel. How do you take those 200 pages and boil them down to, let’s face it, practically nothing and still make an agent or editor sit up, take notice, and want to hear more?

By practice, of course!

Your Conference Challenge this week is to write a pitch for a past, current or future project. Yup, I said future. Because all great books start with a great idea.

To help with this, I am posting a link to our blogger extraordinaire Laura Bowers’ pre-conference workshop from last year Perfecting Your Book Pitch. I can’t say how much it helped me.

Even if you’re not ready to sell or just not interested, you should try this exercise. Writing a pitch can help bring the meat of your book back to where it should be – in the forefront of your mind. It can also reveal that maybe you need more meat or forgot to add it altogether, as well as open your eyes to other issues. Many screenwriters will write a pitch before writing the screenplay, their thinking being if they can’t write a good pitch, then maybe their story lacks the necessary zest. I am told the book SAVE THE CAT by Blake Snyder gives some great advice to all writers in every genre on this and other aspects of the craft. It is definitely at the top of my must-read reference book list.

What’s that you say? Your book is ready, but you’re not getting a critique at this conference and won’t  be talking to any agents or editors anyway, so why should you bother? I can answer that with another question. What if you find yourself in a conversation at lunch or coffee break and you are asked about your book? What would you say and can you say it quickly enough before that person’s eyes glaze over trying to process the five paragraphs of information you just gave them? And what if, by chance, that person just happens to be an editor or agent?

Okay, that’s four questions, but you get my point. Honestly, it really is a great exercise to help you focus and maybe someday sell that book you have  been working so hard on, no matter where you are in the process. You owe it to yourself and that fabulous story inside of you.

Enough of my ramblings. I now give you our lovely co-blogger Chieu Urban, who will throw down this week’s Illutrator’s challenge gauntlet:

Illustrator Challenge #2

Now would you agree that we all have an imaginary character we find ourselves often doodling while supposedly focusing on something else? And wouldn’t it be great to bring this special friend to life in a story and into the hearts of children?  Let’s illustrate this pitch and maybe introduce him to our fabulous regional members.  Just send us your illustration and we’ll post it.  Not ready to share him with everyone else? That’s okay!  After all, he’s your secret buddy.  Thanks for participating in the challenges. It’s all creative fun, don’t you think?

You bet they are, Chieu! Thanks so much!

Okay, my fellow writers and illustrators, let’s all get cracking and tackle those challenges!

About Susan Mannix

Susan worked as a biomedical research editor for the Department of the Navy for fourteen years and has been a member of SCBWI since 2007. She writes young adult and middle grade novels. When she isn’t writing, she spends her time doing all things horses, including attending her teenaged daughters’ many competitions. Susan lives in Maryland on a small farm with her husband, two children, an adorable black lab, two cats, and three horses.
This entry was posted in Writing & Drawing Exercises, Writing Tips. Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to Conference Writing/Illustrating Challenge #2 : What’s your pitch?

  1. Laura says:

    Thanks for the challenge, it’s an excellent practise tool. I hope to meet you at the conference.


    The other Laura

  2. susanmannix says:

    Another Laura? Well, after all those Susans on Monday, it’s only fair. 😉 Looking forward to meeting you! Hope you enjoy the challenge.

  3. Sue Poduska says:

    Love it! For those of us who thrive on one liners and tend to write short, even better. But, I must admit, I have to remind myself often what my stories are about. I’m currently working on a middle grade book about things once considered impossible and things still considered impossible. Like what? you ask. Like Columbus sailing west to get to the East. Like cold fusion to solve our energy problems.

    Sue (NOT Susan). Sorry.

    • susanmannix says:

      Whoa Sue, you got my attention! I want to know more about your book! I understand what you mean. I tend to be sparse in my writing…Michener (on SO many levels!) I am not. But, writing a pitch puts my skills to the test. Writing concisely is one thing, but writing concisely with emotion, conflict, and wit…that’s an art unto itself and one I have not mastered.

    • Laura Bowers says:

      Awesome, Sue not Susan, LOVE your book idea!! 🙂

  4. Thanks, Susan, for this post, the challenge, and the link back to Laura’s excellent article on this subject last year. I find pitches extremely difficult. But I’m feeling brave, so I’ll put it out here:
    “A strong-willed girl helps her father recover from seen and unseen war wounds through the healing power of horses.”

    Look forward to seeing and meeting people at the conference in March.


    • susanmannix says:

      Hi Valerie. I love your pitch! It is jam-packed, with no wasted words. I definitely want to know more…another great book to add to my reading list! I’m looking forward to meeting you at the conference. Being a horse lover myself with two horse-crazy daughters, I think we have a couple of things we can talk about! 🙂

    • Laura Bowers says:

      Sounds fantasic, Valerie, best of luck with your story! 🙂

      • Thanks, Laura – your articles from last year REALLY helped me with my critique manuscript this year, too. I truly appreciate the time and effort you spent to help get people like me through the process.

  5. Thanks, Susan! I’ll try to find you, too. I’ll wear something “horsey,”if that will help with the identification :).

  6. Laura says:

    2 boisterious and creative sisters plot to stow away in their dad’s car to spend time with him on a business trip.

    Guess, I’m becoming more brave to put my heart out here on the line.

  7. Lona Queen says:

    Thanks for challenges. I’m late getting started but I’m trying to catch up. Here is my pitch. “After overhearing that she is adopted, 15-year-old Samantha learns that her birth mother lives in a magical underworld and travels there to find her, and discovers the true meaning of family.”


  8. Thanks for the challenge! I’m still playing catch-up, but it helps to have the challenges to push me along 😉

    Seventeen-year-old Alaina desperately wants to be the pretty, popular, princess type, and when the most gorgeous boy in school finally kisses her, she thinks she might have a shot. But her toxic best friend, Kendra, is determined to convince her that she’ll always be a frog.

  9. Linda Sweitzer says:

    Two things stand in the way of Sam enjoying Halloween: his brother and Sam’s fear of Halloween, but this year things are going to be different..

  10. Karen Kane says:

    god, that was painful! But so necessary. When it the pitch finally came forth, I felt so happy. I am sure it still needs tweaking, but so glad you “forced” me to do that!!!! Two challenges done! On to number three!!

    • susanmannix says:

      Painful like bamboo shoots shoved under your fingernails, right? Yeah, I agree! But, hooray for you on getting both challenges done!

  11. Shirley Menendez says:

    Thanks for this challenge. It’s a difficult one because, as you know, it has to sell the book or story, especially when included in a cover letter.

    • susanmannix says:

      You’re absolutely right, Shirley. Just adds to the stress of writing one! Amazing how so few words can have that much power. But, like Karen said previously, it feels so great when you can finally formulate a good pitch.

  12. Pingback: Conference Challenge Wrap Up! « As the Eraser Burns

  13. Ann McCallum says:

    Did this one, too. Needed it, actually, as I’m having a critique on Saturday…

  14. I’ve got an hour to spare! I had already done this once, but I like my new version much better.

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  16. First off I want to say fantastic blog! I had a
    quick question which I’d like to ask if you do not mind. I was interested to find out how you center yourself and clear your thoughts before writing. I’ve had trouble clearing
    my thoughts in getting my thoughts out there.
    I truly do enjoy writing however it just seems like
    the first 10 to 15 minutes are wasted simply just trying
    to figure out how to begin. Any suggestions or tips?
    Many thanks!

  17. Pingback: Pre-Conference Wrap-Up | As the Eraser Burns

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