Would you give me a quick critique?

Last week at NA Alley, there was a 35-word pitch critique. It was an incredible event to be a part of, both as an NA Sister and as a participant. But as much of my attention was focused on giving feedback and critique to our readers, I didn’t really spend a lot of time revising my own 35-word pitch contribution.

Not that I’m anywhere near ready to pitch my novel, but when I find myself in a dark void of writing despair, I also find that refocusing my mind on the novel-at-large helps get me out of the dark void. That’s where I was last week, and where I’ve been for several weeks actually. Writing this 35-word pitch made me wrap my head around the most simplistic concept of my novel. It forced me to stop tugging on all these threads, and find the main thread.

The 35-word it was a requirement of the particular event being held at NA Alley, and I stuck to it. But now I’d really like some focused feedback and critique from you readers, if it’s not too much to ask. The feedback I did get during the session last week helped highlight what readers were understanding or not understanding in my main thread, and in turn, that helped me even more — both with understanding the finicky art of the quick pitch and my most basic plot conception.

Below is my 35-word pitch, revised once of feedback from last week’s event. If it’s not too much to ask of you, my readers, I’d like more thoughts. In exchange, if you’ve got a short little something you’d like a pair of outside eyes on, post it with your comment (and provide some context, please). And if you comment, please come back around to stay a part of the discussion and, I hope, enjoy a little spontaneous writerly help.

The Pitch

Title: #thatghoststory (Untitled WIP)

Genre: Urban Paranormal

Pitch: Vera spends more time with ghosts than living people, helping them find peace in death. When Vera’s friend reappears as a ghost, she learns Lennon’s set on revenge, not peace, and she’s his first victim.

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12 Comments

  1. Hi 🙂

    I feel a little silly offering advice because I don’t know a ton about writing outside of bloggy land, but here’s what I got:

    My main concern is with the first sentence for two reasons:

    1.) I think that it’s a little too generic. I think maybe even flipping the order might help you hook people. The draw is that Vera helps ghosts find peace, not that she spends time with them. “Spending time” is sort of bland in the face of this great ghost adventure you are pitching.

    2.) The “living” before people felt weird. I think it’s implied when set up against ghosts that the people you are referring to are living. Saves you a word if you get rid of it!

    Hope that helped and that I was clear. If not, let me know and we can chat about it some.

    Lor

  2. I agree, living people sounds wrong. “Vera spends more time with ghosts than with the living”. (adds a word I’m afraid) .

    Here’s my stab at it.

    Vero spends her time with ghosts, helping them find peace in death,
    but when she meets the ghost of a decease friend,
    she soon learns that he seeks not peace but revenge, starting with her.

  3. Hey, Bailey! I’ll take a crack at it, now that I’m not distracted by dozens of other pitches. 🙂 Hmm…

    – First, I think we should make it clear that Lennon is the friend you’re referring to. Categorize him, if you must, i.e. Vera’s friend Lennon. Or you could just nix the name. Whatever works.

    – I’m wondering if there’s a connection between the two sentences. Does Lennon want revenge because she ignored their friendship while he was alive?

    – I think we could cut some of the implied words and phrases. You know, just to tighten it up.

    – Let’s punch it with a little voice. I know you have it. I read your blogfest entry. 😉

    Here’s a guess-pitch, since I don’t really know what it’s about:

    Vera neglects the living to usher ghosts into a peaceful afterlife. When a not-so-dearly-departed friend returns, she realizes peace is the last thing on his mind—he’s after revenge. (30 words)

    I hope this helps! 🙂

  4. I did that contest too. It’s so hard to know what agents want, more voice or more facts in such a condensed pitch. They just can’t have both!

    Here’s a pitch for your story (from what I know of it) playing on voice over facts. This might give you some ideas. I went with one sentence, though two might me optimal. The more I look at yours, the more I like it, actually.

    Afterlife concierge Vera Smith’s dead friend Lennon has come over to this side of the white light with a chip on his shoulder and he’s aiming to send Vera back the way he came.

    Here’s what I submitted. Please feel free to whack it with a stick and see what falls out.

    When intern Kip Pureweather defies the all-powerful knight-executives of Vassalcorp, he sets in motion a revolution in the Incorporated Realms of America and a battle for his own conscience.

    • Shawn, thanks for taking a stab at my pitch. The 35-word length limit is definitely constricting, but something about it also delightfully challenging. There is a tone shift in your version of my pitch that I think works, and while it’s not spot on to Vera’s voice, I think it does show me that voice is a definite must in so short a space.
      I’m a little weird, so I keep having a lot of fun fretting over every word and how the words sound together, and what words mean against other words.

      As for your pitch, I’m not going to try and rewrite it but I do have a few things to say after a few read-overs that might shake something loose for you.

      — You upped the voice in my pitch, and I think you should up the voice (even if it’s an omniscient narrative voice) in yours. Regardless of who is narrating your tale, from the pitch it’s clear Kip is main focus — and I’d hope his personality comes across in your novel; make his personality comes across here, too. I want a feel for Kip.

      — What did Kip Pureweather DO to defy the all-powerful knight-executives? I realize you may not want to reveal that detail entirely up front, but perhaps if you can hint about the type of defiance he makes (did he steal money? forget to mail a letter? refuse to kill someone who needed killing?) it will (a) give us an idea of what he does as an intern, and (b) also give us an idea of what the stakes are for Kip and any other interns that may exist in this world you’ve built.

      — I’m intrigued by the interplay between “revolution” and Kip’s “conscience.” Something very interesting is going on here, but I don’t know what or how much, and again, I feel like a concrete detail about either of those things might go a long way. Is the revolution between every being in the Incorporated Realms? or is this more of a revolution with interns vs. knight-executives? I’m am interested in the fact that Kip would value his conscience over, say, his life or his family. I think having a scale and a style for the revolution might help give that character tidbit more weight.

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