Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Elevator Pitch

Photo by Dirk Anger
Years ago I went to a writers conference in New York City. The experience was amazing. Hundreds of writers were taking classes, meeting with editors and agents, and in general learning more about their craft and how to sell their stories.

At the time I had a New York agent, whom I'd never met. This was my chance to see her face-to-face. She had me meet her at her room and walk with her to her next appointment. And guess what? As we got on the elevator she asked me what I was working on next. Talk about uncanny! There I was giving my agent an "elevator pitch" (a shortened pitch about your story) in an elevator. I tell you this because, yes it does happen. AND it can happen to you, so you should be prepared.

I thought I'd share with you what I do to craft an "elevator pitch" on a manuscript I'm trying to sell.

1) Pull out the one page synopsis of your story. (If you haven't written one, do it. You're going to need it. In fact do several. For each book I generally have an 8 to 10 page synopsis, a 4 to 5 page synopsis, and a one-page, single-spaced synopsis. Why so many? I use the 8 to 10 page synopsis to help me write my manuscript. It has the bare bones. The 4 to 5 page synopsis helps me streamline the story for my editor, and the one page synopsis helps agents/editors/the art department/promotion and etc.) Now that you have your one page synopsis in hand read through it and look for the three things that makes your story tick: characters, plot, and what is unique.

2) Now that you know the 3 main things think of what would make your reader/agent/editor want to learn more about your book. Work on the opening sentence--the  hook--of your pitch. It can be a question or a sentence, but it should always have a hook.

For example here's the pitch I used for The Stone Traveler--It's about a sixteen-year-old boy who has been struggling with life when he is given a stone that sends him back through time to Samuel the Lamanite's daughter.

Here's an example of the pitch I used for An Angel on Main Street--It's about an eleven-year-old boy, who finds a Nativity being build in the center of town, but no one knows who is building. 

Here's a pitch for my manuscript, Chasing the Star--Have you ever wondered what it would have been like to be have been in Rome when Christ was born or to have been one of the shepherds when the heavens filled with angels proclaiming Christ's birth? 

3) Once you feel good about the opening sentence/question, work on making the next sentence an element of surprise that shows how your story is unique.
 
For example, the next sentence in my pitch for The Stone Traveler is--I don't know if Samuel the Lamanite had a daughter, but in my book he does, and she's on a mission to find her father. (Samuel the Lamanite was a prophet in the Book of Mormon. Many of my readers know about this prophet and when I tell them this they always smile and are eager to learn more about my book).

For An Angel on Main Street--He tells his sick little sister about the Nativity and she tells him she knows who is building it. (This always peaks people's interest and makes them want to know more.)

For Chasing the Star it's a little different because I started with a question so my next line gives information about characters and plot--This is the story about a brother and sister who after a tragic accident killed their parents were each given a stone that sent them back in time when Christ was born, except the sister ends up with a Roman soldier and the brother finds himself with a shepherd family in Bethlehem.

4) This is the wrap up for an "elevator pitch". If you're pitching to an agent/editor the wrap up should show them that you know how to finish a book, but if you are pitching to a reader don't give away key information.  

For The Stone Traveler:
Agent/editor--The boy joins her in her quest, they are captured by King Jacob, thrown into prison, and strapped to a sacrificial altar when a violent storm erupts. This is when Christ was crucified and the earth was thrown into upheaval. The boy and Samuel the Lamanite's daughter escape and through the course of the rest of the story they learn about the atonement of Christ.
Reader--The boy joins her in her quest, they are captured by King Jacob, thrown into prison, and strapped to a sacrificial altar when a violent storm erupts. I'm not going to tell  you the rest. (This always hooks them) But know that this happens at the time Christ was crucified.

For An Angel on Main Street:
Agent/editor--He asks who she thinks it is and his sister tells him an angel is building it and when the baby Jesus comes he'll make her better. The boy doesn't believe in angels, but this starts him on a mission to find the Nativity builder and bring the baby Jesus to his sister. Along the way he learns angels are closer than he thinks. And with celestial guidance, he is able to find the one person who can save his sister.
Reader--He asks who she thinks it is and his sister tells him an angel is building it and when the baby Jesus comes he'll make her better. The boy doesn't believe in angels, but this starts him on a mission to find the Nativity builder and bring the baby Jesus to his sister. Along the way he learns angels are closer than he thinks.

For Chasing the Star:
Agent/editor--The sister meets Augustus Caesar, witnesses a chariot race, and after running for her life finds there is hope in finding her brother when she sees the star of Bethlehem. Unable to speak, the brother can't remember what happened to his parents, but after hearing the angels sing and racing to see the Christ child his memory returns. As he lays eyes on the infant he is at peace. His sister chases after the star to find her brother. Along the way, she meets the wise men, King Herod, and is given a choice to stay or go home with her brother.
Reader--The sister meets Augustus Caesar, witnesses a chariot race, and after running for her life finds there is hope in finding her brother when she sees the star of Bethlehem. Unable to speak, the brother can't remember what happened to his parents, but after hearing the angels sing and going to see the Christ child, his memory returns but doesn't know if he dares to be in Jesus's presence. Meanwhile his sister races to find her brother.

You may have noticed that for the reader not as much information has been given. And that the added information I'd give to an agent/editor could also be told to a reader. But here's the deal . . . most prospective readers don't stand still very long when an author is telling them about a novel. I don't know if it's because they are nervous, or just don't have the time or what. Some will most likely walk away after the first few sentences leave your mouth.  If I'm impressed to tell them more, I do. But it's good to have a shortened version. If the hook of your pitch has done the job, many times after the writer leaves, a prospective reader will come back and read the back cover blurb of the book. It's true. I've seen it happen time after time.

Elevator pitches need to be short, hook the person you're trying to sell your story to, and also leave them with a yearning to know more. For an agent/editor it also needs to let them know that you know what you're doing and that the story resolves.

Have you written an elevator pitch? What did you find most difficult? Do you have a tip that will help others?



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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Thanksgiving Fun

I hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving.

My holiday was filled with family and tradition. My brother, his wife, and son came to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family. We had such a great time. We had a wonderful feast on Thanksgiving Day thanks to the many people who helped with the dinner, then we went to the movies (a tradition started years ago during the Harry Potter craze), and then on Friday and Saturday we went Christmas shopping.

A highlight was Saturday night when we went downtown to Temple Square. That's where we are in the picture above. Everyone was there except my son and my brother's son. My brother and his wife took the picture. What a wonderful time and great way to kick of the Christmas season. I couldn't figure out what the white spot under by daughter's chin was, but then I thought of the necklace she was wearing. It really caught the light. Makes me wonder if it might have magical powers of some kind.

Hmm, sounds like the the beginning of a great book--a necklace with magical powers.

How was your Thanksgiving? Do you have traditions you enjoy during the holidays?

Thursday I'll post a writing tip on "the elevator pitch." What is that? Stop by Thursday and I'll explain what it is and how you can get one. ;) 


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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

This is a busy week at my house. We have family coming for the holiday, visits to friends, and, of course, the big Thanksgiving feast.

But mostly it's a time of being grateful for family, friends, and country.

One movie that we enjoy watching this time of year is Friendly Persuasion. It's reminds us of simpler times, but also how important our values are to us.

Here's a trailer of the movie. If you get the chance check it out.



 I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!!!
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Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Harbinger by Jonathan Cahn - Book Review

I just finished reading The Harbinger  by Jonathan Cahn.

On one level I'm blow away by Cahn's ability to write such a compelling fictional novel that is grounded on the scripture reference of Isaiah 9:10. He threads the story with events that happened to ancient Israel paralleled with events that has happened to America both in our history and modern day.

On another level I'm left wondering. The reader must remember this is a work of fiction, but when fiction becomes laced with facts the lines become blurry. Is that a bad thing? What do you think?

What I liked . . . this book was a compelling story that I could hardly put down. It's about a writer who is pitching a story to a publisher. That's it. So where's the action? Where's the conflict? It's in flashback and comes to light as the writer tells the publisher. It's very tricky to make a story interesting and not confusing for the reader when flashbacks make up the bulk of a novel. But Cahn's writing is clear and he does a wonderful job of keeping tension and conflict high.

You may ask, so what is the story the writer pitched? It's about an ancient mystery revolving around Isaiah 9:10 and holds the secret of America's future. The protagonist encounters a man he calls "the prophet" who sends the protagonist on a type of scavenger hunt seeking out hidden meanings behind different harbingers. I became caught up in the story and eager to learn the meaning behind each harbinger. I was always surprised.

What I didn't like . . . Cahn uses talking heads a lot. This must have been a deliberate choice on his part so the focus of the reader stayed on the plot and meaning behind the book. I don't mind it every once in a while, but then it becomes annoying because I want to see the characters talking and what they're doing. I think an opportunity to more fully flesh out the characters was lost. Also sometimes the conversations between the writer and publisher, and "the prophet" and the protagonist was frustrating and seemed to go in circles. There were times I just wanted them to say what they meant. But, of course, what's the fun in that? A good writer will sometimes frustrate the reader on purpose.

Overall, I measure a book on how much I think about it after I've finished reading it. Believe me, the story of The Harbinger stays with you for a long time. Did it blur the lines between fact and fiction and is that a bad thing? You be the judge. Do your homework and find what is fact and what is fiction.You may not agree with some of the thought provoking issues that Cahn raises, but that you're thinking about them and learning more is a good thing.

About the author: Jonathan Cahn is well known for deep study of the Scriptures and actually leads the Hope of the World ministries while also leading the Jerusalem Center/Beth Israel, which is made up of people of all backgrounds Jews and Gentiles alike. He is a Messianic Jewish believer.


 I bought my copy of this book and reviewed it because I felt the subject important.
 

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Snow . . . We Have It!!!

Winter arrived on my back porch last Friday. I love the first snowfall of the winter. Everything looks calm and white. It's magical.

 Every year when the first snowfall happens I pull out my Carpenter's Christmas CD and play it. The music reminds me of happy times during the holidays.

Hubby wasn't too thrilled because he had to shovel snow, but I think even he appreciated the snow blanket covering the landscape with winter beauty.

Because I want you to enjoy it too I took the picture above . . .

 and I'm even going to give you a little music from the Carpenters.



Do you like the first snowfall of the winter? Does it stir up memories for you?

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Thursday, November 8, 2012

Ginger Sprinkle Sour Cream Pumpkin Pie--oh my!

Yep. That's my version of Ginger Sprinkle Sour Cream Pumpkin Pie.

As promised here's my version of this yummy recipe. So you know T means tablespoon and t means teaspoon. I just wanted to be clear and draw your attention the difference. Okay, let's dive in.

The gingersnap crust:
 1 1/2 cups of gingersnaps
2 T. sugar
1/2 t. ground ginger
4 T. unsalted melted butter
pinch of salt

Put gingersnaps in the food processor along with sugar, ginger and salt. Process until fine. Put crumbs in a bowl and mix in the melted butter. Once mixed, press it into a pie plate. Bake 10 minutes at 350.

The filling:
1 15oz can of pumpkin puree
1 c sour cream
1 c sugar
1 1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. grated nutmeg (I like to grate my own)
1/4 t. ground ginger
1/4 t. ground cloves
3 eggs beaten
1 t. vanilla

Mix pumpkin puree, sour cream, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves until smooth. Then add the eggs and vanilla and whisk them into the other ingredients. Pour this wonderful goop on your previously-baked gingersnap crust and put the whole thing back into the 350 oven for 45 minutes. But check it often toward the end because it might set up a little before. It all depends on your oven and if it cooks fast or slow. Mine cooks fast so that's why I'm warning you. Once the pie is out, cool it completely before adding the topping.

The topping:
1 1/2 c heavy cream (my fav)
3/4 c powdered sugar (interesting, but believe me it works)
1/2 c sour cream

Whip the cream a little, then add the sugar and whip until peaks form, and then add the sour cream. When you have stiff peaks--and your pie is completely cooled--top your heavenly pie with this to-die-for topping. What really makes this pop is once you're done sprinkle the cream with chopped crystallized ginger. Oh my stars! If you like ginger, sour cream, and pumpkin this is the dessert for you.

(Hint: buy your crystallized ginger in bulk. I found a small bottle of already chopped crystallized ginger in the grocery store, but they wanted $12.00 for a small bottle. Yikes! I drove to my nearest Whole Foods Store and bought a half a pound for 99 cents. That's a huge savings and I was able to use all the crystallized ginger I wanted. I'm just saying...)

Enjoy!
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Thursday, November 1, 2012

Please Vote!!!

I was going to post about a delicious creamy pumpkin pie recipe, however, I looked at the calendar and realized we are only a few days away from election day.

This election is the most important election in my lifetime. And believe me, I'm old enough to have seen a lot of elections. But not long enough to remember days of voting like this drawing. This sketch is of a New York polling place long ago, but after the devastating hurricane that hit New York, they may be voting like this again.

Please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please vote!!!

I'm just saying it's vitally important. And make sure to double check your ballot. Some early voters have reported trouble with the machines. They have voted for one candidate, but when they reviewed it, the machine had marked the other candidate. SOOOOO double check.

I remember how excited I was to vote the very first time. I had to work that day, so I went after 5:00. The line went out the door, and it seemed to take forever, but what an honor and privilege it was to cast my ballot for the person I believed would be the best president.

Do you remember the first time you voted in a presidential election? 

 I won't post on Tuesday, November 6th (voting day). But Thursday I'll post about that yummy creamy pumpkin pie. The recipe is a keeper.


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