Busan Writing Group, June 17 – Pitches, please!

This week we looked at pitches for stories – the 250-word summary of a story that a writer has to compose to get the attention of agents and publishers.

The Busan Writing Group first took a look at pitches written by one of our members. The stories looked awesome – some of them were ones we’ve run through our critique process before. The main difficulty with the pitches was the complexity – there was a lot going on, and it was difficult to boil down the most important info into 250 words.

We then looked over the most popular choices for Pitchapalooza 2015, over at the Book Doctors. Popular votes from readers favored the weird and offbeat. The key to gaining votes seemed to be setting up a weird or creepy situation right at the start, or to present an everyday situation and then have a quick twist that makes it weird.

Last, we looked over the winners of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards. These winning pitches were simple and to the point, clearly outlying what to expect in the story. When weirdness entered into these pitches, it was clearly integrated – we found we could easily understand how the unusual factors really affect the characters. This was key to any appreciation of the pitches – for fantasy or sci-fi elements to mean anything and sell the story, we have to know what those elements mean to the characters who have to deal with them.

My general takeaway from all this:

It’s damn hard to simplify a story and get the most important details across in a meaningful way. However, that is the exact skill needed for a great pitch – the skill of delivering major plot points, along with how they affect relatable characters, in a quick, simple way.

Easy to see why it’s so damn hard, huh?

 

Image from http://www.theinfluencebusiness.com/

An Interview with David Henry Sterry

chicken-10-year-anniversary-cover1

 

I had a chance to talk with David Henry Sterry – bestselling author and all-round superstar of books that help writers get it done and sell it.

I’ll let his Wikipedia entry and his own website speak for themselves.

Last week, I talked about my all-to-brief consultation with David Henry Sterry. This week, I feature the results of a quick follow-up interview with him!


 

E-mail Interview with David Henry Sterry, May 13, 2015

(Bolding mine, along with some very minor edits)

Me: I’ll have to ask this first – so what is it you do, exactly?

DHS: I am the best-selling author of 16 books, I’m also a performer & producer, as well as a book doctor. I help people in all stages of their writing career. From figuring out what book to write, to what’s the right title, to editing your book, to figuring out how to find the right agent or publisher for you, and ultimately how to get readers to buy your book.

Me: What is the writing project that currently occupies most of your time?

DHS: I’m working on a piece of epic noir that is set in San Francisco’s tenderloin. It’s all about a giant battle for who controls the underground sex business in the city that some called Baghdad by the Bay. Kind of like Game of Thrones meets The Wire.

Me: You obviously help a lot of writers – what seems to be the most common writing problem that you deal with these days?

DHS: Most writers just don’t seem to understand how to explain what’s exciting, unique, familiar, funny, educational, riveting, and valuable about their own book. They also don’t know how to do the research to find the right partner, whether it be a publisher, an agent, a reviewer, a bookstore, an online book seller, a blogger. 

Plus, so many manuscripts I read are filled with mistakes. Grammatical, spelling, plot mistakes. People don’t hire professional editors to review their work. There is this idea that it’s harder to be a brain surgeon that it is to write a great novel. That’s not true. It takes just as much time, expertise, knowledge, learning, wisdom, hard work, and perseverance to write a great book as it does to become a brain surgeon. Probably more. Because I know a couple of brain surgeons, and frankly they don’t seem that bright.

Me: Last question – What’s your top piece of advice for aspiring writers?

DHS: Read. Become an expert in your section of the bookstore. Connect with people who are going to be passionate about what you’re working on. Don’t give up. Don’t give up. Don’t give up. But be smart in your perseverance.


My thanks go out to David Henry Sterry for the quick little interview. Be sure to visit his website & check out his book Chicken: Self-Portrait of a Young Man For Rent!

 

A Consultation with David Henry Sterry

chicken-10-year-anniversary-cover1

 

I had a chance to talk with David Henry Sterry – bestselling author and all-round superstar of books that help writers get it done and sell it.

I’ll let his Wikipedia entry and his own website speak for themselves.

I was given a free 20 minute consultation with him after buying The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published from The Book Doctors.

I told him about my ongoing project. I won’t (yet) give away too many specifics, but it’s a serial fiction project that will be released in flash-fiction sized chunks. Like David Wong did with John Dies at the End, I will publish parts of it and try to gather up fans and hype as I go.

Sterry liked my idea, remarking that it is a very modern way to get published. There was nothing so wrong with the idea itself, or the concept of its release. The main problem was pitching it! After I described my story in broad terms, he had me recite my pitch for it. My pitch fell flat, to say the least!

The problem with my pitch (and so many others) is that it removed the danger and the excitement – the scope of the story from the characters’ perspectives was utterly lost! A good pitch should get into the action, in medias res, and convey the consequences for characters worth caring about.

I also learned that, along with a good pitch, artwork is essential. This is a major obstacle, since I can barely draw a stickman. I will have to hire artists for my covers – no ifs, ands, or buts. This website is overdue for some decent graphics – I’m currently talking with artists I know.

Social connections are the final key he told me about. Interviews with experts in the field are essential, and I should be running them regularly on my blog. Only through lots of good connections with writers, editors, and publishers can I hope to succeed with any writing project.

My next post, due this time next week, will tell of the best advice Sterry has to offer modern authors!