Monday, June 20, 2011

Online class: "Breaking Free From the Slush Pile"

As you all know (or maybe as you now know,) I'm a member of the Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal chapter of the RWA.  I recently took an online class I discovered through the group called "Breaking Free From the Slush Pile."  It was taught by CJ Lyons (who has a 90% response rate for her queries!!!)  Online classes such as these usually do charge a small fee, usually around $20 (with a discount if you're  a member of the host chapter.)

In this class, we had lessons on writing blurbs, pitches, and queries.  CJ defined for us elevator pitches, premise pitches, and high concept pitches.  She gave us guidance for writing our own, and gave us feedback on each.

She also gave a lesson on searching for agents (mostly "Do your research!") and what to do during an actual in-person pitch (like at a conference, or in an elevator where they can't run away when they graciously allow you to give your pitch.)  Turns out, most agents don't like being stalked.  It's a little unprofessional (not to mention creepy.)

I would very much recommend the course and the teacher (her new website on writing:  It's not just for romance, either.  I'd have to give the course an A+ for usefulness, for clarity of information, and for honest (and somehow still tactful) feedback

Here's a little teaser from the course:
A high concept pitch: combine a universal icon (coming-of-age) with a hook (of a genetic experiement).  This should ideally evoke an emotion and also draw in your listener.  For HALVES, my high concept pitch would be: The coming-of-age story of a genetic experiment.

An elevator pitch: Gives a person with ultra ADD a quick comparison between your work and something similar.  For POSEIDON'S DAUGHTER: The movie 300 meets Jean Johnson's Sons of Destiny series.  (The latter is a fantasy romance - if the agent doesn't recognize the series, there's a discernable chance he or she isn't the right agent for me.)

A note on queries: The one and only purpose of a query is to get an agent interested enough to ask for more.  It isn't to tell them the story.  It isn't to introduce the characters or teach all about your awesome world.  It's to spark enough interest that they want to read the synopsis (which does tell the main plot of the story) and then pick up the sample pages (hey look, the characters and your awesome world!)  Just give the agent enough of a blurb so that they know your writing style and what makes your book unique. 

Oh, and you should probably include one of your plots, too.  Preferably the main one.  But don't make it too confusing - the longer your query is, the less likely your overworked prospective agent is going to spend his or her time reading it.  Under 250 words is pretty much the standard.  And yes, I KNOW.  I had to slice and dice mine, too.  It was about as nerve-wracking as walking into surgery to find a doctor with shaky hands and a bottle vodka, and as fun as removing unnecessary bodyparts (such as fingers, tonsils, and that extra kidney) - but I did it, and now have an excellent query to show for the pain.  Now it's time to turn those form rejections into some requests!

Many thanks to CJ for instructing the course!