Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Can Writing a Pitch Help You Get Unstuck from the Muddy Middle?

I think all my posts will have to do with Writing Excuses for the foreseeable future.

I'm completely addicted to them. 

They are like pretzel M&Ms. As soon as I'm done with one, I want another. 

As some of you know, I've been having a bit of a midlife crisis with my WIP. Recently I listened to a couple Writing Excuses episodes that led to not only one but two light bulb moments for me (thank goodness for those light bulbs...I'm feeling a big bright today :)

In their episode all about pitching, Brandon and his writing posse talked about the three different types of pitches. It was brilliant. I learned loads. They broke pitching down into these three types. I've learned a bit about pitching here and there over the years, but this really helped me wrap my brain around it. 

And then in their most recent episode, Janci Patterson spoke about writing contemporary YA fiction and how she writes the pitches for her novels before she even begins outlining her WIP. She didn't used to do this and then she struggled with writing the pitches. Then she realized it wasn't her pitching skills with the problem. 

It was the book. 

If you can't come up with a pitch for your novel this could be a sign your WIP has some big problems. 

Also, I thought it was really interesting to hear Janci talk about how once she writes her novel, she looks at every scene to make sure it's in line with the pitch. If it's not, out it goes.

So, I sat down to write a pitch for my WIP. I've tried my hand at this quite a few times. I have one I  wrote years ago. But I always knew it had a big problem. 

It's one sentence. 

It's pithy.

It will leave the listener with questions. 

BUT it's only interesting because it gives away the surprise ending. It's something like this...

"Introducing X, a miserable main character and wham! here's the crazy ending you didn't see coming" 

It's shocking and grabs your attention. But it's not doing what it's supposed to do. comes my light bulb moment...

That's because my middle is boring! It really is a muddy middle of slimey gunk. 

Ok. That's not completely true. There are some exciting scenes. Danger,  strange creatures and funny situations. BUT there's no focus. It's not cohesive. There's not any kind of connecting conflict. Which is also not completely true....but...oy, moving on. 

I'd come up with a compelling main character and setting. And then I'd come up with, what I think, is a great ending. And I knew my main character had stuff to learn and tools to gain through the middle, but I wasn't sure how to do it. 

So, what to do? 

I took all that advice from those episodes. I thought and thought about my WIP. I wrote and wrote and wrote different pitches. And then I thought and thought some more about what makes my story unique. What is interesting and unusual and strange about my tale? What makes it stand out from other fantasy involving magic and witches and spells?

(Another light bulb moment ahead)

There was one thing, one bit that finally smacked me upside the head. It was a part of the story that is cool and great and wonderful, but it had become kind of normal to me. I've been working on this story for years. And I hadn't really taken the time to think about how I could make this thing, this idea bigger. And grander. And better.

So, I did it. 

And I actually wrote a pitch I love. 

And the best part? Now I know what to focus on with the middle of my novel. 

It's a great day. 

(And, yes, I'm aware that some of that probably makes no sense without me actually sharing my pitches. But I'm weird and I don't want to broadcast all of that to the world just yet.)

Now I'm curious. Have you written pitches for your novel? Was it hard? Easy? Do you write them before you begin working on your book? Along the way? Or wait until you're completely finished?


  1. What a great idea! I've been outlining then writing the pitches but I might try this way first. Awesome post!

  2. Yay for light-bulb moments! Also, I hate pitches but I realize I do need to work on it.

  3. You and I could share a paddle - we're in the same boat! :)

    I've been having a really really reallllly hard time with my middle(s) lately, too. I had not thought to try a pitch, but what a great idea. I usually write mine after the fact, if I write them at all (which could be another problem all together).

    I'm doing NaNo this year, and I'm going to come up with a pitch for my idea and hang it on the wall/fridge/above the tv/and maybe even tattoo it on the back of my hand, so I don't lose sight of the main threadline of the story. Thanks!