Monday, September 5, 2011

Writing and Baseball: The Pitch

BaseBall 22I usually like to compare writing to running. But today I'm comparing writing to baseball. I never played baseball as a child, unless playing with a stick bat and a rotten apple for a ball counts. Today, I'd like to talk about pitching. 


In baseball, you have the fastball, the curveball, the knuckleball, the palmball, the forkball, the screwball, and more. Now I'm not going to go into detail about what each is or how to hold the ball in your hand; I'm not qualified to do that, and some of you might possibly get very bored. But I will attempt to make a comparison.


In writing, you have the one-sentence summary, the 30-60 second elevator pitch, the twitter pitch, the query pitch, the synopsis, the jacket flap blurb, and maybe more. Here's the thing. They're all slightly different, but they all serve the same purpose. You go to your best friend's house and she says, "Hey, what's your new book about?" You don't want to bore her with all the details; that's what you want her to read the book for once it's published. She just wants an idea of what it's about. It's about a little girl who is trying to go visit her grandmother and meets a wolf in the forest on the way there. A summary. Short and sweet, maybe five to fifteen seconds.


The fastball: Either a spoken or written pitch. The one-sentence summary. Conferences in CA have had pitch sessions that had to be 25 words or less. Write On Con had a twitter pitch session (that's 140 characters or less). Twenty-five words is about the same as 140 characters. I counted. The summary written on the copyright page of most books is usually one sentence. It summarizes the whole book. Short, sweet, and to the point.


The curveball: Usually spoken. The 30-60 second elevator pitch. You can actually fit a lot of words into one minute. Like four to five sentences. Or more. In a San Francisco writer's conference, they had a Speed Dating for Agents session where writers get three minutes with an agent. The thing is, it's a give-and-take moment. You don't want to hog the whole three minutes. You want to give the agent (or your best friend) a chance to ask questions and get more info. That's why the elevator pitch is usually spoken; it's usually part of a conversation. So whether you get 30 seconds or three minutes, you still have to keep it short. Maybe 50-60 words (that's about 30 seconds, or two to three sentences).


The knuckleball: Usually written. The query pitch. This is what you would write in a query letter. One paragraph for picture books. Maybe two or three for novels. Use a hook. Draw the reader in. Show character. Show conflict. Make the reader want to know what happens. Get an editor or agent to say, "Could you please send us your manuscript?" Little Red Riding Hood is sent by her mother to deliver some food to her sick grandmother. Along the way, she encounters a wolf in the forest. When she won't talk to him, he hurries up ahead with a sneaky plan. When Little Red Riding Hood arrives at Grandmother's house, she is surprised to find her looking so differently. What will happen if the wolf lets his secret out?


The homerun: Not a pitch. This is the synopsis, a blurb, the jacket flap verbiage. But still very important. Especially necessary for novels, not really for picture books. However, reading lots of jacket flaps can be very beneficial in helping you to construct a compelling query pitch.


So...you wanna be published? You need to practice your pitching. Take - me - out - to the - ball - game! Do you think there are pitching differences? Or is it all the same thing? Have any of you had any pitching experiences you'd like to share?


Keep on keepin' on...

3 comments:

  1. Great post Christie! And if anyone needs practice, maybe you could point them toward Would You Read It Wednesday :) I'd be grateful :)

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  2. Thanks for this Christie, I am finding your site very useful. :)

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