Nathan Bransford, Author


Thursday, May 13, 2010

The One Sentence, One Paragraph, and Two Paragraph Pitch

It goes without saying that people hate writing queries. Loathe! Abhor! Hiss! Some authors feel it is simply beneath their dignity to have to distill the wondrous complexity of their novel to a brief excerpt.

But as has been chronicled in the past on this blog: authors have to summarize their work. Often. Repeatedly. In a wildly diverse array of settings. So much that you start to hate your own book. Okay, not that much. But close!

Summarizing your work is part of the job description of being an author. You signed up for it the minute you typed "Chapter 1." (And yes, literary fiction types, you don't get to sail through on "oh man it's so complicated but it's really all about the writing". You have to pitch too!). Whether it's pitching a project to an editor, for film, in interviews, in everyday conversation: you'll basically spend about as much time summarizing and talking about your work as you did writing it.

And yet different situations call for different length of pitches. A query is basically a two paragraph pitch with some query-related detail. But sometimes you'll want to use a one sentence pitch (for a bio, if you're into that whole brevity thing), or a one paragraph pitch (for briefly describing in real life conversation when you don't want someone's eyes to glaze over).

My feeling: get it all out of the way at once. Save yourself the headache and come up with a one sentence, one paragraph, and two paragraph pitch before you even start to query. Then: practice and memorize your pitches. You never know when you're going to need them.

I personally think the best way of going about this is to start with the one sentence pitch: not only is it the hardest to write, it contains the essence of your book. It's the most crucial arc of your story, with all the other details stripped away - even, sometimes, character names. It can be painful to whittle it down (I don't even mention the key villain in mine), but utterly, utterly necessary.

You then build around that one sentence pitch and flesh it out with some key details in the one paragraph pitch - maybe the character names, or the most important subplot, or a few quick images that give a sense of the sensibility of your work.

With the two paragraph you have more flexibility to add still more details and can make it a bit more of a story itself.

I did this for JACOB WONDERBAR. Here are my pitches (which I have to use very very often):

One sentence: Three kids trade a corndog for a spaceship, blast off into space, accidentally break the universe, and have to find their way back home.

One paragraph: Jacob Wonderbar trades a corndog for a sassy spaceship and blasts off into space with his best friends, Sarah and Dexter. After they accidentally break the universe in a giant space kapow, a nefarious space pirate named Mick Cracken maroons Jacob and Dexter on a tiny planet that smells like burp breath. They have to work together to make it back to their street on Earth where all the houses look the same.

Two paragraph: Jacob Wonderbar has been the bane of every substitute teacher at Magellan Middle School ever since his dad moved away from home. He never would have survived without his best friend Dexter, even if he is a little timid, and his cute-but-tough friend Sarah Daisy, who is chronically overscheduled.

But when the trio meets a mysterious man in silver they trade a corn dog for his sassy spaceship and blast off into the great unknown. That is, until they break the universe in a giant space kapow and a nefarious space buccaneer named Mick Cracken maroons Jacob and Dexter on a tiny planet that smells like burp breath. The friends have to work together to make it back to their little street where the houses look the same, even as Earth seems farther and farther away.


And you know? There's no time like the present! It would be great to have more examples of these different types of pitches: Feel free to share your one sentence, one paragraph and two paragraph pitches in the comment section!






176 comments:

JohnO said...

I have real-life evidence of this, which I can back up using highly truthful math 'n' stuff. On my current book...

- No. of queries that led to requests: 2

- No. of sample pages only that led to requests: 1

- No. of mentions of one-sentence pitch that led to requests: 4

And of those 4, one wasn't even pitched at an agent or editor. I mentioned it to a fellow writer whose wife is an editor (and she requested it). THAT'S why you have a pithy summary.

So here's mine:

A VP at a global entertainment company tries to form the most lucrative band in the world -- a band that plays children's music -- then the band starts to rebel.

Beth said...

Great, timely post. I have a verbal pitch this Saturday and another one in June and I'm scared stiff. I wrote a pitch (just in case my mind goes blank) and am finalizing a query and synopsis.

I love your three-step approach of whittling down novels to one sentence, one paragrah and then two paragraphs. I'll work on that.

Fingers and toes crossed fpr everyone who is pitching right now. Deep breaths and anti-anxiety pills (I even had hives). I'm a wreck but will pull it together.

I'll be querying you in a few weeks, Nathan!

April Wendy Hollands said...

Great advice, Nathan. I hadn't thought to memorise pitches, but it makes utter sense. Not sure I'd want to memorise a two-paragraph one though, as, when reading through yours, I just couldn't hear myself saying it without sounding like it was read. I think some verbal additives would be needed, don't you?

Nathan Bransford said...

april-

Yeah, when you get to the two paragraph one it's more important to paraphrase it or else it sounds rehearsed. What's works on the page doesn't always sound good read out loud, and vice versa.

Perry said...

great post - now I want to read the book. That's what it's supposed to do right?

Mesmerix said...

I use Randy Ingermanson's Snowflake Method for all my writing. It starts with the 1 sentence hook and builds out to a full synopsis, outline, and finally, the novel. I love it because when I'm done with the novel, I already have my pitches. Granted, there is so much revision along the way, but this system really works for me.

joannehuspek said...

Great post, but I hope someday you touch upon the 2-5 page synopsis. That's the killer for me.

Emily White said...

Your pitches are great! I'm still working on my one paragraph and two paragraph pitches, myself. Usually, I decide after a week or two that I no longer like what I'd come up with.

However, I have settled on my one sentence pitch. Here it is!

Nathadria is weak, half-starved, and clumsy...and destined to kill a god.

Ishta Mercurio said...

Great post, and great pitches! Thanks for sharing your three pitches for JACOB WONDERBAR with us; it helped to see how you started with something very pared-down, then expanded upon it, then really fleshed it out.

I haven't gotten to the stage with any of my novel projects where I've written a pitch for them, but maybe I should, as a planning and plot-strengthening exercise.

Dave said...

Here's my one-paragraph pitch for a picture book:

Norval takes pride in his tidy farm. His meadow-like hayfields and straight rows of corn are the envy of all his neighbors. But trouble lurks when Norval’s cows find a strange weed sprouting on the pasture. Though they find the weed tasty, after munching the scrumptious plant, Norval’s cows develop an embarrassing problem. Instead of milk, they’re making bubbles.

John said...

True, Snowflake Method FTW.

My first couple of books were FBTSOMP (fly by the seat of my pants) style.

Then I started coming up with premises and writing one-sentence hooks for them to see if they sounded different enough to hook anyone.

After the hook sentence, I'd write a query. After that, the synopsis.

I did it this way before finding the Snowflake method which is actually a bit more rigid than my method, but it seems a very effective approach.

The difference with me is I usually write the first 30-50pp after the synopsis and see how I feel about everyhing. I make sure the story starts where it should, etc. and polish the pages a bit.

Then if it feels right to me, I'll flesh out the synopsis a bit more and continue writing pages.

At this point, I also know the genre, rough word count, and other marketable info that'll be necessary for an agent to know.

I know a lot of people feel they have this story inside that needs to be let out. The characters, they say, will take control and develop the story.

I used to think that way worked ok, but if the story is in you, you probably have a vague notion of the important factors and what leads to the end. I think it's important to have that skeleton frame otherwise you might end up with a huge mess of plotholes, sinkholes, and empty characters.

Jane Harmony said...

Great post and good timing! I've been thinking about this a lot, because friends have been asking me, "What's it about?" So, out of necessity, I've had to condense it down to a sentence. This has also had some unexpected benefits in the rewriting process. I'm able to see what is really important about the story and what needs to be taken out in the interest of simplicity and more powerful writing. So - here's mine:

With no memory of her royal childhood in an enemy country, Ivolet finds her loyalty - and her love - torn in two different directions when she is forced to return to the land of her birth.

(Haha, I thought I had a one-sentence, but then I realized it was three - more like a one paragraph. So it was some on the fly cutting/editing here in the comment box!)

Remus Shepherd said...

I was lucky enough to get a chance to pitch to an editor at a con last month. I already had a one-sentence pitch (a 'log line'), and the two-paragraph pitch I took from my query, but the one-paragraph pitch I don't have.

Nathan, you've already seen the query, but I'll show you the one sentence pitch: "Girl genius as a double agent in the League of Extraordinary Psychopaths."

lisanneharris said...

You've done an amazing job of capturing my attention with all three of your pitches. It's a good thing you're an agent or you'd be wasting your talent.

katharrmann said...

Great post ... I never thought of coming up with several pitches of various lengths. Good stuff.

Richard Mabry said...

Nathan,
Excellent advice. I've done a number of book signings recently, and the question I'm asked most frequently is "What's the book about?" That's where the elevator pitch comes in handy. (The second most frequent question is generally about the location of the rest room).

Amanda said...

Eek! Summaries and pitches make me nervous. :/ Thanks for the post because there really can't be too much advice on the subject.

Here are the best I've got right now:

One sentence (which is awful, I know):

Homeless teenager Delilah Cruz is finally given the opportunity to have a real life, but the streets won't release her from its grasp easily.

One paragraph:

Homeless teenager Delilah Cruz fights every day to simply survive. When a stranger intervenes during an confrontation with the neighborhood pimp, Delilah is handed the tools she needs to really live - if she'll use those tools is a completely different story.

Two paragraphs:

Homeless teenager, Delilah Cruz, spends most of her days attempting to stay out of the clutches of the neighborhood pimp, Elijah, and just trying to keep her head above water. The loss of the only things she owns could mean having to rely on Elijah for survival, which is something she’s sworn never to do. Delilah has no idea that a simple intervention by a stranger could be her ticket out.

But leaving the streets isn’t as easy as it might look on the surface. She feels pulled back to her old life when the new one gets difficult – learning the truth about her family, trying to make sense of the new feelings she's having, and discovering how far a close friend has fallen. Delilah questions if she’s meant for a normal life, after all.

andrea said...

Wish you'd posted this several months ago! Sigh. :-)

Since announcing my book was getting published, I've been asked multiple times a day what it's about. I've shared so many different versions of my pitch with people I run into, I'm now confused with who's heard what. :-)

Glad you shared yours - that'll help a ton.

Miriam S. Forster said...

Ooo, this looks fun! I don't have a two paragraph pitch for my being-revised project yet, but here are the others.

Sentence: An overachieving high school student dies, comes back as a kitten, and has to figure out a way to fix it and be human again.

One Paragraph: When overachieving Becca Waverly hits a patch of black ice and spins into a pond, she doesn't expect to wake up as a kitten, living in her ex-boyfriend, Matt's house. Her only way out is to switch bodies with someone who can hear her, and the only person available is Gina, the wheelchair-bound new kid at school. But Becca can't control everything, and when Gina and Matt start to connect, it looks like Becca will stay a kitten forever.

Hey, that was fun! I'm going to go write the two paragraph one now. :)

Lisa said...

Nice.

Here's my one sentence pitch:

When a seventeen-year-old girl, working at an inn catering to supernatural creatures, stumbles across a dead pixie in the hallway, she's got to find the killer in order to save the family business...and her own life.

You've seen the query! Ha! =)

lisanneharris said...

Well, that's weird. It looks like I posted twice, but I really didn't, unless you include this post. (~,~) Sorry for clogging up the "net waves."

Wendy Qualls said...

Two paragraphs:

Brandon Jarvis has dedicated his life – and his security consulting business – to protecting people. When he causes Allison Epworth to break her arm while trying to help him move his little sister into her dorm, he extends that protection to her. Whether she wants it or not.

But Allison’s done with protective men – even Brandon. And if Brandon doesn’t like that she’s headed to Mongolia to do some research for her thesis – and bringing his little sister with her – well he’s just going to have to deal with his disappointment. The question is, [pithy question I haven’t perfected yet]?

I'm completely at a loss for how to condense this down to one paragraph or one sentence, though!

Holly said...

Holy cow, Nathan. Your book sounds great. The burp breath did it for me, plus I grew up on the street where all the houses look the same, too.

Nathan Bransford said...

wendy-

That's why I think it's easier to start with one sentence, rather than condensing from a bigger paragraph. Rather than trying to figure out what to keep/omit from a longer summary, I think it's easier to try and just start with a very basic description of the novel and build from there.

Patty said...

Great post, Nathan... does anyone else find it easy to fill a scroll but impossible to write one sentence? I think I was the only student whose term papers exceeded the page length requirements.

Here's my one sentence for current WIP. Critique away:

A former juvenile delinquent starts senior year at a new school, under a new name, and finds it's impossible to escape his past.

Perle said...

Thanks for sample. Here's mine for
Murder is a Primary Color. Opinion?

A real Bewitched, Jade Kenion and a Sam Spade wannabe, Lt. James Jeffries of Mayax Law Enforcement, join forces to solve a series of anomalous murders in a post 2012 world.
Perle

Mesmerix said...

After reading some of the pitches, I really think the best 1-sentence hooks come from using *specifics* that set your idea off from the rest. You have to be able to tell the who and the conflict precisely.

For instance, here's my Hook:
"A rookie detective investigates a link between homicide case files and confronts the agents of Good and Evil."

Now, I'm not saying it's great or anything, but it's specific about who my protagonist is (a rookie homicide detective) and what the conflict is (there's a killer and supernatural Good vs. Evil things are involved). I don't think a hook needs any more information than who/conflict.

Thoughts?

Tamara Narayan said...

One Line Pitch:

A young girl is kidnapped, and instead of destroying her life, the crime saves her and hundreds of others.

One Paragraph Pitch:

When coed JODIE BELAY kidnaps a young girl, FBI agent JOEL DEANGELIS doesn’t stop her. DeAngelis belongs to the Guardian Project—an FBI subdivision that secretly monitors people with ESP who prevent disasters. By taking Melody Miller, Jodie saves the child from dying alongside her father in a horrific car bombing. Nevertheless, the kidnapping polarizes the Guardian Project. While DeAngelis believes Jodie’s ESP will lead them to a stolen cache of explosives, his nemesis demands Jodie’s arrest. Because if it takes a kidnapping to save a child, what crime will Jodie commit to stop a major bombing?

My two paragraph pitch is still three paragraphs--too long to post here. Back to the drawing board.

heather said...

These were my one line and two paragraph pitches. Were, because I believe I now have a new main character. Just a switcheroo of two different main characters, but the pitch will read different by the time I finish.

(okay, I was just really excited to post something on here. hopefully it's not super sucktastic!)

~heather


Single mom finds love and excitement when fate leads her into the life and arms of an unusual stranger and his dangerously frightening reality.

Kate is tired of being alone. A single mom of two, her dating life is a joke, and it's getting old until Wyatt, every fairytale's stereotype, walks into her life and sweeps her off her feet. But they've each left out key details of their lives, and things get hairy as Kate finds herself thrust in the middle of the dark secret of his existence.

Enter Nathan, Wyatt's best friend and harborer of his own frightening truth, who comes along just in time to help Kate deal with the circumstances of her new life. Wyatt's past invades his present when Kate's boys are kidnapped and an old love arrives with a warning. The children are now at the center of a centuries old vendetta that started with the controversy surrounding Wyatt's birth. It's up to Wyatt to save the boys, but he'll have the help of his friends and a new ally he never expected.

Steve Anderson said...

Great post and comments. Anyone who's had to pitch face to face understands immediately what works and what doesn't. Like any writer I loathe putting these together, but they really do help you tell your tale -- and also zero in on weaknesses in your story that might need revision.

Here's one sentence for my historical crime thriller The Liberator:

An American captain in occupied Germany aims to solve a torture-murder but the clues lead him straight to his mentor, a corrupt US colonel.

It's got to be conversational. Try saying it to friends or, worse yet, to strangers -- or, gasp, record yourself. It's the worst thing ever, but you'll fix things up real quick after that.

One way to look at it: Your story is a river, with a current heading toward your ending. Everything that rises above water or descends below the river bed are the highs and lows of your story and could be mentioned. The rest, in the water, are all those details you should probably leave out.

An easy way to think of these, if no one's mentioned it before here, is like the jacket blurb(s) on a book.

I could go on -- I both loathe and love this topic, but I'll leave others to it.

Thanks for the fine blog,
Steve

Jill said...

Aargh! Can't do it! Here's my best shot:

A thirty-three year-old mother of two draws on her strengths to survive being taken hostage in the rainforest of Chiapas, only to find she is utterly unequipped to survive the media’s fascination with her once she returns home.

It sounds like a movie blurb from the back pages of a TV Guide! *grumble*

I'm also participating in Rick Daley's query challenge -- I'm finding it much easier to pull a query letter out of thin air than extract a sentence from a novel.

V said...

I must be weird. Not only do I like writing pitches, I find them helpful when working on the novel. (They function as a very condensed outline.)

Here are the pitches for my science fiction murder mystery work in progress.

-----------------------
Dr. Freja Hobarth is an itinerant physician and reluctant spy who gets drawn into a murder investigation.

-------------------------
Dr. Freja Hobarth, an itinerant physician and a reluctant spy, forgot herself and volunteered information. She proved a murder suspect innocent when everyone assumed he was guilty. Now, she is far from any backup and surrounded by aliens, ill wishers and suspicious persons while being forced to help solve a murder.


----------------
Dr. Freja Hobarth is an itinerant physician, an ex-forensic specialist and a reluctant spy who forgot the first rule of survival. She volunteered. Freja is forced into solving a murder because she proved the main suspect was innocent. Now she is surrounded by aliens, ill wishers and suspicious persons.

Freja's medical ship is impounded until she can help the United Planetary Fleet's Special Inquisitor Xian Brannigan solve a case of murder, false identities, theft and betrayal. Freja must figure out who to trust with the truth, when to tell lies and what secrets should be kept or revealed.

MJR said...

this seems to be the zeitgeist today--Betsy Lerner is also inviting people to try out their one-sentence pitches on her blog...

I'm not brave enough yet to do this, but I'll definitely work on it...it forces me to figure out what my novel is really about...

Jacqueline said...

One sentence. That’s great advice Nathan. I think I can write one sentence and take it from there. Especially after reading what you did with Jacob Wonderbar. It’s a great example, how you add details and specifics as you move towards the two paragraphs. Loved it! Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing, Nathan. Having 4 names in the 1 and 2 paragraph versions seems a bit outside the suggested box, at least for queries. Is this something you did to provide more detail, or are the pitch and queries addressed at different angles?

Barbara Martin said...

This is timely for me as I'm in the process of sending out queries.

Here's my one sentence.

In a quaint little town in the North Cascades, an FBI agent is discreetly investigating a spate of murders, disappearances, and rapes that seem linked to a man whose DNA is not, strictly speaking, human.

Leslie said...

The best advice I ever got on constructing a one-sentence pitch came from author Lisa Scottoline, who ran a seminar I attended a couple of years ago. She directed everyone to the NYT book review, which contains a one-sentence summary of every book on the best seller list. I practiced putting my WIP into that format and it worked beautifully.

Rowenna said...

This might sound crazy, but I wrote a short pitch/summary before finishing the novel I'm working on now, during the draft stages. Obviously it isn't set in stone, but it does wonders for keeping you focused!

Jayme Allen said...

*Gulp* Here's my one-liner for an adventurous MG:

When a dorky neighbor boy gets kidnapped by gorillas, twelve-year old Hannie Bunker only has a few days to rescue him from an evil zookeeper (who has a habit of stealing brainwaves from children).

Nathan Bransford said...

anon-

Without naming the characters it becomes difficult to describe who does what in the plot. In my case it's just Jacob and Dexter who get marooned (which is one of the most important plot points), and that's difficult to describe without naming them in the pitch. But if my plot were different I probably wouldn't name everyone because it does make for a paragraph that can be a bit hard to track.

J. T. Shea said...

So Jacob goes easy on the regular teachers?
I love writing queries! I could write them all day long. One of my favorite pastimes. Oh, you mean write them and SEND them?
Seriously, I do like summarizing my work, at least for my own sake. It keeps me on track. So here goes. Sort of Shortish Single Sentence Summary (SSSSS):-
'A teenage boy joins a great expedition on an ocean liner, across the monster-infested seas of a little explored planet, and up an immense jungle river, in search of a fabulous lost city.'
The peculiar structure and pushy (but accurate) adjectives are deliberate. Paragraphs coming up!

Portia said...

Awesome post! I've been working on mine in preparation for a conference a month from now. The best ones sound like they were so easy to write. Applause to all of those who've shared yours here. Here's my latest version:

A young teacher facing false charges of sexual misconduct seeks safe haven at her aunt's isolated Missouri farmhouse–and finds a stalker waiting.

Ishta Mercurio said...

This post has inspired me to work out my pitches for the novel I'm currently focusing my energy on! I'm still working on them (LOTS of outlining going on right now), but in the meantime here's my pitch for a PB for 6-8 yr-olds that I have out on submission at the moment:

When Penelope's huge hair draws unwanted attention, she tries all sorts of things to hide it - until she realizes that focusing on her strengths is a better path towards self-acceptance.

Kathryn Packer Roberts said...

How's this?

--When ancient philosophers hid a higher knowlege from the world, did they know Christian Lewis would find out their secret hiding place within his own school library?--

Okay, I still need to work on that =)but great practice exercise!

Ishta Mercurio said...

J.T: "SSSSS"

LOL!

Carole said...

Although my genre is different from most of your readers, I find the assignment to good to pass up.

One Sentence: Jamie Lake is pulled into a world of intrigue when given the horrible news that an old high school friend has been murdered and she is the only person with a motive.

Paragraph: Jamie Lake is pulled into a world of intrigue when given the horrible news that a dear friend from high school has been murdered. Before she has time to process her feelings, she learns that she inherits her friend’s estate and is catapulted into the number one suspect to the murder. Jamie’s hunt for the murderer stretches her skill set as a pastor’s wife to the brink.

Two Paragraphs: Jamie Lake is pulled into a world of intrigue when given the horrible news that a dear friend from high school has been murdered. Before she has time to process her feelings, she learns that she inherits her friend’s estate and is catapulted into the number one suspect to the murder.

Jamie’s hunt for the murderer stretches her skill set as a pastor’s wife to the brink. In a matter of days she faces two very dangerous enemies who will stop at nothing to keep their secrets safe. As she closes in on the killer, the killer closes in on her.

Kristin Laughtin said...

You have a good point on why it's best to craft the one-sentence pitch first. I usually work backward, finding it easier to pare down, then pare down again, until I can capture the essence of the thing in one simple statement. Regardless of which method you choose, it's definitely best to do it soon after writing, so that you always have the pitches ready.

Ben Carroll said...

GREAT post. this was tough tough tough. (long comment coming up)

One sentence:

Two boys must shield their unique friendship against one pretty girl, two car crashes, and 26 people dressed like the undead.

One paragraph:

David and Fenton–an unlikely pair—have one last summer together before university, and they’ve got plans for it. But a stolen camera, a pretty girl and some surprising exam results put the one thing they’ve always taken for granted—each other—under threat. They must do what they can in the face of a washed-up novelist, the love of noise-punk, and 26 people dressed as the undead, to decide what matters most to each of them.

Two paragraphs:

David knows painting is easier than people, and Fenton knows impressing people in the easiest thing in the world. Neither of them are quite sure, looking back, how they ended up such close friends. All they know is they have one last summer together before university, and they’re determined to make it count.

But when it kicks off with a car crash, a gap opens up between them. Soon a stolen camera, a pretty girl and some surprising exam results wedge the crack wider, and they are forced to decide how much they really need each other. But it’s hard to think clearly over the clamour of a washed-up novelist, the rise of noise-punk, and 26 people dressed as the undead—not to mention the growing fear that everything will end, like it started, with a car crash.



I thought about adding 'a snapshot of youth, potential and companionship' at the end of the one sentence... thus making it two sentences. not sure.

Luc Reid said...

A couple of posters up-page have mentioned the Snowflake method, which also came to my mind as I read this post (which, as with mostly all of the posts here, I was grateful to read: thanks, Nathan!).

For anyone who might not be familiar with it, the Snowflake Method is a pretty popular and intriguing approach to novel writing that starts with a one-sentence summary and expands from there to a paragraph, then a one-page summary per major character, etc. Instead of writing the novel off the cuff, you kind of build it out. It's like making rock candy.

Snowflake Method deviser Randy Ingermanson lays the whole thing out here: http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/art/snowflake.php

D. G. Hudson said...

Thanks for the solid information on crafting pitches in different formats. The simple sentence is the most difficult to write, but can be the most useful tool for marketing our writing.

This post has prompted me to refine my earlier attempts at summarizing my novel. I may be pitching it at a local writers' conference later in the year.

Emily Anderson said...

I have this strange habit of making books sound unappetizing when describing them. I don't why, so people are pleasantly surprised when they read them? So I don't sound like I'm selling something? Because I like people thinking I'm a quirky nerd? I'm not quite sure, but it makes it very hard to write a pitch. And I used to be a copywriter. I should be able to do this, but I can't, not when it's me I'm selling and I can't rely on personality to fill in the gaps. So thanks for the kick in the pants. I need to figure out how to do this thing I hate with a passion.

treeoflife said...

Hi Nathan, it's funny how the little details stick in ones head... I love how you describe Sarah as "chronically overscheduled." Even as my eyes read on into the second paragraph, I kept on thinking about what Miss Overscheduled would be like.

That's a great description.

Bronwyn Scott-McCharen said...

Great post Nathan! And yes, whoever mentioned the Snowflake Method was right on! That really helped me with the 1 sentence and 1 paragraph pitch for my WIP.

Here's my 1 sentence pitch: An unassuming young woman watches as Argentina’s Dirty War claims the lives of her closest friends.

Here's the paragraph pitch: Four girls befriend one another at the prestigious Colegio Nacional de Buenos Aires—the radical Julia, the romantic Irene, the outspoken Liliana, and the bookish Victoria. When Julia is killed while agitating for revolution in northwestern Tucumán, the remaining friends are devastated. However, they are unaware that Julia’s death is merely a precursor to the savage violence that is to come. A few months after a military coup, which overthrows the government of Isabel Martínez de Perón, a pregnant Irene and her boyfriend Horacio disappear. Incensed, Liliana decides to speak out against the brutality of the military, while Victoria, fearing for her life in such a climate of fear, remains silent. After Liliana disappears, Victoria leaves Buenos Aires, and only returns in 2005, after more than two decades.

Mary McDonald said...

One sentence: Wrongly imprisoned as an enemy combatant, the last thing Mark Taylor wants to do after release is save the life of the bastard who interrogated him, but his ability to see the future means he must, or allow innocent people die as well.

J. T. Shea said...

Two shortish paragraphs:-
‘Two great expeditions race across the oceans and jungles of a little-explored planet in search of a fabulous lost city. The Axist Empire sends three thousand trained and disciplined soldiers and airmen in a fleet of giant armed airships, with submarines and armed trawlers as back-ups.
‘A similar number of civilian volunteers from the city state of Usavia race against the Axists, also armed to their proverbial teeth, but with little training and less discipline, as Usavia has no regular army, navy or air-force. What Usavia does have is the 80,000 ton ocean liner Colossus, the boundless enthusiasm of amateurs, lots of ammo, and Jimmy Fort. Sixteen year old Jimmy strives to join the Usavian expedition, stay on it, and survive it. A liner load of trigger-happy lunatics, and they’re the good guys!’

Eric said...

Oldfangled

Carl H. Petnoy is old, frail, longing for a retirement that seems will never come, and a werewolf.

Calliopenjo said...

Hi Nathan,

You happened upon a subject I need the most help with. Granted these change every time I write them. I hope for the better. Would somebody let me know if they don't sound right?

Here goes:
Sentence: Injured, Empress Belphoebe finds the homestead of a healer, where not only her body heals but her heart heals as well.

Paragraph: Empress Belphoebe of Titilayo left Medaya needing answers. Why were the supplies dwindling? What to do about the slave uprising? Where were the supplies coming from? She flew away to a northern island thought to be uninhabited. It is there she finds the answers to the questions she knows, and the answer to the question only her heart asks.

Two Paragraph: Empress Belphoebe of Titalayo leaves her home on Medaya needing answers to issues of slavery, the dwindling supplies, and where the supplies are coming from.

Before Clarine settles down for the night, she does inventory of her current healing supplies. Upon hearing a noise, she ignores it believing it to be her imagination. Hearing it again, she opens the door to begin her search to find the answer leaning against her door jam. Clarine helps to heal the stranger's wound and at the same time healing the missing part of her heart.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

When you're pitching the editor and agent, or chatting them up in the bar, it never hurts to mention what you're working on with the one sentence pitch. The feedback can be invaluable for WIPs.

Here's mine:

A Christian soldier and a Wiccan eco-terrorist fight to stop a crusade over a mysterious, new Holy Land.

Andrea said...

The one sentence is hard. My book is two different stories switching off each chapter, then later coming together.

ryan field said...

Great post.

I like the once sentence pitch. It's different from a tag line, but once you get it right it could help you write a decent tag line.

Corey said...

This was the push I needed. I had lately found myself asked "So what's your book about?" and fumbling around for a reply.

Mike Martinez said...

What an interesting exercise! Let's see here...

Sentence: An astronaut on Mars discovers a journal detailing a fantastical alternate universe where sailing ships voyage between planets -- a universe that could come crashing down on ours!

Paragraph: An astronaut on Mars makes an improbable discovery -- a journal detailing an alternate universe in which sailing ships voyage between planets and alchemy is the science of the day. As the astronaut and her colleagues plumb the journal's secrets, strange events on the Martian surface echo the journal's narrative. Is the journal a herald of an impending clash of universes, and will an ancient evil be freed amongst the chaos?

Two-paragraph: A disgruntled astronaut on a backwater Martian mining colony makes an unusual discovery on the rust-red surface: a journal detailing a fantastical alternate 18th century in which sailing ships voyage between planets and alchemy is the science of the day. In it, she discovers a tale of intrigue, murder and swashbuckling adventure as the HMS Daedalus sails in search of a murderous mad alchemist bent on freeing an ancient Martian from its mystical prison.

Yet as the astronaut and her colleagues plumb the journals secrets and investigate its mysterious appearance, strange seismic events on the Martian surface echo events detailed in the journal. Does the alchemist's scheme reach beyond one universe and into ours? And will heroes from two centuries and two universes be able to stop an ancient evil from being freed?

Anonymous said...

Dave, I LOVE your paragraph!

And many others!

(I forgot how middle school is composed of so many embarrassing and silly bodily factors like burping and bubbles! Oh the giggles of my seven year old daughter and her chess club boy-buddy about buggers in the back seat of our car one drive to a tournament (where she gave a twelve year old a run for his money!!))

Wow, this is a GREAT exercise. I'm not going to post mine here, but yes, I start to get it as I play and all the fine examples are very helpful.

Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I meant boogers.

Patty said...

Here's another shot at mine:

Over-zealously prosecuted as a sex offender for cyberbullying, a teen hiding behind a new identity must risk his anonymity to prevent a classmate from making an even bigger mistake.

Which one do you all like better?

Katt said...

Okay, here's an attempt at the one sentence...

Jordan helps people hide and Delia is about to mess things up royally by finding them.

h

J. T. Shea said...

Interesting sentences and paragraphs.
Emily White, your short single sentence about Nathadria sounds intriguing. Don’t over-critique it.
Good advice from Steve Anderson. The middle section of my story enfolds on a river, literally! But headed upstream to the source instead of down. Movie director Stanley Kubrick used a similar metaphor, saying that good movie stories have about eight ‘unsinkable units’, maybe two per act.
Eric’s oldfangled werewolf sounds like crotchety fun.
Ishta, my sibilance may be triggered by the snakes in my story. Sea snakes five hundred feet long, to be exact. They swallow sailors, passengers, lifeboats, an airplane and a torpedo, but they don’t actually hiss. Must add hissing...

Lydia Sharp said...

Yays! I love sharing. :) Great post! Here is my contribution (and it's not quite polished yet--still a work in progress--so be kind):

One paragraph (sort of)

SUMMER HOAX is a Young Adult (anti)Romance about finding friendship, losing faith, and coping with unrequited love.

The summer between sophomore and junior year, Diana Atkins agrees to play the fake girlfriend of Ben Attillio, a gay classmate who asks her to help protect his "Italian Stallion" reputation until he decides how to come out of the closet. But by the end of their elaborate summer hoax, Diana realizes that the lie has become truth--she's fallen in love with him--and now she must figure out how to endure their planned break-up without it breaking her heart.

Helen DeWitt said...

Jonathan Littell says this isn't his job.

Ms. C. said...

Nathan,

Does it still count as one sentence if you use a semicolon? :)

Here's my attempt:

When a thirteen-year-old girl seeks refuge from an evil emperor by fleeing to a moon colony, she hopes to make some new friends; instead, she makes trouble.

Claire King said...

Nathan, thanks. You just did the literary equivalent of breaking a dream. Really. Thanks.

Marilyn Peake said...

Very cool that you offered examples of your pitches for JACOB WONDERBAR! I love your writing style, and plan to buy a copy when it’s published. Are you going to have signed copies available for purchase?

Here are my pitches for THE FISHERMAN’S SON, the first novel in my trilogy of middle grade fantasy novels, published by a small indie press:

ONE SENTENCE PITCH:

On the back of a magical dolphin guide, twelve-year-old Wiley O’Mara travels deep beneath the ocean where he finds a map and sword, slays a dragon beast, and rescues six boys trapped within a submerged city of marble and gold.

ONE PARAGRAPH PITCH:

Wiley O’Mara’s mother dies from fever passing through their village while his father’s away on an alcoholic binge. Entering a forbidden forest to find a priest in the neighboring village, Wiley begins a journey that eventually leads to a magical dolphin guide and his own destiny to rescue six boys trapped within an ancient city under the ocean.

TWO PARAGRAPH PITCH:

Wiley O’Mara’s mother dies from fever passing through their village while his father’s away on an alcoholic binge. Entering a forbidden forest to find a priest in the neighboring village, Wiley begins a journey that eventually leads to a magical dolphin guide and his own destiny to rescue six boys trapped within an ancient city under the ocean.

In the forest, Wiley encounters several mythical beings including Lucinda, a beautiful fairy godmother. She offers him a golden goblet inscribed with the words, "Drink deeply by land or sea. Earth comes only once." Showing him visions within an enchanted moonlit lake, she tells him that "Destiny is bigger than what you can understand at the moment," and instructs him to go to the ocean in summer and wait for the dolphin that will recognize the goblet. The scenery and culture of Wiley’s island resemble Ireland at the beginning of the nineteenth century. The ancient city has much in common with ancient Greece and Rome and the legendary Atlantis.

Terry Stonecrop said...

I always learn much better by reading examples, so thanks for this.

Rick Chesler said...

Absolutely true. My novel debuts on the 25th, and by now I think I've spent more time summarizing it in various formats and dishing out those pre-written summaries than I did writing it (and it took me a looooong time to write).

Erika Robuck said...

Someone once told me when I try to write the elevator pitch, pretend I'm at a dinner party describing a movie I'd like to see to the group. It helped tremendously. As did this post. As always.

Phoenix said...

Ooh, fun. For my plot-driven near-future thriller, SECTOR C:

Sentence
Cloning Ice Age mammoths and saber-tooth cats for canned hunts seems like a good business venture -- until it reintroduces the species-jumping pandemic that wiped out the megabeasts 8,000 years ago.

Paragraph
Triple E Enterprises offers clients the chance to hunt once-extinct animals on the plains of North Dakota. When people and livestock in the area start dying, CDC investigator Mike Shafer and veterinarian Donna Bailey team to find out why. Their search for Patient Zero leads to the Triple E geneticists who have developed a possible cure they intend to sell to foreign interests. To prevent the potentially life-saving research from going offshore, Mike and Donna must face down Triple E's hostile attempts to stop them, a raging wildfire set by arsonists, and a group of panicked megabeasts.

Two paragraphs
Triple E Enterprises offers clients a chance to hunt exotic wildlife on the plains of North Dakota -- including the elite package in Sector C: exclusive specimens from the Pleistocene. When people and livestock in the area start dying at an alarming rate, CDC investigator Mike Shafer teams with veterinarian Donna Bailey to find out why. Their search for Patient Zero leads to the Triple E compound where they discover the company is about to capitalize on the pandemic it unleashed by selling a possible cure to a Sino-Pakistani pharmaceutical that doesn't have U.S. interests at heart.

To prevent the potentially life-saving research from going offshore, Mike and Donna must face down Triple E's hostile attempts to stop them, a raging wildfire set by arsonists, and a group of panicked megabeasts inadvertently released from Sector C. But even if they do succeed, it may already be too late.

Elaine AM Smith said...

OK - one hour (and a year, or so) later:

Jess strays the wrong side of stalker status, realises the boy she obsesses over belongs to a non-genotypical subspecies and decides, when it comes to love, differences don't matter.

Heidi J. Johns said...

Okay...deep breath...here goes...:

ONE SENTENCE:
When the Norse god world collides with a Montana cowboy community, four teens discover that more than just the fate of Yellowstone National Park is at stake.

ONE PARAGRAPH:
When twins Iven and Olivia Taylor show up at Mia Holden’s Montana high school near Yellowstone National Park, they set loose the turbulent world of Norse mythology -- a place where gods reign, giants destroy, best friends lie, and worlds end. Oh, and where love between humans and gods is forbidden. Which is a problem. Especially when Mia discovers what her best friend has known his entire life.


TWO PARAGRAPHS:
When twins Iven and Olivia Taylor move to Mia Holden’s Montana cowboy community, not only is the turbulent world of Norse mythology set loose, but Iven and Mia are thrown into a relationship hindered by murderous Frost Giants, jealous Norse gods, and, perhaps scariest of all, High School.

As the end of the Norse god world looms and Frost Giants threaten to destroy Yellowstone National Park, Iven and Mia find that risking their lives is nothing compared to risking their hearts in a place where love between humans and gods is forbidden. Especially as Mia discovers what her best friend, Tait, has known his entire life.


MY FAVORITE (BUT PROBABLY NOT THE BEST) ONE SENTENCE:
Mia’s prince is really a Norse god, and the end of the world is ruining her happily ever after.

****

I'd love to hear any thoughts on these. Thanks!

RB said...

What a great post, Nathan. Thanks! You give us all courage.

Here's my stab at the one-sentence spiel...

An extraordinary girl is thrown into a maze of conspiracies when a dark angel believes she's the key to launch the end of days; to survive, she must put her trust in the 1500 year old knight who has haunted her dreams for years.

OK, so it's really two sentences strung together. I cheated - just a little. :)

Anna L. Walls said...

Ok I know you made a comment just for me yesterday. My email says it's 4 minutes old but I swear, I popped over here as soon as I saw it. 79 people beat me to it - sigh

Sarah Scotti-Einstein said...

I'm terribly confused about how to craft these pitches for memoir. Do I use my name as if it were a character name, write it in the first person, acknowledge the genre in the single sentence version?

Kathryn Magendie said...

I've finally just taken to saying simply "it's an Appalachian family saga . . ." and if the person who asked "what's your book about" wants more or prompts me for more, then I tell them a little bit more . . . but sometimes really they don't want to know what the book is about, but are just being polite, or sometimes they are really asking "should I buy your book?"

If they are just being polite, the "appalachian family saga" is enough - if they are really asking "should I buy your book" then they'll want more.

Of course, this wouldn't apply to "pitches" but only to general conversations.

It took me a long time to recognize that a little bit goes a long way, that long stuttering explanations of books bores the snot out of me and they bore the snot out of everyone else. :)

I really enjoy your blog.

Irene said...

This is such a good idea because my book (Sisters on the Fly) comes out next week and I'm finding that most radio and TV producers want a short (paragraph or two) pitch. Nothing long. Nothing elaborate. I dusted off my elevator pitch, added a little and there it is. Useful information. Thank you, Nathan.

Ideas Man, Ph.D. said...

Behind Closed Doors (which despite billing itself as literary fiction has a plot)

One Sentence: Everyone thinks they know exactly why Isaac Smith was murdered, but they're all wrong.

One Paragraph: Everyone knew Isaac Smith had it coming to him, but why did he die in such a pedestrian way? He'd gained notoriety for publishing the secrets of the Mormon temple ceremony, dwelling in particular on the gruesome ritual suicide promised by anyone who revealed those secrets. So why the boring bullet-ridden body? Does it have anything to do with his insistence that the real secret of the temple is that there is no secret, that nothing interesting actually happens there? Then why kill him?

Added 2nd Paragraph: In this love triangle disguised as a murder mystery, his best friend Cannon tries to explain why. He also thinks he know why Isaac was killed, but as he explains the story to us, he realizes that he is wrong: journeying through Cannon and Isaac's time as missionary companions, their years at Brigham Young, Isaac's childhood dealing with an absent father who'd been a Mormon bishop before running off with one of his counselors, Faye's grief over her dead brother, and Cannon's inability to fully leave the church he doesn't love, we learn that Isaac's death was the result of totally different forces.

Victoria Dixon said...

Thanks for doing this, Nathan. I head to Crested Butte next month and need the practice. This is one of the more succinct descriptions I've found. Here's my first and second pitches:
1. Liu Jie fears for his wife and child after the Emperor calls him to civil war; must he sacrifice his family’s safety for his Empire's survival?

2. MOURN THEIR COURAGE is a historical fantasy set in the Rōn Empire, where ghosts are guides and heroes are traitors. When Liu Jie receives his Emperor’s call to war, he must respond, though all he desires is a safe life with his wife and child. Jie endangers himself and his family as he battles to protect the Empire. When enemies and bitter loss overwhelm him, he faces a terrible choice: must he sacrifice his family for his Empire's survival?

Now off to read some samples and find ways to improve. ;D

Anonymous said...

Are you a CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS fan? The tone here for JACOB WONDERBRA seems like it'll appeal to those kiddos.

Carolin said...

Alright, have never done this, but here's my first attempt of a one sentence summary of my WIP:

When Emperor Justinian declares war on Italy in the 6th century, the young Gothic noble Teja learns the hard way that his dream of a future where Goths and Romans coexist in peace is in jeopardy.

Mira said...

This is really helpful! I love the idea of memorizing pitches, because I write much more fluidly than I speak.

Also, I get nervous, so having something memorized is a great idea.

I like your paragraphs, Nathan. Can't wait for Jacob to come out.

So, in terms of the query - for the record, I don't mind writing queries. They're kind of fun to critique, too. My issues with the query stem from other sources. But I'm still taking the 'best to tread lightly here' approach, so I won't pontificate. It's a great sacrifice. I like to pontificate even more than writing queries.

This really is a very helpful post, well-organized thinking. Thanks!

February Grace said...

FIREWORKS FLOWERS

One Sentence: A coffee house manager who aspires to write discovers he’s in love with one of his regulars…half an hour before the scheduled start of her wedding.


One Paragraph: Aidan is ringmaster of chaos (Manager) at a low-priority franchise of Run Aground, a national chain of coffee houses. Between no-show employees and customers from Hell the only bright spot in his life is Emily- shy, sweet Emily who carries a copy of Hitchhiker's in her purse, takes an interest in his stories, and dances in her seat to one secret, specific song on her iPod when she doesn't think anyone is looking. Emily is absolutely perfect...with the exception of the fact that she is marrying the human equivalent of a wolf in sheep’s clothing in less than thirty minutes unless Aidan can find a way to stop her.


Two Paragraphs: Run Aground manager Aidan Flynn's day couldn't possibly get any worse. The fax machine is jammed again, his baristas seem to have lost the last of their tenuous grip on reality and everything in the world feels wrong. His life's gone to Hell for only one reason and it's entirely his own fault; his favorite regular is getting married today because he didn’t have the guts to say the only thing that might stop her.

Following a fateful conversation with a Salvation Army bell-ringer, Aidan realizes he has no alternative; he has to find a way into the fabled Halsey estate and crash the society wedding of the year. If he doesn’t speak now he’ll never be able to face himself tomorrow. Painfully aware of all he has to lose, he wonders how he’ll ever convince the girl who believes she’s nothing special that she deserves so much more than to live out her life in the withering darkness of another woman's shadow.

Vegas Linda Lou said...

One sentence:

BASTARD HUSBAND: A LOVE STORY is a humorous account of my first year alone in Las Vegas following a midlife divorce from someone who I thought was my soulmate (until his thirteenth beer) and how I came to perform stand-up comedy for the first time at age 46.

One paragraph:

BASTARD HUSBAND: A LOVE STORY is a humorous account of my first year alone in Las Vegas after a midlife divorce from someone who was the perfect soulmate--until that one drink too many. The book is threaded with reflections of the relationship and shows how I transitioned from anger and sadness to performing stand-up comedy for the first time at age 46. Funny and sad, demented and poignant... all at the same time.

Two paragraphs (okay, it’s really three)

A week after I arrived in Sin City, I attended a divorce support group I found in the local newspaper listed between Cross-Dressers of Las Vegas and Friends and Family of Incarcerated People. (And I thought I had problems.) As I sat among a circle of strangers waiting for my turn to share, I glanced at the Absolutely No Swearing sign hanging from the ceiling and thought, “This will be a challenge.”

“I’m Linda,” I began, “I have no husband, no job, and you people are my only friends.” Everyone laughed at my pathetic truth.


BASTARD HUSBAND: A LOVE STORY is an autobiographical account of my first year alone in Las Vegas following a midlife divorce. Balancing poignancy and edgy humor, I reflect on the troubled relationship that prompted this story and lead readers through a hodgepodge of emotions as vast as a Vegas buffet--from the sadness of a failed union and the questioning of my spiritual convictions to the thrill of exploring the Vegas neon nightlife and the triumph of performing stand-up comedy for the first time at age 46.

Jennifer Swan said...

Hi Nathan,
Here goes:

In 1950, a farm wife walks into a vast Wisconsin cornfield and has a spiritual vision that sparks a pilgrimage of 100,000 - against the wishes of the Catholic Church.

Terrific post!
- Jennifer Swan

Liz said...

Here's what I came up with, although I'm not sure I could easily spit out the two paragraph pitch...

One sentence: Three kids from California go on a backpacking trip in the mountains and end up on a quest with Merlin’s daughter.

One paragraph: Jess is on a backpacking trip in California when she is literally blown away. She wakes up next to her sister Piper and a teenage boy named Will. They’re surrounded by standing stones, but Jess is pretty sure they’re not in England when they’re attacked by reptilian wolves. Searching for help, they stumble on Moonstone Castle and find themselves on a quest with Merlin’s daughter.

Two paragraphs: Twelve-year old Jess has heard of Merlin, but she’d rather read about horses than King Arthur. If you told her she was about be torn away from a backpacking trip in California and flung into the aftermath of a spell cast by Merlin’s son, she’d look at you like you were crazy. If you said she’d be stuck on this adventure with her little sister and a teenage boy, you’d see the biggest eye-roll of your life. The part about getting lost in a strange land where she’d have to fight wolves, giant bats and maybe even a dragon would get her attention though

From a granite slab where she’s hanging out with her sister, Jess is literally blown away. She wakes up next to her sister Piper and a kid named Will, who joined them just before they vanished. They’re surrounded by standing stones, but Jess is pretty sure they’re not in England when they’re attacked by reptilian wolves. Searching for help, they stumble on Moonstone Castle, befriend Merlin’s daughter Sela, and discover a society where girls rule, boys serve, and everyone bonds with a horse. Jess gets the horse the teen queen covets and she and her friends are exiled to the mountains, where Sela leads them on a quest to find a magic stone.

Liz said...

By the way, Isn't it hard to say "sassy" with a straight face?

traceybaptiste said...

Do not stop writing novel to come up with 1 sentence pitch just so you can participate in cool pitch-sharing blog post.

Don't. Don't do it! Finish novel first!

Margie said...

My one sentence:

At four ft. nine (when he stretches), 86 pounds (at the end of the day and soaking wet), but armed with a quick wit, 15-year-old Bixby Darwin isn't your typical hero, but then Cypher, Indiana isn't your typical town.

Amy Sue Nathan said...

I've been working on this! It's not 100% but I'm getting there.

When Daisy, a snarky, multi-pierced, California-bred college student finds the East Coast, starched and pressed father, step-mother-from-vegetarian-hell and preppie younger brother who don’t even know Daisy exists, she must choose between the life she knows and the one she thinks she always wanted.

Tambra said...

Hi everyone,

Apologies if my response is late. I've just finished taking my finals today.

I have pitched to editors in person and all have been very professional and gracious.

Now that I have a completed YA novel and have pitched face-to-face and online, I figure I can pitch anywhere. I try to remember the KISS rule: Keep it simple stupid.

Not sure if I pulled it off, but here's mine for a 12k historical paranormal romance:

For my historical paranormal romance, A Cursed Heart.

One sentence:
Can a Druidess and a cursed wolf-shifting warrior find true love?

One Paragraph:
Tani's visions of a warrior haunt her. The last one differs from the rest by engaging all of her senses. The gods have chosen her to find the warrior and heal him of his curse. Evil abounds in the village and Tani is the target.

Two Paragraph:
Tani is one of the few mortals chosen to undertake a dangerous journey given the Celtic gods. Before she embarks on this mission, she must escape two women in the village who want her dead. Tani enters the sacred grove
and her life is threatened their most holy place.

Finally, Tani begins her task set by the gods and sails for Manannan's Isle.
The meeting with Owein, the warrior of her dreams doesn't go as planned. Owein's brother wants him dead and Tani can't break, Cernunnos, The Lord of the Animals, curse on Owein.

Best,
Tambra Kendall/Keelia Greer

Katny M. said...

Thanks for the help Nathan. This is my one-liner, and so on. I would appreciate any opinions.


One-Liner: Teens experience the right-of-passage where the perfect vacation begins with romance when one teen uncovers a world of secrets, two-hundred-year-old legends, botched lab experiments, a sinister tycoon, vampires and weresharks all thriving on an island in Hawaii.

One-Paragraph: Tommie Lanier uncovers secrets while vacationing with her brother and friends. Her adventurous nature sends her spiraling into her geneticist brother’s world on the island of Maui where his top-secret discovery of immortality brings her face to face with love and danger. As she stumbles deeper into the mythical world, she finds her choices are leading her in a direction she is not ready for. Will Tommie find her way back home?

Two Paragraph: After high school graduation, Tommie Lanier, her twin brother, and their friends celebrate by vacationing in Maui with their elder brother, Adam, who is immersed in top-secret research. Because of her sleuthing nature,her troubles begin the first day she steps foot on the island with sightings of strange animals and unique gardens.

While there Tommie has her first encounter with romance, only to find he is the result of Adam’s successful experiments. The mythological stories that have been told for centuries come to life before her eyes as the legendary creatures and spirits of Hawaii wreak havoc in order to protect the islanders from the unnatural blunders that are now loose on Maui. Tommie finds she is immersed in a life she can’t seem to find a way out of, and the only thing that makes sense to her is the demi-god she is now in love with.

Tricia said...

Nathan you're really good at this. Do you want to write mine?


One sentence: Jeremiah's life is changed because of a prophecy, but it isn't about him.

One paragraph: Jeremiah is born a peasant into a medieval world with a strict caste system. A misdirected prophecy gives him the chance to train as a scribe for the king. It alters his life and puts him the hands of Darrah, a magician who compels him to risk his life to find scrolls that will make her spells permanent while all other magic remains temporary. He has to obey or find a way to overcome her control.


Two paragraph: Jeremiah is born a peasant into a medieval world with a strict caste system. A misdirected prophecy gives him the chance to train as a scribe for the king. It alters his life and puts him the hands of Darrah, a magician who who compels him to risk his life to find scrolls that will make her spells permanent while all other magic remains temporary.

Luckily, Jeremiah has three friends to help him, but they have their own agendas. One needs a favor that could kill Jeremiah. The second will betray him to the king. The third leaves when love starts to blossom between them. To save his own life, Jeremiah must get the scrolls or break free of Darrah's power. Either way he has to succeed before the Headmaster finds a way to have Jeremiah thrown out of the scribe guild.

Rick Daley said...

Here's a one-sentence and a one-paragraph pitch for RUDY TOOT-TOOT:


A little boy who was born on a bean farm can fart with hurricane force, and he needs to find the right time and the right place to use his talent to save his family’s home.


Rudy Toot-Toot has a special power, almost like a super-hero: he can fart. It comes natural when you’re born on a bean farm. The problem is that Rudy can’t control the timing or the force behind his special gift. It gets him into a lot of trouble at home and school, and after one monstrous blast scares all the Beanheads away from the Toot-Toot Bean Market, it’s up to Rudy to find a way to lure the customers back, or the bank will take away their home.

Sean Patrick Reardon said...

Nathan, thanks for the ooportunity to let us post this.

Vultura Highway: 80,000 word crime thriller.

When the DreemWeever headset L.A psychologist Joel Fisher has developed for wealthy Russian investors is stolen by two adventurous stones, he has forty-eight hours to get it back or he dies.

#

When wealthy Russian investors contract L.A psychologist Joel Fischer to develop a device to manipulate minds, the DreemWeever exceeds all expectations. Everything is on track for delivery and a big payday, until two adventurous stoners steal his Dodge Challenger that, unknown to Paul and Luke, contains the DreemWeever in its trunk. Fischer must get it back or face the barbaric consequences of the investors, evidence that ties him to multiple homicides, and most importantly to Fisher, the loss of his own big time Hollywood dreams.

#

L.A. psychologist Joel Fischer has powerful connections, a closet full of skeletons, and a plan that will make him richer than any of his elite clientele. When wealthy investors contract Fischer to develop a device to manipulate minds, the DreemWeever exceeds all expectations. In trials, it causes two women to voluntarily dive forty stories to their death at the Marriott in Times Square.

Everything is on track for delivery and a big payday for Fischer, until two adventurous stoners steal his Dodge Challenger that, unknown to Paul and Luke, contains the DreemWeever in its trunk. Fischer must get it back or face the barbaric consequences of the investors, who've turned out to be more ominous than he expected, evidence that ties him to multiple homicides, and most importantly to Fisher, the loss of his own big time Hollywood dreams.

Brittany said...

I'll have a go at it.

Sentence:
High schooler-turned-elf savior Aynah can’t escape her worst enemy—not even by trusting her friends.


One-Paragraph:
High schooler-turned-elf savior Aynah thought that when she left Earth to come back to her native magic world, Ví, her rescuer, would stay with her through thick and thin. Being captured by the man they fled from definitely makes complications, but when they escape, Aynah thinks that is the end of him. When she announces she wants to go back home, she finds he’s back—and he’s brought back by Ví.

Two-Paragraph:
Aynah thinks she’s just your normal high school freshman—maybe just a bit on the short side. But strange guys move into her neighborhood, and she escapes with Ví, the new student, to a world that happens to be her native magical home.

They’re caught by the king that they fled from, and when they escape, Aynah thinks that’s the end of that, even though she’s supposed to be the savior of the magic world. She wants to go back home, but then the king reappears, brought by her best friend, Ví.

Critique?

Julie Jordan a/k/a @Writers_Cafe said...

Great post, Nathan, and I decided to take you up on your challenge to put the various pitches in the comments.

1-Sentence

Janelle Marie LeDuc and Richard Oliver Grayson begin an unusual courtship that led to marriage, but the journey is anything but easy, with time travel, 'old friends,' and, on their wedding trip, a near-kidnapping, amnesia and more, all conspiring to keep them apart.


1-Paragraph

Janelle Marie LeDuc’s father dies of injuries sustained in a lumbering accident, leaving her a well-to-do New Hampshire farm owner in the 1830s. Janelle and Richard Oliver Grayson' begin an unusual courtship that led to marriage a year later. She discovers that her maternal ancestors have unique powers, including time travel. They arrive in 12th-century England where they visit Richard’s ancestors. A return trip devastates Richard – something about his birthright upset him greatly. At their wedding, an 'old friend' tries to prevent the wedding. On their wedding trip, Janelle is nearly kidnapped by a madman, and later, Richard is mugged, resulting in amnesia and an infidelity. Richard is sent into exile, banned from seeing Janelle until after their son’s birth. While they love each other very much, will Richard and Janelle be together, or will their differences and circumstances be more than the relationship can take?



2-Paragraph

Janelle Marie LeDuc’s father dies of injuries sustained in a lumbering accident, leaving her a well-to-do New Hampshire farm owner in the 1830s. As he lay dying, he urges her to find a husband for her own protection. She is devastated by his death, and grieves for months. Richard Oliver Grayson, the youngest son of the English Duke of Devonwood, finds Janelle by her father’s grave and takes her home. Thus began an unusual courtship that led to marriage a year later. She discovers that her maternal ancestors have unique powers. Most were healers, but some, including Janelle, can time travel. The first time Janelle time travels is with Richard, by accident and without knowledge of her powers, early in their courtship. They arrive in 12th-century England where they visit Richard’s ancestors in their castle (and where they make a strange discovery). A return trip devastates Richard – something about his birthright upset him greatly. In addition, the ancestors they’d met previously have all been murdered.

At their wedding, an ‘old friend’ of Richard’s tries to prevent the wedding (avenging the death of a lover), until he meets Rachel, a friend of Janelle’s. On their wedding trip, Janelle is nearly kidnapped by a madman, and later, Richard is mugged, resulting in amnesia and an infidelity. When Janelle became pregnant with their son, both Maura, Janelle’s companion, and Damian, Richard’s father, send Richard into exile, banned from seeing Janelle until after their son’s birth. While they love each other very much, and know there is no other for either of them, will Richard and Janelle be together, as they vowed they would be, or will their differences and circumstances be more than the relationship can take?

Julie Jordan

Tambra said...

Rick,

Have you seen the Walter, The Farting Dog books? they're really cute.

I bought one for my grandson. I can't wait to read it to him.

Best,
Tambra

Tambra said...

Miriam,

I'd read your book. Your paragraph hooked me.

Best,
Tambra

Ashley said...

Okay okay, I never comment, but I had to write a one paragraph summary for an e-mail today, so this was really topical! =D

This is the one paragraph I came up with:

Thomas goes to a psychic as a last ditch effort to find his uncle Paul -- not out of any belief in the supernatural, but knowing that Paul once worked for said psychic. Instead of getting the answers he had hoped, Thomas gets a job looking after the psychic's twelve-year-old boy -- not a son by blood, but a son nonetheless. Before she's able to track down her wayward ex-employee, the psychic is kidnapped by megalomaniac Andrew Baker, and Thomas takes it upon himself to get her back.

wendy said...

I love your description of Sarah being 'chronically overscheduled', the spaceship being 'sassy' and the pirate being 'nefarious'. I like descriptive writing and these words evoked a plateau of images and meaning for me.

It was really helpful to see what you've done. It was also great to read the pitches of other writers, too. Thanks everyone :)

Jan Markley said...

The one liner for my debut novel Dead Frog on the Porch is: Kids can change the world even if it is one frog at a time.

My one 'graph is: Sisters Cyd and Jane are propelled into an international plot involving evil scientists and giant genetically stretched frogs. Will the twins win this hilarious race to save the frog kingdom?

You're right Nathan, you never stop pitching, now that I'm published I'm pitching to schools, the media, conferences, awards, agents, film companies etc. Writers will always have to pitch so might as well get good at it!

J. T. Shea said...

More interesting pitches. Heidi J. Johns, your last one (your favorite) IS the best!
Anonymous 4:20 pm, WONDERBAR, not WONDERBRA! The great science fiction lingerie novel has yet to be written. Captain Underpants doesn't count.

Simon Hay Soul Healer said...

My one sentence for a nonfiction mind body spirit wip.

Two thousand years ago I was the disciple Judas, today I’m a plumber with a ute, and the past has caught up with me—the debt collector is an angel, and he’s brought Jesus and His family with him.

Fat Bastard said...

EXPAT

One Sentence "Elevator" Pitch:

When the Russian mafia steals an oil company manager’s briefcase containing proprietary exploration documents, he goes undercover as a Russian spy.

One Paragraph:

Ted Klimber, a recent Ivy League graduate, accepts an overseas position with Caspian Oil, a multi-national consortium located in Atyrau, Kazakhstan as their deputy general manager for public relations. When the Russian mafia steals his briefcase containing secret exploration documents, he is fired. Alone and desperate in a foreign land, he will do the unthinkable. Ted will go undercover as a spy to steal as many Russian secrets as possible to leverage his position that is if he doesn’t misconstrue his assignments. Can an inept-spy out-spy the spies and stay alive? The Russian mob is going to kill Ted Klimber a lot. That is if everyone else doesn’t kill him first.

Two Paragraphs:

Luckily, Ted has met a nice Kazakh woman who is the company driver for Caspian Oil. She begins to teach him a few words that may just come in handy during one spy episode where he charades as a Russian diplomat. At a high-level government engagement, sheep’s head is served to the guest of honor: Ted. He must forgo his vegetarian mantra and eat the brain without giving away his cover. When the mafia discovers he is not a real spy they threaten to give him a 44-caliber enema. His only hope for survival will be to blackmail Caspian Oil with their own secret exploration documents.

Laura Kaye said...

Great post! And I need to brush up on this since I'm hoping to snag some agent/editor appointments at the July RWA. These are for my contemporary novella HEARTS IN THE DARK:

One sentence: A man and a woman get trapped in a pitch-black elevator for five hours, and have a conversation so engaging it leaves them both wondering if it’s possible to fall for someone they’ve never seen.

One paragraph: Makenna James and Caden Grayson appear to be complete opposites – a buttoned-up professional woman and a heavily tattooed guy in jeans and t-shirts. They never would have interacted had they passed on the street, but now they have no choice: a power outage has trapped them in a pitch-black elevator. As the hours pass, Caden fights his claustrophobia and Makenna distracts him with a conversation so engaging, they both wonder if it’s possible to fall for someone they’ve never seen.

Two paragraph: Makenna James thinks she’s plain, ordinary – and she works as an accountant to boot. Caden Grayson knows he’s anything but – his piercings, tattoos, skull trim, and the obvious head scar from an accident that killed his family stand out and keep people at a distance. They never would have interacted had they passed on the street. But now they have no choice: a power outage has trapped them in a pitch-black elevator.

As minutes turn into hours, a game of Twenty Questions turns into the most engaging conversation of their lives. Makenna can’t believe the deep sense of kinship she develops with this stranger who proves to be kind and sweet despite his tragic losses. Caden is stunned to realize that Makenna’s playful, accepting manner makes it possible for him to control the threatening panic his claustrophobia causes and drop his anti-social façade. As it heats up in the elevator, both find themselves wondering if it’s possible for their hearts and minds to fall for someone their eyes have never seen.

Kate said...

As a copywriter, I find that these "what the book is about" blurbs come easier. Getting that novel to 80,000 words is a little tricky...

One sentence:

A stir-crazy divorcee tries to prove that an ornery cop, also her high school nemesis, is a murderer, not knowing he’s in love with her.

Laura Kaye said...

And here are my pitches for my chicklit, THE FANTASY LIFE OF A MIDDLE-AGED WIFE:

One sentence: A middle-aged wife longing for passion in her marriage tries everything and anything to resurrect the connection she and her husband used to have, but when her efforts seem to fail she has to decide whether to accept it or fulfill her needs with someone else.

One paragraph: Middle-aged wife Sasha Brant longs for affection and passion with her husband Jason, so she begins playing out erotic fantasies to remind him of what they used to have. When her efforts don’t seem to have lasting results, Sasha’s hurt and frustration blossom into despair and anger and lead her to consider meeting her needs outside her marriage. Sasha doesn’t want to betray the man she’s loved for her whole adult life, but she can’t help but wonder: Do ‘forty’ and ‘passion’ simply not go together?

Two paragraphs: Anyone would think Sasha Brant had it all: a good guy of a husband, a sweet daughter, lots of friends, and the satisfaction of being her own boss. But Sasha's terrified...of her perfectly amiable but passionless marriage. Sasha appreciates all the good things in her life, but still yearns for the adoring looks, affectionate touches, frequent sex, and multiple orgasms her husband Jason used to give her. So she resolves to change things, and delves into her vivid imagination to satisfy herself while she tries to reignite the spark with her husband by playing out some of those very same fantasies.

When her efforts don't seem to have lasting results, Sasha's hurt and frustration blossom into despair and anger and lead her to consider meeting her needs outside her marriage. The last thing Sasha wants is to hurt or betray the man she’s loved her whole adult life, but she's not sure she can live with never again being looked at, touched, or kissed with need and want. Sasha struggles can't help but wonder: Do 'forty' and 'passion' simply not go together? If only she could find a way to get Jason to remember what they used to have and want it back too....

Redleg said...

Okay, here is my exercise for my sci-fi novel EVERY KINGDOM DIVIDED:

One Sentence:

After the Second American Revolution, a doctor from Blue America must venture into the dark heart of The Red States to save his lost love.

One Paragraph:

Jack Pasternak receives a garbled distress call from his fiancée before her transmissions stop altogether. Unfortunately, since the Second American Revolution no Blue citizens are allowed to cross the Red States. Throwing caution to the wind, Jack hops into an old-fashioned petroleum-fueled convertible and takes off across a continent of dangers to save the woman he loves.

Two Paragraphs:

Jack Pasternak, a laid-back California doctor, receives a garbled distress call from his fiancée in Maryland before her transmissions stop altogether. Unfortunately, citizens of the Blue States are no longer allowed to cross Red America ever since the Second American Revolution began. Jack is faced with an impossible choice: ignore his one true love or risk life and sanity by venturing into the dark heart of the Red States.

When the armies of the Mexican reconquista come marching into Los Angeles, Jack’s hand is forced and he reluctantly heads east. The journey itself is dangerous enough, as Jack will face disputed war zones, the independent Mormon State of Deseret, and the entire enemy nation of Red America. However, his foolhardy journey turns into an impossible crusade when he picks up a hitch-hiker who turns out to be the Red President’s daughter and he learns that Daddy is very eager to get her back.

shalleemcarthur said...

Awesome post as always. I'm still working on the pitches for my memoir wip, and this helps! They still need a lot of work, but here's what I've got so far:

1 sentence: After blowing off college to volunteer in Africa, I struggle with the internal conflict of whether foreign volunteers are actually helping or hurting in their efforts to make a difference.

1 paragraph: The year I turned twenty, I blew off college, waved goodbye to my family, and hopped on a plane to West Africa. My goals were to save Africa, find God, and show the world, my parents, and myself how unselfish I was. After watching and participating in ineffective attempts to teach 10 preschoolers whose English is limited to “see, pencil broken,” I struggle with the internal conflict of whether my volunteering is actually making a difference.


Two paragraph: The year I turned twenty, I blew off college, waved goodbye to my family, and hopped on a plane to West Africa. My goals were to save Africa, find God, and show the world, my parents, and myself how unselfish I was. I figured I could do it all in four months.

Based on my first volunteer trip to Ghana, The Stars are Plenty chronicles the international volunteer journey from idealism to despair to regained hope and explores the question of whether volunteers worldwide–including myself– are actually “making a difference.” From hilarious marriage proposals by 14-year-old bike riders to accidental hitch hiking into the capital of the Asante kingdom to the frustrations of teaching 10 preschoolers whose English is limited to “see, pencil broken,” it is an honest look at the popular volunteering-meets-tourism experience set in this heart-wrenching and beautiful African nation.

February Grace said...

Laura Kaye: Hearts in the Dark is a book I would definitely pick up at the bookstore(or for my Kindle)...

mesmered said...

Oh God! This is the first time I have attempted a pitch like this. Here goes nothing!


One sentence pitch:

Mortal Isabella and stepbrother Nicholas, a half-mortal, are separated when Belle is kidnapped by the secret Han and they must find their way back to each other through the aegis of a message woven into a cloth of silk and paper and the assistance of the eldritch of Eirie.

One paragraph:

Isabella is a mortal woman who is kidnapped by agents from the secretive Han province. Her stepbrother, a half-mortal Nicholas, became mute at the time of her kidnap. In order to find her and break the curse that has made him mute, he must decipher a message in a bolt of cloth and begin a journey across the enchanted world of Eirie in which they both lives. Whilst he is searching, Isabella is trying to escape the Han with the help of the imperial heir and the eldritch Fox Lady.

Two paragraphs:

Nicholas is a half mortal who grew to adulthood in the uncomfortable knowledge that as a babe, his parents left him with another family. Isabella, his mortal stepsister, is a confident, somewhat arrogant beauty for whom the world frequently stops spinning. When she is kidnapped by the Han she must re-configure herself in order to escape. Nicholas is cursed at the time of her kidnap and must begin his own journey of self-discovery as he seeks his stepsister.

Belle weaves a cloth of silk and paper called Shifu which contains directions for Nico, should the fabric find its way to their home. The two travel over different paths toward each other with the help of the eldritch Others who inhabit Eirie. When Isabella and Nicholas eventually re-discover each other, life will never be the same as Nicholas is forced to make a choice that will remove him forever from the living world.

KSB said...

I've spent the last two hours re-writing a single sentence. Thanks for the example and the prod, Nathan.

After reading my latest draft of the sentence to my husband I got a blank stare, but when I read him Nathan's I got "Now that's good." I guess that's why you do what you do!

If I come up with a satisfactory one by the wee hours I'll post it...

Suzanne Warr said...

Alright, here goes:
Sentence--It's about twin 13 year-olds who're the black sheep of the magic world, but they can clear their family name and save their loved ones if they can find a way to outsmart the demon who's scheming to destroy the world in two weeks time on Halloween night.

Two (longish?) Paragraphs--Josh and Liz Raven are 13-year-old magicians, but when it comes to the control of magic, they’re toddlers taking their first tumbles. When a sinister car accident robs their mother of all memory of her kids, the Raven twins discover that the family portal is leaking magic and a demon is taking shape in their neighborhood. With the help of their newfound magic and the family farm of freakish creatures, the twins might stand a chance against a regular demon–but this is Veta Rashon, the most powerful and dreaded demon to ever set his sights on earth, and he intends to rip open the Raven portal and flood the world with demon-kind.

Thanks to the scheming of a Raven ancestor who left a stain on the family name, Josh and Liz will get no help from the Magician’s Enclave. With no idea who they can trust or even what they dare tell each other, Josh and Liz have less than a fortnight before Halloween and their school’s Haunted Hall party–to which Veta Rashon just may have procured an invitation. Will the twins accept their Raven heritage, and will they keep the demons from turning Halloween into a night of nightmares?

Thanks for the nudge, Nathan! I'll be querying just as soon as I've cleaned up the synopsis, so it was time I got this done.

Tricia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lucy said...

Ack! Thanks a lot, Nathan. My OCD writerly brain has just blown two hours trying to write a single sentence, and now I have to get up early and go to work tomorrow.

I love your blog, but I don't think I should read it before bedtime. :p

Tricia said...

Pitches for The Thought Shapers
Can you please help me decide between the first two one sentence pitches? And do you think evil genius works, or is it too cliche?

One sentence:
Pandora searches for her true identity in a near future world controlled by reality TV.

Or:
When all that is ‘real and true’ is transmitted to you via your TV screen, how do you learn to think for yourself?

One para:
In Citereal, where everyone must watch endless reality shows and reading books is banned, Pandora is encouraged by her adoptive mother to have her own ideas. When she fails her exam on the ‘Citizenship Challenge’ TV quiz show, she knows she will be exiled, if she survives. She has no idea what lies beyond the city, but threatened with imprisonment and torture, she escapes with Darius, the quiz show host and evil genius behind REAL TV in pursuit. Will she discover in time that she can change reality through thoughts and imagination?

Two para:
In Citereal, where everyone must watch endless reality shows and reading books is banned, Pandora is encouraged by her adoptive mother to have her own ideas. When she fails her exam on the ‘Citizenship Challenge’ TV quiz show, she knows she will be exiled, if she survives.

Darius, the quiz show host, and the man behind REAL TV, tests her DNA and finds she is a thought shaper who could end his oppressive regime. She has no idea what lies beyond the city and no one can tell her anything about her past, but threatened with imprisonment and torture, she escapes with Darius in pursuit. Will she discover in time that she can change reality through thoughts and imagination?

jongibbs said...

Another excellent post!

Thanks for sharing, Nathan :)

zoothornrollo said...

I'd go a step further: write the pitch before you write the book (yes, of course you can change it later!). There's nothing like distilling a big idea into a small number of words to organise your thoughts. If you can't do that, are you sure you're ready to start writing?

Mesmerix said...

@Tricia: I prefer the first one. It's more specific and clear about what the novel's premise. It's also interesting. I don't think rhetorical questions are good for a 1 sentence hook, I know that they're horrible to start qureries with according to the Shark.

Tricia said...

Thanks, Mesmerix - very helpful. I have the rhetorical question as one part of the query letter, with the other parts being a paragraph about the book, favourable peer reviews, and one para about me. Perhaps I should take it out.

Zoe C. Courtman said...

"chronically overscheduled." GAH - I *love* that. Brillz!

Mesmerix said...

@Tricia: You have to do what you think is best. I don't claim to be an expert, I only reiterate the things the Query Shark, Janet Reid, talks about in her blog. Check it out if you haven't, I find it very helpful: http://queryshark.blogspot.com/

Richard said...

Hey, great and timely topic Nathan! I did this just last week to get ready for a new round of queries:

--Venetian smugglers double-cross both the Roman Church and the Byzantine Empire to capture the mummified, headless corpse of Saint Mark the Evangelist.

Lex said...

Here's my one sentence, one paragraph, two paragraph pitch. Love to hear what ya'll think, especially you, Nathan...;o)

One Sentence: When Jesus first came to revolutionize Judaism and to tell people that organized religion was unnecessary to reach God and attain immortality – He failed.

One Paragraph: Jesus has returned, from a parallel universe, to correct the mistakes generated by his first visit. He seeks to stop a religiously incited nuclear war and to find three ancient documents that disprove the Bible’s accuracy and Christianity’s dogma. Disarming the entire worlds’ nuclear arsenals is easy. The second task proves to be much more difficult.

Two Paragraphs: The world’s power brokers are less than welcoming when Jesus announces his return. He intends to change how people think about God and set them free from the fear that religion, government and corporations have used to enslave people for thousands of years. Allied by three disciples, selected for their latent paranormal abilities and past incarnations, Jesus searches for three ancient documents that will lay bare the misinterpretations of the Bible and upend Christianity.

Around the globe, Jesus and his followers avoid one trap after another. The Pope wants him discredited or eliminated – whichever comes first. The FBI is hunting him as a terrorist and the CIA want to experiment with his supernatural abilities. Carl Eagle, like Jesus, is a being from a parallel universe, intent upon world domination and Jesus’ greatest enemy. Jesus gets the documents, but before He can release their message to the world, He is wounded and a terrorist ignites a bomb in Jerusalem. Jesus has to return to his world or die and this world explodes into World War Three.

raven-blues said...

Stalker Gray is an epic fantasy about a woman waging war against a god who plucked out her eyes.

Eric said...

I realized I only gave character and no more. Still haven't got the plot boiled down to one sentence. I can elevator pitch it...just not in a single sentence. And even that single sentence is a handful....

Carl H. Petnoy is old, frail, longing for a retirement that seems will never come, and a werewolf with the Chinese mafia, an estranged daughter, New York City Homicide, and a dimwitted but persistent dogcatcher all on his tail.

Racer said...

A girl and her beagle embark on a journey to a dystopian land ruled by an eccentric ghost.

An insecure 7th grader named Racer tours the Kremlin Museum and discovers a hidden portal to a terrifying dystopian land called Fabrussiana. Racer unlocks a magical carriage and travels to Fabrussiana where she and her beagle Buddy crash and must find a way back. Three animals offer guidance through the dark forest, which is ruled by the eccentric ghost Vwoolf Von Vlad Hounzer.

The iron-fisted apparition seeks revenge for his 1917 murder by turncoats who fed him poisoned cake. Vwoolf rages through the towns and countryside searching for the last remaining Romanov Egg – an egg purported to hold the key to immortality. When Buddy is dognapped, Racer and her new friends must locate the egg, rescue the beagle and defeat the villain.

http://www.adventuresofracerandbuddy.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

Great Post, Nathan. I'm still working with my editor on final changes to my novel, but my pitch needed a makeover. Your blog post helped.

One sentence Pitch:
Sophia searches to cure the haunting noise in her mind, but instead finds information on an ancestor's missing body.

One paragraph:
Sophia wants to stop the noise in her mind. After a failed attempt to garner help from Mother Nature, she searches the attic for information on what is causing her affliction. Instead she finds a document from the Salem Witch Trials, revealing an ancestor's body went missing after she was hanged. Sophia's life will be at risk if she can't uncover this woman's true identity.

Two paragraph:
After a window-side ritual, the noise that has haunted Sophia all her life turns to whispering voices. Thinking she's gone off her rocker, she begins a search for a cure, only to reveal a family legacy dating back to the Salem Witch Trials. Her ancestor's body went missing after hanging, and Sophia's life is in danger if she can't uncover this woman's true identity.
Charles has been following Sophia. He may be all wrong for her, or he may be the one she's meant to be with. But his family carries a dangerous secret she must protect. The deeper into this dark world she stumbles, the more dangerous the connections become. The secrets she keeps are soon discovered by those responsible for a genocide that spans centuries. Sophia needs to uncover the secret of her ancestor in time to save those she loves.

http://rebecca-hamilton.com/

Twitter: @inkmuse

Sara Martin said...

Thanks for the assignment: very helpful to someone who's just starting out! Here's my one sentence:

Betrayed years ago when her father left, 18 year old Dianna Latham stumbles into the only type of relationship that feels safe -- a fictional one -- only to discover that reality hides in the most unexpected places.

Andrea Franco-Cook said...

My pitches are written below. When reading them please keep in mind that I am three chapters away from completing the first draft of my novel.

I'm sure my pitch will change after my WIP has been revised. However, I hope the feedback I receive here will help me to polish it.

One Sentence Pitch: My story is based on a plot that begins with a prophecy in the sixteenth-century Mayan jungle, and ends in the White House during the twenty-first century.

One Paragraph Pitch: Deep in the Yucatán in 1562, a Mayan High Priest is instructed by the gods to entrust a sacred prophecy to Spanish Conquistador, Domingo Mendoza. With the assistance of an angel, the Mendoza family protects the prophecy for more than four-hundred and fifty years. In 2010, Soledad Mendoza inherits the prophecy following her father's murder. In a race against time, the angel must help Soledad uncover her destiny before diabolical forces can achieve their goal to take over the White House, then the world.

Two Paragraph Pitch: Deep in the Yucatán in 1562, a Mayan High Priest is instructed by the gods to entrust a sacred prophecy to Spanish Conquistador, Domingo Mendoza. With the assistance of an angel, the Mendoza family protects the prophecy for the next four-hundred and fifty years.

Following her father's murder in 2010, Soledad Mendoza inherits the prophecy and his journal. After reading the her father’s entries, Soledad realizes the prophecy does more than foretell an apocalyptic event, it holds the secret to stopping it. In a race against time, the angel must help Soledad uncover her destiny before diabolical forces can achieve their goal, to take over the White House, then the world.

Richard said...

This was easier than I thought it would be:

One sentence
A farmboy discovers he can use magic, and is charged by the voice in his head to destroy the system that keeps people like him under control, while fighting off his own growing insanity.

One paragraph
Isem Alder discovers he can channel a power known as the Madness when he burns a man alive in a fight. It is then that he discovers the secrets of the Madmen like himself, and the Quis who hold power over them. A voice in his head, professing to be the Madness itself, charges him to destroy the Quis and free the Madmen. Isem must learn to control his power - and retain his sanity - and defeat the Quis while being hunted by a mysterious woman in white.

Two paragraphs
The Madness isn't supposed to be sentient. It's nothing but a source of power that Madmen can use. But after Isem Alder proves he can use this power - by burning a man alive in a fight - he starts to hear a voice in his head that claims to be the Madness itself.

Isem is brought to the Asylum by the Quis, as all Madmen are, to be kept under their watchful eye. It is there that he is charged by the Madness with freeing the Madmen from the control of the Quis. To do this, he has to escape the Asylum, gather an army, march on the best trained military force the world knows, fight off a mysterious woman who is immune to his powers, and struggle against his own approaching insanity.

James said...

I'm late to the conversation here, but I boiled down the basics of what your pitches offer up, and it was helpful for me:

One sentence pitch - no character explanation at all! It's just plot, and you could even go so far as to say it's not plot so much as it is a snappy way to express the situation of the novel.

One paragraph pitch - here you can give character names, express the plot where you explain actual conflict, name an antagonist or whatever hurdle the main character has to leap, as well as offer some setting.

Two paragraph pitch - now we even get the main character's background! plus similar plot explanation but with just a touch more detail to spice it up. The antagonist gets similar spicing up too.

Naturally, it's a question of depth. One sentence offers the situation/concept of the novel. The one & two paragraph pitches give character & plot details, each to greater depth as the length affords.

I like to have the concepts behind me before I dig into the work. So now...I may actually have a way to boil down the one line pitch. Thanks Nathan, this post was superhelpful.

Cheers.

(which is not to say this would be the only way of going about building the pitches, but it's a nice beginning...)

Johnny Noir said...

I've always had trouble pitching. http://inkpop.com/profile/me/

Heidi J. Johns said...

Thanks, J. T. Shea! I'm still pretty partial to my original one sentence pitch (even though it has almost no plot in it)!

Thanks, Nathan, for this exercise. It was very helpful!

Off to send more queries....

Dan Holloway said...

Songs from the Other Side of the Wall. In a sentence:
Murakami's Norwegian Wood, set in post-communist Hungary.

In a paragraph:
After her mother walks out and returns to England when she's just a week old, Szandi grows up on the vineyard in Hungary that has been in her family for 300 years. Now 18, Szandi is part of Budapest’s cosmopolitan art scene, sharing a flat and a bohemian lifestyle with her lover and fellow sculptress, Yang. She has finally found her place in the world. When she discovers that her father has only weeks to live, Szandi must choose once and for all: between the past and the present; between East and West; between her family and her lover.

In two paragraphs:
After her mother walks out and returns to England when she's just a week old, Szandi grows up on the vineyard in Hungary that has been in her family for 300 years. Now 18, Szandi is part of Budapest’s cosmopolitan art scene, sharing a flat and a bohemian lifestyle with her lover and fellow sculptress, Yang. She has finally found her place in the world. When she discovers that her father has only weeks to live, Szandi must choose once and for all: between the past and the present; between East and West; between her family and her lover.

Songs from the Other Side of the Wall is a coming of age story that inhabits anti-capitalist chatrooms and ancient wine cellars, seedy bars and dreaming spires; and takes us on a remarkable journey across Europe and cyberspace in the company of rock stars and dropouts, diaries that appear from nowhere, a telepathic fashion mogul, and the talking statue of a bull.

Dara said...

I know the one sentence pitch is necessary, but the thought of it makes me want to go and cry in a dark corner somewhere. :P

Joe G said...

Summarizing gives me hives. People always want to know what your book is about but if you don't tell them it's a memoir about your alcoholic mother or a fictional story about two boys growing up in Mumbai (i.e. Oprah sticker books) their eyes get a little funny.

Much better is talking to people who actually read, but we're getting rarer all the time.

Joe G said...

Ooo, Dan, I would read that... I loved Norwegian Wood. I do wonder though why she can't return to her life after her father dies. Does she have to support the family or something? I guess in Murakami the problems are always more psychological than anything else.

rippatton said...

Here's my one sentence pitch for my YA fantasy with a working title of Ghosthand.

Seventeen-year-old Olivia Black has done just fine handling her rare birth defect, an ethereal ghosthand where her fleshly right hand should be, but when a handsome new transfer from the city sits next to her in Algebra class, Olivia's hand starts reaching into people and pulling very strange things out.


Just a thought. I'm noticing that when people use "teen" or "middle-aged woman" or a similar vague describer in their pitch, it turns me off. Give your character their name, even in the one sentence pitch. IMO.

Ripley Patton

Susan J. Berger said...

Two women in their sixties- one divorced, one widowed- travel back in time form Los Angeles in 2012 to London in 1969 and find love - one old, one new.

Susan J. Berger said...

TV series pitch: A physic Matchmaker who is right 90% of the time

Susan J. Berger said...

mid grade novel pitch: “Tasha, The Magnificent” is a story about Tasha and her best friend Izzy, two fifth grade girls, who want to be different than they are and seek magic as a way to make it happen.

Jen P said...

This is really timely and helpful. Thank you.

Reading your one sentence and reading others bravely posted and comparing, makes it much clearer why mine doesn't yet work.

You summarise the ACTION, STRUCTURE and PLOT in one sentence. Trigger, Consequence, Quest.

Others, mine included, are too descriptive. What is it about, really asks, what happens and why?

Jenny Keller Ford said...

Nathan, this is an awesome post and your pitches are great! I'm still working on my one paragraph and two paragraph pitches, myself; however, I have settled on my one sentence pitch. Here it is!

A fifteen-year old boy discovers his dead parents are alive and living within a magical world, and must sacrifice his best friend and the girl he loves in order to find them and return home.

February Grace said...

Since this is still going...(and thanks to the brave people posting their work, really helps a lot!)

One Sentence: A woman wakes up to find herself trapped in the quintessential American soap opera town and must find a way to write herself out of it.

Alyson Greene said...

Nathan,

Should the one-sentence-pitch be more about the catalyst of the story or the main conflict? Yours, amazingly, seems to have both (I'm guessing) with the corn-dog trade as the catalyst and the finding their way home as the main conflict.

Is it ok to describe the situation the MC is in without saying what choices they have? It's so difficult to balance the level of detail to put in one sentence.

Too much detail and it's a gobblety-gook of a run-on sentence. Not enough detail and it sounds like a vague, cheesy movie trailer.

Here's what I got so far, but I think it's too vague:

A hot-tempered teenage girl has super-powers that she can’t remember and she battles her childhood friends to uncover the truth about herself.

Heather Choate said...

When a sassy angel is hauled halo-first to hell, her fascination with an angel of light clashes with seductions of demons, and she finds herself in a world where some desires are paid for with your soul.

Anonymous said...

That "book" sounds like the stupidest. most inane piece of crap I can imagine. I can only assume its for kids or YA, if so, I will say that it takes an especially untalented writer to insult the intelligence of that segment, but it seems you've managed to do it in spades.

Nathan Bransford said...

Haha... Here I thought I'd have to wait for my book to come out to get my first bad review. Tha you, Internet. Thank you.

Crysa said...

"A Confederate nurse-turned-vampire struggles to retain her humanity."

Thanks for the prompt.

Emily Casey said...

I just got back from the Pennwriters Conference where author CJ Lyons helped us craft pitches that were 25 words, 15 words, and *gulp* 5 words. My short one-sentence pitch is:
A ghost comes back from the dead to save the girl he loves.

She said the goal was to use words that immediately create an image and/or emotion.

Surly Jason said...

I'm a late comer to this game, but still wanna play:

Psi-kick
Sentence
In a world where a tiny fraction of people can read the thoughts of others, a Psi-kick detective discovers that he’s been pulled into a conspiracy that will kill everyone who’s not Psi-kick, and usher in a new world of peace and understanding build on a foundation of genocide.

1 paragraph
Peter Elliot is happy as a police detective. As a one of the very small part of the population who hears the thoughts and memories of people around him, the mandate that Psi-kicks work for the government tastes like repression, but he would choose to do nothing else. Upon investigating a series of kidnappings, Peter begins to uncover a conspiracy. The missing children are part of a pattern of Norms and Psi-kicks taken and experimented upon by one of his own—a Psi-kick who believes that the eradication of all the Norms will lead to a Psi-kick utopia built upon a foundation of genocide.

2 paragraph
When a very small part of the population was verified to hear every thought, memory, and secret of people around them, laws were made to mandate that Psi-kicks work for the government. Though Peter Elliot enjoys police work, the restrictions tastes like repression

Upon investigating a series of kidnappings, Peter begins to uncover a conspiracy where both Psi-kicks and Norms are being experimented upon. Not all Psi-kicks accept their regulation to government service or being feared by society, and one Psi-kick has decided that a world where everyone can hear the thoughts, pains, and fears of others would be a utopia that is worth killing 99% of the population to achieve.

Arlene said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
writermorris said...

I feel like a tool even asking, but does the two-paragraph have to be two? Can you use three paragraphs for the same purposes or is this frowned upon?

fetterslopez said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
fetterslopez said...

Funny how we come across what we need in our time of need, I have been struggling with writing the one sentence pitch and here is mine.

The last person Jon Murray expected was his estranged wife, Sabine Schneider (government-paid assassin), but when he looks up from the podium before announcing a run for the White House, their eyes lock and he can feel the familiar ache to wrap his hands around her neck.

Trisha said...

I have found the whole query-writing process to be extremely challenging, but not in a bad way. It has really made me look more closely at my novels and what the heck they're really about, at their core.

And I just formed a one-sentence summary of my novel the other day, and that was a challenge in and of itself. But I was advised to do it before tackling a revision of my synopsis. So...yeah, it's a great challenge! And I do believe it makes the writer really look at their work and analyse it.

B said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
B said...

Through tragic circumstances and with the help of her teacher and mentor, a high school senior learns about God, herself and others in a most unusual way.

Tory Hughes said...

Any amplification of this for non-fiction pitches?

My one-sentence pitch mimics my tendency to over-explain. I've pruned it, but now it sounds dull and generic (but of course my book, already written, is powerful and engaging! Of course!)

Here: today's best effort-

A lifelong artist and teacher guides adults yearning for their lost childhood creativity through five practices to identify their desires, face down old programs, take action on their goals, and integrate the results in a grand creative and spiritual cycle.

Could cut lots and end up with-

Adults who yearn for their lost childhood creativity will get unstuck and reclaim a sense of direction with this five-stage guide to create their own lives.

Thanks for any input.

Farlow Figsman Fartty, Lord of the porcelain thunder trumpet said...

one sentance -
When Billy Lardlump woke up to find his dick was made of gold and his testies had turned to marshmello, he had to figure out if this was due to the onset of puberty or whether somebody had been tampering.

howsthat?

Primegm said...

GeorgeP said
One sentence for KISS OF DEJA VU:
When a forty-something psychiatrist leaves a shaky practice for a stable clinic job, an office party kiss upends his life. Comments?

Primegm said...

Primegm says

One line for KISS OF DEJA VU:
When a forty-something psychiatrist leaves a shaky practice for a stable clinic job, and office party kiss upends his life. Comments?

Primegm said...

Primegm said
Sorry for the typo - newbie nerves

One line for KISS OF DEJA VU:

When a forty-something psychiatrist leaves a shaky practice for a stable clinic job, an office party kiss upends his life.
1 Paragraph coming. Comments?

hlynn117 said...

My query is suffering from information dump. I did the one sentence pitch, and wow, my book sounds readable!

kittyb78 said...

This will be awesome practice! Thanks for the opportunity.

One sentence:

Kaitlin is about to have her life changed forever by an enticing stranger.

One paragraph:

Seventeen year old Kaitlin Sinclair is about to have her world completely turned upside down when she makes a discovery, that endangers Cadmon's peoples' existence and might cost her life.


Two paragraph:

After losing her father in the line of duty, the last thing seventeen year old Kaitlin Sinclair wants to do is fly halfway around the world to live with an uncle she's never met. She certainly doesn't want to get to know the locals… That is until she's enchanted by some of the legends about the natives. She heads into the jungle and makes a startling discovery that could put both her heart and her life in peril.

Cadmon Quinn is a Borneo shifter, charged with the task of keeping his people safe from the local hostiles. To say he's unhappy when he discovers one traipsing about his people's land is an understatement. Too bad no one warned him she would prove to be more of a challenge than he'd expected. One that could jeopardize his people's existence and his heart.

Anonymous said...

Okay, here goes:


When their best boarder gets sick, two elderly sisters volunteer to make his snowman in the Snowman Contest, with humorous and unexpected results.

Amber said...

Um, I read your "one sentence summary" and laughed out loud. "Accidentally broke the universe" has to be the single greatest one-liner story arc summary I've ever read. Kudos.

cindy. said...

Thanks for the great advice. How would you adjust the pitch/query letter if you have an idea for a novelty book? Something without a traditional story or character arcs?

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