Friday, January 23, 2009

Wild Pitch

I'm sure most of you have heard about Amazon's Breakthrough Novel Contest. If not check it out, but the deadline is February 2nd and along with the manuscript you have to send a 300 word pitch. I've struggled to get mine right. Giving enough of an idea what Plundered Booty is about, while capturing the comedic style of the novel, and making it all intriguing has been difficult. Here is what I think is my bet version so far, but I feel it still has problems So read and tell me what you think. And please be truthful, because I'm not afraid of some good honest tough love.

Plundered Booty Pitch

Hank Zybeck is no risk-taker. In all of his thirty-seven years, he's loved but one woman, -- Rachel, his high school sweetheart and wife of thirteen years. Worked at one job – selling cars for Habershaw Ford Lincoln and Mercury. And dreamed of one thing – to visit the Caribbean. But Rachel refuses to strike out for a foreign land only to get sand in her bikini. The Mall of America, Branson, Missouri, that's her idea of exotic, and Hank isn't about to rock the boat by going without her. For him, eating out and ordering anything but chicken fried steak is a daring move.

Yet, his free time is spent reading about the legendary pirates that once prowled the Caribbean, Bartholomew Roberts, Stede Bonnet, Blackbeard. Hank knows them all in great detail, but he never dreamed that he too would become an outlaw. Not until Junior Habershaw inherited the dealership and forced Hank to shift gears on his Sunday-drive of a life.

Junior is the kind of guy that can convince water into running uphill. A natural born salesman, he considers talking people into buying cars a waste of time. He'd much rather use his talents talking women into the backseat and the woman Junior wants most, just happens to be Hank's wife.

Under siege from Junior, Hank remembers history's most infamous female pirate, Anne Bonney and the last words she spoke to her lover, “Calico” Jack Rackham “ ... if you had fought like a man, you needn't be hang'd like a dog.” In this tale of a man pushed to fight back, or walk the plank, Hank sets out to prove that he's no dog, but even he doesn't how far over the edge he will go for the sake of love and the chance to live out his Caribbean dreams.


By the way I'm two or three words over so cut where you can.

And don't hesitate to comment even if you are not a writer. All help is appreciated and sometimes a readers eye will catch things those of us who write do not see.

23 comments:

Aerin said...

I'm running out with kidlings but had a couple of suggestions; should be able to get them to you tonight.

Holly Kennedy said...

I like it.

You might want to consider leading into your pitch with a stronger opening sentence, though.

Something like...
Hank Zybeck never dreamed he'd become an outlaw -- then give readers all the backstory on how he's not daring, etc.

Good luck!

pattinase (abbott) said...

Looks like a fun book, Travis. Good luck!

Kristen Painter said...

I agree with Holly - open stronger. It's more intriguing. Otherwise, it sounds pretty good to me.

Crystal Phares said...

I'm with Holly and Kristen, start stronger. In the very last sentance you left out the word know between doesn't and how. Other than that I really like it. Glad to see you posting again!

Clair Dickson said...

I'd edit the sentence about Anne Bonney's last line-- cut out the 'Calico' Jack Rackham part. The two sets of quotes together looks odd-- and you don't need to show that you know who were lover was. Save your words for your story, not the names of Pirates.

And start with something a little more gripping. Hank Zybeck is not Pirate of the Carribean. He'll never go either, because his wife would rather go to the exotic Mall of America.

Start with conflict. Leave the backstory for the book. And what sort of fight is Hank going to put up? Give the reader some reason to believe this pansy has got the testicular fortitude to win his woman back.

But, take my comments with a grain of salt since I can't get agents to read my stuff. (I'm not sure if I have a query problem or a character problem.)

Carleen Brice said...

I agree with the other commenters, and would add that maybe a little more about the conflict w/Rachel might be good. This is the essence of the story and it leaves me with some questions. Why does Junior even stand a chance with her? Just because he's a sweet-talker doesn't seem enough. Also, "under seige from Junior" doesn't really tell me what Junior does to steal Rachel away. And does he succeed? Does Rachel leave Hank?

One last small thing: Junior is the kind of man who can convince water to run uphill might be better than into running uphill.

Carleen Brice said...

Forgot to say good luck!

Sarah Laurenson said...

Here's my take:

It's a good POV pitch - starting and staying with the MC. I can see some of the voice in there, some of the flavor. It does give me a good feel for how you write (I think - not having read any pages).

On the flip side, you have too much setup and then a rushed part where the real story lies. I think you can trim a lot of the setup and that leaves you more words for the story, hook, fun part.

As an exercise, maybe try writing a 4 sentence pitch and then build out from there. That really gets down to what's important.

Pitches can be a bear!

Poetry Sue said...

HOLY SHNIKEYS!! damn I want to read this book now.

ande said...

I really think this coudns awesome. I would read it. I am intrigued, so great job.

Here's the English teacher in me coming out-Your first paragraph is full of sentence fragments-granted I don't know a lot about the format of a pitch-but I do know that in just about any instance your sentences need to be strong. I would hate hate hate to see them just read that first paragraph and pitch it because you aren't using complete sentences. I would suggest commas instead of periods.

Again though-the meat is good! Cook on brother!

ande said...

And look the English teacher in me misspelled sounds.

he he

Josephine Damian said...

Your paragraph is all backstory and shows your MC is not active or dynamic.

Your story is about an avg. Joe (you can convey that with one phrase) leading a staid life and things get crazy when that other guy enters the picture.

dizzblnd said...

Sounds intriguing! I would also start with a stronger opening sentence. I like Holly's idea.

This paragraph: Junior is the kind of guy that can convince water into running uphill. A natural born salesman, he considers talking people into buying cars a waste of time. He'd much rather use his talents talking women into the backseat and the woman Junior wants most, just happens to be Hank's wife.

IMHO should read something like this:

Junior is the kind of guy that can convince water to run uphill. A natural born salesman, he considers it a waste of time talking people into buying cars. He'd much rather use his talents for talking women into the backseat. The woman Junior wants most in that backseat, just happens to be Hank's wife

Also, the siege from Junior.. you might want to say something like (if this is what you mean) "With all of Junior's advances Rachel feels like she is under siege.Her concerns make Hank remember history's most infamous female pirate, Anne Bonney and the last words she spoke to her lover, “Calico” Jack Rackham “ ... if you had fought like a man, you needn't be hang'd like a dog.”


I like the story! Good luck! I will buy it when it gets published

nat said...

I really like the opening, but tighten as in one woman - Rachel; one job - selling cars; dreamed of one thing - sailing the... Then go into the major conflict of the story, which you don't tell us until the 4th paragraph. How does his world change and how does this paralel with the title of your book and his life-long dreams? As always, everytime you mention this book I Can't wait to read it! Good luck. Missed seeing you at PPW. You and your family continue to be in our thoughts and prayers.

Janna Qualman said...

What stood out to me (as a Missourian), is that your phrasing in the first paragraph makes it sound like The Mall of America is in Branson, Missouri, when it's in Minneapolis, MN. Were you listing them as two examples of the places his wife likes to visit?

Good luck!

Jason said...

What about this in that one paragraph? Just cuts a few words, "A natural born salesman, Junior can convince water to run uphill. He considers talking people into buying cars a waste of time. He'd much rather use his talents convincing women into the backseat. The woman Junior wants most just happens to be Hank's wife."

Charles Gramlich said...

I like this pretty well. I'm not sure how I feel about the sentence fragments so close to the opening of the piece. I can see why you did it but they threw me off a touch in first reading it.

Monnik said...

I'm distracted by the sentence fragments. I know some writers use them to make a point, but whenever I read them, I hear my high school English teacher screaming in my ear, and I'm very picky about that stuff.

I also agree that a stronger opening would grab the attention better too.

I agree with the others - this sounds like a great story!

Michelle said...

Hi Travis,
I hate to critique writing samples. I'd never make a good editor. I know you're getting lots of good feedback. The only thing I'd add is that it doesn't sound like YOU writing it. I don't mean that to sound mean at all... it's just that you're such a funny excellent writer, and this post was the only one where I didn't 'feel it'. I certainly don't think you should throw it out, but maybe you could try writing as if you were telling all your blogger fans what your book is all about, I bet you'd ROCK THE PARTY!
That's just my two cents.

I wish you the best of luck, and look forward to reading your novel WHEN it gets published.
Cheers!
Michelle
http://givingtree2009.blogspot.com/

Contest Chris said...

I've nothing to add to the great advise above. I have, however, made this the Featured Post over at Worth a Thousand Words.

Good luck with your novel!

Mr. Shife said...

Good luck Travis.

Barbara Martin said...

In the second paragraph after Caribbean, remove the comma and place a full colon for the list you provided.