The Art of Live Pitching (3 Rules)

Author:
Publish date:
Image placeholder title

Today I arrived in Portland, Oregon, to participate in the Willamette Writers Conference.
I first came here in 2004 to hear pitches and take appointments, and I often return to Cincinnati with a great author for Writer's
Digest (e.g., Christina Katz and Sage Cohen as the most recent).

Tonight I took part in a "pitch the pros" panel with Jeff Herman (agent), Charlotte Cook (Komenar), and Krista Lyons (Seal Press). More than 20 writers had about 3 minutes to pitch their work and get feedback from the panel. Overwhelmingly, most pitches could have been improved if they followed these three rules:

  1. Keep it short. (Brevity is your friend!) Just because you have three minutes (or 5 or 10) doesn't mean you should take up all the time. Never talk for as long as possible—it can take a mere 15 seconds to deliver a convincing storyline. The longer you talk, the less time the agent or editor is talking. And isn't that why you're meeting with them—to hear THEIR feedback and reaction?
  2. Focus on a character and the character's problem. When it comes to fiction, it's much easier to follow a pitch and remain interested when we can connect to a character and immediately understand the problem or conflict facing that character. Why are we going to care? What are the stakes? So what?
  3. Stop at a moment of tension and wait. Rather than talk and talk (which sometimes happens because you're nervous), remind yourself that it's OK not to explain all the details or the final outcome. It's more effective to stop just as you've established the key stakes or tension, and wait for a reaction from the agent. Let them guide the discussion; find out what's caught their attention or what piece is missing.

In the next few days at Willamette, I'll be taking appointments, sitting on another panel, and also giving an educational workshop. Hope to have another update with some more advice, including tips from the many talented agents/editors who are gathered here.

Stephanie Dray: On Writing Women's Legacies

Stephanie Dray: On Writing Women's Legacies

Bestselling and award-winning author Stephanie Dray shares how she selects the historical figures that she features in her novels and how she came to see the whole of her character's legacies.

From Script

Taking Note of the Structure of WandaVision and Breaking in Outside of Hollywood (From Script)

In this week’s round-up from ScriptMag.com, learn about the storytelling techniques used in the nine-part Disney+ series "WandaVision," outlining tips for writing a horror script, and breaking in outside of Hollywood as a writer and filmmaker.

April PAD Challenge

2021 April PAD Challenge: Day 10

Write a poem every day of April with the 2021 April Poem-A-Day Challenge. For today's prompt, write a get blank poem.

take two 3 mistakes writers make in act i

Take Two: 3 Mistakes Writers Make in Act I

Without a solid foundation, our stories flounder. Jeanne Veillette Bowerman shares insights into the three mistakes writers make when creating the first act.

David Jackson Ambrose: On Balancing Magic and Practicality

David Jackson Ambrose: On Balancing Magic and Practicality

Novelist David Jackson Ambrose discusses the initial themes he wanted to explore in his latest novel, A Blind Eye, what the editing process was like, and how his books always surprise him in the end.

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Not Knowing When to Shelve a Project

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Not Knowing When to Shelve a Project

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so we started this series to help identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's writing mistake is not knowing when to shelve a project.

April PAD Challenge

2021 April PAD Challenge: Day 9

Write a poem every day of April with the 2021 April Poem-A-Day Challenge. For today's prompt, write a persona poem (for an inanimate object).

4 Tips for Writing Engaging Frenemies

4 Tips for Writing Engaging Frenemies

No matter what genre you write, if you're planning to write characters as frenemies, you'll need to know how to do it well. Bestselling romance author Lorraine Heath shares her top tips.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Placing Blame

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Placing Blame

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, make a character place blame on someone.