• Sophia Dunkin-Hubby

Drafting a Pitch

A stack of books on a light orange patterned tablecloth. On top sits a piece of lapis lazuli, a pen, and a white card. The text on the white card reads - Pitch Components, World Setup (for fantasy), Character Setup, Inciting Incident, Conflict.

As I shared on Instagram a couple of months ago, my writing plans changed. I decided to take the first draft I'd written in the winter and get it ready to query. I've watched my friends go through it but, this is the first time I will have been through this process. I completed a second draft and took a short break before starting the third to do a few things. One of them was to draft a pitch for my query letter.

You might be wondering, if I'm not done with the story why would I draft my pitch now? Why not wait? Encapsulating the story in a pitch, summarizing it in that way, helps me to think about it from a different angle. One with a wider lens. It helps me see where things are still muddy and what needs to be clarified in the next draft.

From an emotional standpoint, seeing the book as a whole, instead of the sum of its parts, has made me realize how many expectations I've been heaping on this one story. When I started writing it I wanted a steamy, fantasy romance. I didn't think about what kind of audience that would have or how it would be marketed. But once I decided to query with it I wanted it to be everything. I want it to make a big splash, to connect me with the writers I adore (most of whom are YA authors), and to appeal to as broad an audience as possible. I started to worry that it has too much sex in it (it might), that it's too niche (it is niche, like most books), and that no one will ever want to publish it or read it (now I'm just being dramatic). This is a very common thing to feel when getting ready to sell a book.

Once I realized that my reaction was normal and a result of my losing sight of what the story I'm writing is I took a step back. Trying to make a book appeal to everyone is a sure fire way to kill it. This is not the only book I will ever write. Allowing it to be what it is is the best thing I can do. Take off the outsized expectations and let it shine.

With my head back on straight, I was able to draft a pitch. Notice, I'm using the verb draft instead of write because that's exactly what I've ended up with. A draft. In a pitch every word counts. It needs to show off the best parts of the story in a pithy, catchy way that sounds like the book. But, just like with a book, aiming for the end result from the beginning is a great way to get nowhere.

Instead, what I aimed for was getting clay on the table. Words and ideas to work with. It's not completely coherent but it doesn't need to be at this point. My book is about death. Have I used that word seventy billion times in four short paragraphs? Yes. I'll clean it up later. Like I said, this is a draft, the basic information that I will edit, polish and shine to a brilliant finish later.

Here's what I aimed for.

  • World setup - I'm writing a fantasy so some idea of the rules of the world are important.

  • Character intro - who is my main character (MC) and what do they want?

  • Inciting Incident - what drives the story? where does it go off the rails for my MC?

  • Conflict - encapsulating the main conflict of the story. What choice is the MC faced with?

Now that I have that information on the page I have a better grasp on the story as a whole and what I need to do in the next draft. I also have a better idea of how to talk about it, which came in handy when I went to my local indie and asked booksellers for recs for comp titles. But that's a topic for another time. For now, it's on to draft three.

If you're an aspiring author, have you drafted a pitch for your book yet? How did you find the process?

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