Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Thinking of elevators.

I was at a bar not too long ago and happened to run into my aunt and some of her friends. She brought one of the ladies over and introduced me as her 'writer nephew', and went on to say some very enthusiastic things about the absolute inevitability of my book getting published.

So of course the lady wanted to know. "What's your book about?"

I don't know about the rest of you writer folk, but that is a question I absolutely dread. How can one possibly describe their 500 page novel in under ten seconds? Especially while yelling to be heard over the God-awful karaoke singers. I sat there thinking of how much and what I should tell her, but nothing was clicking. I was drawing a blank (did I mention the place had Guinness on tap?).

So my response was, "Uh......... I don't know."

"You don't know what your own book is about?"

What I meant was that I didn't know how to describe it. I wasn't prepared to talk about it. And the place had Guinness on tap. "No, well -- yeah, I know what it's about... It's basically about these kids that get mental powers because they're like, descended from fallen angels and mortal women. Only they don't know that, see?"

The way I described it, of course, made it sound like the crappiest book ever -- even to me.

The problem, I think, is that I've never developed an 'elevator pitch': a two or tree line synopsis of the entire book. I've never been to a conference, I have no immediate plans to go, and even if I did, I wouldn't need to pitch my book to an agent because, yeah, I've already got me one o' them thar critters.

But clearly an elevator pitch would help me to look less like an idiot, and more like someone who has a decent grasp of the crap he actually hopes to sell one day.

Anyhow. I bring this up because I finished what hopefully will be my final revision of Fiersom's Brood, and I'm all set to start writing the second book, 'Solhades', see the cool picture I made up at the top there? I'm toying with the plot in my little creative muscle right now, and soon I'll embark on my behemoth outlining journey as described below. Only this time, I'm gonna try this technique I came across several months ago called 'The Snowflake Method' It has similarities to my method, only it's somehow even MORE organized, and it starts with an 'elevator pitch' synopsis.

So I'm gonna go work on that now. Maybe I'll post it when I've got it down. In the meantime, I'll leave you with a synopsis of Fiersom's Brood that I toyed with for my query, oh so long ago. I eventually scrapped it because it was too short, but now -- I think I need to go ahead and memorize the freaking thing.

Cuz it's humiliating not being able to describe your own dang book.

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They are Nephilim: descendants of fallen angels and mortal women. God sent His great flood, in part, to wipe out every trace of their abominable civilization, yet a remnant survives, hidden beneath ocean and earth, striving to redeem themselves under an impending curse. One-thousand generations later: a group of teens slowly unravel the secret of their ancestry.

. . . and the source of their power.

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So now you tell me, what's the elevator pitch for your latest novel? And I realize this sounds like a routine question to get you to leave a comment, but seriously, I love hearing what other people's books are about. I honestly want to hear all of your synopses, with all my widdle heart. Please don't disappoint me.

I could learn something.

32 comments:

bunnyjo georg said...

My latest novel is a work of unimaginable genius involving two people and their quest to remodel a house, meanwhile an evil wizard is trying to take over the minds of two of their children. In a mad dash to finish the house and save the two maidens, a cruel witch rushes in and starts stealing their money. Sounds exciting, n'est ce pas?!?!?

Kelly said...

I totally agree that you need to have your pitch polished and ready for anytime! (note to self: work on pitch)
I'm a poet and picture book writer- I have a poetry book of electronic gadgets, a Halloween song parody book, an ABC book of rock and roll, poetry book about backyard birds, a book about a little girl who is meeting her new baby brother, and a few more. Some are out in submissions, some I'm revising.
I like your book premise, V!

Carrie Harris said...

It IS humiliating, isn't it?

My new book will be something like this:

Emma, adopted daughter of a wannabe Spice Girl, ninja butt-kicker extraordinaire, decides to do something different: she joins a rollergirl team. But when she learns that they're really demon-hunters in disguise, she has to decide once and for all whether she'll use her abilities for good or evil.

I'm still working on it, though.

DebraLSchubert said...

"Sparks Fly Sometimes" is about a rock goddess turned domestic goddess turned rock goddess.

With a whole lot of other shit in between!;-)

Serena Woods said...

Oh, boy. Yeah, that question is so hard to answer. I heard another writer say that they are a good writer, but not a good salesman. So, they can write a good book, but be terrible at pitching it. That's me. I'm terrible at pitching. (baseball and sales)

I was going to post my synop, but I need to work on it.

Bryan B. said...

You have to take a chance sometimes, risk everything for Love, or whatever. Because sometimes the geek gets the Prom Queen. And the jock can fall for the girl in the secondhand dress. You have to believe. Then go.
In two weeks, Head's taking his chance. He's following a crooked line up the map in search of Love ...and Greatness. He's getting his happy ending.

- "The Legendary Days of My 17th Year"

That's a dramatic version...

Weston Elliott said...

Mine didn't take a lot of work, mainly because it's what I've been telling people for years when I described my childhood. (nonfiction is great!)

"When I was 9, my family moved 7 miles up a dirt road, and a hundred years back in time. When my father stood up to the county bully, the old man threatened to kill my whole family- then tried to make good on the threat. I lived a lifetime in the Old West, all in five years of the early 1980's"

Pretty cool, huh?

Elise Murphy said...

I so so want to share my synopsis and elevator pitch with you . . . like it's making me twitch to not be able to send it on. But I'm pretty sure my agent would kill me and then hide my body.

Your cover art is lovely!

Keri Mikulski said...

I know what you mean..

After a did a few signings, I realized I better figure something out because standing there and saying, uh, uh.. isn't going to sell books. So I seriously memorized the back cover and used it. :)

Good luck!

Mary Paddock said...

I dread that question too--for different reasons. You should try telling people you write sci-fi in the Bible Belt. Really. Especially when you say, "It's about a female computer genius whose sister is killed by a serial killer she met online. She makes it her mission to stop him from killing again, but he's not your typical serial killer. This guy is a warlock." (I wish there was a better word--warlock tends to muster up all the wrong images. I don't even use the word in the book). I've already discovered that in some circles you run the risk of being "prayed for" behind your back.

Tracey said...

Well, it's not really a novel, but non-fiction. The book is about how my sister and I discovered a genetic link in our family to breast/ovarian cancer and the affect it has had on us (she has the gene mutation, I don't). Really it's not as gloomy as it sounds. It's more about educating and advocating for yourself. Hopefully it's not as dull as that sounds either ... (and you didn't even think I had a WIP)

Vivi Alden said...

Wow, that's funny. Just this past Saturday night I was trying to explain my current WIP to a couple friends while we were out to dinner. It was awful! I actually stopped halfway through and said, "I swear, it's written way better than how I'm telling it". Kinda sad, really. I won't attempt it again here. It'll just make both of us cringe.

Big Plain V said...

Bunny - I wish you would write a book. I really do. You'd rock.

Kelly - Your books sound like fun. But you've never had to pitch them? I guess I don't know how you submit for children's books. You should write a blog post on it.

Carrie - That idea is freaking amazing. I totally get to read it, right?

Debra - Sounds really cool. And it's sort of biographical, right?

Serena - 'not a good salesman.' I like that. I'm gonna steal it. You're cool with that, right?

Bryan - I like the book and I like the pitch. Is this how you answer people when they ask what your book is about?

Wenston - Wow. I knew your book was a memoir but I had no idea it was so unique. Great idea and great pitch.

Elise - S'okay. Your agent is a God among mortals and I wouldn't want to offend her either. My agent has never said I couldn't talk about my book, though, is there some kind of rule I don't know about? (Do answer me back if you see this).

Big Plain V said...

Keri - Good point. I want to be ready when my day comes.

Mary - Did you know I used to be a children's pastor? I've always been disappointed in how prickly many Christians are about fiction. I shudder to think about how my book might be received. Really cool pitch, btw. I've always loved the concept of TW.

Tracey - Was that your Nano novel? I guess I thought you were writing some fiction. Not a bad subject for a book though, there will always be a market for things like that.

Vivi - I am disappointed. I've always been curious about your novel because of the wonderful stuff I've seen on your blog. When are you gonna share more about AC? Do you have readers?

Paul Michael Murphy said...

I would read Wenston's right now.

And because I also suck at telling people what my stories are about, I can give only this:

High school kid. Family vacation. Ugh. Meets girl. Gets handjob. Thinks he's in love. (And there's also some pretty sweet fart jokes.)

Elise Murphy said...

No . . . I'm sure if he wanted you to shush up, you'd know it. When words like "original" and "haven't seen anything like it in the YA market" come up . . . you start to feel a little protective and panicked.

Denise said...

Ray, I'm on to a new story, and trying loads of outlining, history, background, etc (thanks for the advice). Here's a lame attempt at a synopsis.

Lonnie's disastrous experiments, especially the flammable ones, tend to keep people away. Until she is recruited by the school for scientists at the Wizard's Eye, an ancient observatory built high on a lone mountain on her planet. Destined to replace the current Wizard, Lonnie must work out the secrets of the observatory and the meaning behind the Wizard's final words, mysteries tied to both the past and the future of her people.

Tracey said...

Nope it's not my Nano novel. That was fiction (which I'm not that great at yet, so I've moved on to what I can write).

Anita said...

Wow...this was difficult, but fun.

A young Air Force wife, Tomasina Mack, takes down the murderer in her husband's pilot training class. And in the process of taking the loco man down, Tommi does a whole lot of growing up.

Bryan B. said...

No, I usually mumble something like, "Um..it's about Love and...um, ninjas or something."


That little description above took 30 minutes of thinking...

Madison said...

The WIP I'm working on most right now is Help! My Parents Are From Outer Space! so I'll do one for it.

Stacie thought she was a normal 13 year old until she discovers that her parents are aliens....after she wakes up on a spaceship bound for their planet. Through a crazy, whacked out adventure, she has to rescue her father, the President of the United States, and two worlds from falling into evil hands. Pressure? Just a smidge.

Danielle said...

I've got two WIPs, but one isn't ready for public consumption yet. The other is:

Anna was ready to live happily ever after, but life doesn't always turn out the way one might expect. After seeing a different side of her fiance, she calls off the wedding, and her world turns upside down.

There's a lot more to it - abuse, stalking, people getting hit by buses... but that's the best short synopsis I've come up with yet.

VeeFlower said...

My attempted book decided it wanted to be a short story, so here it is: Evelyn is the widow of a wealthy man; but my story begins with her walking the streets, newly homeless, trying to remain anonymous. As she struggles to resolve her situation, and as you the reader wonder how she became such a hopeless case, you will discover a side of life most of us fear, and hope we will never have to experience firsthand.

Big Plain V said...

Murph - I had to check my email before I figured out that this isn't the Farve story. Right? Cuz he's eleven and wouldn't get a, um... you know.

Elise - Sounds like a good kind of panic. Let us know when the time comes for the big unvieling.

Denise - Awesome. Is it YA? Cuz I think YA is due for a resurgence of scifi.

Tracey - I understand. Fiction isn't for everybody. Just the tall people, really.

Anita - Very nice. It just has a solid sound to it. And with all of your connections and experience, your 'road to pub' oughtta be fairly smooth.

Bryan - All you'd really have to do to piques someone's curiosity is say, "It's about the John Cusack philosophy." Once you lay that out for them, they'll simultaneously recognize your brilliance, and begin longing for the day when your book becomes available.

Madison - Love it. The last line especially. "Pressure? Just a smidge."

Danielle - Yeah? Make sure you work the 'people getting hit by busses' bit into it. Everybody wants to see somebody get hit by a bus.

Vee - Is this something you're currently writing? You've got to write this. Do it. Seriously. And let me know if you need any help.

Pink Ink said...

I love your new title Solhades. Very clever. And Congrats on finishing your revisions.

Well, you know my elevator pitch, but I'll share here, why not?

Seventeen-year old Antonio is possibly the worst person to help his Philippine town get rid of its ghost moon night curse.

After all, he steals and lies, and he’s not above cheating his employer to get his coveted record player. Still, the lure of a cash prize to break the curse is too hard for Antonio to resist. So he enlists the help of his best friend who plays coconut basketball, a tomboyish girl who dislikes him, and a water buffalo named Cupid who snorts when happy. Will Antonio’s quick wits – and his sidekicks – be enough to break the curse…before the curse breaks him?

colbymarshall said...

oh, man...I dread this one too. I hate it especially because people try to act interested even if they arent lol

VeeFlower said...

It is completed. However, the only complete copy was given to a friend as a one of a kind gift. I do have two thirds of it on paper, my own copy, which you can read. But the denouement is in cyberspace, happily winging its way along with all the pics I lost when my computer crashed. Sob. I should probably rewrite it.

DebraLSchubert said...

Hey, Ray - I just linked you on my blog.;-)

Amy Ellis said...

It's all a matter of perspective. If I ran into someone who was introduced as a writer, and I asked what the book was about (which I'd NEVER DO, by the way, but IF I did), and the response was that it was about people with mental powers who were descendants of fallen angels and mortal women, I'd say, "That sounds TOTALLY COOL!"

So no worries.

Big Plain V said...

Pink - Every time I hear about your book, I get more and more interested.

Colby - Thanks for sharing my pain.

Vee - Absolutely - I want to read it! Would you re-finish it first? Please? For me?

Debra - Yeah? Think I'll go and check that out.

Amy - You are too kind. You just won a free autograph. (I'll write it on a post-it and mail it to you so that if the book ever gets printed, you can stick it on in.)

bunnyjo georg said...

Hey, everyone, BPV's got BIG NEWS about his book. Bug him until he tells!!!!!!

Timothy said...

Ray: This has nothing to do with your blog; but thought I would be compelled to share with you-- Rebecca has a Maxine 2009 Calander and for the month of February it shows Maxine saying:"The early bird might get the worm; but it's the night-owl that gets the tequila."