Monday, January 16, 2012

Stubborness and Determination--No Difference in My Mind

Thank you to everyone who chimed in with thoughts and advice on my pitch on Friday. Since I spent all of last week going through SENDEK one more time in preparation for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, I'm skipping the Birth of a Novel post this week. I WILL get back to the new stuff by next week, I promise.

Today I'm going to share the thought process I went through after reading your remarks over the weekend. These are the things I stressed over before focuings on what you said and incorporated the things I agreed with. ;)

Here are the pitfalls that I fall into when I work on a Pitch or Query.
Yes, sometimes I'm quite a child. I used (read still do on occasion) to play this game.
1. Since this contest gives me 300 words, it was easy to get wordy. That is a lot for a pitch.

2. Previous queries without the world building elicited a lot of "so what" questions because the history of the planet directly affects the story line.

3. No setting also made people read it as strictly fantasy. I do believe it is more fantasy than science fiction, but I still can't wrap my brain around where to draw the line on labeling this novel.

4. The previous pitch is what got me all the positive responses from the conference I attended. When I didn't world build the agent or publisher was confused, but with the world building they were grounded.

5. The Draguman pose their own problem. One agent made a big deal about not leaving them as a vague antagonist. I believe her exact words were "An alien can be anything. It doesn't tell me much." The whole question was what makes them different than everyone else? The biggest difference is that the Sendekians (you guessed right Nicole) think they are aliens as in from another planet, but in truth they are from Sendek and even share certain DNA markers. Try fitting that into a query or pitch. It sucks. I know I need to drop it, but it feels SO important to me. :(

Sometimes this whole business is a joke. The rules say don't do it, but when I did, I got a better response. Confusing? No not at all.

After stressing over what I felt was important, I finally said, "Heck with it. Just write something." Anyway, here's the new pitch (187 words):

Talia Shannon is trapped between two worlds. Although comfortable within the logic of science, her hidden magical side is growing more insistent. She fears her prophetic dreams of invasion by an alien race will soon come true. Although the planet Sendek had a rich magical heritage, the people forgot it when they embraced scientific thought. This makes Talia's task harder. She needs to prove life exists beyond their planet before anyone will believe her. Her work leaves no time for personal relationships, but Major Sutton isn’t looking for a friend.

As nephew to the King, the Major protects his family from a radical group determined to depose the monarchy. He thinks Talia works for them until a touch sizzles between them. Suddenly they can communicate telepathically, proving the Major has magical secrets of his own.

Together they must uncover the secrets of Sendek's past if they hope to survive the invasion. Talia is the key—if she can learn to trust the magic coursing through her veins. Her precious science cannot save them, and magic is now the only hope.

SENDEK is a blend of fantasy and science fiction.
Better? To compare to the original, click HERE


  1. Good opening hook, as long as what comes next explains those two worlds. I think it does, but it may need just a little rearranging. Also, I don't think you need to introduce the name 'Sendek' here. The query can stand without it and it's one less thing for a reader to remember an association with. Try this next (or something similar).

    Talia Shannon is trapped between two worlds. While she's comfortable with the logic of science, her magical side - a heritage most of her people have forgotten - is growing more insistent (You mention in your query that her magical side is hidden. I took it out because at this point in the pitch there's no reason to think Sendek forgot about their magical past for bad reasons or that it's considered evil or wrong or anything else.). She fears her dreams of invasion by an alien race will become prophetic. Unfortunately, her people's reluctance to recognize the mystic over the tangible makes it difficult to convince anyone her concerns are valid. Her only hope for convincing people of the threat is to prove life exists beyond their planet. (I'd suggest taking out the line about the no time for personal relationships. It caused me to stumble in both versions, because at this point I 1 - have no idea who Major Sutton is, and 2 - don't know why it matters what he's looking for in relationship to Talia)

    As nephew to the King, Major Sutton's (job, goal, motivation...pick something appropriate) is to protect his family from a radical group determined to depose the monarchy. He thinks Talia shares his goal until a sizzling touch allows them to communicate telepathically. It turns out Talia's not the only one hiding magical secrets.

    Talia and the Major must work togehter to uncover the secrets of their planet's past and survive the invasion. Talia is the key - but science isn't the answer this time, so she'll have to learn to trust the magic coursing through her veins.

    There are questions I have still that I can't include in my suggestions, but that I think you need to answer in this. You've got a lot of room for growth and word count, since the ABNA pitch is more like a query than a typical pitch. Questions I have that you probably need to answer or remove reference to from your pitch:
    - I think your consequences are clear. If this doesn't work, the world is destroyed. I think that's a great hook. What needs to be more clear is motivation and cause and effect.
    - If the people on Sendek have forgotten about magic just because they think science rules all, then focus here on making it sound unbelievable rather than bad or wicked.
    - which leads to, if Talia knows enough to trust her prophetic dreams and embrace her gift, why does she have to learn to embrace her magic? It sounds more like your story is getting other people to embrace her gift. But I may have misunderstood that
    - The connection between Major Sutton and Talia is weak here. They have two different goals. Consider focusing all of the pitch on Talia's point of view, even if the story shares a POV with Sutton. From there, if you mention Talia has let him think she's there to help protect the monarchy, why has she done that? Does it serve her purpose to be on the inside?
    - Spend a little more time focused on the telepathic link. If it helps them realize they have the same ultimate goal (the safety of the people), bring that up.

    I'd be happy to take another look. I hate to pick this apart, but I think you're so close. You just need a couple of connecting threads to make this the ultimate awesomeness.

    1. Loralie, thank you for the questions. This is the kind of thing that helps the most because I can see from your questions what is not clear in the pitch/query. The biggest being that Landry and Talia's goals ARE different and he actually accuses her of treason. It's one of the stumbling blocks in their relationship.

      The answers to the other questions have slowly been cut from the pitch and my query. The people don't think magic is bad at all. They simply don't give it any thought. The only reason Talia is afraid to use it to warn her people is because there is no scientific foundation for the existence of magic. She doesn't think anyone will believe her.

      I keep thinking my story is way to complicated and it makes it hard to cut things out. Thanks for the remarks though. I'll see how I can make these things more clear.

  2. Well best of luck to you. I hope you win Charity. You definitely deserve it because you've worked really hard on this project. I think that if you could just corner an agent and get them to actually listen to you and force them out of their pomposity to open their ears, then you'd have a great chance. The problem is that they don't want to do that and if you fail, they'd slap a restraining order on you.

    1. I'm not counting on it since science fiction and fantasy are the underdogs in this kind of competition. It doesn't hurt to try though, but I will be working on other options to bring my dream to fruition.

  3. Much better! I'm not much for pitches, but one suggestion - split the last line of the first paragraph in two. End with her not having time and then begin the second one with "However, Major Sutton isn't looking for a friend." Then you tie him up in one paragraph.


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