Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Less is More

First, thanks to everyone who helped me revise my pitch a few posts down! Sometimes, writing just one sentence is harder than writing a whole page!

While I worked on my "pitch sentence," I also worked on my query pitch. In doing so, I noticed that in writing pitches, less is absolutely more.

For example, here is my new and revised query pitch (probably going to be revised more times after this, too, haha):
Fifteen-year-old Belle is bored with her normal life until she meets her magical new English teacher, Ms. Wendt. Ms. Wendt's classroom door has been enchanted to make everyone exiting through it forget about her magic powers—and forget about the fact that she is a prisoner of her own classroom. The alchemy that Belle's science teacher shows her may be the key to saving Ms. Wendt. But when Belle learns the real reason why Ms. Wendt has been imprisoned, she must decide whether it is worth saving her teacher if it means she will never have magic of her own.
This query pitch is 100 words long. My original query pitch is twice that (literally!! it was 199 words long...and still only 4 sentences!!). In order to cut so much down, I needed to analyze what was essential for an agent/editor to know about my book.
  1. Belle is normal
  2. Ms. Wendt is magical
  3. Ms. Wendt is trapped by a magical door
  4. The magical door erases her students' memories
  5. Belle learns alchemy
  6. Belle is tempted to not save her teacher in order to have magic
This was key information that pertained directly to my book. Belle is a normal girl--but moreover, she is bored with normalcy, so when she meets Ms. Wendt, she desires magic. Belle learns a new skill, alchemy, which might enable to her to get the magic she wants--but that would be at the cost of Ms. Wendt's freedom. Essentially, that is the crux of my plot. I wanted to add the detail about the door solely because that is a) the source of the novel's title and b) the tripping block that prevents Belle from rescuing her teacher for most of the book.

So what did I lose by cutting the query pitch in half? Details about how the door worked, the fact that Belle has two friends to help her in her quest to save Ms. Wendt, and hints that the science teacher isn't on the up and up. Essential details to the novel--but not essential details to the pitch. Taking these details out focused the pitch on the crux of the story.

And in focusing and cutting down the query pitch, I was also forced to analyze what the story really was about. For example, the last line of my original pitch is:
...the first step for Belle to save her teacher is to remember her.
Well, part of the story is the kids breaking the Amnesia Door. But the real problem of the story is Belle's temptation not to save her teacher so that she can have magic for herself. Even if the original first line is great (in my humble opinion) it detracts from the actual story...and left more than one reader wondering how boring the story would be.

This translated back to my pitch sentence, which, again, I'm so grateful to y'all for the help on. The original pitch sentence was 48 words long. Here's the shorter, 31 word long version:
When a normal fifteen-year-old girl sets out to save her imprisoned magical teacher, she must decide whether saving her teacher is worth losing the chance to have magic of her own.
In the original, I again fell into the trap of trying to explain the door. The concept in the book takes pages to explain--trying to shove that in a sentence was silly, considering the important thing is that the teacher is imprisoned, not how. The original sentence focused on the door more than the problem (the temptation), but hopefully this sentence shows that problem in a more concise, clear way. Sure, detail is lost--such as the door itself--but hopefully the meaning is there.

PS--I am going to try to have shorter, less my-book-specific stuff in my posts soon, I promise! I'm just a bit focused on this work right now!!
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