Originally posted on Michael Runs the Gamut on April 29, 2014
[Comments from 2021 are in italics, enclosed in square brackets, like this one.]
In the previous post, I showed you the pitch I used for my novel, If a Butterfly, at the 2012 Writers’ League of Texas’ Agents and Editors Conference. This post and the next one are to show how it evolved.
By 2011, All I really knew about pitching was what I had read in books or online. The basics were that you had to catch the agent’s attention right away, and then keep them hooked with ever more interesting bits of your story until they said, “Yes, that sounds wonderful. Send it to me right away so I can make you famous, and we can make a fortune together.” Or words to that effect.
Having been an actor for over thirty years (from about the age of fifteen until I was in my forties) auditioning felt like a natural process to me (and it is similar to the process of pitching), but in the past (unless the audition called for improvisation) I had always read from or memorized part of a script that somebody else (the playwright or screenwriter) had written. Here, I had to write my own script, and I had no idea what I was doing.
I did have some guidance from the things I had read, and they were good pieces of advice. Tell your story, keep it short, make it exciting, don’t give away too much, highlight your writing style, etc.
One of the earliest I pitches I wrote for Butterfly was done for a Pitchapalooza session, held on February 11, 2011. It was 195 words long (edited down from around 300), and ran just under a minute IF I talked very, very fast. [Like the pitch in the previous post, I’ve edited some bits so I don’t give away too much] Here it is.
During a Monarch butterfly’s epic migration from Canada to Mexico, nine disparate lives are examined as the butterfly intersects some of their paths, and we see how each life can touch another, and see the extraordinary effect such chance encounters can have on those around us.
ROBERT MEYERS, a research biologist, copes with [something]. His wife, DEE, an astronaut on the International Space Station, tries to [do something]. DICK and JANE JARVIS take a vacation, unaware they are heading into [something]. LAURA BENSON, a teacher, wants to witness the Monarchs’ migration. BILLIE CROWDER [does something] in the Grand Canyon when [something happens]. Disc jockey, ROCK JACKSON, helplessly watches his life spiral out of control. STELLA LAMBERT, a widowed quilter, struggles to become accepted in a new place. And a British student, JASMINE WILLIAMS, visits America while trying to give up drinking.
Some of their paths coincide with the butterfly’s. Some paths diverge in new directions, but connections are made, and various disasters [either happen or are averted]. The journey ends with everyone feeling differently about life, wearier and sometimes battered, but a little wiser.
At least one of the character’s names changed after that. Looking back on it, the pitch seems a bit vague and wishy-washy. Fortunately, I wasn’t picked at the Pitchapalooza session (it’s done randomly), so I had a chance to rework it. The next stage in that process is covered in the next post.
How do you prepare a pitch? Any techniques you’d like to share?
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