Thanks so much to everyone who participated in this year’s NaNoWriMo Pitchapalooza! As always, we got so many fabulous pitches, making it VERY hard to choose a winner. But choose we must. And this year the winning pitch goes to KITTY KILBY for her book The Oyster’s Autobiography. Amazing job, Kitty!
We also had such a tight race for fan favorite, that we’re awarding two consultations for two talented (and obviously well-loved) ladies who were neck-and-neck the whole time. Congratulations to MEGHAN SPRAPEC and IZZY VERDERY. Woohoo!!!
If you’re looking for regular advice on writing and getting published, sign up for our newsletter (where you’ll find info on our live Pitchapaloozas and workshops around the country) or visit us on Facebook and Twitter.
Write on Wrimos!
Arielle & David
P.S. If you’re a winner, please email us at email@example.com.
Read the 2014 pitches below and vote for your favorite, by Author:
- Meghan K. Strapec (34%, 1,415 Votes)
- Izzy Verdery (33%, 1,396 Votes)
- Bárbara Thomé (10%, 402 Votes)
- Courtney Parker (5%, 191 Votes)
- Jennifer Mason (3%, 138 Votes)
- Kelley Greene (3%, 126 Votes)
- Sara Knaus (3%, 117 Votes)
- Arjav Shah (3%, 115 Votes)
- Tiffany Vora (2%, 63 Votes)
- Rebecca Ansari (1%, 53 Votes)
- August Samuel Evrard (1%, 45 Votes)
- Sara Pauff (1%, 32 Votes)
- Jessica Scott (1%, 26 Votes)
- Candice Watson (0%, 18 Votes)
- Kitty Kilby (0%, 7 Votes)
- Jessica Hoeferr (0%, 5 Votes)
- Sara Litchfield (0%, 5 Votes)
- Tia Kalla (0%, 5 Votes)
- Lauren Harsma & Kate Dias (0%, 4 Votes)
- Clarissa Kae (0%, 3 Votes)
- Keri Culver (0%, 2 Votes)
- Lubna Safi (0%, 2 Votes)
- Hazel Sparks (0%, 1 Votes)
- Ana Maria Visinoni-Davidov (0%, 1 Votes)
- Sarah Downie (0%, 1 Votes)
Total Voters: 4,173
Nano Nation delivers yet another batch of pulse-ponding pitches! Teens with superpowers and a real life teen writer. Witches, an Egytian queen and mutated babies. Poisonous smartphones and a yarn-bomber. Dead brides and Mr. Rochester. Mobsters and star-crossed lovers. There’s something for everyone here.
Once again, we were totally blown away by the diversity, quantity and quality of pitches we got in our NaNoWriMo Pitchapalooza. But of course we’ve come to expect this level of excellence from NaNo Nation. The Book Doctors had an absolute blast swimming in this vast pool of pitches. Write on, Wrimos!
Now for the 411: The 25 pitches below were selected randomly. Our comments follow each pitch. It’s our mission to try to help all you amazing writers not just get published, but get successfully published. That’s why we’ve told you what works, but also what needs to be improved.
On March 31, 2014, we will name a winner. But, in the mean time, don’t let our opinion sway you. What story intrigues you? What pitch would prod you from the couch to the bookstore (or, if you’re really lazy, to buy it online)? This year, we’ve made it easy for you to vote for your favorite pitch. The pitch that receives the most votes will be awarded the “fan favorite”, and the author will receive a free one-hour consult with us (worth $250).
But please note: YOU CAN ONLY VOTE ONCE! So please choose carefully. Don’t just read the first couple of pitches — read them all. You owe it to your fellow Wrimos. Encourage your friends, family and random strangers to vote for you via the link to the poll. We will also be posting these pitches—a couple a day–on our Facebook page. We encourage anyone to “like” your entry but only poll votes from the webpage will count towards the Fan Favorite.
Finally, through the 31st, we are still offering a free 20-minute consult (worth $100) to anyone who buys a copy of our book The Essential Guide To Getting Your Book Published. Just email us a copy of your receipt and we’ll be in touch to set up a time to talk.
The Oyster’s Autobiography by Kitty Kilby
Shy girls don’t yarn-bomb the school fence at dawn, and they definitely don’t skip school to hang out with Patrick Hayes—student council president, football vice-captain (and president of his own fan club).
But then, best friends don’t usually resort to blackmail.
Fifteen-year-old Mabs is the shadow to Olivia’s sun. That’s how it’s always been. But when Olivia goes on a semester-long exchange to France, Mabs can no longer hide behind her best friend.
When a letter arrives, postmarked Paris, the last thing Mabs expects is a blackmail letter. And unless she completes the enclosed list of dares by the time Olivia gets home, Olivia will send the love poem she stole from Mabs’s diary to the boy it was written about.
What’s even worse than the possibility of Rob Eno (her way too easily decipherable codename for the former object of her affections) seeing that poem, or her best friend thinking that she’s a friendless recluse who needs to be blackmailed into getting a life, is having to admit it just might be true.
After a few humiliating attempts, Mabs realises the only way she’s ever going to get the list finished in time is to enlist the help of an extrovert. Enter Patrick Hayes—her brother’s pain-in-the-neck best friend.
The ultimate extrovert, he might be the only one who can help Mabs finish the list, and step out of Olivia’s shadow.
THE OYSTER’S AUTOBIOGRAPHY is a contemporary young adult novel complete at 72,000 words.
The Book Doctors:
From the first sentence, this is a terrific pitch: “Shy girls don’t yarn-bomb the school fence at dawn.” It’s got a great style to it. It shows us what the voice of the book is going to be like–fun and entertaining. There is also danger and contradiction and panache and the foreshadowing of bad things to come. We immediately get a sense of the story here, and we do fall in love with our heroine. We would like to know a little bit more about what she wants to do with Patrick Hayes, and more of a sense of how this list takes her outside her comfort zone. But you have convinced us you are a talented writer who knows how to create characters and make a story. And you’ve got a great title, too!
The Runaway House by Courtney Parker
Kade looks and acts like a runaway. And with his parents breathing down his neck about college applications and baseball scholarships, he almost wishes he were one. So when Agent Boone approaches him with the opportunity to go undercover and disappear, Kade signs up.
In the small, old-timey towns of Jessup, Martin, and Clydesville, sightings of high-profile missing kids from all over the country have poured in through the years. The tips turn up nothing, but the townsfolk tell tales of an old, possibly haunted, house set deep in the woods that separate the towns. Kade is given one mission: to find the house and, if the kids are there, to convince them he’s one of them.
In the three-story, Victorian-style house surrounded by nothing but miles of woods, Kade enjoys his stress-free days and finds himself wanting to abort the mission and just live this new life with new people who expect nothing of him. Yeah, Ian—the guy in charge—has it out for him for some reason and says he’s not allowed to leave the house, but why would he want to anyway? Still, he can’t help but wonder where Ian goes every day when he wanders off into the woods. Quickly, Kade realizes that he is not the only one with a secret, and he must take it upon himself to crack a case much bigger than the one he signed up for. Especially if he wants to ever get himself and the kids out alive.
The Runaway House (66,000 words) is a YA novel. I have written one other book that is a companion novel to this and has not yet been solicited to any agents or publishers. My plan is to write another companion novel to The Runaway House and make it a trilogy. Professionally, I have freelance edited e-books and worked in education and libraries since earning a BA in creative writing in 2009.
The Book Doctors: We like the idea of this book very much. You capture all the obstacles that a teenage kid faces, the overwhelming feeling that makes someone a runaway. We think lots of kids will be able to relate to this. And the missing children from all over the country who have ended up in these small old time he towns, it’s very spooky and cool. We can really see the three-story, Victorian-style house surrounded by nothing but miles of woods. It’s very good showing, a wonderful word picture that our minds can really wrap around. But we don’t get the sense from the very beginning what this kid desperately wants, apart from escaping the pressure. What does he really desire at the beginning of the story? We do like the suspense and the difficulty that Ian brings to the story. But we’d like to get more of a sense of what life is like in this house, why these kids have all been brought there. We’d like a little bit more of a sense of what’s going to happen if he fails in his mission. Show us the pictures of what’s going to happen to those kids if everything goes wrong. Lastly, don’t tell us that you’ve written another book that hasn’t been published. That doesn’t serve you. And just pitch this book, not the companion novel as well.
Web of Secrets by Sarah Downie
Murder. Intrigue. Secrets and lies. Who killed Deirinna’s mother and why?
A northern girl who danced for the Emperor Breithrichten and later bore his daughter, Aigheanna was murdered after Breithrichten proposed. Their baby daughter was hidden in the north with Aigheanna’s relations and her discovery by Lord Cuilean fourteen years later prompts a new investigation. Iolairhen, the current Emperor is Deirinna’s cousin and both have equal claim to the Crown. The Emperor’s Chief Councillor, Lord Fegann, has his own agenda and is regarded as the power behind the throne. Only Cuilean can protect Deirinna and guide her through this new world. Each player at the Imperial Court has their secrets and Deirinna’s arrival threatens to reveal all.
Set against a backdrop reminiscent of Britain with the north and south divide, the Imperial Court contains flavours of Persia, China and Europe, as seen through clothing and character appearance. Women wear dresses in many colours made of cotton and silk and men were trousers with long sleeved silk robes, the colours denoting their rank and station. Appearance ranges from blonde with blue eyes to dark with brown eyes and all colours in between. Distinctive eye colours such as amber and mismatched green and brown are a marking of royal lineage.
Web of Secrets begins with Aigheanna’s murder and flashes forward to Deirinna’s discovery before going back in time to when Aigheanna arrived at the Palace. Mother and daughter’s storylines interweave as secrets are revealed in both timelines, with repercussions for all involved.
The Book Doctors:
A story about an empire, with lots of political intrigue and murder, never goes out of fashion. And it sounds like you’ve got one of these in spades. But we think you do yourself an enormous disservice by starting with the words “Murder. Intrigue. Secrets and lies.” At this point those are clichés. We’ve seen these words so many times, in fact, they’ve sort of lost their ability to grab us. There are also too many names in this pitch. We got lost trying to figure out who was who, and who is doing what to whom. We understand there are two stories, but we don’t really know who the heroine, or heroines, is or are. We like the idea of combining East and West, Europe and Asia, but your descriptions of the clothing, colors and eyes, they don’t seem specific or unique enough. As for the end, “Repercussions for all involved” is way too generic. We want carnage, heartache, disaster!
Mr. Write by Sara Pauff
Joanna “Jo” Elliott’s perfect man? Tall, dark and imaginary.
Since her last relationship ended in heartbreak, Jo has spent more time thinking about fictional men than real ones. But when one of her favorite literary men, Mr. Rochester of Jane Eyre, appears one night, she’s more pissed off than pleased to see him.
Of course, he does nearly gallop over her car. Also, he’s rather rude. And Jo has no idea how he ended up in a modern-day college town or how to get him back to his novel.
Her confusion only grows as more characters show up at her house and the bookstore where she works. Soon Jo discovers she can bring to life any fictional being she wants simply by writing about them. Scribble down a short story, write some fanfiction or just compose a note in a greeting card and BAM! Instant hero.
So when her best friend suffers yet another break-up, Jo decides to create the perfect man. All she has to do is write a simple love story.
Someone should have warned Jo that nothing about love is simple.
No matter what she writes – and rewrites – Jo can’t get her leading man to cooperate. And she doesn’t have time to wait for romance to bloom, because that guy who broke her heart? He’s back, and he’s dating her best friend.
“Mr. Write” is a 98,000-word work of women’s fiction. I am a newspaper copy editor and former newspaper reporter and columnist.
The Book Doctors:
We really like the first lines of this pitch. Such a wonderful play on the old cliché: Tall, dark and handsome. You’ve taken something familiar and turned it on its head. That tells us right away you have a cool, unique voice. You also have a terrific premise. It reminds us a little of the Woody Allen movie Purple Rose of Cairo. This idea of a character from another story being put like a fish out of water into a strange environment is familiar, but what you’re doing with it seems unique. Everyone knows Mr. Rochester. He is a big pain in the ass. We like that she works in a bookstore as well. Weirdly, that will help you sell books when this novel comes out. And we really like the weird superhero powers that she has. That she can conjure these beloved literary characters. It’s very post-modern and meta in the best sense. This idea of creating a leading man who won’t cooperate her with her seem so funny and deeply psychologically revealing at the same time. Then you have the guy who broke her heart back in the mix, increasing complications. We were a little confused as to whether she plays a role in her best friend being with the guy who broke her heart or not. That seems important. Plus, we’d like to know what kind of newspapers you wrote for. This experience can be a big leg up in getting published, so the more info the better. Great pitch!
Claimed By an Angel by Izzy Verdery
This truly cosmic fantasy YA novel Claimed By an Angel treads in Milton’s footsteps, creating a world at the mercy of a bickering, once-married, couple – God and Satan – who have decided to use two human pawns to settle their dispute once and for all. And this time? God is a woman.
Stella and Rachel are best friends. When they’re each claimed by polar opposites: Heaven and Hell, neither knows what happened to the other.
As soon as Stella finds out where Rachel is, she is determined to try and find and rescue her. As she gets her wings, learns some magic, and becomes someone worthy of angel hood in Heaven, she has to go, because Rachel’s in trouble. Meanwhile, Rachel finds herself on dark street, talking to a strange boy who claims he knows the Devil. Trying to navigate the World of Shadows is hard, but it’s even harder as she uncovers more about who she is, why she’s there, and just where Stella might be.
With the help of their friends, the two girls begin a quest that none of them fully understand to bring a millennia-old relationship back to the start. In this thrilling tale of friendship, first romance, and new beginnings, follow Rachel and Stella as they embark on a quest to find each other. New teenage author Izzy Verdery showcases the best of dystopian YA fantasy fiction. The story of Stella and Rachel will show the other side of history- the greatest love story ever told.
The Book Doctors:
First of all, we are kind of awed by the fact that you are a teenage author. That is so cool! We always say agents, publishers and readers are looking for stories that are familiar yet unique. Paradise Lost casts such enormous shadows over Western culture, you automatically give yourself a built-in fan base. And then you have the great twist that God is a woman. It feels biblical, but very modern at the same time. We also love that Satan and God were a bickering once-married couple. You also allude to other great stories, like Orpheus and Eurydice, in which Orpheus descends into hell to retrieve the love of his life. In terms of how to improve the pitch, we don’t quite get any vision of the “World of Shadows”. What exactly is she facing? You use the word “quest” twice in the same paragraph. Don’t tell us that your book is thrilling. Just show us. Similarly, don’t tell us that you are the “best of dystopian fiction.” Just show us how great you are. You could also use a couple of comparable titles, books that you think are similar.
Ravaged by Sara Knaus
Sabine’s body opened at the demon’s feet, her porcelain skin marred by blood that bubbled up from her throat. Tremors surged along the creature’s spine as it gorged itself on the meat.
Supple, Odile thought desperately. Supple, supple, that’s what you are. The word was a mantra, fixed in her brain like a failing prayer.
The hedonistic city of Hjarta blossomed on hallowed ground, and the god Seg’vora is set on retribution. Odile is one of many hapless libertines, has her indulgent ways brought to a halt when her lover and famed courtesan, Sabine Uzzolta, is slaughtered by the Hell-sent ravagers that prey upon harlots and panders.
Following Sabine’s death, Odile and her cousin Andrea can take on the shape of the demons at will, able to slay them. Hjarta’s leaders vie for their allegiance, the High Priestess seeking to appease the ravenous god; the Doge to destroy it.
Interested only in avenging Sabine, Odile lunges into a crusade against Hell. Casualties rise. Seg’vora speaks through Andrea’s sister Rozia, a priestess, ravening after her notorious cousin.
As she delves deeper into the mystic world that has oppressed her, Odile learns that her battle is one Sabine began long ago, one that she trusted Odile to win for her – even if she tears the world down to do it.
Inspired by Renaissance myth and seduction, Ravaged is a fantastical war against heaven, paved by the darkly intimate history of two corrupt women.
Enter the city, if you can evade its jaws.
The Book Doctors:
Your pitch is your audition to show us what a wonderful writer you are, and after reading your pitch we’re really convinced you know how to put words together. We love the log line at the end: “Enter the city, if you can evade its jaws.” We also enjoy the way you give us a little sample of the book right in the beginning so we see the tone and style of your book. Instead of telling us about it, you show us the action. And there’s so much at stake in the story, right from the beginning. But we do need more word pictures. Again, you have to build this world for us so that we can see it. You tell us that our heroine can take on the shape of the demon, but we don’t know what the demon looks like. How is it different than all the other demons to come before it? And we feel like there are too many characters in this pitch. We lose track, particularly because the names are unfamiliar. The pitch needs to be simpler. Also, we don’t quite get enough of a sense of who our heroine is; we don’t quite fall in love with her; we’re not quite rooting for her. For example, what exactly are her “indulgent ways”?
The Movie of Her Dreams by Candice Watson
Jessica Bentley is a hero. Jessica Bentley is a slut. Jessica Bentley is crazy. Or, at least, that’s what the senior class at Crowe Academy would have you believe.
In reality, Jess wants to get out. After an ill-advised fling went wrong the year before, any goodwill that her peers might have had for her has gone out the window. Her position as president of the Film Club is constantly being undermined by her manipulative vice president, her lacrosse captain is trying to get her to quit, and her best boy friend-slash-epic crush wants nothing to do with her.
But there’s only so much wallowing that a girl can do, especially during her last year of high school. Jess is hell-bent on getting into film school, and in order to do that, she has to make The Movie of Her Dreams. To do that, she needs a little help from the friends that she still has, as well as the assistance of Matt, her best friend’s brother-slash-Crowe’s football star, who is far more intelligent and perceptive than Jess expected.
Making The Movie of Her Dreams and getting into film school is a long term escape, but what about the short term? Will Jess be able to put herself back together in eight months, or will she become more undone by the time senior year’s over?
The Book Doctors:
We really like the way this pitch begins. The unexpected juxtaposition of hero and slut. It convinces us from the very beginning that you are skilled and talented writer. We like that our heroine has a goal and quest, something she has to complete, with a clock ticking in the background. It’s a good plot, and you have a good writing style. And we like Jessica right away. We’d like to see her doing something nice for other people, so we’d go from liking her loving her. You’ve done a great job of having everything and everyone stacked against her, increasing difficulties on all sides. But we don’t think this pitch comes to a sufficient climax. Becoming more undone doesn’t feel climactic to us. We want to know the specifics of what’s going to go wrong if she fails. We’d like to understand more about where this relationship with Matt is going, for better or for worse.
Mai Gao Fen by Tia Kalla
Iskandar said the world would be in danger if the artifacts weren’t collected. Dei wasn’t so concerned with that. The fact that he’d gotten one of those artifacts embedded in her body, to her, was more of a pressing problem. But even though it might do who-knows-what, both it and Iskandar left her questions she couldn’t answer. Finding those answers was worth some small risk.
Iskandar’s quest takes Dei and her sister across the Shoumin Empire they live in and its surrounding territories: the towering pagodas, the complex gearwork, the gowns and suits on the cutting edge of fashion. Dei’s genius with clerical magic (and her sister’s kleptomania) acquire them more of the artifacts, and new friends across the continent.
But there are things about himself that Iskandar hasn’t told her. And there are things his superiors haven’t told him about the items he’s seeking. And she’s not too eager to tell them that their precious artifact is camping in her abdomen.
Knowledge used to be the only thing Dei was interested in. Then she found people she was interested in. Now the knowledge she loves may ruin the people she’s come to care about.
MAI GAO FEN is an Asian steampunk fantasy novel in progress.
The Book Doctors:
We love that the artifact is “camping in her abdomen”. That is a very intriguing image and one we want to know more about. But we think this pitch has a problem with how it introduces the characters. Because these names are unknown to us, We don’t know whether they’re male or female. Then there’s a sister thrown in who seems to be quite a comic character but doesn’t have a name. So we quickly become confused. If you give physical descriptions of these characters, we can see them and relate to them better. And since you’re creating a world, we need to see more of that as well. We got the towering pagodas (cool!), but we don’t quite see the complex gear work, we don’t exactly know what “the cutting edge of fashion” means in this context. Part of the cool thing about steam punk fantasy is the imagination gets to run wild. But you have not displayed to us at that your imagination is going to show me things we have never seen before.