Pitching your novel in one sentence

A series of entertaining and possibly educational posts at Janet Reid’s blog:

Part A: Pitch me your book in 15 words.

The entries are in the comments. My favorite:

Kate Higgins
An accidental stowaway from OZ reluctantly learns adaptation from starkly non-magical residents of dustbowl Kansas.

Or maybe:

Cecilia Ortiz Luna
Miguel suspects psychologist Emily committed a perfect murder.
Emily believes she conducted a perfect experiment.

But quite a few are effective! Click through if you like and read them all, or —

Part B: Janet’s picks and her comments

Interestingly, she did not pick out the Oz one that caught my eye. Well, these things are subjective, of course.

Part C: Here is a post where Janet is currently taking sample pitches, this time with an extra paragraph of explanation allowed as well. Comments were still open at the time I posted this.

I’m so impressed that anybody can manage a 15-word zinger of a line for their novel.

I’m trying to think now how I could possibly do that for, say, WINTER OF ICE AND IRON.

“She’d do anything to protect her people. He’d use anyone to protect his. Can they — ” Oops, that’s fifteen words right there. Also, no obvious suggestion of genre.

It seems like it would surely be easier for stories that are more straightforward. How about the Wings of Fire series?

“Dragons have been at war forever. Can five young friends fulfill a prophecy and bring peace?” That’s sixteen words. Also, kind of boring. How could you capture the charm of the story in 15 words?

Let’s try one we all know: The Curse of Chalion.

“Cazaril wants nothing but a peaceful life. But Iselle will never secure her throne without him.” — and I’m already at sixteen, and imo this doesn’t capture anything important about Caz. How about this:

“After the past years, Cazaril hopes for nothing but peace. But Iselle will never secure her throne without him.” That’s up to nineteen words, but fifteen words is practically impossible! I do like it better.

How about it? Can you do the Curse of Chalion in fifteen words?

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8 thoughts on “Pitching your novel in one sentence”

  1. Caz must cleanse Iselle’s curse before he dies by the demon breaking out.

    Lacks zing, but catches essentials.

    Caz wants peace instead gets a demon that’s killing him, tasked to lift the curse off his country.

    eighteen worse, but better, I think.

  2. To free his country of a terrible curse, Caz will face anything–even Hell beyond death.
    16 words.

  3. Here it is again, using a different mechanic:
    Caz is a 35 year old escaped galley slave. Iselle is an 18 year old princess in a cursed kingdom. Together, they fight crime.

  4. Okay, I have to guess that we all agree that Pete Mack’s last entry is the winner….of a different contest.

    I actually do like Pete’s first version the best. Even though it leaves out Iselle! And gets the feel of the religion wrong! Fifteen words is a deadly limitation.

    “After surviving the war, Cazaril longs for peace, but his new queen carries a deadly curse.” That’s sixteen. But I think it’s not terrible given the limitation. Cut “new” and it would fit the terms of the contest. But would it be catchy and zingy and make an agent request a partial?

    Possibly fairer contest: one sentence, but no word limit.

  5. Hmm. You’re right about the religion being very misleading, though I was thinking of the Bastard’s Hell in the Chalion universe at the time. There was no way to get Iselle in there without going way over the limit.

    And I almost posted this with “Harvard’s Help” instead of “Bastard’s Hell” thanks to autocorrect.

  6. I am laughing about “Harvard’s Help.” I don’t know if I would have figured that one out!

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