This week, as I cram my head full of as many literary crit., techniques as it will hold, ahead of my exam on June 12, the talented and hardworking Amanda Saint, my fellow blogger and friend in cyber-space, gives us the low down on pitching the high balls to the big boys and girls in publishing. Thank you Amanda. I find this very useful and encouraging.
Back in the cold, dark days of January as I sat at the computer with my first coffee of the morning pondering on my usual dream of getting published, before the caffeine had really done its job I found that I had booked myself into the Get Writing 2012 event. Now that in itself might not seem like a bad thing but I had also signed up to pitch my novel to an agent and have five pages of it reviewed by the Editorial Director of Transworld Publishing. My novel that was nowhere near finished, that I hadn’t written a synopsis for yet and that I wasn’t quite sure how it ended. As the caffeine slowly brought me to a more alert state and I realised what I had done, panic set in.
I felt that panic was a justifiable reaction; I mean I might write a lot but I didn’t really let anyone read it, or hear about it, especially not people who worked in the industry. What if they told me it was incomprehensible drivel? Dreams destroyed in an instant. Surely it was better to cling to the dream, even if that did mean that just a few trusted people, ones that would always tell me it was great, would read my work. So, after darting about like a demented person for a few days, occasionally screeching ‘What have I done?’ at my startled husband, I decided I’d forfeit the fee and not bother going along, it was just too scary.
Then I calmed down and threw myself into the preparation that was needed for it. The five pages were not a problem, I had plenty of pages, but the synopsis was. I’d never written a synopsis before and OK, I might write for a living and write novels and short stories for fun, but this was different. How could I summarise my novel for other people? There was no way I could be objective enough because I was so close to the story and the characters that I would assume everyone else would know what I was talking about. Everything I’d learned in a writing career spanning a decade went out of the window. I couldn’t communicate anything to anyone.
Luckily I discovered Nicola Morgan’s book Write a Great Synopsis – An Expert Guide, which enabled me to cobble together something vaguely resembling a good synopsis, there was no way the word great could go anywhere near it. Then I was helped out by my lovely writing teacher, Shaun Levin, so by the time I sent it off I didn’t feel too bad about what I’d managed to do. I’ve since reworked it several times as I now realise it was shockingly bad – a point that was made at the review using the much kinder statement of: ‘It’s a little confusing.’
The pitch though, thoughts of that had my stomach somersaulting and my knees trembling. I hate having to speak in front of people and throughout my entire life have avoided it as much as possible. Not one to be beaten though, I roped in Holly Clarke, my actor friend, to help me as I knew from past experience that if I didn’t I’d sit across the table from the agent and in a mixture of fast, breathless babbling and incoherent mumbling would convince her I was on day release from a psychiatric ward.
So after learning I had bad breath, I took steps to improve it, applying everything I’d learnt in years of yoga classes to my speech. I read it aloud on my own in my office, looking in the mirror, following my husband round the house. When the day came I felt semi-confident that I could do it, I mean what could go wrong in three minutes? Not much as it turns out. The agent was lovely and not scary at all, we just had a chat about my novel and she said it sounded interesting and asked me to send her three chapters once it was finished. Which it now is, well the first draft anyway, and those three chapters are now in her inbox, and I’m panicking again.
[Find out what happens to the book on Amanda’s blog – here]