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What's the elevator pitch for your WIP?

What's the elevator pitch for your work-in-progress? Share them below!

(For anyone wanting to know more about how to write these, we have a webinar / competition on 14 December for members, featuring two literary agents! Register if you're a member, or find out more if you're interested in joining us). 

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Replies (161)
  • Unsuitable Girl, spanning half a century, from India, Africa to the UK is a passionate love story set in the sixties, forbidden because of racial prejudice on both sides. Family duty set against love; cultures can merge, can't they? All you need is Love. 

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    • Hi Jeannie,

      Yes, I agree with Libby: let's try and trim this down :-)

      How about:

      Family loyalty conflicts with forbidden love in 1960's UK. Can [insert brief reference to the MC] bridge the cultural divide?

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      • I like emmaloo's. I agree that there needs to be a reference to the main character(s), since their dilemma and struggles are likely to be the primary focus of interest.

        '[MC1] and [MC2]'s love is threatened by family duty and racial prejudice. Is there a way to bridge the divide?'

        What's missing from this, of course, is any mention of the time in which the story's set and the multiple locations. But with a strict 20-word pitch, apparently, you seem to have to leave out all perpheral detail (no matter how important it seems) and cut right to the conflict at the heart of the story.

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        • I'm not so keen on this version. We don't know why the love is forbidden, so that's too vague. In the story, which problem is the biggest source of conflict, that created by the families on their own or by the wider culture? If it's the culture, the right phrasing might tell us that families behave this way too. 

          I like the phrase 'racial prejudice'. It has a period feel to it (rather than 'racism' which we'd probably use now). That hints at an author who has an ear for the 1960s - a good thing for historical fiction.

          On reflection, I think mentioning 1960s as your setting is important. In relation to racism. It creates an instant image.

          I've got stuck in a groove with my earlier suggestion which may be no good at all. And 'can love find a way' is a big cliche. But by way of explanation here's an update:

          A romance forbidden by racial prejudice - in the 1960s, can love find a way?

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        • A human time capsule needs to find a reason to live. Can an indefinite life be a happy one?

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          • Great tips, Jon, thank you :-)

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            • Thank you, Rick :-)

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              • Many thanks, Libby! :-)

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              • A meek princess gets stuck with a cursed saber that compels her to kill people.

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                • The pitch sounds good to me!

                  On the 'saber' thing... do you mind my asking roughly what period equivalent your story is set in? The reason I ask (and I'm being very nit-picky I know) is that in the real world the saber/sabre is associated quite specifically with cavalry, mainly of the Napoleonic era (and later occasionally with the American cavalry up to the early 20th century). Its signature curve is designed to make it especially effective when wielded from horseback, and it's less useful (though still formidable) when on foot, although in Europe it was also used as a duelling weapon.

                  Of course, the term has also become used in fencing for one of the competition styles and the associated weapon (which bears no relation whatsoever in form or function to its non-competitive namesake).

                  Please forgive me if you know this already, and of course 'saber' can mean anything you want in your world (as the Star Wars 'light-sabers' have no relation whatsoever in design or fighting style to their real-world namesakes). But it's perhaps worth mentioning that readers who, like me, have spent time around swords and their history and uses, might have a very specific picture in their head of exactly what a 'saber' is and how it's likely to be used.

                  Other European swords similar in style, i.e. heavy with a curved blade, might be the cutlass (probably too associated with pirates nowadays!), the falchion or the dusack perhaps. The curved blade is obviously more common in Middle Eastern and Eastern sword designs, where there are numerous types.

                  As I say, apologies if all that was known to you already! 🙂 

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                  • It's actually set in pseudo-Asia, not (pseudo-)Europe. 'Saber' is the common translation for single-edged curved Chinese swords primarily used for slashing attacks, whereas 'sword' is usually a translation for 'jian' which is a two-edged weapon primarily used for thrusting attacks, as in the most common English title of the famous Chinese novel 'The Heaven Sword and Dragon Saber' (though an alternate and arguably more accurate English title for that novel is 'Relying on Heaven to Slay the Dragon'). If I refer to the saber as a 'sword' readers might mistake it as a 'jian' rather than as a 'dao'.

                    It's totally okay to be nit-picky about this kind of thing, a lot of readers in this sub-genre are picky too.

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                    • Cool. That, of course, makes perfect sense in that context, and the pseudo-Asian setting will remove any possible confusion! I wasn't aware of 'saber' as a common translation for the dao type swords. Interesting. That's my learning for the day! 😁 

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                    • This is too long, but I'm not sure how to cut it down. All suggestions appreciated:

                      In a world where emotions are influenced by the colour of the sky, a soldier starts a guerrilla war to protect his family. What must he start to save the empire?

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                      • Yes, Jon, it is very difficult but so important. The few words can inspire new readers. I like you first example so much. Apolcalypse is a powerful word. It drags the eyes and inspires terror. I love it.

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                        • It certainly seems hard now, but we'll get there! Thanks Rick and Jon for hanging in there with me. I've tried to incorporate your excellent feedback:

                          To save his family, Reece simply started a rebellion. Saving himself, well that will be more complicated!

                          Not sure whether the ! adds real value?

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                          • This is such interesting feedback Jon

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                          • Once upon a dream... When an artist travels to Europe, marries a French Count and restores his château, she discovers real life doesn’t quite live up to the “princess myth”.

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                            • I think this is good, but could be re-worded to be shorter. And emmaloo's point about indicating what sort of story it is is a really good one, as is her suggested re-work.

                               Is it a modern retelling of the Bluebeard story, a light frothy romcom, or a literary tale of unfulfilled dreams?

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                              • Thank you Jon for writing. This is a memoir, romantic and transformative.  I'll try and work those words into this and let you know how it reads.  Hello from California! 

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                              • Hi Gianne,

                                I'm sensing this is a romance(?) between a French Count and an artist, but I feel like so far this premise is too generic. I'd like to know some specifics regarding HOW/WHY "real life doesn't quite live up to the princess myth", as it's likely that your story's USP will exist somewhere in here.

                                Also, I suggest you need to hint at whether this process is comical, tragic, enlightening, etc, so that we have some sense of the character and plot arcs.


                                For [insert female MC's name], marrying Count____  reveals that the 'princess' lifestyle she had dreamed of is a fallacy. Can their relationship survive this harrowing/hilarious/enlightening/heartwarming discovery process?

                                *insert appropriate adjective.

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                                • Hi Gianne. Much better, I think! The only thing I would look to tweak a bit further is the second half. At the moment it doesn't quite work as part of a single sentence, since it's still being governed by the verb 'reveal'. I think it needs its own 'initiating action'.

                                  For artist Gigi, marrying Count Patrick reveals that the 'princess' lifestyle she had dreamed of is a fallacy. That realisation starts her on a transformative journey of acceptance, love, and loss.

                                  Or (shorter)...

                                  For artist Gigi, marrying Count Patrick reveals that the 'princess' lifestyle she had dreamed of is a fallacy, and starts a transformative journey of acceptance, love, and loss.

                                  It could pehaps be strengthened even further by giving a bit more of a specific hint about the nature of her transformation... 'journey of acceptance, love, and loss' is ok, but a bit 'general'. Who is she at the beginning, and who does she become at the end? That's the story. 

                                  But it's intriguing now. I'd certainly be interested! 🙂 

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                                  • Looking at Jon's offering, I have a serious questions. Is the transformative journey one of love acceptance and love, or towards them? They are very different propositions. I suspect it's the latter.

                                    This is further complicated in that it is almost acertainly a journey of loss. As such, those two aspects probably need to be separated into distinct fragments without a single preposition trying to do a false double duty.

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                                    • Thank you Jon for you comments.  This is the new version;

                                      For artist Gigi, marrying Count Patrick reveals that the 'princess' lifestyle she had dreamed of is a fallacy – yet propels her on a transformative journey of social acceptance, deep love and loss. 

                                      This also address Rick's comment (thank you Rick) of the story arc moving towards the events. The two adjectives; social (acceptance) and deep  (love and loss), hopefully makes it less generic.

                                      Your thoughts?  Wishing you happy holidays


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                                    • A schoolboy with special needs agrees to help an extra-terrestrial save the world, if it will reunite him with his long-lost mother.

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                                      • Jon, you've caught me in a conceit ... so thank you, but also ... $%%^&! (that is to myself, as now I have to dig myself out of a hole of my own making!)

                                        That bit in my pitch, the 'agrees to help an extra-terrestrial save the world, if it will reunite him with his long-lost mother.' is a bit of a con:

                                        The extra-terrestrial in the story asks Kofi (the schoolboy with autism and main character) for help, but Kofi is too scared - both of the task it wants him to do and of the extra-terrestrial itself. As a parting gift, it transports Kofi to Ghana to meet a woman who turns out to be his mother. Kofi is then chased through the streets of Accra by his mother's new family and his teleportation back home is caught on several mobile phone videocams. Kofi then begs the extra-terrestrial to send him back to see his mother, but when he is returned to Accra, international authorities have picked up on the videoes and have been alerted. Kofi sees his mother being taken away by US soldiers. When the extra terrestrial says that the uniforms worn by the soldiers are the same as the ones it saw on an installation it had tried to break into (to uncover the secrets it needs to find in order to save it's homeworld), then Kofi realises that he has to agree to help the extra-terrestrial in it's bid to save it's home and ultimately the world, because he has no chance of finding his mother again without it's help.

                                        So, in essence, the extra-terrestrial sends Kofi to meet his long-lost mum. Kofi then loses her. Kofi knows that, in order to ever see her again, he has to help the extra-terrestrial save two worlds.

                                        I found that hard to put into twenty words, so I fudged it a little. What you've said makes perfect sense, but it just makes my job of trying to be honest twice as difficult! 😂. I'll have to think about it, Jon. Feel free, though, to have a go, because it kind of nips my brain a little!

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                                        • What a fab plot! Love it. And I absolutely understand the difficulty of compressing the core of such a story into the dreaded <20 words format. Mainly because I have a similar struggle myself! 😁 

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                                          • Thanks for telling us more about the story. As a reader, I'd be willing to give that book a try.

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                                          • My adult fantasy WIP is unfortunately stalled a bit at the moment, and I've set it aside for now. For ewhat it's worth, though, the strict <20 words pitch would be:

                                            'A mythical machine can recreate the perfect world. The decision whether it should be used lies with a limbless thief.'

                                            A longer pitch, but one that describes the core of the story better, might be:

                                            'When a limbless thief finds a machine that can recreate the world in a perfect state, she must decide whether to sacrifice the person she’s fought so hard to be for the chance to regain who she once was.'

                                            I can't find a way to shorten the latter much more than this (almost twice the suggested length at 39 words), but it does define the theme and the MC's journey far more accurately.

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                                            • If you haven't already, listen to the writing tutorial "Is your idea good enough?" on the Jericho website. He really dives into Elevator Pitches and puts the max word count at 50 words. Obviously shorter is better, but don't limit yourself unnecessarily. The idea of a limbless thief is a great hook!

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                                              • I love the premise of this story, Jon. 

                                                Here's my stab at trying to shorten the pitch - 20 words!!

                                                A mythical machine can eradicate the world's imperfections. A limbless thief must choose which version of herself gets to exist. 

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                                                • Thanks emmaloo! There's definitely something there! 🙂 

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                                                • This is mine. 'Ancient gods designed him, circa 750 anno domini. 1,244 years later he would be Angus MacDonald; the god’s long-planned, unsuspecting champion. But then, he died.

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                                                  • Hi Cassandra. I agree to cutting one of the dates, but I did find 750 AD intriguing in some way. I used the MCs name because I wanted to introduce the Scottish influence. It's like the name Jamie Fraser. It is so well know and with it comes images of Scotland and the battle on Culloden Moor. But, must admit i've never tried writing an elevator pitch before.

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                                                    • Ha ha haaaaaa!😃 That's soooo good, Jon. 'The problem is, he's dead.' That would certainly grab attentions. But people may think he's a Zombie. Hell! I like it, though.

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                                                      • Gee, Em, that's good, too. To my understanding, elevator pitches don't need to be so related to specifics of the story. The archaic 'anno domini' I used specifically to indicate the story is about old stuff. But the decision has been made already, it's out. The hero dies during the 14th chapter, the mid-point drama. He's dead for sure, but he's not. 😃 😃 My inciting incident is in the first chapter with another at the start of the second. Thanks again for your great help.

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                                                      • Oh! I don't know where that attachment came from. Not mine???

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                                                        • Hi Jon, I think the shorter version leaves too big a question. Why is the decision down to a limbless thief? 

                                                          The longer version is much more interesting although it's also too vague. What kind of person has she fought hard to be and what kind of person was she before?

                                                          Re cutting the word count, 'A limbless thief finds a machine that can create perfection' seems enough for the first part. And to me it presents the idea that the thief could have limbs, and perhaps be a better thief or not a thief at all. Personally I'd rather see 'A limbless woman' to start with; it's more precise. Then maybe use 'thief' as part of what she'd have to give up, if I've got that right. Not wanting to give up being a thief sounds interesting, along with the other implied point that being able bodied isn't necessarily desirable.

                                                          Is she really limbless or does she use prostheses? That's a question I'd have too.

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                                                          • Hi Libby. Completely agree with your point about the shorter version, which is why I don’t like it particularly. It takes 300 pages or so to explain why a limbless thief is in the position of making that decision… no chance of doing it in 20 words!

                                                            As for the second version, what I need to convey is the journey that my MC goes on, and how it affects the existential decision that she'll face at the climax of the novel. The theme of the book is based on the Japanese philosophy of ‘wabi-sabi’, which finds beauty and value in the imperfect and the broken, and that’s reflected in her story as well as the wider plot. Both speak to the fact that imperfection and incompleteness are not synonymous with flaws or weakness. 

                                                            The climax of the book is when she finds herself the only person who can choose between destroying the machine in question - the Perfection Engine - or allowing it to be used (by the person responsible for her injuries in the first place… but that’s an added complication!). 

                                                            If the Engine is used, the world and everything and everybody in it is effectively recreated in a perfect state - no flaws, no trauma, no pain, no injury, no grief. If she prevents it being used, everything stays just as it is, an imperfect world, flaws and all. 

                                                            At that moment, she chooses to be ‘imperfect’ and herself rather than ‘perfect’ and another, different, person - the person who she would have been without the trauma and struggle in her life. She is what all her life experiences have made her, good and bad, joyous and painful. She’s ‘perfect’ as she is. Flawed, imperfect, and incomplete, but also strong, resilient, and capable.  I should stress that in no way do I mean to suggest the unhelpful trope that it’s her disability or her struggle that makes her strong. She's not strong because she’s hurt or angry; she’s strong simply because she’s strong. Whether before or after her injuries.

                                                            As well as the purely personal dilemma, there’s a wider philosophical conundrum at play. As the only person who can prevent the use of the Perfection Engine at the climactic moment, she’s not just making the decision for herself but for the whole world, since the whole world will change. Has she the right to make that choice for others? Indeed, that’s the fundamental difference between her and her primary antagonist - who believes absolutely that they do have the right to make that choice… and will stop at nothing to do so, the ends justifying the means. 

                                                            I do think the ‘limbless thief’ description is important to the pitch, to be honest. It’s what I’ve always thought is the USP of the story, given that it’s such a seemingly unlikely combination (in the MC’s own self-deprecating words ‘A limbless thief. Of all impossibilities!’). The intention has always been to ensure that my depiction of her as a thief is believable enough to dispel other preconceptions that readers might have about 'ability' and what's possible. In fact, I'd be happy if at times they simply forgot about her disability and simply accepted her as they would any other character.

                                                            To answer your final question, the level of her amputations and the technological development of her world mean that she doesn’t use prostheses. But she does of course use a number of assistive devices in her day-to-day life and work.

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                                                          • Just a general point about starting a pitch with 'when.' I could be completely wrong, but I think it's a bad idea. Two reasons:

                                                            1. it increases the word count unnecessarily

                                                            2. more importantly, it starts the pitch with a subordinate clause. That makes the sentence a little bit more difficult cognitively. More mental processing is required to understand it, to form an on-the-spot image/idea of what the pitch is saying.

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                                                            • Series pitch: What would it take for someone to become as evil and universally reviled as Sauron?

                                                              Book 1 pitch: The King is dead; Heir unnamed. Who killed him? Which noble will succeed him? What will become of the outcast he despised?

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                                                              • Your seven(?) PoV's come back to bite you in the arse! Hahaha! 😂  If anyone can refine that down to 20 words, you can! 😉 

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                                                                • Hi Rick,

                                                                  They're both certainly short and punchy enough, but I will offer some suggestions for alternatives:

                                                                  Series Pitch: I don't know how helpful it is at this level for a reader/agent to be given Sauron's name as a benchmark for levels of evil/being reviled, because we know nothing about him/her. So instead, how about this:

                                                                  Driven to unimaginable evil, universally reviled: this is [insert MC's name]'s story/journey into the depths of ____.

                                                                  It's still only about 15 words, so you've got wriggle room for a couple of helpful adjectives and additional snippets of detail if required.

                                                                  Book 1 Pitch: This may be just a personal preference thing, but I didn't like the succession of questions here. I am also unclear if "the outcast he despised" is in the running to succeed him (I'm assuming yes?), so I would like that to be clarified. How about this instead, then:

                                                                  The king has been murdered. Many are vying to succeed him. Where does this leave his outcast and reviled true heir? (21 words)

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                                                                  • Thanks Emmaloo.

                                                                    Sauron is an external cross-reference. Any reader of fantasy will know who's being referenced. The original idea came from books like LotR where there's a super-powerful, evil antagonist whose backstory is that they've always been so powerful and evil. It makes no sense. So, I set out to figure out how such an antagonist would come to be.

                                                                    The book pitch, unfortunately, doesn't work. A key element of the worldbuilding/story is that the Heir must be named. (It's a position for life; their own or whomever they will inherit from.) If they aren't named, there is no Heir; no automatic fallback. I'll have to look at it from a completely different angle to get something that works better.

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                                                                  • Pitch for Dislodged

                                                                    A vulnerable teenager asks her Independent Visitor if she can move in with her, forcing them both to question whether they have been looking for love in the right places. When your life has been defined by others, how do you know who you really are?


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                                                                    • Hi Alison, I'm not sure what an 'Independent Visitor' is? If this is a lodger, this would fit well with your title. Maybe start like this: "A vulnerable teenager moves in with ...(instead of asking...) ..

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                                                                      • Hi Alison. An elevator pitch is designed to grab the throat. They must be a hook. That is their purpose. I see yours more as a story, and introduction.

                                                                        'Love may be knocking. She is vulnerable, but when a stranger wants to move in questions swirl. Who am I? Can I give of myself?' Just a quick attempt. But if I wanted to buy a book in your genre, romance at a guess, I'd want an elevator pitch leading me to read the book description, or go to 'Look inside'. Something that grabs me.

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                                                                      • Alright, let's take a stab at this:

                                                                        Young Jack survived the Raze, becoming the Duke’s heir and entering knight school – all while guarding a deep secret. Jack is dead and Alivia is impersonating him.

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                                                                        • 'But Jack is not actually, Jack. What the hell?!'

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                                                                          • Robert Pearce is that a good what the hell? As in, 'I'm intrigued and want to know more.' OR is that a bad what the hell? As in, 'I have no idea what that means.'

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                                                                            • sounds like a good one to me

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                                                                            • Orchids in Paradise pitch:

                                                                              A betrayed housewife takes on the clandestine world of international finance when she files for divorce on an idyllic tax haven island.

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                                                                              • Thank you for your feedback. I've tried expanding it a bit but still going round in circles! 

                                                                                A betrayed housewife takes on her husband and the tax-haven island which hides his secrets. With the help of three other divorcing women, she follows a trail through the clandestine world of off-shore finance back to Africa, where she once met a poor boy she promised to help. Her husband isn’t the only one out to stop her...

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                                                                                • Thank you Robert. An improvement on my effort, for sure. I'm actually trying to write a novel about the ills of tax evasion, but not sure that's going to grab anyone!

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                                                                                  • I think it depends on the story you build around the tax evasion, Cassandra. What you've got sounds good to me.

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                                                                                  • I missed the whole elevator pitch thing. But if I had to still mine down to <20 words it would be this:
                                                                                    Beef or chicken? The passengers onboard the flight chose their own meal. Now someone else has chosen their destiny. 

                                                                                    My longer pitch (3 mins) is here:

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                                                                                    • Beef or chicken? The passengers onboard the flight chose their meal. But someone else is chosing their destiny.

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                                                                                      • Thanks, Robert. That is better!


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                                                                                        • Depending when it's set, that might need to be "Beef, chicken, or veggie?"

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                                                                                          • Hi Iain, I like the pitch, and Robert and Rick's suggestions, though I think giving at least a hint as to who the someone is would add tension. "But a passenger with a gun/grudge/heart attack will choose their destiny." Sorry those are awful cliches - for illustrative purposes only.

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                                                                                          • or coffee, tea, or me? lol. i have a pitch, is it ok if i post here, or do i need to sign up somewhere first?

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                                                                                            • Just stick it here, in a comment like the one you've posted. We're not formal! 😁 

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                                                                                            • Ill-equipped and secretive, Jester Lewis follows the cryptic, recurring imperatives of his nightmares to 'save the crew', and infiltrates the covert mission to planet X to confront the psychosis of the holy man intent on returning to earth with an alien messiah.

                                                                                              Question: Why the 20 word limit? is that a hard and fast publishing rule, or is it the challenge of the exercise?

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                                                                                              • Hi Hennessy. You might find this thread interesting. It's the follow up to a webinar that Harry did on elevator pitches earlier in the year. Lots of info and discussion there!


                                                                                                If you're a JW member, the original webinar is available too. You have to be logged in to view it, I think. 


                                                                                                Your pitch above is intriguing, if a little long. The main comment I'd have, though, is that it tells us too much (almost too much!) about the plot and not enough about the story... or the stakes for the main character.

                                                                                                There's a LOT to unpack in the pitch. We have Jester (who's ill-equipped and secretive, though we don't know why). He's having nightmares (about saving a crew - whose crew and what do they need saving from?). So he infiltrates this covert mission (whose mission is it and what's its goal?). And then there's a holy man (what's his connection to the mission, or to Jester) and a messiah. Phew! All that... and to be perfectly honest I don't really know any more about what the actual story is than I did before. 

                                                                                                I'm riffing on the info you've provided, and I'm likely to be way off in the details, but something like...

                                                                                                To save his lost crew, a retired special operative must follow his nightmares to a planet that shouldn't exist, and confront the insane holy man who guards its secret.

                                                                                                Lots of plot, characterisation and worldbuilding omitted I'm sure (as it should be, since what the elevator pitch is about is the core of the story, not the details) but the overall arc and the stakes for the MC are there (I think)! That's 29 words.

                                                                                                Of course, this is VERY rough and ready! And that's to be expected. As everyone who's attempted one of these knows all to well, elevator pitches are really REALLY difficult and take endless re-working before you end up with something you're even partially happy with! I've been working on mine for a year or more! But it's a great feeling when something clicks and you see the soul of your story in those perfect, jewel-like 20 to 50 words! 😁 

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                                                                                                • What Jon says.

                                                                                                  I think I had to read your original version three times before I could get my head around it. (So let's add a word of advice: Short sentences. Or at least no sentences that run on and on ad nauseum without so much as a comma to give breath for a subordinate clause.)

                                                                                                  That said, the one tweak I would make to Jon's suggestion is: … confront an insane holy man who intends to deliver more than a few Earthly souls. (Thereby playing on the meaning of deliver.)

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                                                                                                • It's a guideline, Hennessy, and therefore flexible. The point being that the pitch doesn't want to be so long that it starts turning into a short synopsis. 

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                                                                                                  • understood. thanks all for the comments/suggestions. i worked on that for a long time - admittedly not a year. since coming to this site i feel like my momma dropped me on my head as a child... sharp learning curve, lots of new things to think about. but i'm a junkie now - see the potential for story in just about everything - so there's no deliverance, and i must continue forward. feedback is always appreciated to drag me out of my own private idaho.

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                                                                                                    • I relate to the feeling of being dropped on your head. This place is full of steep learning curves. Part of me looks at all the clever stuff people put on here and thinks “Oh my God, I will never be a proper writer!” but the other part is strangely addicted and keeps learning more and thinking “Oh my God, one day I will be a proper writer!”

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                                                                                                    • An art restorer accidentally discovers the portrait of a mysterious young woman hidden beneath a canvas. Investigations into the painting reveal deadly secrets connected to her life in German-occupied Italy during WWII. [34 words]

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                                                                                                      • I really like that second option. It creates serious tension. (I just hope the story is written with interweaving timelines.)

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                                                                                                        • Hi Emmaloo,

                                                                                                          Sorry, it's taken me sooooo long to get back to you. Thanks so much for taking the time to feedback on my pitch - love both suggestions - will have to give it a bit more thought! 

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                                                                                                          • Hi Rick,

                                                                                                            Thanks for your comment. Yes, it does have the interweaving timelines.

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                                                                                                          • here's a new attempt. should i go back to bed, or just open a new bottle of wine?

                                                                                                            Driven by nightmares and determination, naive and ill-equipped Jester Lewis resolutely confronts an alien menace. But can he summon the courage to face his budding love for Stark?

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                                                                                                            • Better. I would probably drop the ill-equipped as it a) doesn't have enough context and b) is largely implicit in naivety.

                                                                                                              The second sentence is a curveball. it undermines the strength of the first by changing the direction entirely, and introduces a character in the last word for whom we have no context.

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                                                                                                            • Off the top of my head and not being sure if my kid’s book is in the same league as all your epic novels:

                                                                                                              A family discover a magical portal to the past. They learn how the past can shape the future and that kindness is the strongest magic of all.

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                                                                                                              • Rick is right, Kate. Focus on the struggle and hint at a solution. In my version, is so far as it's valid at all without knowing the story, I've explained some of the nuts and bolts of a story without mentioning the most important thing - the struggle. 

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                                                                                                                • Hi Kate, Thanks for being brave for all us children book writers and jumping in the deep end! I love this: kindness is the strongest magic of all  

                                                                                                                  It sounds like the heart of your story/theme and it's great. 

                                                                                                                  For your pitch, try this formula: [name of main character] must [action/plot] in order to [reach desired solution]. What does your main character want and what's stopping him from getting it? 

                                                                                                                  You might not get the perfect elevator pitch from this formula, but it will help you write and structure your story/plot better. At least that's what I got from writing mine. Mine is way too long, but I used it as a tool to help me see where I needed to go with the story. Here's mine:

                                                                                                                  Desperate to have a family of her own, the orphan chicken Seed abandoned her best friend and ran away. Now her eggs are missing and she has no one. On a quest to find her eggs and win back her friend, she must first come to terms with the true meaning of family.

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                                                                                                                  • Thanks Julie. I think that describes Seed’s adventures pretty well. I always struggle with how to apply the principles to kids’ stories. If you are aiming at 7 year olds it needs to be a bit more straight forward than an epic adult’s murder mystery or world domination or whatever. But I guess the general principle is true about the journey and the overcoming of obstacles to achieve the final result. 

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                                                                                                                  • Hi Kate, I like the first sentence, then it gets vague. Can you say how the past has shaped the future. "They learn that grandma was so poor as a little girl that it's made her mean with money ever since." That kind of specific cause and effect thing, but shorter and better written!

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                                                                                                                    • Driven by nightmares and determination, naive and secretive Jester Lewis resolutely confronts an alien menace. But is that enough to earn the love of his father?

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                                                                                                                      • I like this, Hennessy. Do we need to know Jester is naive and secretive? It seems enough that he's driven, is confronting something huge, and is doing it all to earn his father's love.

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                                                                                                                        • Can one be determined but not driven? It seems that one of those words is sufficient, probably the verb.

                                                                                                                          Thanks for sharing.


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                                                                                                                        • Pitch for "Tales of the Manor" (Memoir); The outrageous antics of a young man living in a house full of ghosties. 

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                                                                                                                          • Very much so Kate, indeed, this is much more about humour than sinister stuff, although there are a few scary bits.... 

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                                                                                                                            • Hi Neil,

                                                                                                                              The phrase "outrageous antics" implies to me it's a comedy. If it isn't, you might need to rethink these 2 words.

                                                                                                                              Secondly, "a young man" is a pretty bland and generic phrase to use to describe who I assume is your MC. Can you alter it to give readers something more specific to latch on to? (This could be his name, or his occupation, or his most endearing/defining quality). You would be able to say loads more about the story and its plot arc if you get the phrase just right, eg:

                                                                                                                              The outrageous antics of a self-absorbed aspiring cabaret artiste living in a house full of ghosts.


                                                                                                                              The outrageous antics of Boris, a bumbling loner who can't find anyone else to love him and do his laundry since his mum died, living in a house full of ghosts. 

                                                                                                                              (You get the idea...!)

                                                                                                                              Thirdly, I'm unsure about the choice of "ghosties" over the more standard "ghosts". "Ghosties" sounds a bit childlike, but again, that may be your intention. My attention was certainly drawn to your choice of word, and its use intrigued me.

                                                                                                                              Hope some of this helps!

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                                                                                                                              • Thanks for your input Emmaloo. Trying how best to describe myself as a 19-24 year old will be very tricky, the list of possibilities is endless! As for the ghostie aspect, I will probably post a little something on my home page sometime soon regarding this, and yes, it will be light hearted.

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                                                                                                                              • Hi all! I'm new here but thought I'd just give this a go...

                                                                                                                                The Saviour Complex

                                                                                                                                Two driven women with debilitating PMS encounter a doctor with a saviour complex - can fixing others help you fix yourself? 

                                                                                                                                I feel this is a little vague because I find it very hard to distill my WIP into a core premise, but I'd be very interested to see what you think!

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                                                                                                                                • Hi Kavisha,

                                                                                                                                  I think it is a bit too vague at the moment, yes, for the following reasons:

                                                                                                                                  1. I can't figure out who the MC(s) is/are... is it the 2 women or the male/female doctor? - and so I don't know whose story this is.

                                                                                                                                  2. Genre/tone: I can't tell if this is going to be a comedy, a romance, or what. Telling us that the 2 women "encounter" the 3rd character does not offer enough insight into the type of story it is.

                                                                                                                                  3. Context: is this a contemporary story? And where is it set? (The location may not be especially significant, but if it is, it would be good for it to be mentioned in the pitch).

                                                                                                                                  Some other observations I'd offer are:

                                                                                                                                  - Describing the two females as "driven" but with "debilitating PMS", and suggesting they'll be 'saved/fixed' somehow by a doctor (a male one, by any chance?) unfortunately smacks a little of patronising sexist stereotyping to me, sorry. This may not be the nature of your story at all, but the wording here is creating that impression for me. Plus, if the biggest obstacle they're currently facing in their lives is their PMS, it doesn't sound like it's going to be a powerful plot arc as they overcome it.

                                                                                                                                  Obviously, I know far too little about the whole story, but here's an example pitch (based on my making lots of fill-the-gap assumptions about it!!):

                                                                                                                                  Dr X has a passion for saving people - whether they want it or not. But meeting ____ will force him to recognise it's himself who needs saving most of all. (30 words)

                                                                                                                                  Hope some of this helps! 

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                                                                                                                                • Hi emmaloo, thank you for putting so much thought into this!

                                                                                                                                  Your comments have made me realise that in trying to include so many aspects of the story I'm actually conveying very little. Especially as you thought it gave off a sexist vibe, as this is almost exactly the opposite tone of the book I hope to achieve. 

                                                                                                                                  A little context: 

                                                                                                                                  The two MC's are the women (aged 23 and 48), both of whom have a tendency to overstretch themselves to help others as it distracts them from their own 'problems'. 

                                                                                                                                  They meet a doctor with a much greater saviour complex - he has developed a drug that re-creates a near-death experience and believes it will give people the revelations they desperately need to better their lives. Both women (separately) jump at the opportunity to use it on their loved ones. This creates all sorts of trouble as it turns out he isn't as altruistic as he seems, nor the drug as effective as he makes out. They eventually work together to clean up the mess it makes and expose his work. Through this, they realise that they had not been so different themselves. 

                                                                                                                                  (The PMS isn't really plot-related but something which is important to me and was the seed which gave me the whole idea in the first place - but perhaps I don't need to shoehorn it into the elevator pitch!)

                                                                                                                                  I'll have a go at a more 'plotty' elevator pitch, but thank you again!!

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                                                                                                                                  • Oh wow, your story sounds REALLY good!

                                                                                                                                    Okay, with this new info, here's my 2nd stab if it helps (it's a bit long, though, at 31 words):

                                                                                                                                    Two very different women wish their families would appreciate them more. A new drug promises to trigger this appreciation, but the doctor who created it is not the saviour he seems.

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                                                                                                                                    • Ah amazing, I can definitely work with this! Thank you so much :) 

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                                                                                                                                    • Early days on this... Thank you for any feedback you care to offer. 

                                                                                                                                      A small-town professor tracks down a famous novelist in Japan who has used a nefarious organization to gather material for his bestsellers by spying on the professor.

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                                                                                                                                      • Hi M.T.

                                                                                                                                        This sounds interesting but I think you need to break the sentence up. It's quite difficult to follow in its present format. It's also rather vague.


                                                                                                                                        "A famous novelist uses a nefarious organization to gather material for his bestsellers. A professor finds out he/she has been spied on and used as a character in a novel about ??. It's not a complementary portrayal?? He/she decides to go to Japan to track down the novelist, but without the organization finding out he/she is on their way."

                                                                                                                                        This pitch probably doesn't make sense for your story, and it's also too long, but I'm trying to indicate where you may need some specifics for the pitch. It should be more specific than anything I've suggested. Nefarious organization is too vague. What kind of material has been gathered and why. If the professor is the book's main character, provide some motivation for the professor's quest. Also, what threat might he/she be under by undertaking this quest.

                                                                                                                                        Having said the professor has to go to Japan I think you need to say what country they set out from to indicate there's a long journey or a culture clash or something interesting about this aspect of the story. Maybe the professor speaks Japanese or is an expert on its history or some such?

                                                                                                                                        Or if the Japan connection isn't one of the most important aspects of the story, you may well want to leave it out.

                                                                                                                                        There's a lot of potential information in your current pitch which will need whittling down to what is really important about this story. 

                                                                                                                                        I hope this helps.

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                                                                                                                                        • Libby, 

                                                                                                                                          Many thanks for your careful suggestions. You've proven the value of peer critique as what I wrote initially made PERFECT sense to me. However, if it doesn't work for a reader, it's time to revise!!! 

                                                                                                                                          Prioritizing for a 20 word limit is agonizing. 

                                                                                                                                          How about this: 

                                                                                                                                          "Two pieces of junk mail send an American Japanese specialist to Tokyo to track down an internationally famous author and his nefarious organization."

                                                                                                                                          I'm staying vague on the organization because it is a figment of the American's imagination inspired by his reading of the author's works. The American believes that the famous author is using the organization (central to one of his novels, and similarly amorphous) to spy on him to gather material for the author's magico-realist novels. 

                                                                                                                                          Further suggestions are welcome if time permits.

                                                                                                                                          Thanks again.

                                                                                                                                          Happy 2021 to you. 


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                                                                                                                                          • This sounds very good to me, Michael. It's interesting how sometimes just moving words or sentences around can improve things. Nefarious organization now sounds like something to pique an agent's interest. And you've cut down the whole thing very well.

                                                                                                                                            See what other people think. And if you have a chance to get professional feedback on the pitch, that could be very worthwhile.

                                                                                                                                            Happy 2021!

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                                                                                                                                            • Thanks for taking the time again.

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                                                                                                                                            • The Vriesian Witch.

                                                                                                                                              Genre: Historical fantasy, more Guy Gavriel Kay than George RR Martin.

                                                                                                                                              Pitch (v short, on the principle that it's better to leave questions than précis the story): 

                                                                                                                                              A young woman alone in a world where it is death to follow the old gods.

                                                                                                                                              All feedback welcome.

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                                                                                                                                              • Version 2 (having seen Harry's video on elevator pitches!):

                                                                                                                                                Raised by a pagan grandmother, locked in a nunnery for loving a priest, and forced to escape in boys' clothes, Adelais van Vries is either adored as an angel or hunted as a witch. Both may be true.

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                                                                                                                                                • This version offers more plot and backstory detail, but this pitch doesn't tell me what the DILEMMA is for the MC. And the the last 2 sentences just create confusion for me, because basically I'm reading it as, "It could be this, or it could be that, but hmmmm, your guess is as good as mine". Too vague, in other words.

                                                                                                                                                  Which camp would label Adelais as a witch? And which camp would label her an angel? Which camp does she identify with/come from? (And is this the source of the story's dilemma in any way?)

                                                                                                                                                  How about something like this:

                                                                                                                                                  Adelais van Vries is either an angel or witch - depends who's asking. What matters to her now is ________ OR Now she has to overcome _____ if she is to [reference to resolution/goal].

                                                                                                                                                  Will that work?

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                                                                                                                                                  • More good input. Thanks so much. Back to the drawing board...

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                                                                                                                                                  • Hi everyone, I’ve been working on my pitch but am still concerned it’s lacking an edge. I would really appreciate your views:

                                                                                                                                                    Lauren, an unconventional Oxford graduate, struggles to fit in with her new fiancé’s upper class life. However, as the darker side of her previous life becomes increasingly difficult to keep under wraps, accepting herself remains her biggest challenge.

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