Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Pitch Perfect

I can't vouch for anyone else, but there's nothing like taking a minute to create a one-paragraph pitch or half-page synopsis to help me muddle through the middle of a project. Here I am in that middle portion of my novel--you know, that crazy, action-packed "throw rocks at the hero" part of the story--and it's getting incredibly messy. There's blood and sex and tiny monsters, and it's a little hard to make out why this is all so important in a story about a desperate housewife.

Time to pull over to consult our map.

Yes, I have a great outline on this project (although I never project quite enough scenes when I'm first visualizing a book--I thought I had this one nailed, but probably only detailed about 25,000 words worth of scenes), and it's pulling me along in an orderly fashion. But when you're down in the trenches, a scribbled set of directions is only so useful. Sometimes you need perspective.

That's when I bust out the one-paragraph pitch. A one-sentence hook is too easy, too Hollywood. But the one-paragraph pitch, where you try to lay out Donald Maass's 6 critical points, can really help restore your vision in the piece. Here they are, as presented in an interview in Making the Perfect Pitch (by Katharine Sands, who is interviewing Maass in this section):
  • Title
  • Category/genre
  • Setting
  • Name of protagonist
  • Problem
  • One colorful detail that makes this project unique
It really is okay to push aside the manuscript for five minutes to work it out--even if you've done it before for your project. As you're muddling, you get new notions about the problems and details of the story, giving you a reason to create a new paragraph. And when you're done, you'll sit there blinking to yourself. For one, the story will sound freaking awesome. There's nothing like seeing your brilliant basis for a novel laid out in streamlined glory to get you excited about the project all over again. And second of all, you'll see the bones of the piece, the things that need to protected and projected throughout the story.

I did this over my afternoon coffee, and it refreshed a lot of my ideas about my project. I remembered just why this poor woman was heading into a dragon's cave armed only with her fists and a rocks, and why it was crucial to the development of her character. And then I got really excited about it.

In fact, I think I'm going to dash off and deal with that dragon!

No comments: