The Elevator Pitch

elevator pitchIn the time since I started my novel, I have honed my elevator pitch. After eight years working on it, I thought I was getting pretty good at it. Every time someone asked “so, what’s your novel about?” I practiced giving them the short version. But turns out – I’ve been doing it wrong.

Here’s what I usually say: It’s a story about a young woman who inherits her grandfather’s ostrich farm in the mojave.

Short, sweet, to the point. But from what I learned at the WOTS conference last weekend, plot is only half of it. And it’s the least important half. I’ve left out the emotional story entirely. How did I not realize this?

In addition to being about inheritance drama, my story is about how we can learn to trust again after we’ve been abandoned. Just about every character in my story has been abandoned in some way, and my main character’s journey is ultimately about trust.

So how to get that into one sentence that also includes the plot?

It’s about a young woman, after losing her grandfather to suicide, who has to learn to love and trust again, in the middle of the family drama that ensues when she inherits everything. And there are ostriches.

meh. I can do better.

It’s about a young woman, abandoned by her grandfather’s suicide, who finds herself the sole inheritor of an ostrich farm that her relatives all want her to sell because she’s too young to manage things on her own.

Still not getting the trust thing in there.

A young woman, abandoned by her grandfather’s suicide, must decide who to trust when she inherits her grandfather’s ostrich farm.

But the suicide is a question in the book. He died in a car accident that she suspects was intentional.

A young woman inherits her grandfather’s ostrich farm after a terrible accident. As her family comes out of the woodwork to tell her what she should do, she has to decide who to trust and what she wants.

She’s not really deciding who to trust. She’s learning to trust at all, after a lifetime of people not being there for her when she needs them.

A young woman inherits her grandfather’s ostrich farm after a terrible accident. As her disreputable family members bicker over selling the property, she must decide what it is she wants, and who she will trust.

Getting close. Now to be specific and use a more engaging turn a phrase.

Tallulah Jones inherits her grandfather’s ostrich farm after a terrible accident. As her disreputable family members bicker over whether to sell the property, she must learn to trust those who will support her, fend off those who won’t, and figure out how to tell the difference.

The end there is a little jagged, but I think I’m getting close. If I can, I’d like to mention the Mojave in there to give a sense of the setting. I love the desert.

The point is, your elevator pitch needs to have both main story and emotional arc.

To give credit where it’s due, the session that opened my eyes on this was taught by Elizabeth Kretchmer and Corbin Lewars, a pair of writing consultants based in the Seattle area.

What’s your elevator pitch?

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13 Responses to The Elevator Pitch

  1. Natalie Badolato April 11, 2017 at 5:26 pm #

    Excellent post. Thanks for sharing. Here’s my elevator pitch.

    Nick Mancini, handsome New York rocker, packs it in leaving everything and everybody to start the next chapter of his career in Los Angeles only to have his personal and professional life collide in Nashville. Will he make it to LA?

    I toy with using hot New York rocker, but it’s too vague and IMO overused.

    • April April 11, 2017 at 5:33 pm #

      Hi Natalie, maybe it’s me, but “hot” is pretty implicit in “New York rocker.” Thanks for sharing!

      • Natalie Badolato April 11, 2017 at 9:06 pm #

        Ya think??? I just think it sounds a bit cliche’, but I’m easily influenced. LOL Maybe if it was YA? Other than that, do you think it has legs? Thanks!

        • April April 12, 2017 at 9:23 am #

          I do, but since you asked, the first time I read it I didn’t follow the jump from Los Angeles to Nashville. I wonder if a minor reworking would help. Something like: …to start the next chapter of his career in Los Angeles only to have his journey stall out in Nashville when his personal life and professional life collide. Will he make it to LA?
          I’ve also read that agents prefer us writers to be as specific as possible. For instance, instead of “the next chapter of his career” could you say “to pursue a life as a classical pianist” or what ever he wants the next chapter of his life to be? On those same lines, could you be really specific (in a few words) about how his two lives collide? Does a pregnant girlfriend insist he stay in Nashville? Is he an LGBT singer who is the victim of hate crime? “personal and professional life collide” feels like it leaves a lot of room for specifics.
          Just my two cents. Hope it’s helpful.

  2. S.E. Burr February 21, 2017 at 6:42 pm #

    I find these so, so difficult. It’s basically the same sort of idea as writing the blurb for the back of a book and I struggle big time with that. Lately I’ve been posting mine in a Facebook group and asking for feedback (in the hopes that some kind, talented person will rewrite it for me. Lol) I really like what you came up with. I liked the final line. It reminded me of the serenity prayer.

    • April February 23, 2017 at 10:32 am #

      They are, so difficult! Truth be told, I’m not even very happy with where I landed on this one. I feel like it’s still missing some of key elements of the story that make it interesting. I’m going to have to keep working on it. Ug. I like the idea of sharing it with a Facebook group.

  3. Rachel capps January 25, 2017 at 12:00 am #

    Thanks for sharing your journey to a nearly-baked elevator pitch. Truly helpful!

    • April Davila January 25, 2017 at 11:28 am #

      Thanks, Rachel,
      I’ll have to revisit it soon to give it a final polish before I start sending out queries. I’ll let you know when it’s all done.

  4. SeriousRachel January 16, 2017 at 12:19 pm #

    It was helpful to read all the iterations of your new pitch. Intriguing story!

    • April Davila January 16, 2017 at 3:40 pm #

      Thanks SeriousRachel. I’m going to have to do some more revisions before I send it out. I’ll be sure to share the final version when I’m done working on it. Are you working on anything right now?

  5. Jay Lemming, Author October 14, 2016 at 3:23 am #

    Writing an elevator pitch for your book is challenging, isn’t it? Thanks for sharing the development of your own pitch. Balancing plot points with emotional resonance in one pithy package is not for the faint of heart. How much time did you continue to work at it after the session?

    P.S. I enjoyed our Twitter exchange about Moby Dick earlier this week. I think there’s a blog post in someone’s future about classics that readers secretly don’t like!

    • April October 14, 2016 at 1:32 pm #

      It is hard! I am letting this one stew a little before I do some final revisions on it. I’ll let you know how long it takes me to wrap it up once I finally do.

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