The Dreaded Novel Elevator Pitch
You’ve spent what feels like an age pouring your heart into your story and then finally, months of painstaking caffeine-induced labour later, your novel is finished. You feel an immense sense of satisfaction and relief, until you’re asked the same dreaded question:
“So what’s it about then?”
Now this shouldn’t be hard to answer, as hopefully by the time you’ve finished your novel you should have a vague idea of what you’ve written. That’s right, it shouldn’t be hard to answer, but for me it really is.
In an ideal world you’d begin your novel with a clear view of the end product, ideas of where it will sit in the marketplace and a structured synopsis of all your key plot points. It’s like Writing 101 and yet no matter how much I try to discipline myself I always allow the story to carry me away and take me away from my original premise. I look back at my original optimistic notes and scoff, ‘sure, like that would ever happen.’
I don’t think this is necessarily an awful thing. In my day job I have to be very disciplined and deadline-orientated because each line that I write has to go through a ridiculous amount of business stakeholders for approval. Not so fun. So in my writing I think it’s only fair that I let the characters tell their story, rather than the other way round. Or that’s my excuse anyway.
The only trouble is that when people now ask me that dreaded question, I struggle to give them a clear, concise answer. So if I can’t master that, how am I supposed to write a compelling elevator pitch to help sell my book when I do submit to agents? I’m almost too eager to give them the background and to cram in things I think they desperately need to know, rather than just deliver something simple. And it’s not that there’s too many complex plot points or supporting characters in the story, honest. It’s just that I struggle to take a book I’m close to and to reduce it to a line or two for fear of not selling it.
Not just my novel either. Take the first Harry Potter book for example, does the below really do it justice?
An orphaned boy embarks on a magical journey after discovering he is a wizard.
OK, on second thought that does actually make me want to read it…
How have you overcome writing your elevator pitches? Can anyone improve on my Harry Potter summary above?
I’m currently trying to trick my brain into submission by writing more elevator pitches for some of my favourite novels, because practice makes perfect, right? Once I’ve improved a little I will try and cram my novel into 25 words or less so you can all give me your honest feedback. Be brutal. In the meantime I’d love to hear if anyone has had similar trouble or whether everyone else finds this a breeze and I’m missing the super secret winning formula.