Sunday, January 26, 2014

Pitch Problems (In the Category of Say What You Mean.) #52Weeks

Now I remember why I gave up on trying to publish Novel #1. I really hate writing pitches and cover letters. It should startle you to read that I hate any certain style of writing. It startled me, just now, even thinking about typing it. Me, hate to write something? That never happens.

Until I started to gear up for Contest The First of my 2014 #12Contests challenge. The contest opened 23 days ago, and it will close with the receipt of the 200th submission. Novel #2 is ready to go, but before I can submit it, I need to write a pitch. My stomach dropped when I read the requirement.

In 500 words or less, describe your novel and why it's the best book ever. Include a full synopsis (not a tease).

The best book ever? Here’s the problem – I’m pretty sure it isn’t. I mean, I’m pleased with it, given the haphazard nature of its conception. I’ve proofed it carefully (though I’m sure errors remain), and I’ve cleaned up the slop induced by a NaNoWriMo writing frenzy. The story is silly in places, exciting in others. It includes a satisfyingly unambiguous ending. But the best book ever?

Publishers put so much pressure on the pitch. I find writing them more nerve-wracking than proofing the novel, to be honest. It seems I’m not alone. In fact, the writing industry has devoted entire conferences to mastering the art of the pitch, which I’ll consider attending the first minute I have a spare $595.00 lying around and nothing better to spend it on. In the meantime, my pitch problem is endangering the first contest deadline of the New Year. To pitch is to self-promote, and I am abysmal at self-promotion. Shyness prevents me from putting it out there.

Go ahead, yuck it up. I can hear you guffawing from here (the ones of you who know me personally, anyway). Shy? Kim? Yeah, right! But I am...or I was, once. It started when I was five. The ophthalmologists had reached a new phase of torture to try on me in their ongoing battle against my lazy right eye: The Patch. Worn over the left lens framed within baby blue cat-eye shaped plastic, the beige, adhesive-backed patch didn’t fit the almond shape of the eyeglasses, so Mom just folded the excess over the edge. The doctors devised the patch to cut off sight to my hyper-functional left eye and force my lazy right eye to get off its ass and see. Sometimes, when Mom put a fresh patch on my eyeglasses (they get dirty when you climb trees) strands of my hair got caught between the tape and the lens.

I fucking hated wearing that patch.

Children of all ages (and two or three nasty adults) pointed and laughed at the “funny looking pirate kid” over the course of the twelve weeks I wore the patch (it felt like eternity). I kept my head down a lot that summer, but it wasn’t as easy when I started 1st grade. The entrance to the 1st graders wing of the school took us right past the hang out for the 7th graders, and they had much to say about the tall gawky kid with the pirate patch and the stringy hair. I probably could out-spell half of them already (and I mean vocabulary style spelling tests, just to be clear). It mattered not, and the daily, dreaded 7th grade sidewalk gauntlet became my little piece of hell on Earth, five days a week.

I tried the strategy of head-held-high defiance for the first day or two, as had been suggested to me, but that just goaded the older students into acting out with even greater in-your-face style taunts. Thereafter, I held my head down, made no eye contact, and walked quickly to the door. Things did not improve much once I got in the classroom. I was taller than most of the other kids, geeky, wearing an eye patch (for a short while longer), and kids my age were no kinder than the 7th graders. Over time, I guess I internalized the message that self-promotion equaled the potential (probability) for humiliation and rejection. I kept my head down.

Fast forward to adulthood, the lazy eye is fixed, and I have zero problems with shyness these days, but I still have no stomach for self-promotion. I find that contradictory, as I do marketing for a living. I know how to write a pitch – for someone else’s creation. For my own, though, it feels awkward, desperate, self-aggrandizing. How arrogant am I to think what I have to say is worth hearing? My old friend, self-doubt, has hobbled me before, but when it comes to pitches and cover letters, my insecurities are the kiss of death. Tell you why you should read my novel? Well it will probably waste your time, so you shouldn’t.

This sort of crappy internal dialog isn’t productive. I remind myself daily that a feeling of relevance is irrelevant. This is about a process, developing a habit, relearning the mechanics of a trade, doing rather than planning. If I get bogged down in relevance now, I doom the mission. I need to sort this out, and the sooner, the better. I mean I am literally writing this blog post as an excuse to get out of finishing my 500-word pitch for Contest the First.

I wrote 50,000 words in 30 days. Five hundred more describing the first 50,000 seems like a straightforward and reasonable request. I’m at 375 and blocked. I need a big finish, and I’ve got nothing.

The process, Kim, not the outcome.

I’ve made that my 2014 mantra, and it will (hopefully) motivate me to get the pitch written and the contest entered today (hopefully). I have no expectations of winning. I’m not entering to win; I’m entering to enter. I’m entering to force myself to finish the pitch. Write the new fiction in 500 words or less: Why You Should Read My Book, the Best Book Ever.

#52Weeks becomes #12Contests

(By my calculations, I have posted for 52 consecutive weeks at this point, so mischief managed. I’m going to try to keep this weekly blog habit, but I am dropping the #52Weeks hash tag after today. If I slip and miss a week, assume it’s because I have a contest deadline to meet, and not because I quit blogging. I’ll keep you posted. This time next year, I expect to have a tale of #12RejectionLetters to share with you.)

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