Tag Archives: creativewriting

Thinking About Pitches, Queries and Submissions

I accidentally joined in on the whole “Let’s Open The Gates To Hell” thing last week (for those not in the UK…politics broke, the weather broke, and we had a huge storm. Most of us are just assuming the devils are here to stay, and moaning about the heat.) When Ryan Estrada suggested over on Twitter that what the hell, everyone just go for your dream, ask for what you want, shoot your shot…

We joined in.

We had 1k replies within the first 24 hours, and I both regretted every life decision that had led me to that point, and laughed so hard at how enthusiastic, wonderful and simply bonkers the world of writers can be.

I’ve already DM’d a bunch of people, we’ve had some fab submissions in, and it’s open for another week so if you haven’t yet pitched then I’m still looking at them!

But the sheer amount of pitches got me thinking. What makes a good one? How can you catch my attention? What do I need to know?

Some people have been resorting to gimmicks; telling me that I’ve already decided to publish your story is a cute idea but doesn’t actually tell me what your story is, and frankly it creeped me out enough to not want to ask. Same with the people bouncing up and down in my mentions with cute little comments: it doesn’t help. Plus, I’m an introvert. I don’t like it when people wave frantically at me – it means I might have to talk to them!

The ones that have been attracting my attention are the ones that tell me some or all of the following;

  • what the conflict/problem is
  • what the setting is
  • what the genre is
  • who the main characters are

And the major two things:

What’s the hook?

What’s the difference?

THOSE are what I want to know. What’s the thing that is going to make me go “oh, ok! I haven’t seen that / I want to know more / what happens next?”

I’m going to pick someone I know (@AndrewSkinner, because he’s got an amazing book out with Solaris shortly and it’s about giant robots beating the snot out of each other; IT MADE ME CRY and I haven’t quite forgiven him for that) as a first example:

THE BARREN GATE SOCIETY – Val is militia, keeper of order in Rimir, the city with a second skin. By law, militia can’t cloud their eyes, can’t see or feel the all-sense projection that clothes Rimir’s rot in luxury. That is, until Val witnesses a murder. With no killer in sight.

So…I know the protagonist’s status (militia), the setting’s interesting and different (a city with a second skin? How does that work?), he’s set up the  individual conflict (can’t cloud their eyes) plus told me something about the wider world conflicts (rot and luxury)  – and then tells me the central hook.

And I’m sold. Yes, I’ve asked for a manuscript.

How about an example from someone I don’t know?

“lesbian AI space pirates”: What do you do when your ship has been blown to pieces by rebels, and you’re floating in the middle of deep space with no hope of rescue and only the shipboard AI for company? “Find love” was not exactly on Pepper’s to do list, nor “piracy”, and yet…

And I was sold by the “AI” part. Lesbian space pirates? Cool, that puts a few ticks on my personal list (which, obviously, is what I’m looking for – obviously all the editors are going to be looking for different things) – but the AI is the different bit. And that’s the point I went “oh, ok! That’s a story I don’t think I’ve read!”

The longer pitch then tells me about the wider world (space, rebels, they’re blowing up ships), the conflict (rebels!) and the problems (love and piracy)… none of which put me off!

I will note, though, that you can write a story I’ve read before – but tell me what’s different. If there isn’t anything, then maybe you need to have a think about what could be – and that doesn’t necessarily have to be anything huge, but what makes you stand out from the other books already published? What’s your personal hook? Your personal signature? Why should I read (or publish, in my case) this book when there’s already X stories of this type out there?

I mean, even the author who told us that he’d rewritten J.R.R. Tolkien because he felt Tolkien didn’t put enough description in had a good hook, even if it was one I personally disagreed with. (That wasn’t in this pitch storm, thankfully.)

There’s so many ways of doing pitches, and also multiple ways that you could do one for your own book – I mean, our blurbs often go through two or three iterations as we focus on different parts of the story, conflict and characters. So it’s worth trying variations!

And it’s also worth remembering that editors are looking for things they like. A pitch might be very good but just not something I’m looking for; that’s the nature of pitching and publishing, unfortunately – we’re trying to pick out things we’ll be passionate about in the hope that other people will too, but it also means we can’t choose everything. It’s been really nice seeing the other comments on Twitter, and seeing people join in with the conversations – there’s a whole world of readers out there!

So – if you do want to pitch us, throw your Tweet into the ring – I’m having a lot of fun reading them all!

Inspiration from the Internet

In a creepy or not-creepy vein, however you want to take this…

It reminded me of the line in one of the Science of Discworld books, when Ponder Stibbons suggests that the scientists could record speakers and then future generations could listen to their ideas; “Listen to the voices of dead men?” says the scientist, outraged. Just a reminder that there’s always other voices in those spaces between things…

Journey

Ohmygoodness my partner got me Journey on PS4 for my birthday!! I am ridiculously excited. It’s a game I actually picked up some of the concept art for back in 2016 (if not earlier – my computer isn’t too specific on dates for images) and every time I’ve seen it, it’s looked so beautiful. There were some gorgeous screenshots at the computer games exhibition in the V&A earlier in the year too, and the soundtrack is beautiful.

I haven’t played it yet, but I’m definitely looking forward to it!

Journey video game logo

Journey concept artwork images

 

Writing: Wizards & Work, Part 4

These are still entertaining me! They often need a moment to click; a phrase or comment, or a mannerism linked in to a fantasy setting. I’m really enjoying it when they do come to me. As usual, no offence intended to anyone who is inspiration, and definitely nothing implied; it’s often just the initial inspiration that I’ve borrowed, and then gone off in a completely different direction!

You can also read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

 

He has a way of looking at you; a sharp-eyed, sideways glance that takes in everything before he gives a friendly smile. In that red-hot moment, you’re never entirely sure what the judgement will be. Are you interesting enough for a longer look? Considered useful enough for a smile? Judged unimportant and politely dismissed?

Or is the smile that of a predator, approving of his prey?

 

The curse was subtle and vicious: it cursed the bearer to tiny bad luck, to those small twists of fate that wear down the hardest mountain with grey disappointment. It dulled his days to tedium, spiralled his thoughts into circles and worked every project into knots and snarls. The problem was that no one could figure out what he had done to earn such a costly revenge. He had no drama in his backstory, no offenses placed against his name; and that seemed the final jab of the curse – to not even deserve another’s carefully-crafted hate.

 

He preferred ‘adaptable’ over ‘slippery’; his pride in his ability to get things done was almost as strong as his stubbornness in staying his course. But it was rare that he was taken aback; he even went so far as to blink.

“I don’t think anyone’s ever offered…help…before.”

The small elf blinked in turn. “It’s called being nice.”

“Yes. Well. That’s not something I’m very good at.” But the tall, imposing necromancer managed something approaching a smile, creasing his face into new lines. Nice… it would need some practise, but this new plan might just work.

 

He was a true Knight in Shining Armour; one that blinded the vision when he appeared, glowing and explosive, inspiring and righteous. Around him, faces would shine and bodies would bow. And when he approached, for a moment everything would be perfect; ideas would flow, projects would work, twists would unsnarl. For a moment, the world was good.

And then he would be summoned away, sweeping off to the next perfect moment, and we would be left in the grey, shattered ruins of our normality.

 

He is friendly, smiling, affable, cheery; always up for a conversation, or a chat and always open to suggestions or ideas. But sometimes, mid-conversation, you’ll see his eyelids flicker for a few seconds – almost as if a thought has been stopped, or a plan redirected.

“I heard he was one of the supreme evil overlords,” kitchen gossip tells me. “Rehabilitated, of course. That’s the therapy kicking in whenever he gets ideas.”

“But we were only talking about cute bunnies…”

“Well, you can make anything evil.”