Monday, 19 July 2010

The Elevator Pitch 1

The elevator pitch is a term from the film world. You imagine that you happen to get into the same lift as a producer, and you've got from the ground floor to the 14th floor - a journey of about two minutes - to try to interest them in the premise of your film. That's the elevator pitch.

As writers we might use an elevator pitch in two circumstances. Firstly, someone says: what's the book about? Do you say...

a) Gosh, well, um, it's sort of about this woman and she's feeling really unsettled in her life, but then she gets a job, and her husband doesn't want her to, but her friend has fixed her up with the interview so she goes - they've only recently moved into the area - did I say they were ex-pats? Well, anyway, she starts this job with this bloke etc etc etc....

b) It's about a woman who has an affair which goes wrong.

If you're anything like me, your natural instincts when put on the spot tend towards verbal diarrhoea coupled with a blank brain. Most people need to practise their pitch to enable them to come up with something short and succinct.

The second circumstance is in the covering letter. This is a brief selling summary of the story you're telling, and you're supposed to be able to do it in twenty five words. I think anything up to about fifty would be okay.

So, having established what it is, and when you'd use it, how do you write it? I've got two formula, one for today, one for tomorrow.

1. When you take two already established films/books/genres and put them together, or put an established film/book in a new setting. Alien was famously pitched as "Jaws in space". Eoin Colfer pitched Artemis Fowl as "Die Hard with fairies". I once pitched Adultery for Beginners as "Joanna Trollope with more sex and a wider vocabulary" but tragically couldn't keep a straight face while doing so. You need to have something you can actually say without wanting to die, which is why the combination pitch is so tricky. It's either fabulous (Jaws in space) or it's dreadful.

The other version is thankfully less cringe-making - but more on that tomorrow.

At last! I've got my finger out and have committed to running some day courses:
Writing a Novel - 31st July in Bath and 18th September in Truro
Getting a Novel Published - 1st August in Bath and 19th September in Truro
Contact me on for more info...

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