One of the hardest things to get right when we create a Twitter pitch or a query letter is the level of detail. Twitter pitches are limited to 280 characters. Queries need to come in under a page. When every keyboard click counts, it can be hard to tell what to include. As a result, we writers often cut to much and create a generic pitch that fails to even hint at what makes our story unique.
How critical is it? According to the agents whose blogs I’ve been reading it is all important. So that you can see why, I’ve whipped up a sample based on a much loved classic.
“After Max’s mother sends him to his room, he falls asleep. In his dreams, he has great adventures in a land full of monsters. Eventually the smell of his supper rouses him and he awakens in his room.”
I worked in the monsters but didn’t squeeze in their awesome “wild things” title. Gone too are the wild rumpus and Max’s role as king. And where’s his suit? Where the Wild Things Are is beloved because it is unique but none of that comes through in this summary.
When you summarize your story for either a Twitter pitch or a query letter, be sure to include the details that make your story your own. At a minimum, your reader needs to learn about your character (Max is clearly feisty), your setting (a land of monsters), and the conflict. Hmm. I missed that entirely since we all know that the conflict with Mom may be the catalyst to the adventure but it is not the primary conflict.
Once you’ve pulled this together, work in a few of the details that make your story truly one-of-a-kind. Use creative, colorful verbs. Here is the summary for Where the Wild Things Are from the publisher’s catalogue.
“When Max dresses in his wolf suit and causes havoc in the house, his mother sends him to bed. From there, Max sets sail to an island inhabited by the Wild Things, who name him king and share a wild rumpus with him. But then from far away across the world, Max smells good things to eat.”
Yes this is longer than what I created. And it is six characters too long for a Tweet. But you could find a work around or two to take care of that. Look at the level of detail and the specific action words. Max wears a WOLF SUIT. He causes HAVOC. He SAILS to the island. These aren’t monsters but WILD THINGS. They share a WILD RUMPUS vs an adventure. This is a wonderfully specific summary for a unique story.
This is the kind of summary that wakes an editor or agent up and makes them take notice.