Saturday, 1 June 2019

Weekly writing prompt: pitch prompt


Pitch prompt

Your writing prompt for the weekend is a story pitch. You might have seen this table doing the rounds, from Electric Literature: it's a hilariously wonderful pitch-generator, where you use the letters of your name and the columns to create your pitch. I got "A compulsively readable war epic about a misanthropic man's quest to undertake his sexless marriage."

Click on the image to enlarge it or for a VI-friendly version in a new window, click here.

Your mission: to work out your own pitch from your name, then accept it - even if it's not your usual genre(s) or sounds mad. Then, starting from your pitch sentence, you're going to write the back-cover blurb for this story, freely and wildly inventing any additional details you need. Go as over-the-top with the blurb as you can: ham it up, make it cheesy, do the American film voice ("In a world, gone mad...") if that helps. As always, I suggest you treat this as a 10-minute exercise, and just dash it off in that time. If you need inspiration or examples, flick through some of the back-cover blurbs on your own bookshelves - and feel free to add those wildly complimentary quotes, as well.

If you want to keep playing with your pitch (or another pitch using someone else's name) then there are all sorts of ways you can give the pitch further treatment. Some possibilities are...
  • a character sketch
  • a story outline
  • a scene from the story
  • total freewriting around the pitch, in whatever shape or direction that takes
The first time I played with this, I started with what I intended to be an outline which then morphed into a character sketch (I needed to work out how I could get behind a misanthropic character) and then that became a more in-depth outline and some glimpses of scenes...It doesn't have to go any further than that, you're just playing with freewriting, to find what you can find, as a practice exercise. I only got as far as him being called up, and that was the second day when I took it for a further freewriting spin, but I found out all sorts of things about his schooling and why he might end up with a quest for a sexless marriage!

Have fun with it!


This is the 4th of 12 weekly writing prompts in the run-up to the Summer of Writing workshops in Oxford this August. Each of the prompts loosely connects with one of the Summer of Writing workshops: this one links with Publishing, as playing around with mock pitches and blurbs is great practice for writing a sincere pitch. There's a new prompt each week, so you can subscribe to the blog here:

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You can also follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram to get reminders. The full list of Summer of Writing workshops is...

  • Saturday 3 August: Page-Turners: how to keep the reader reading – whether you’re writing literary fiction or a pot-boiler thriller
  • Saturday 10 August: Writing In Scenes: explore how to balance the different ingredients of a scene and ways of approaching the “big scenes” in your story
  • Saturday 17 August: Characters Unlike You: explore a range of ways to write characters unlike yourself and vary a story's cast, while you develop new characters
  • Saturday 24 August: Hone Your Style: explore what makes quality prose, from angela carter’s richness to margaret atwood’s restraint, and hone your own style
  • Saturday 31 August: Publishing: how to submit your writing for publication: find where to send it, sort your layout, and write synopses and cover letters
Read more details about the Summer of Writing workshops and book your places here. NB: Workshops are limited to 12 places and fill up quickly, so do book in advance if you can.

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