A Request for Help

AMightyFortressBookCover

 

Each year, Amazon hosts a contest for the Breakthrough Novel of the year.  I have decided to enter the contest.  But, before I can do that, I need to polish up a pitch for my book.  That is where you come in.  I have a rough draft written up.  What I need to know from you is what you think of it.  For those of you who have read A Mighty Fortress, does the pitch describe the book accurately and well without giving too much away?  For those of you who have not read the book, does the pitch make you want to read more?  For everybody, is there a word missing, a sentence that needs to be reworded, or something else that doesn’t seem quite right?

I’ll be honest right up front.  I think that the hardest thing that an author can do, is try to describe his or her own book.  There are so many details that we think should be included, but in reality, they aren’t necessary.  So, any help you can give would be greatly appreciated.  Thank you!!

Here is the pitch:

Joshua is an adventurous seventeen year old.  Jed is an angry young outlaw.  Two young men.  Two different backgrounds.  Two different paths.  Both live in the Wild West where one split-second decision could cost you your life or make you a hero.  Both Jed and Joshua have this moment when they meet each other, not just once, but twice.

The first meeting is at a stagecoach robbery.  Jed is one of the robbers and Joshua and his younger sister are the only passengers.  After some talk and many gunshots, Jed, Joshua, and Ruth are the only people not hurt or killed.  Not wanting to leave any witnesses to the melee, Jed pursues the siblings into the wilderness.  Joshua and Ruth barely escape with their lives and finally meet up with their parents at their new horse ranch.

Jed continues living the outlaw life all the while searching for the two kids who ruined his life.   Joshua helps his father raise horses and gets involved in the town as deputy sheriff.  Two years later, the outlaw and the new sheriff meet again, this time with very different results.

A Mighty Fortress is a young adult Christian Western novel full of adventure, life lessons, and encouragement to lean on God as your fortress in every situation.

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24 thoughts on “A Request for Help

  1. CKoepp says:

    “Both Jed and Joshua have this moment when they meet each other, not just once, but twice.”
    Reads awkwardly. Consider…

    Jed and Joshua face that kind of choice not once, but twice.

    Second paragraph reads awkwardly.

    “The first meeting is at a stagecoach robbery. Jed is one of the robbers and Joshua and his younger sister are the only passengers. After some talk and many gunshots, Jed, Joshua, and Ruth are the only people not hurt or killed.”

    When they first meet, Jed and a band of robbers hold up the stagecoach Joshua and his sister Ruth are riding in. When the bullets top flying, only Jed, Joshua, and Ruth are left alive. Not interested in witnesses, Jed pursues the siblings into the wilderness.

    Sounds like an interesting book.

  2. Valerie Howard Books says:

    Sounds good! I think you might need to explain how Jed’s life was ruined by the two kids, or just leave that little part out, because someone who hasn’t read the book might not make the connection between the kids escaping and what happened to Jed as a result of his failure to kill them. Not sure though, just a thought and I’m too tired to have many more of those tonight, so keep that in mind! 🙂

  3. nate65 says:

    *ponders* I shall try and respond in a little bit when I get my thoughts are in order. I’m excited that you’re doing this though! 😀

  4. Alexa says:

    I think it’s really interesting, but the beginning felt too… generic to me. If you can, it’s best to grab the audience’s attention with a bang at the very beginning. The reader will learn everything you tell us in the first paragraph later on, so I would suggest leaving off most, if not all, of that, and starting off with a new opener that goes straight into the robbing of the stagecoach.

    • Faith Blum says:

      Thank you, Alexa. That helps a lot!

    • savvystories says:

      I agree with Alexa. It’s a fine opening as far as being informational, but it is not as good of a grabber as it could be. This is not supposed to be eloquent literature at its best, it is a pitch, a commercial. If a commercial has 30 seconds to sell you a car, the first 5 seconds need to grab your attention. As in, GRAB your attention. I took your pitch and “rewrote” it to try to just rearrange the sentences so that they would grab. It’s still 99% your wording. Then I changed a word or phrase here and there. Mine isn’t better, but it might grab better. if you can get 5 friends to write it their way, you’ll see what grabs you or is likely to grab readers better, and then you can adjust from there.

  5. My understanding of a pitch is to make it brief, include the main characters’ goals and their fatal flaws, and state why an audience should read it (unusual plot, new twist on an old theme, goes beyond, etc.). The book “Save the Cat” by Blake Snyder has a good chapter on pitches. Good luck!

  6. savvystories says:

    Here’s my take:
    Two years after a botched, bloody robbery, victim and the outlaw meet again, this time with very different results.

    Two young men. Two different backgrounds. Two very different paths.

    Joshua is an adventurous seventeen year old, while Jed is an angry young outlaw. In the Wild West where they both live, a split-second decision can cost your life or make you a hero. By chance, both men have lived that moment, not just once, but twice.

    Their paths first crossed in a disastrous stagecoach robbery where Joshua and his younger sister are the only passengers. Angry talk descends into gunshots, with Jed, Joshua, and Ruth ending up the only people not hurt or killed. Determined to not leave any living witnesses to the melee, Jed pursues the children into the wilderness. Joshua and Ruth barely escape, finally meeting up with their parents at the family’s new horse ranch.

    Jed continues living the outlaw life, all the while searching for the two kids who ruined his life. Joshua helps his father raise horses and gets involved in the town as deputy sheriff.

    Two years later, the outlaw and the new sheriff meet again, this time with very different results.

    A Mighty Fortress is a young adult Christian Western novel full of adventure, life lessons, and encouragement to lean on God as your fortress in every situation.

    • Faith Blum says:

      Thanks! I’ll see what I can do with that.

      • savvystories says:

        Really, it’s just a way to see your words in a different light, a different perspective. 99% of what I wrote is just rearranging your existing sentences. Mine isn’t better, but does it grab the readers attention better in the opening? Maybe…

        The line (of mine) near the end that says “Two years later, the outlaw and the new sheriff meet again, this time with very different results” could be made tighter and more concise:
        Now fate has thrown them together again, the outlaw and the new sheriff meet again. This time, the result will be very different…”

        Kind of a cliffhanger, hopefully getting the reader to want more.

  7. Writing a synopsis is one of the most difficult parts of writing.

    Less is always more. The more concise the better. Every single word must have a purpose. If you can say it in two words instead of three, say it in two.
    Go over each sentence and ask yourself What is this sentence telling me? Is it telling me what it should in the most concise way??
    Also Be mindful of overwriting. an example is this-two young men, two different backgrounds, two different paths. We can assume if they are on two different paths that they are from different backgrounds. If you remove the backgrounds bit, you will have a much stronger, concise piece of writing.

    Also Ask yourself the following for every sentence.

    1. Does the reader really need to know this?

    2. Are you telling the whole plot including how the conflict will be resolved?

    3. Could this be considered a spoiler?

    4.Are you resisting the urge to hint at how things will work out?

    Always end with a question/ hint at a future danger/ conflict so the reader is left with a question they are burning to have answered.

    Shoutlines are great too, they grab your attention.
    In a couple of short sharp sentences you can give a huge hint as to what the book is about, before you even start your synopsis. Something that will strike the readers intrigue and make them want to read on.

    Having a quick look at your pitch I would have a shout line that went something like this.

    Two young men.
    Two different paths.
    In the Wild West, a split-second decision could cost you your life, or make you a hero…

    Good luck. It looks like an interesting book. You have some great material there to build an awesome synopsis.

  8. I noticed that you have “young” not twice but three times in the first paragraph. The third time I am referring to is when you said that Joshua is seventeen, which automatically implies that he is young.

  9. savvystories says:

    Depending on how you write it, the part about two different backgrounds is not necessarily implied. But it does give some explanation as to how two young men ended up in their respective circumstances.

    I also caution about omitting needless words (blasphemy, I know); I always go with the same underlying message but in a more subtle way; “omit needless words” may leave your story devoid of personality. The (much longer) phrase I prefer is “Use as many words as are necessary to tell the story well, neither more nor less.” That statement boils down to “omit needless words” but it delivers the message with more character; and after all, we aren’t trying to write or read the dictionary. We want a great story. And sometimes an extra word or two make the difference (I know, I know; if they make the difference, they aren’t needless, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Do you see the additional flavor they add? Needlless words to some are essential to others. In the scene in The Godfather where Sonny and the other sons sit down with their father to discuss whether they should go into the drug business, James Caan ad libs by eating nuts out of the bowl on the coffee table. Brando said it made the scene much more realistic. Completely needless, and yet Marlon Brando thought it was a terrific enhancement.)

  10. nate65 says:

    All these ideas are great! I’ll try to interject what little more I can add. 🙂

    Personally, when I read the book, I interpreted the stagecoach robbery as a massive pivotal point for all the characters. And it was. But it was also a start to something. Perhaps something that should become an angle in writing the pitch. The book mainly focuses on the characters in their present time (what happened after the robbery), so maybe we should try and use that in such a way that we don’t spoil the ending, but we incorporate it. Sort of a “two men. Two different paths. One point in time that changed everything” sort of deal.

    I’m still thinking…still finding time to think. 😛 But I hope that gives some ideas. 🙂

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