New WWU Correspondence Course

Writing (and Selling) the Novel:

Offered by WWU Senior Instructor and WWP member Sara Stamey, the novel-writing course is offered through mailings/emails and online instructional materials. It centers on developing skills for writing the novel, writing and revising the opening 20-30 pages, and creating a professional-quality packet of agent/editor query letter, synopsis, and chapters, aiming for eventual publication.

Stamey has published three novels with Berkley/Putnam of New York, as well as short stories, poetry, and nonfiction articles. Her most recent novel, Islands, published locally by Tarragon Books, was a ForeWord Magazine “Book of the Year” award finalist. She has taught creative writing courses for WWU since 1989, and also offers professional editing services as a “book doctor.”

For more information or to register (credit or non-credit options at WWU), contact Sara or ilearn@wwu.edu

How to Pitch Your Story

As an author, you need to learn how to pitch your stories, both in person and in query letters. Writing a pitch really helps you to focus on your story line, not on all the little details. When asked, “What’s your book about?”, the worst thing you can do is go on and on about plot events in your story. Don’t do that–pitches need to be succinct. By the way, I didn’t invent this technique; I learned it from pitching experts.

Here’s the basic structure of a pitch:

My screenplay/novel, TITLE HERE, is about PROTAGONIST NAME HERE, SHORT DESCRIPTION OF PROTAGONIST THAT WILL MAKE US FEEL SYMPATHETIC TO HIM/HER. When INCITING INCIDENT HERE, s/he decides to WHATEVER YOUR PROTAGONIST DOES IN YOUR STORY in spite of OBSTACLES HERE.

Pitches don’t need to be especially elegant. It’s more important to convey the essence of the story. If the listener is intrigued, she will ask for more details.

To show you what I’m talking about, here are examples of pitches I wrote for my novels and screenplays:

My novella/screenplay Call of the Jaguar is about Rachel McCarthy, a woman who realizes on her 40th birthday that the life she has chosen is meaningless. When she sees a newspaper article about the romantic archaeologist lover from her youth, she decides to seek him out in spite of the fact that he is working in the midst of a war-torn country.

My novel Shaken is about Elisa Langston, who takes charge of her family’s plant nursery after her father’s sudden death. After the business is struck by vandals, an earthquake, and finally arson, Elisa must prove to a suspicious insurance investigator that she’s not the criminal behind all the destruction.

My novel The Only Witness is about Matthew Finn, a big-city police detective who moved to a gossipy small town only to have his wife leave him for an old flame. When a baby disappears from a parked car, Finn works relentlessly to solve the case, despite the fact that the only witness he can find is a signing gorilla.

You get the idea.

Other Elements You Need

If you’re asked for more information in a face-to-face meeting or if you’re writing a query letter, you should also be able to point out deeper elements explored and explain why you wanted to write this story. It’s best if the reason for that comes from your personal history. Here’s one example of that, using a screenplay I wrote that I am currently turning into a novel:

The pitch:

My screenplay Between Water and Earth is about Jess Crowder, a 20-year-old pregnant journalism student who is determined to prove to everyone that she can still have a career as a reporter. When the body of her long-lost aunt is unearthed on her grandfather’s property, she decides to cover the story and solve the mystery of a series of murders in the past in spite of the fact that the killer may be a member of her own family.

Deeper issues explored: Secrets within families and communities, violence and anger among veterans returning from war.

I wanted to write this story because my work as an investigator has taught me that criminals are people. A man who murders is always someone’s son, father, brother, or husband. Some families choose to ostracize the perpetrator; others choose to believe the crimes never happened. So I wanted to explore the dynamics of a family and a small community when a killer is in their midst.

Now get your head back into your own story and write your own pitch. Good luck!

May is National Short Story Month

May is National Short Story Month, aka NaShoStoMo. So if you like to write short stories, this is your month!

Just like April’s National Poetry Writing Month, NaShoStoMo also has a goal of 30 in 30 days. Some people, especially us procrastimasters, may think this number is overly ambitious.  But these are not supposed to be perfectly-crafted, ready-to-publish short stories. Think of it like any writing exercise–it’s just geared to get you writing.

Some Tips for churning out 30 short stories in a month:

  • Don’t edit, just write.
  • Each day start a new story even if the last one isn’t finished.
  • Stumped for ideas? Try a writing prompt like oneword.com
  • Don’t stop just because you missed a day–22 is still an accomplishment!

If you don’t feel up to 30 stories in 30 days, there are lots of other ways to celebrate short stories. You can write just one or two stories, or work on old unfinished stories. Even if you are not a short story writer you can show your support by picking up an anthology and reading some short stories. You can also join the #storysunday Twitter discussion where people share their favorite short stories.

What are you doing for National Short Story Month?

Make your May WWP dinner reservations now!

Mark it on your calendars, May 16th is Burger Night with the WWP!

Enjoy your choice of hamburger, salmon burger or veggie burger with all the fixin’s and tons of yummy sides for only $16 per person.  After dinner listen to a panel discussion by local design experts on book, web and promotional material design.  The panel will give a few tips and pointers on your design project, if you sign up for a “design review” when you make your reservation (they won’t have time to get to every review, so the sooner you make your reservation and sign up the better).

For all the details and to make your online reservations (by May 11th) go to the WWP home page.

 

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