Pitch Like a Rock Star Workshop: Water Lily

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” -Ernest Hemingway

Did you know that November is National Novel Writing Month?

National Novel Writing Month is also known as NaNoWriMo to writers all around the globe. I’m signed up and actively working forward on my new work-in-progress novel called The Other Side of the Sea. You can see my progress on a bar chart to the right in my blog’s sidebar. The goal is to complete 50,000 words by the end of the month. It’s a big goal, one I intend to make. I will have months of rewriting after November is over, but before rewriting can begin, a writer needs a first draft. That is my goal.

As part of the intense writing going on around my house, this week I’m participating in a blog hop workshop run by Heather Webb, a writer (and now friend) I met in May at Backspace in New York City. Heather is currently running a series on writing a rock star novel pitch over at her blog Between the Sheets. As part of the series, she’s helping novelists with their three sentence pitches.

What is a Pitch?

A pitch is what you hear when someone tells you about a book or movie, but in a condensed format. It can be over a few paragraphs, through an enticing marketing blurb found on the back of a book, or in an even shorter format like a one-sentence description. I don’t have to tell you how hard it is for a novelist to boil a 350 page book down into one sentence. (It’s tough!) That’s why I’m asking for help — your help — with writing my pitch. In this case, Heather asks for a three-sentence pitch.

So, I’m posting my three-sentence pitch for my novel Water Lily below, and asking for feedback on it by the end of the week. The other great folks participating in Heather’s challenge will be stopping by to add their thoughts, and I hope you will as well. On Friday, we all send our polished three-sentence pitches to Heather, when she’ll choose three to send to her esteemed agent, Michelle Brower, at Folio Lit in New York City (whom I also had the chance to meet at Backspace in May. Michelle is brilliant!). Michelle will choose one winning pitch, and read the first ten pages of the chosen novel’s manuscript.

My pitch for Water Lily:

Water Lily, 86,000 words, is character-driven women’s fiction, in the tradition of Vanessa Diffenbaugh and Kate Morton, and with elements of The Red Violin.

Monet's Water Lilies, L'Orangerie, Paris


First pitch, 11/5/12:

When a Boston court convicts her father for her mother’s murder, Lily Miller’s grandparents change her name to Rachel Revere and move her to another state. But secrets reemerge twenty years later when her father’s viola surfaces in a Czech royal music archive. Rachel must decide how much to risk in pursuing the answers that may free her father at last.


Revised pitch, 11/6/12:

When a Boston court convicts her father for her mother’s murder, Lily Miller’s grandparents change her name to Rachel Revere and move her to another state. Twenty years later, Rachel reconsiders her father’s innocence when his treasured viola surfaces in a Czech royal music archive and secrets reemerge. As tensions build with her fiancé and grandparents, Rachel must choose between having their approval and pursuing the answers that may set her father free at last.



I’d love to hear your suggestions for improvement. Thank you!

Published by Jennifer Lyn Art

About Jennifer Writer Author Photographer Artist Corporate Marketer Happy Wife & Mom World Traveler Grateful.

20 thoughts on “Pitch Like a Rock Star Workshop: Water Lily

  1. First– I LOVE this premise. Awesomesauce. Your pitch is pretty darn good as well. It just needs a tiny bit of tweaking to give us a little more information. I’d like to know what the stakes are. You start to go there with “risk in pursuing” piece, but I think a bit more of a teaser is needed here to give it a KAPOW factor.

    When a Boston court convicts her father for her mother’s murder, Lily Miller’s grandparents change her name to Rachel Revere and move her to another state. Twenty years later, Rachel XXX when her father’s viola surfaces in a Czech royal music archive and secrets reemerge. As XXX (stakes), she is forced to decide between XXX (hard choice other than uncover the truth) and pursuing the answers that may free her father at last.

    Good luck. I hope to read this one day. Sounds fascinating and right up my alley. 🙂

    1. Wow, Heather. Thank you so much for the compliment and the awesomesauce (I love your word, too!)!

      Your revision suggestion is great and spot-on. I agree with you on the stakes, and have added a bit more there to help make it clearer. I think the revision is an improvement. Thank you!

      BTW, after reading through the twenty other pitches and your dazzling revision suggestions for theirs as well, I think you are a saint. Thank you for opening up a challenge like this to help other writers along on their journeys. It all is so generous of you, especially with regards to your time. I’m amazed. Thanks for all you’re doing, Heather. It’s much appreciated! xo

  2. Hi, It sounds like a fascinating story. I agree that the stakes need to be more clearly spelled out in terms of what she is actually risking – because normally a truth that would set her father free seems like a win. I’m also not clear how her father’s viola being in a foreign archive ties in to the plot. Has it been stolen? Is there some connection between the Czech Republic and her father, mother, actual murderer?

    1. Hi Rhiann,
      Thank you for stopping by and offering great feedback! You are completely right about adding more detail as to what is at risk. Good point. I’ve revised and added to hopefully clear up some of the ambiguity. Thank you!

  3. Nice pitch! But like the others I want just a tiny bit more to really hook me and see what the connection is between the Czech Republic. By the way, I lived in Prague in 1994.

    1. Thanks, Rebeca. I think you’re right … I’ve revised and added a bit more detail. The connection with Czech Republic is part of the lure throughout the book as she tries to uncover what really happened when her mother died.
      Thanks for mentioning that you lived in Prague in ’94. I bet it’s changed a lot between then and now. We are on our fourth and final year here in Prague, and have enjoyed it so much, but are looking forward to moving back to the US this summer!

  4. Wow, this premise is great and I love the pitch. You could just add one or two more details, maybe to that middle sentence, and it would be perfect. It’s already so strong though. Love the concision, too. I don’t have much to critique on this one. Honestly, I think it’s really fab! 😀

  5. The revision ROCKS! And again and again I write this- everyone has such fascinating books/premises! I wish everyone publishing sucess so I can read them someday!

    Anyway- the only thing I would say and maybe this is being picky, but the phrasing- secrets reemerge…if they were secrets I think they’d be just emerging. No?

    Well done!

    1. Thank you, Deirdre! And your phrasing suggestion is completely perfect. I agree now that you mention it. Yes, secrets are only *just* emerging, not reemerging. Thank you so much for your feedback!

  6. Thanks for posting the revision as well – reading both together is a good example of how to make significant improvements with little changes. The pitch really grabs me, the only thing that I wonder if there’s something more emotionally grabbing available to “tensions rising” – is it angry tension? Sorrowful? I don’t really know, but somehow I’d like to know a bit more about what emotional reaction the fiancé and grandparents are having, which would make me wonder what stake they have in the mystery. Does that make sense?

    1. Keely,
      It is amazing how words can be so simple and yet so powerful. That’s why it’s SO valuable to hear so many different angles of feedback and suggestions. A huge thank you to Heather for organizing and running this pitch workshop. She is so generous with her talent and time. (Thanks Heather!)

      I like what you’ve said about the tensions rising. It is almost cliche, and could benefit from a different choice of words. I’ll continue to think on it, but thank you so much for stopping by and offering your suggestions!

  7. Second version is definitely better. Would something like “Twenty years later, Rachel questions her father’s guilt…”
    work instead of “Twenty years later, Rachel reconsiders her father’s innocence?” Because he was judged guilty right-and she’s thinking now that maybe he wasn’t? I also agree that “secrets emerge” works better because I don’t think the secrets emerged previously. Good job! Prague and Budapest are on my list of places for future travel.

    1. Rhiann,
      Your suggestion of changing to questioning father’s guilt instead of his innocence is so helpful! I appreciate your feedback so much. Thank you! It’s a great change to make. Also, I definitely changed to “secrets emerge.” You all are awesome.

      I do hope you get to travel to Prague and Budapest. This part of the world is true treasure. You’ll love Prague. Happy travels, and again, thank you!

  8. You received some great feedback already, so I’ll only include one thing hasn’t already been said:

    Is it important to the pitch that her grandparents changed her name and moved her to another state? If so, you should explain that importance. If not, you could consider chopping that sentence to make room to add some of the elements other people have suggested.

    Great job though!

    1. Thank you, Cindy! Definitely, the first sentence sets the stage for the protagonist’s changed identity and new life after her mother’s murder, and it needs to be in the pitch, for sure. I appreciate you stopping by to help and offer great feedback.

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