Why you should take part in Pitchapalooza with NaNoWriMo

Why enter Pitchapalooza
Image courtesy of NaNoWriMo

Another NaNoWriMo related post for you this week. Pitchapalooza is a regular fixture of the NaNo calendar, part of the Now What? months.

If you’ve never done NaNo or you’re a newbie like me, right now you’re probably scratching your head and thinking pitch-a-what?

Allow me to explain. Pitchapalooza is part lottery, part competition, giving you 250 words to pitch your novel to industry experts The Book Doctors.  Trust me, until you’ve tried to summarise a 100,000 word epic fantasy novel in 250 words, you don’t appreciate how tight a target that is!

So, several thousand aspiring writers submit their pitches by the end of February. 25 are drawn at random (the lottery bit) and then judged (the competition bit). And the prize is an introduction to a suitable agent – cue over-excited squealing and uncoordinated dancing round the room.

Why should you enter Pitchapalooza?

I had absolutely no plans to enter Pitchapalooza. Mainly due to the minor detail of the novel not being finished yet. But as the deadline crept nearer, the doubts started setting in. Was this too good an opportunity to pass up, even though the chances of getting into the final 25 must be pretty slim? If I want to make it as a published author, don’t I have to grab even slim chances with both hands? Certainly I’m not going to get anywhere by being a shy, retiring type who can’t face sharing any writing until it’s absolutely perfect.

Plus, I signed up to NaNoWriMo on a last minute whim (and with only half a plot), so why not this as well?

The deadline is 29 February. That’s right, next Monday. Well, who doesn’t like a challenge? I’ve drafted and re-drafted my 250 word pitch until it’s in a shape I’m broadly happy with. Now I’ve just got to polish it within an inch of it’s life so it’s ready to submit. Simple, right?

And this is why Pitchapalooza is worth entering, despite the long odds. It forces you to practice these skills, ones which will be essential if you want to move on to querying and publishing your work. It forces you to come up with a killer pitch and to really pare your story down to its essence. And perhaps easily overlooked but just as important, you’re putting yourself and your writing out there, learning to take risks with something that’s probably very personal to you – I know mine is to me.

But I don’t know how to write a pitch!

Me neither.

All joking aside, writing a pitch is a whole different skill set to writing a novel. With such a tight word limit, every word has to work hard as it possibly can. And there’s a precarious balance to find, between giving the reader a flavour your writing style, really selling the story, and making sure they know what’s happening while leaving them wanting more. The Book Doctors have given some tips on writing a pitch here (where you can also find the official information on the Pitchapalooza process).

More general, but very useful, is this podcast on query letters from Pub(lishing) Crawl. The pitch forms the main body and most important part of a query letter, the part that actually convinces (or not) an agent to request your manuscript. Amongst the advice in the podcast, they say your plot summary should be around 250 – 400 words. You might notice that’s not far off the Pitchapalooza word limit.

Good luck!

If you do decide to go ahead and enter the draw, then good luck! Let us know in the comments, and feel free to share any other experience you may have with pitching a novel.

And may the odds be ever in your favour. (Sorry, couldn’t resist!)

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