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From Pitch to Slam: Part 2, The First 250

I’m a twitter contest junkie. A downright “women of ill repute” when it comes to this stuff, and one of my favorites is right around the bend!

If you’re not familiar with Pitch Slam, here’s a short rundown:

It’s put together by L.L. McKinney, and the contest consists of submitting the first 250 words of your MS along with a 35-word pitch. There’s things about feedback rounds and being selected for your stuff to appear on a blog where agents can request (*squeal*) but I’m gonna leave all those details to the Queen to explain and answer when it comes time. Apart from, of course, where my own experience comes into play ;)

I entered Pitch Slam twice: Once in April 2015 for my Adult Romance, Auto In, and once in October 2015 for my Adult Contemporary Romance, Hands-Free. I made it to the final blog round both times (where agents have the opportunity to make requests). And just so you know Pitch Slam people aren’t paying me off in Rolos to talk them up, know that while I earned requests, neither contest concluded with my signing with an agent. However, I absolutely feel that the things I learned from participating in Pitch Slam are what helped me accomplish that goal.

So without further ado (and lots of my embarrassment to come) let’s talk about the second part of what you need for Pitch Slam and how to make it sing!

PART 2: THE FIRST 250

So . . . What’s the deal with the first 250 words? IT’S NOT ENOUGH TO JUDGE ME!!!

I know it’s tough – you have an entire book full of wisdom and metaphors and themes and plot and maybe some rockets or a lot of good kissing, and the first 250 words of that 100k is just NOT ENOUGH to get a sense of how AMAAAAAAZING your book is, right? Um, actually, it is. And here’s why:

When your book gets all super glittery formatted by the people in the suits who use the computers and make all the rules, your first 250 words equals your first page. Then the page ends, and you have to turn the jerk to keep going (or swipe if you use one of those fancy techy thingys). Want people to turn the page? Your 250 has to be STELLER.

The best way I’ve heard this described is that your first 250 words are a promise to your reader. From CHAPTER ONE to the bottom of that single shot you have at winning them over, we’re setting the stage for all things to come.

Now, there’s a boatload of articles on how to write the perfect first page (and definitely what NOT to do), but here’s a quick rundown of what works for me (and passes the test of my CPs and beta readers) along with some examples from my own contest entries:

1. Hook.

That first line that pops off the page. BE BRAVE. Make it something I’ll remember. But that doesn’t mean it has to wow me with technical difficulty or words so fancy, I have to look them up. Make it clean, easy to understand and even easier to read. I don’t want to be brain-mushy-tired from the start, you know?

The more books I write, the more I find that sharp, shorter first sentences draw me in more than a long twisty one. But again, this is coming from the girl whose current MS starts with: Third gear. (Followed by a paragraph break).

2. Characters.

This new shiny person I know nothing about? I need to care about them. I need to care where they’re going. I need to know why I want to turn that page 300 more times. Is this easy? No. It’s nearly impossible to build an instant connection between strangers, and that’s what we’re doing. Like going up to the hot guy at the party and introducing yourself with just enough charisma that five minutes later, he’s following you around like a puppy trying to figure out why you have a pet skunk named Tombstone. Make me want MORE. How? EMITTING EMOTION. (I wrote a post about that, check it out here). Make me scared for them, excited for them, because that's what they're feeling and I can't help but join in.

3. World.

Are we in the desert racing scorpions? Are we in a period piece? Just something, preferably small, to tell me where I am in time and space. Again, the smaller, the better. There’s not much space in 250 words, so save it for character and plot and voice. As well, starting with a long, epic description of surroundings and talking about the weather is (I’m pretty sure) on one of those No-No lists.

4. Plot.