Thursday, June 01, 2006

Okay, tear it apart...

I've finally made some progress on the novel pitch I've been trying to write.

Guys, please tell me if this is any good. Don't be afraid to tell me that some part of it needs work -- the better the pitch, the more likely I am to succeed.

Here it is:

As a teenager, your #1 task is to invent yourself. Starting from the raw materials your parents give you -- keeping some things, rejecting others -- you construct an adult.

My novel Exmormon is a set of interconnected stories about the lives of a group of teens and young adults as they navigate through typical coming-of-age issues such as popularity, finding love, sexuality, and getting along with family, but all of it comes with a Mormon twist, framed by common events of growing up Mormon such as Youth Conference, a church play, attending Brigham Young University, a sibling's temple wedding, and serving a two-year mission.

All of the stories are lively, readable tales, told with humor and a dash of drama, in which the main characters who question their faith grow and forge new paths -- making mistakes and learning along the way -- while their friends and family members who stay in the LDS church do the same. The characters on both sides of the faithful/unbeliever divide are portrayed as whole humans with strengths and failings rather than as stereotyped good guys and bad guys.

In addition to being a fun read, this novel is fantastically timely in today's retro-vs-metro, red-state-vs-blue-state climate, where such front-page issues as abstinence-only sex ed and teaching "Intelligent Design" as science in public schools are focused around young people.

Placing these issues in the context of questioning Mormonism has the advantage of being less threatening to mainstream Christians than a story about fundamentalist Christians might be. Plus Mormons are currently in the general interest spotlight with the popularity of HBO's "Big Love" and with the FLDS prophet Warren Jeffs being placed on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted list. The novel explores the mainstream Mormons' complex relationship with such fringe groups.

I am currently generating interest for this novel on my popular and entertaining blog "Letters from a broad..." (http://lfab-uvm.blogspot.com/) where you will find a summary of the novel plus sample chapters, reviews, and other commentary in the sidebar links.

The complete manuscript is available on request.

Thank you for your time,

C. L. Hanson


So what do you think?

I want to get across the idea that it's not a simplistic formula novel, yet it's also not some dense, weighty tome that's difficult for ordinary people to enjoy. I'm not sure if I captured that...

But this is the best I've come up with so far, so look out literary agents!!! You'll likely be seeing some variant of this in your mailbox... ;-)

6 comments:

Rebecca said...

It sounds good to me, but I know NOTHING about writing a pitch, so... My favorite part is when you write about your "popular and entertaining blog." It reminds me of William Goldman calling his book, "The Princess Bride: S Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure." I LOVE it! Your blog IS popular and entertaining! PS - I think my brother knows something about writing pitches, so if you want or need advice you could email him (the link to his site, kikiandsquishy.com, is on my sidebar).

C.L. Hanson said...

LOL!!!

Re: "my popular and entertaining blog", I think self-promotion requires this sort of thing to some degree.

Back when the Utah Valley Monitor was in full swing, and Peter, the editor jokingly told everyone that I had singlehandedly founded the Student Review and one other independent BYU student paper (not true, of course).

I corrected him by reminding him that he forgot to mention that I'm also as tall as Paul Bunyan!!! ;-)

Christopher Bigelow said...

I think it looks good! I personally would cut the following, because the letter is already plenty long and these words start to lose focus on your project:

+++
In addition to being a fun read, this novel is fantastically timely in today's retro-vs-metro, red-state-vs-blue-state climate, where such front-page issues as abstinence-only sex ed and teaching "Intelligent Design" as science in public schools are focused around young people.

Placing these issues in the context of questioning Mormonism has the advantage of being less threatening to mainstream Christians than a story about fundamentalist Christians might be. Plus
+++

Also, I'm to the point in your novel where the wedding is going on. I'm still enjoying it a lot, although I still think you could make some of the dialogue sound more natural!

I keep having a thought: what if you cut parts 1 and 2 and started with part 3? Your novel is already so long, and while parts 1 and 2 are interesting portrayals, nothing unusual really happens until part 3. I think you'd suck more readers in if they got to something unexpected and dramatic faster. Having only read it once and not being done yet, perhaps I don't fully see the necessity of parts 1 and 2 yet, but I just have a sense that an engaging plot didn't really kick in until part 3. Anyway, something to chew on... (Don't you just hate critiques sometimes?)

Tom C said...

I'm working on a revision of it for you. Not that it needs revising, but perhaps just seeing your ideas through someone else's words might be helpful. It'll take a couple of days but I'll email you when it's done.

C.L. Hanson said...

Thanks Tom!!!

Thanks Christopher -- that's a good point. If they're professionals, I probably don't need to spell out obvious marketing angles instead of keeping the focus on the piece itself...

Also thanks for suggestions on the piece. Interestingly, part 3 was originally written as a stand-alone piece, but I didn't like it that way because it seemed too shocking and potentially offensive, and I felt like it needed to be placed in context. So I interwove it with Lynn's story (parts 2-3-6) and added April's story (part 1) to the beginning.

Personally I think parts 1 and 2 are necessary in order to develop the themes of the novel. In particular, the novel is a portrait of "growing up Mormon and leaving the church", and if you cuts part one and two, you lose the first half of that portrait -- and when April and Lynn later leave the church, you might get the wrong impression that they never cared, never tried, and just blew it off. One of the points to this novel is to show what it's like to believe and to care while in the back of your mind the cognitive dissonance is building. Plus I hope parts 1 & 2 are funny and entertaining for their own sake even if they're not quite as dramatic as part 3... ;-)

On the other hand, you're probably right that putting something unexpected and dramatic earlier would hook the reader better. If ever any real-life publishers get a hold of this, we'll see what they have to say about it...

A related quirk of the piece is that -- as you'll see -- the first half of the novel is more girl-oriented whereas the second half is more guy-oriented. So there could easily be men out there who might potentially be interested in the later stuff but be put off by the girly stuff in the beginning...

C.L. Hanson said...

Okay, I sent one!!!

I didn't use this letter exactly because the agent had an online form to fill out instead of requesting a formal query letter.

I don't plan to send any more until I hear Tom's ideas, but I was just browsing around that agents' listing Christopher sent me, and found one that talked about looking for fiction with an original concept and specifically mentioned "contemporary teen issues." Naturally, I thought "That's me!!!" ;-)

So we'll see if I get lucky on the first try, otherwise there'll be more literary world on-the-job-training for me coming up!!! :D