Many writers, myself included, are uncomfortable talking about their work. Personally, I go into a sort of mini-panic every time I hear the words, “What are you working on?” or “You’re writing a book? What’s it about?” These are usually answered by some mumbling and/or stammering and a sudden interest in just about every other topic imaginable. Seriously, I’d rather perform a monologue on mold spores than talk about my work in progress.
Why the dread/embarrassment/deer-in-headlights response? I’m not ashamed of my novel; on the contrary, I’m extremely proud of the project into which I’ve poured my heart and soul and probably bits of my sanity. But I’m terrified of pitches. I’m afraid the other person won’t “get” it, or worse, won’t like it, and then we’ll be left with this awkward that’s-nice-so-what-do-we-talk-about-now mood poisoning the room.
When I first started writing, I would proudly tell people I was writing a book, and when asked what it was about, I’d reply with my standard, “I don’t want to talk about it until it’s finished.” Trying to explain my writing would open it up to all kinds of scrutiny that I simply wasn’t ready to face. But then I went to a conference where we were forced — er, encouraged — to practice pitching our work to other writers. And something amazing happened.
The other writers asked questions. And I answered them.
And in answering them, I learned how best to turn a stammered summary into a pitch that made sense. I learned what parts to focus on, both in my pitch and in my revisions, what parts to clarify, and what parts I needed to re-think. The questions that I was so afraid of turned out to be exactly what I needed. They weren’t designed to insult my writing or my ideas, but to strengthen them. And they did.
So now, as I start on revisions of my latest project (“It’s a YA high fantasy novel. And can you believe it was snowing this morning?”), I’m attacking the pitch head-on. That way, when my writer friends ask what I’m working on, we can have a conversation about more than just the weather. It’s scary, but I know that my book and I will both be stronger for it.
Do you get pitch jitters? How do you tackle them?