**Edited to Add Winners** Share Your Women’s Fiction Hook For Feedback and Prizes

We are all winners because that hookapalooza (as I was calling it on Twitter) was so much fun.  I hope you all enjoyed sharing your hooks and pitches, reading them, and chiming in with comments and good suggestions.  A huge thank you to my darling Kathryn Magendie, author of the Tender Graces novels, Sweetie, upcoming books and a publishing editor of Rose and Thorn Journal, for her words of wisdom and contagious enthusiasm.

Now, without further ado, our winners — who were chosen randomly by one of those random-number-picker-things.

The Winners

Kate Defrise (our brave 1st)

Meredith Jaeger

Carolyn Moncel

Suzanne Anderson

Email me at womensfictionwriters@gmail.com for your prizes!

_______________________

It’s the first-ever Women’s Fiction Writers Random Drawing.  That’s right! It’s unscientific and totally fun!

Share your women’s fiction ONLY hook/logline/pitch – of your work-in-progress, almost-published, self-published or traditionally published novel – and I’ll enter you into a random drawing for fabulous prizes chosen by me and announced next week. (Which likely means I’ve not yet chosen the prizes.)

The best part? This doesn’t have to be your most polished, query-ready stuff.  If it is, great — if it’s not — we’ll help you make it great.  Let’s offer kind, constructive, encouraging comments.  Tell your fellow writers what you like about their words, their premise.  Are you hooked? Why? Not hooked? Why not?  I’ll offer my thoughts as well — even though I’m obviously not entering my pitches. And even though it’s what I do pretty much all day every day when I’m not writing and editing my own work.

THE RULES:

Enter by Wednesday February 1st at 10pm Central Time.

Enter ONE WOMEN’S FICTION hook only.

Keep it short. Around 100 words. (It’s the honor system, I’m not counting the words.)

THE GOOD STUFF:

THREE random entrants will win, so make sure if you don’t link to your email address that you leave it in the comments.  I’ll choose winners before next Tuesday, notify the winners, tell them about their prizes, and announce it all next Tuesday.  So if you win, and I email you, and I don’t hear back from you by next Monday, I’ll pick someone else.

This is not rocket science. It’s a fun drawing that will hopefully also be inspiring!!

Oh, and the first unpublished author to enter her (or his) hook automatically wins a prize just for being brave. 

HAVE FUN! BE HELPFUL!

176 thoughts on “**Edited to Add Winners** Share Your Women’s Fiction Hook For Feedback and Prizes

  1. Here it is. Unpublished.
    “Christmas. A time of joy and hot drinks, fuzzy socks and laughter. A time for crackling fires in the hearth and peace, brightly wrapped gifts sporting ribbons and sumptious food. A magical time to be with family. But for the Arnaud sisters, the perspective Christmas in their family home is less welcome than the thought of performing open-heart surgery using a dull breadknife. Without anaesthesia. Thicker Than Wine is contemporary women’s fiction exploring family ties and the role of food in binding the members to each other and to their shared past.”

    Like

    • I love the title! You could even combine some of the beginning:

      Christmas. A time of joy and hot drinks, fuzzy socks and laughter, cracking hearth fires and peace, brightly-wrapped and ribboned gifts, sumptuous food–a magical time to be with family. But for . . .

      of course, that’s just me thinking off the top of my pea-head!

      I’d read this book! I love books about family and food and Christmas!

      Like

    • Kat’s right. Christmas stories are a real draw because of the relatability (well, not for me, I’m Jewish, but holiday/family/food are universal) but what I’m just dying to know WHY Christmas is unwelcome for the sisters. I also like the idea of knowing their first names because I’d immediately feel like I knew them a little better.

      “Sisters Susie and Betsy Arnaud don’t want to go home to Small Town, Kentucky for Christmas…”

      Then I think – oh my why? – and read on. I love sister stories – and I can only imagine the trouble that lurks if Christmas is worse than surgery. Egads! 🙂 Good luck with this, Kate! Keep us posted!!

      Like

  2. In World War Two Budapest, Natalie shelters her two sisters and a beloved niece from the Nazis. When one sister takes the last two tickets to safety, Natalie must find another means of escape for her niece. Her efforts are thwarted by her twin’s delusional outbursts. Ultimately, Natalie must choose who to save. – Mrs. Tuesday’s Departure, on Kindle.

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    • Is the twin one of her two sisters? And maybe some other description than “delusional outbursts” to give readers a clearer view of the stakes?

      But, other than thost little nitty thoughts, very succinct and well done! I know what the book will be “about” . . . I’m thinking of a sort of Sophie’s Choice!

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    • War, Europe, sisters, delusional outbursts. I’m imagining Natalie coping with someone perhaps on the autism spectrum or with emotional disabilities during the 1940’s, when these things were dealt with much differently than they are now. What a peek into society that will be. I’m not sure if the sisters/niece are children or adults – or if Natalie is an adult or a teen, perhaps. I’d like to know that.

      Women’s Fiction intertwined with historical fiction is very popular. Good luck with this, Suzanne!!

      Like

    • There’s a lot of drama here that intrigues me. I wish there were a few more tidbits in here, though, about Natalie’s character. What makes her unique? This pitch only describes her circumstances, not what makes her shine as a character.

      Like

    • Maybe name the millionaire? So I can picture someone more clearly?

      Oh but I can see the conflicts arising and humor that will arise from this book! And I envy how some writers can be so succinct with their on the point descriptions of their books, instead of how I ramble and babble about mine 😀

      Like

    • I’d love to know if the nemesis is a woman? I’d love to get the WF sense from this – which I imagine comes into play when HE is sharing childcare duties and perhaps changing HIS tune about gender roles. I’d love even more specifics to draw me in.

      And whose children? Just thought of that!!

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      • Thanks Kat and Amy for those great comments. This is of course my shortest pitch, perhaps too cryptic now that I’ve heard your perspectives. (BFF’s kids. That’s how they get into this.) Hero’s name is Bruce, and the architect’s name is Maura. Female, obviously. I guess I thought “shrewish” gave it away. That’s his perspective anyway. They both have much to learn, about gender roles, identity and belonging. And of course there’s romance, too.

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    • Okay, here’s a longer version. I just wrote it, but you can see where I get tangled in all the BFF’s. Any suggestions?

      Bruce Koczynski is an independent-minded dot-com millionaire whose carefree summer plans to live on his sailboat, while renovating his new house, are spoiled when he’s expected to share responsibility for his best buddy’s kids with his buddy’s wife’s best friend. Maura Jenner, his nemesis, is a shrewish career-driven architect, who thinks of him as a lazy, immature slob. They both have a lot to learn about themselves, and their respective beliefs about identity, belonging, career and family before they are ready to tackle eachother.

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      • At first read, I’m thinking, why are the kids dumped in his lap? Is his buddy sick? This is a piece of information that would help me get a better picture.

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      • Ah, much clearer now. Reminds me of a recent movie with Kathryn Heigl — I forget what it was called.

        How about something like:

        Bruce Koczynski, a dot-com millionaire whose summer plans include living on his sailboat and overseeing the renovation of his new house, is thrown off course when his best friend’s wife gets sick and Bruce is the one they turn to — not for money, but for child-care. Bruce has never failed at anything in his life, but when he discovers that Maura Jenner is the other best friend pitching in with the kids — he’s just not sure he can navigate the rocky waters of temporary parenthood — because Maura is the one who got away.

        Ok, I went a little overboard (oy, couldn’t help it) with the sailing/water theme, but if you remove some of the adjectives — you’ll tighten it up considerable. (and I made up details for example’s sake)

        A dot-com millionaire? We can assume in a quick pitch that he’s independent. We don’t need to know what Maura thinks of Bruce (love the name Maura, by the way) just what happens – enough to make us want to read more.

        Make sense?

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      • Yes, thanks. The reason the get the kids is rather complicated, and it certainly doesn’t contribute to this blurb’s brevity. I also saw that Kathryn Heigl movie and it kind of bummed me out, never mind that. My book was already written. However, it’s quite different, even tho it’s got the oil n water and the child care thing. I think the amount of detail depends on the purpose of the blurb. There’s no way you can answer all the questions, as long as you raise them. I appreciate the attempt to tie in the sailing theme. It’s actually called Coming About!

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  3. “It’s been too long,” she whispered, her words escaping into the late afternoon, as she snuggled her best friend’s newborn closer into her dark-mocha arms. Barely an hour ago baby Ben had made his way into the world to join his family. Leyla-Jo Jared felt his mother’s gaze settle on her and the infant … watching her closely.

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    • This reads like the beginning chapter – but you have the beginnings of the ‘blurb’ starting with “Barely an hour ago baby Ben made his way into the world . . .” and then etc. And I’m not sure who Leyla-Jo is -?

      But this made me feel as if there is such a story hiding there – something I want to find out! I like the phrase “her words escaping” – this intrigues me!

      Okay I’ve rattled around here long enough – can you tell I’m also an editor? I have to put my fingers in everyone’s word pies? *laughing*

      Well Done Y’all!

      Like

    • I’m intrigued – and a little confused. Here’s why: For me, when anything starts with dialogue or a he/she, and I’m not already familiar with the situation and characters, my mind tries to figure it out and I’m distracted from what’s in front of me. Who is the she/her/she/her in the first line? Leyla-Jo? I think so. Leyla-Jo’s best friend is watching Leyla-Jo hold her baby, correct?

      I think Kat’s right. It’s not a logline/hook/pitch, it reads like a passage from the book.

      Wanna share your hook? Tell us what the book’s about? I can imagine – but that’s because I am a pro at having my mind wander. I’m probably wrong and would love to know.

      Is Leyla-Jo going to end up raising Ben? Does she steal him? Does the bf die? Oh my. I better go get more coffee!!

      Hope you’ll chime in with more, Nancy.

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      • (smile … here’s the actual logline!)
        A Path through the Garden (unpublished)

        When alternative healer Leyla-Jo Jared struggles with infertility, her wisdom path to a solution explores natural botanic agents. Her quest leads to a greater challenge … her husband’s health and their role in the professional, scientific community. Must there be a choice?

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    • Now I get it, Nancy! 😉 I’d love to know more specifics and getting to the point a wee bit faster…

      When alternative healer Leyla-Jo Jared struggles with infertility, SHE explores natural botanicALS AS A SOLUTION. (natural botanical agents made me think of a household cleaner. Argh) Her quest (a quest makes me think of an amulet, not a baby) FOR A CHILD leads Leyla-Jo to a crossroads … (I’d like to know what the challenge or crossroads is, you don’t say here) her husband’s health and their role in the professional, scientific community. Must there be a choice? (be very, very careful with question in your logline. Some will read it and be taken aback, others will answer and others won’t care.)

      Of course, it’s your book and you know best…these are just my morning thoughts, meant to be helpful! 🙂

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      • Thanks so very much for your feedback, Amy Sue! Appreciate it!
        I can substitute “path” for “quest” (play on the title: A Path through the Garden).
        And, “Her path for a child leads Leyla-Jo to a crossroads … choosing her husband’s health over their need for a child, while threatening their roles in the professional, scientific community.”

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      • Hi Nancy, I agree with Amy & Kat’s comments above, but you’ve nearly nailed it. It takes a few passes to say exactly the right thing with so few words, and still people will read different things into it. However wherever you have a dilemma or tough choice, I think you’ve got a hook!

        Like

  4. Here’s mine for a self-published book: 5 Reasons to Leave a Lover — A Novella and Other Short Stories

    As singer/songwriter, Paul Simon so eloquently suggested in a famous song from the 1970s, there are many ways to leave a lover, but these characters demonstrate that the reasons for leaving in the first place are quite finite. Encounters in Paris principal characters, Ellery and Julien Roulet return—this time involved in an emotionally-charged love triangle, and along with two other couples, explore how love relationships are affected and splinter due to cheating, deception, ambivalence, divorce and death. This bittersweet collection of tales proves that some breakups are necessary while others are simply destined and beyond anyone’s control.

    Like

    • A well worded blurb, and an interesting intro and premise for a collection of short stories. I would buy it. I might also suggest breaking the blurb into a few shorter sentences for clarity. But it’s all there! Congrats.

      Like

    • I think this is a lovely summary of your short story collection. I’m not sure the way one would “pitch” a collection of stories, but you’ve done a fine job here expressing some specifics, some generalities and the flavor of your writing.

      Good luck with your sales! 🙂

      Like

      • Thanks so much, Amy. I really appreciate the feedback so much. Yes, it’s been very tough pitching a collection of short stories. There seems to be more interest once it is understood that the stories are linked together by common themes, characters or both. However, it’s just not a very popular format in the marketplace, at least not right now. I started writing short stories in order to ease my way into writing fiction, but I think it’s finally time that I get over the fear, hunker down and write that novel already! 🙂 The articles that you showcase here each week from authors are such an inspiration. Thank you for posting them!

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    • I’d leave off “beyond anyone’s control” – why? I don’t know! I don’t even think you need the part about Paul Simon – unless your stories are set during that time, then it could fit. But, this is a well-written hook . . . maybe the title more definite: “5 reasons to leave a loveer – A novella and (put number) short stories . . . ?

      Like

      • Hi Katmagendie, thank you so much for the feedback! I appreciate it so much!

        The Paul Simon reference will need to stay because it plays a significant role throughout each story. In fact, the titles for each story mimics the rhymes found in the lyrics of the song. For example, in the song, there is the line: Don’t need to be coy, Roy. Just set yourself free. The title of the first story in this collection is called Set Yourself Free, Ellery, and it continues from there.

        I like the idea about adding the numbers. Thanks for suggesting. I’ll figure out how to incorporate that in so it’s more clear!

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      • Oh! I see Carolyn – I couldn’t reply below you, so doing it here — knowing that intrigues me – I wonder if there’s a way to tie that in to where readers will know you are doing that. 😀 But that could go in the longer ‘blurb’ or whatever I suppose, as well. cool!

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      • Thanks Kat! I’ll try to work in your suggestion into the blurb section. I think you’re right. It’s may not be clear what the Paul Simon connection is to the stories themselves. Thanks to all of you for your time and feedback! I appreciate it so much!

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  5. Here’s the pitch for my unpublished (recently finished) first novel.

    A hit songwriter is used to running from her haunting past, but when her world collides with a young pop-music sensation, their songwriting journey brings her face-to-face with her demons, ghosts, and finally, matters of the heart.

    REINVENTION is a contemporary women’s fiction that explores the damage done by a secret kept and the power of forgiveness.

    Like

    • Hi Lisa! I like this, but my only question was whether the young pop-music sensation is male or female. This would help me gauge whether the story is a budding romance, or a connection between an older woman and a teenage girl. Thanks 🙂

      Like

      • Thanks! Then I should include the names…

        Sam Evans, a hit songwriter living in Los Angeles, is used to running from her haunting past. But when her world collides with Angel Devoe, a teen queen determined to find her own voice, their songwriting journey brings Sam face-to-face with her demons, ghosts, and finally, matters of the heart.

        REINVENTION is a contemporary women’s fiction that explores the damage done by a secret kept and the power of forgiveness.

        Like

    • Hi Lisa,
      Are these real ghosts and demons or metaphorical ones? I only ask because magical realism and touches of paranormal are so popular now, you’ll want to be clear if it’s one of these — or if it’s not.

      I like the premise. Do you think you can be more specific? It will lend heft to the hook, if that makes sense. What EXACTLY is the hit songwriter running from? HOW do worlds collide? WHAT is the songwriting journey? Just give it a go and see if you like the result. I see a lot in here but for me it’s too vague. Show us why it’s unique and special!

      Like

      • These suggestions are really helping me streamline. I’ve added yours to the mix!

        Sam Evans, a hit songwriter living in Los Angeles, is used to running from her haunting past—a past rooted in the day she came home from school and found her mother dead. But when her world collides with Angel Devoe, a teen queen determined to find her own voice, their songwriting journey brings Sam face-to-face with her demons, ghosts, and finally, matters of the heart.

        REINVENTION is a contemporary women’s fiction that explores the damage done by a secret kept and the power of forgiveness.

        Like

      • I’d take out ‘is used to” as well

        Sam Evans, a hit songwriter living in Los Angeles, has always run ?? maybe? something in the “is used” bumps me. (reading below — ) other than that, what you did, below, kicks it up for sure, yes!

        Like

  6. Successful actor, 26-year old Mick Sullivan, drinks too much, smokes too much and sleeps around, “anything with a pussy and a pulse,” as one smart-ass celebrity blogger put it. And he’s got secrets. Twenty-four year old Rachael Allen has reluctantly returned home, jobless, waiting for her real life to begin. A chance encounter and a request for an autograph yield an impromptu video of the two of them on YouTube. “You’ll Be Thinking of Me” is is the story of the jarring detour Rachael’s life takes as she becomes the target in a fantasy love triangle and a bittersweet gift is left behind by the very person fixated on destroying her life.

    .

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    • There is an intriguing hint of what’s to come here. It definitely makes me ask questions. I’m imagining Mick’s dark secret is spilled in the tabloids, or online equivalents, and Rachael is attributed a role she doesn’t deserve, and in sorting it all out she and Mick straighten out eachother. Am I right? I think you could get a little more specific to hook the readers. Don’t be afraid to give the story away in the blurb. That never stopped anyone from buying a book. Quite the opposite! Great work.

      Like

    • Hi Densie! This looks familiar! 🙂

      For a quickie – how about getting right to the good stuff?

      You’ll Be Thinking of Me is is the story of the jarring detour Rachael Allen’s life takes the day she meets famous actor Mick Sullivan, asks him for his autograph and they end up on YouTube. (then you can synopsize more…but this is really contemporary and relatable to the YouTube generation. And perhaps a cautionary tale as well)

      Like

  7. Here goes… just published:

    Following the death of their baby during a difficult birth, Brandy and Weston Chambers are grief-stricken and withdraw from each other, both seeking solace outside of their marriage. However, they vow to work through their painful disloyalty and reconnect lovingly. But when Edward Barnes, the man Brandy slept with, returns to their hometown and finds out she’s pregnant, he forces her to have a fetal DNA test. Three lives are forever changed by the discovery of that truth, yet only two people experience the true meaning of love and trust after the birth of Brandy’s child.
    Patti

    Like

    • I think if you tighten this up you’ll have a hook that’s easy to remember — and who doesn’t want folks to be able encapsulate their book in order to recommend it to friends? (I usually say – Oh, just read it. It’s good. I promise.)

      I feel like there is too much in the one paragraph – all we need is the hook to grab us. I’m not sure what the hook is. Is it the death of the baby? The affairs? The unknown parentage? Get the hook clear and I think you’ll have it. It sounds like a very emotional story, that’s for sure. Is Brandy your protag? You could do the hook from her POV if that is the case.

      Like

      • Thank you SO much for your feedback. I agree with you. There’s too much in one paragraph. This is how my editor thought it should be for the query letter, so I deferred to her suggestion. However, it’s too long to be labeled a “hook” which is why I see what you’re saying. The people who have read it keep saying what you said – that it’s a very emotional story. Brandy is my protag and it’s her POV as well. I will have to work on slimming it down to a clear hook.
        This is going to be REALLY hard for me.
        I appreciate all of you taking the time to comment.

        Like

  8. Pitch for my novel, GENTLY USED (87,000 words):

    Inside Hourglass Vintage, every garment has a story–a textured and sometimes tumultuous past. And so do the women who work and shop there.

    The owner, Violet Turner, knows the history behind each item, from a Chanel suit to a Bakelite cocktail ring, but keeps her own troubled past to herself.

    Sales clerk April Morgan is halfway through an unplanned pregnancy when her fiancé breaks off their engagement. Her 1950’s wedding dress hangs limp in the store’s back room, ignored, just like her dreams.

    Customer Amithi Singh longs to be useful, but after decades of struggling to share the traditions of her native India with her rebellious daughter, fears she has nothing to offer.

    Hourglass Vintage is a place where unlikely friendships flourish, but the shop is riddled with financial woes and, unless these women can pull off a radical plan to save it, it will be forgotten along with the gowns on its racks.

    Like

  9. The Other Only Child

    After Jenna and Courtney’s mother passes away from a sudden death, Jenna deals with the shock by breaking off the engagement to the man she thought she’d love forever, while her younger sister finds love for the first time. But love and relationships fall to the wayside when the autopsy report reveals that both girls are at risk of getting the same disease that killed their mother. As the girls figure out how to live with their new health risks, a secret is discovered that could tear these two sister’s worlds apart.

    Like

    • Oh my! How tragic! Ok, I get a little confused as initially I didn’t realize that “sudden death” was an actual condition or disease, so the first phrase sounds redundant to me. I think it’s a tad too wordy and I am getting a bit lost in the details, which are taking me away from the crux of an amazing story. The hook is that after their mother dies, these sisters find out they have an illness that could kill them, right?

      After their mother dies from a “sudden death” sisters Jenna and Courtney learn they may have inherited the same disease but their mother never told them. Jenna breaks off her engagement. Courtney falls in love. As the girls learn to live with their new health risks, they discover another secret that could tear their world apart all over again. (I don’t know the story, so this is just my take on a hook)

      Based on the title I’m thinking they are not really sisters – or that they had different fathers. Or that they’re cousins. Ok, I know. I’ll stop now. I am intrigued.

      Like

    • It’s got my attention!

      There’s something a little clumsy about the last line though: “that could tear these two sister’s worlds apart.” I’m not sure “sister” should be possessive here, and then with the possessive followed by a plural “worlds” it gets my tongue tied. And also, when I think of sisters portrayed as close as these ones are, I would use the singular “world” anyway.

      Why not simply: “…a secret is discovered that could tear [their world] apart.” ???

      In any case, best of luck with this one! It sounds really good! 🙂

      Like

  10. The Thrift Store Wedding Dress (unpublished)

    Sarah had been walking for hours. Today was Wednesday and she was supposed to get married on Saturday. But she had no wedding dress and had no idea what to do. She was planning to wear her mother’s wedding dress and had put it in the cleaners to have it freshened up and pressed. She had just heard on the morning news that the cleaners had burned down last night. Everything was gone. Sarah saw a bench and sat down and started to cry. Suddenly she felt a hand on her shoulder. “Are you OK?”

    Like

    • This is very intriguing but it’s more of a passage or excerpt than a hook or pitch, right? What’s the book about – is it about what happens to Sarah when she puts on a dress? Is it about the history of the dress? The wedding? Is the hand on her shoulder a metaphorical fairy god mother?

      I’d love to know more. The thought of not having a dress right before a wedding is crazy. I know it happened last year or the year before not too far away from me and other shops and designers pitched in to make sure all the brides had dresses.

      Hope you’ll give us more info, Gilda!

      Like

      • I would love to give you more info. I don’t have time tonight but will give you more info tomorrow (I hope that’s not too late). I just looked at the deadline and can make that. Here’s a teaser: If you moved into a house where the attic was full of junk and you found a gorgeous wedding dress, what would you do with it?

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      • Yes, as Amy said, this is more an excerpt . . . but an intriguing one all the same.

        When Sarah learns her wedding dress is destroyed in a fire, she does something or something someone else does alters her world or world view and then something happens as a result of that – and there you have your little “blurb”

        Though I don’t envy any of you, for I suck at synopses and elevator pitches and blurbs, oh my! Y’all have done such a wonderful job – come write mine for me so when my editor asks “can you sum it up in a few sentences” I can for once say “sure!” instead of laughing hysterically and saying “Um, I’ll get back to you with that” and then I may never . . . *laughing*

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      • Thank all of you for your comments. They are very helpful. This is the only book I have ever attempted to write and it was inspired by a friend who actually found a wedding dress in her attic and took it to Goodwill. Although I have not written much, I have always felt there was a story there and it has been bumping around in my head for two years now. So I started writing and ended up with the Thrift Store Wedding Dress. I have no formal writing background and have no clue as to finding a publisher. BUT Amy’s blog has given me many ideas and I think I am going to go for it. I’m excited, scared, and wonder what I am doing?? Again, I am learning and know I will keep learning. Thanks Amy!

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    • Here’s my new pitch. I am very new at this, so bear with me.

      It is three days before your wedding and you just learned that the cleaners where you had your mother’s wedding dress burned down last night. Sarah didn’t have a clue of what to do. She had been walking in a daze and finally saw a bench and sat down. She saw that the name on the store was Alice’s Thrift Shop. Sarah started crying again when suddenly she felt a hand on her shoulder. “Are you all right?” the woman asked. “Why don’t you come in out of the rain?” Sarah went in, sat down and broke out crying. She told Alice her story. Alice did have a wedding dress that she had recently acquired from a customer who had found it in her attic. But what bugged Sarah the most was who and why had someone left a gorgeous wedding dress in the attic? With her new Thrift Store friends – Alice, the owner of the store; Jennifer, a seamstress that walked in when Sarah was trying on the dress; and Georgia, the customer who found the dress in her attic – they were all on a mission to find the owner of the wedding dress.

      Like

      • Hi Gilda,
        I think you’ve hidden the best stuff! It’s not that it’s three days before the wedding, or that Alice taps Sarah on the shoulder — it’s something about that dress. How a thrift store wedding dress has something to do with their lives. Is this a mystery? A cozy mystery? What’s the main character’s internal quest or journey — it’s not needed for the pitch, but the inciting incident is. What EXACTLY happens with that dress? Something magical? Something creepy? I’m not getting a sense of any specifics and your hook has to (or should) make someone open their eyes wide and say WOW. I think it’s all in here, you just have to dig it out, and I don’t know the details, but I’d like to! 🙂

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      • Thanks Amy. You have definitely opened my eyes! i need more work. Thanks for your suggestions. I’ll keep working on the pitch and I think the story needs work too. Gilda

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      • yes, what Amy writes below! . . . go look at the back jacket copy of books that you like or that are similar to yours and then see how they did it. It’s still not an easy task, believe me, I know! But that may help.

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  11. Here’s mine (unpublished) I haven’t begun querying yet.

    Olivia Bailey is experiencing her quarter-life crisis a few years too late. Still smarting from MFA program rejection letters, and stifled by her cubicle, she ditches her office job for work as a promotional model, gaining access to San Francisco’s bars, clubs and wine expos. But when her best friend Mia gets engaged and moves to suburbia, Liv sorely misses her partner in crime. Friendships are tested and secrets rise to the surface in Last Call for Liv Bailey, women’s fiction that follows a fun-loving bridesmaid rebelling against turning thirty.

    Like

    • Hi Meredith,
      I’m a numbers nincompoop, but I stumbled over “quarter-life crisis” — and then I had to figure out how old she was since it’s a few years late. I love the second part — would ditch “partner in crime” as it’s cliché. And your last bit is REALLY your hook. A bridesmaid rebelling against turning thirty. With the popularity of Bridesmaids, the movie, I think you have something in this line that people can even picture. I don’t know the tone of the book — maybe you can make that more clear?

      Olivia Bailey is still smarting from MFA rejections when she she ditches her office job for work as a promotional model. But when her best friend Mia gets engaged and moves to suburbia, Liv misses her more than she imagined. Their friendships is tested and secrets rise to the surface when Mia asks Liv to be a bridesmaid. Last Call for Liv Bailey, is women’s fiction that follows a fun-loving bridesmaid rebelling against turning thirty. (I’m not sure exactly what she does, or why she’s rebelling. So I think it’s almost there, but I think we need more info)

      Like

      • Thanks Amy! This is so helpful. I’ll be pitching this novel to agents in a few weeks at the San Francisco Writer’s conference and I’m nervous! But your suggestions and support are leading me in the right direction. 🙂 So Thank you!

        Like

      • Thanks! Okay, here is the new (long) version. It incorporates more details. I have 3 minutes to pitch, so hopefully it will be alright. 🙂

        Last Call for Liv Bailey:

        On the cusp of her dreaded thirtieth birthday, Olivia Bailey isn’t ready to leave the fun of her twenties behind. Still smarting from MFA program rejection letters and stifled by her cubicle, she ditches her office job for work as a promotional model.

        Life is almost perfect. Pouring rosé at wine expos is better than fighting with the fax machine. And she shares a charming San Francisco apartment with her best friend, Mia. But when Mia gets engaged and moves to suburbia, Liv misses her more than she imagined. Also, balancing bridesmaid duties and dates with Mark Malcolm, a handsome yet mysterious wine distributor, proves to be difficult.

        Things would be easier if Mia didn’t dislike Mark, and if Ricky Lopez hadn’t just returned to town. Liv hasn’t seen him since her brother’s funeral, but his presence is definitely felt. Liv’s wholesome encounters with single dad Ricky are no match for her booze-filled adventures with Mark…until the truth about him hits like a bad hangover. Now Liv must face her past, learn forgiveness, and embrace what it means to grow up.

        Like

      • Three minutes is a long time. Is this a verbal pitch? You’ll want to sound conversational, correct? So make sure to practice aloud! I’m not sure that the first line about her age is needed — and do you think people know what a promotional model is? Or should it be that she leaves her cubicle to demonstrate how to pour wine. Specifics will pique interest. Unique and special details will perk up ears. Generalities like “life is almost perfect” work better as specifics as well “she loves her jobs and sells lots of wine” (for example). For a pitch I think there are too many characters. You want to make a BANG impression. Focus on your main character or two – or the mc and your antag if there is one. Or a love interest if it’s WF with romantic elements.

        No matter what — be authoritative and proud when you pitch your novel!!!

        Like

      • Thanks Amy! Yes, it is a verbal pitch. I think what I wrote might work as a query letter, but not at the conference. I do want to practice aloud. Thanks for the reminder to be authoritative and proud. 🙂 Usually I do pretty well speaking with people, so if I remind myself an agent is just a normal person, I should be okay.

        I wrote another short version. I hope it works! I’ll just focus on Liv and Mia, leaving out the love interests.

        Like

      • Is she rebelling in the face of her friend’s impending marriage? Is she sick of being a bride’s maid and wants to rebel against marriage and life in the suburbs? –
        But, with the secrets and the friendship being tested, I think that’s what bumps me from the last line – the last line doesn’t live up to the “depth” that shows in the rest of the blurb.
        “Last Call for Liv Bailey, is women’s fiction that follows a fun-loving bridesmaid rebelling against turning thirty. ” needs something . . .

        But overall, this is to the point/succinct!

        Like

      • Thank you so much for your feedback, Kat. This has helped me identify what she’s rebelling against. Here’s a new short one:

        Last Call for Liv Bailey focuses on a fun-loving bridesmaid rebelling against turning thirty. When her best friend Mia gets engaged and moves to suburbia, Olivia Bailey vows not to settle for a life of boredom. She’s traded her office clothes for cocktail dresses, and loves taking home bottles of rosé from wine expos. Under the stress of balancing her dating life with bridesmaid duties, Liv’s friendship with Mia is tested, and secrets rise to the surface.

        Like

  12. Broad Street Goddesses 80,000 words

    Paige, a ring collector and femme fatal has a tempestuous past, but who doesn’t? With miserable relationships looming larger than her small town’s toleration, Paige recklessly indulges one last desire beyond all logic. She buys a historic mansion on an internet auction site and moves eight hundred miles away, escaping her disillusioned life. The delightfully imperfect women of Nevada City induct Paige into their magically mysterious lives. With the help of an advice giving, pie baking ghost and a perilously handsome cabinet maker, Paige learns what it feels like to truly belong as she dances with the Feminine Devine to manifest an unimaginably happy ending.

    Like

    • First, I love your title!! Second, I think you have buried the hook in all the cool details. They are really intriguing but all you need to grab a reader – or agent – is that hooky bit. Is the hook that Paige buys a historic mansion and meets a pie-baking ghost from the past? Is this magical realism? You’ll want that to be front and center in your hook, right?

      Let’s identify the hook and go from there because it’s really very vivid (a good thing) yet for a pitch or hook it’s so much info that I’m getting a little lost in the details.

      Like

      • Thanks, Amy. Here’s another shot:
        Broad Street Goddesses (unpublished) 80,000 words

        Paige buys a historic mansion on an internet auction site and moves eight hundred miles away from her disillusioned life. With the help of her psychic neighbor and an advice giving, pie baking ghost, she embraces the colorful women of Nevada City. Rich with magical realism, Broad Street Goddesses is a story of the feminine Divine and how restoration work in its most beautiful form is all about heart.

        Like

      • DeAnna:

        YES!!! You were holding out on us. You had that cool hooky pitchy thing hiding in your back pocket! My only suggestion is to tie the last line back into the actual house…restoration work being more about heart than hardware comes to mind…but that’s just a quick idea. Tie it all together in some grounded way that is clear.

        The pie-baking ghost sounds fabulous.

        Keep us posted!
        🙂
        Amy

        Like

  13. A Long Way From Her 55, 000 words

    Lyndi Wimpel dreams of moving out of her parents’ home, of leaving her tiny community in rural Manitoba, of getting a job and a boyfriend. In fact, all Lyndi does is dream. Reality scares her. She’s dyslexic and views her disability as a roadblock to fulfilling her dreams. When her father demands she get a job, Lyndi applies to join a youth group. Her parents freak out. Refusing to listen to her parents’ promotes, Lyndi sets out on her adventure–this time, for the first time, completely alone.

    Like

  14. I now see in the attempt to be brief I’ve left out some important information. So…

    Lyndi Wimpel dreams of moving out of her parents’ home, of leaving her tiny community in rural Manitoba, of getting a job and a boyfriend. In fact, all Lyndi does is dream. Reality scares her. She’s dyslexic and views her disability as a roadblock to fulfilling her dreams.

    When her father demands that she get a job, Lyndi applies to join a youth group. Her parents freak out; they believe it’s their responsibility to cut up Lyndi’s life and spoon-feed it to her.

    Refusing to listen to her parents’ protests, Lyndi sets out on her adventure–this time, for the first time, completely alone.

    Like

    • Hi Leanne,
      Is this YA? I’m trying to figure out if Lyndi is a kid or adult. Could the hook be that dyslexic Lyndi breaks out of her parents’ overprotective nest and gets a job. Does she find out she’s not as “disabled” as her parents had her believe? Is she more capable than she ever believed?

      Give us the crux of it – the inciting incident without which the story could not happen — let’s identify that hook! I think a story about a girl with dyslexia overcoming her parents fears and her own insecurities sounds wonderful!

      Like

      • Thank you so much. Your suggestions have really helped. A Long Way From Her is a novel for young readers with cross over appeal to woman’s fiction.
        I’d like to try again. Here goes…
        Nineteen-year-old Lyndi Wimpell has graduated from high school but she’s trapped in her parents’ home. It’s time to move on but her Mom doesn’t want her to go and Lyndi doesn’t think she can. She’s dyslexic and stuck in a small box labelled disabled. Desperate to break out, she joins a youth group and meets life head on. This adventure will test and strengthen her. Lyndi will learn that, even though her reality differs from the “norm”, she is capable.
        I eagerly await your very helpful feedback.
        I

        Like

      • Hi again, Leanne.

        I’ve tightened it up a bit. Of course only you know what’s best for your book! I don’t know the specifics that would make this really grabby and hooky — but you do!!

        Nineteen-year-old Lyndi Wimpell graduated from high school but she’s afraid to leave home. She’s dyslexic. She’s considered disabled. But when Lyndi joins a group for special needs teens she learns that she is capable of more than she — or her parents — ever thought.

        Another question I have for you is — dyslexia is a learning disability but from my understanding there is a lot of help out there – in and out of schools. If she graduated high school, she is obviously capable of learning. Would Lyndi really be in the “disabled” category? I’m not being facetious, I do not know. I’m sure you’ve done extensive research on this. I also think of a youth group as something for children. Once 18, you’re a legal adult. There are groups for disabled adults but would Lyndi be in a group with adults with physical and mental handicaps? Again, this is not my area of expertise. Just some things to consider.

        Like

      • Hello, again. Wow, you’ve asked a lot of questions. However, I don’t see any where to reply so hopefully this will work. This story is loosely (stress the loosely) based on my life. I’m dsyslexia. I joined a youth group (Katimavik). Katimavik is a government-run youth group for participants 17 to 21 years of age.I’ve set this story in the 80s–which is when I joined. You’re right there is help out there–more now than then. However, you have to be able to advacate for yourself and know where to ask. It’s been my experience that a disability is only a disability when you look at in that light.
        Thank you so much you’ve given me so much help. I really appreciate it.

        Like

      • Leanne,
        I’m so glad you replied! Make sure you mention the 80’s in your pitch. That sets a totally different tone. It WAS different then. And if you joined a group at 17 or 18, was it for a specific reason? Was it a social group? A church group? Give the reader a real sense of your character — and the 1980’s is a great start. I graduated high school in the early ’80’s. It would be a fun era to write about. Such nostalgia. Such bad hair!! 🙂

        Amy

        Like

  15. Okay, here goes – It’s Not Me, It’s You (72,300 words)

    Most of us were told at one point or another that if you work hard, treat people with respect, good things will happen. And Nicole Callan is no exception—but she’s starting to realize that those words don’t always hold true.

    Her romantic “will you marry me” evening ends with a crushing “it’s not you, it’s me.” She finds herself in the middle of an explosive corporate secret that could end her career. And her best friend appears to be involved with both. When Nicole meets a stranger who seems to see inside her very being, she begins to question why doing all the rights things, has landed her in all the wrong places. In her quest to find out why it never is her, Nicole discovers that being the good girl doesn’t mean you have to lose yourself in who others expect you to be. And that sometimes you have to be loyal to yourself first.

    Like

    • Hi Orly!

      I love the title. How many times have we thought that — even if we haven’t said it?

      Coming from a journalism background, I’m tempted to say this: you’ve buried the lede! By this I mean you’ve tucked the good stuff in amongst some extraneous phrases, that you just don’t need in order to hook someone, to pitch your book. I also caution writers against making assumptions in queries or hooks or pitches. Saying “most of us” automatically can put someone on the defensive with “Is that so?” or “Not me.”

      What I’m getting from this intro is that someone breaks up with Nicole and then she meets a stranger.

      What makes the story unique? What’s that super special bit that will make us nod or gasp? Does Nicole meet his stranger the moment after the break-up? Is he sitting on the same bench? Does he sell her a hot-dog? (I’m picturing Central Park for some reason, don’t ask, it’s me and my imagination at work.) Does this stranger know things about her she never even told her ex-boyfriend? I’d love a few special details to draw me into the story and the characters.

      I hope you’ll share some of that info so we can help you uncover your hook!! 🙂

      Like

      • Okay, a decent night’s sleep and four cups of coffee … let’s see if this is any “hookier” 🙂

        Nicole Callan has always believed that good things happen to good people. She’s spent her life following the right path, doing what was expected of her and being the good girl.

        Piece-by-painful piece, that belief is being shaken. First, her boyfriend turns a romantic evening into a crushing “It’s not you, it’s me” breakup. Then the promotion-making project turns into a fight-for-your-career disaster. And her best friend is keeping secrets that have Nicole questioning not only her involvement with both, but also the very essence of their friendship.

        Looking for clarity, Nicole retreats to the one place she feels most comfortable—the replica Medieval cloister at her favorite museum and turns to her knight for advice. But instead of answers, she finds more questions—in the form of a stranger who seems to see inside her very being. As Andrew pushes Nicole to question “why,” she begins to see that she’s the only person who has control of the “how”.

        (and in case I haven’t already said it a few times, thank you for your amazing feedback!!)

        Like

        • Orly, this is much more specific. I think your hook is that Nicole seeks solace in a museum and turns to an Medieval knight for advice. Oh my – that would get my attention!! The rest of it seems to cloud what makes this book so special. I don’t know if the knight comes to life or if he does so only for Nicole, but either way, you’ve got my attention. Why she goes to the museum seems less hooky to me than what happens when she is there. All you need is for someone to want to see how your hook becomes a fabulous story.

          Coffee is a good thing!!! 🙂

          Like

  16. Lucinda Holloway thinks the worst thing she’s going to have to face on her dreaded thirtieth birthday is a not-so-surprise party arranged by her Mr. Right Now. She manages to land head first in front of a cab instead. Now she’s in the middle afterlife, which is less fluffy clouds and more spooky Chicago. As she acclimates herself to her new surroundings, complete with ghosts who have been hanging around since before the Great Fire, she learns that she can level up in the afterlife only if she relives key moments in her life and makes things right. The question is, what are those key moments? The night her father died? The day she broke up with the man she loved the most? Or are there others that she never realized were turning points? Facing her regrets head-on gives Lucinda a new perspective on what it means to move on.

    Like

    • I was really intrigued up until the last part, when I got a bit lost in all the questions. Could these be rephrased so they aren’t questions? I think it would keep the flow going (which starts out great!).

      Like

    • This has a lot going for it — and I knew that AFTER I realized she didn’t go head first into the back of a cab, but was hit by it. Argh. That could be me but make sure there is no way at all that very important bit could be misread.

      I agree 100% with Susan about nixing the questions. It backfires, in my opinion. Don’t ask, tell. (which is counterintuitive to show-don’t-tell, I know) For example:

      As she acclimate to ghosts who have been hanging around since before the Great Fire, Lucinda learns that she can level up in the afterlife only if she relives key moments in her life and makes things right. First, it’s the night her father dies. Next, it’s the day she broke up with her fiance. Then it’s events she didn’t consider important. Facing regrets…

      I would also try to tighten it up so that the reader/agent/editor gets the juicy bits and nothing more.

      Really cool concept, Eliza.

      Like

  17. Pitch for the ART OF BEING REBEKKAH (one agent has asked for the full ms. another for a partial–won’t mention all the rejections!)

    At the top of twenty-five year old Rebekkah’s wish list is a nice Jewish husband, followed by children. She believes she’s found the man she’ll spend her life with, but when she begins to suspect her husband of not only lying to her but also contriving not to have the children she so desperately wants and embezzling money from his business, Rebekkah wants out of their marriage.

    Falling in love with detective Nick Rossi isn’t anywhere on Rebekkah’s wish list. Convinced Nick’s wrong for her—he’s not Jewish for one thing—she walks away after they share a night of passion. But when Rebekkah finds herself staring at a positive pregnancy test, she wavers between joy and sadness. Motherhood wasn’t supposed to happen this way, and she can’t see giving up her Jewish heritage to marry her baby’s father.

    Ultimately, Rebekkah finds it impossible to walk away from Nick a second time. She knows she must find a way to keep both her Jewish soul and the man she loves.

    Like

    • Hi Karoline,
      You had me at hello…as they say. I’m Jewish and this just speaks to me — even though it’s nothing I’ve experienced. Obviously you’re getting interest with this pitch — hooray for you! My suggestion, which seems to be my mantra, is to tighten it by simply removing extraneous words.

      At the top of twenty-five year old Rebekkah’s wish list is a nice Jewish husband, followed by children. When she meets, [whomever] she is on her way to happily ever after. But when Rebekkah suspects [name] of contriving not to have the children and embezzling money from the family business, Rebekkah wants out of their marriage. Her wish list is [filling up again or something like that, because to me, the transition to the next paragraph doesn’t work since you haven’t had ‘wish list’ since the first sentence.]

      But falling in love with detective Nick Rossi isn’t anywhere on Rebekkah’s wish list. Convinced Nick’s wrong for her—he’s not Jewish for one thing—she walks away after one night together. When Rebekkah finds herself staring at a positive pregnancy test, she wavers between joy and sadness. Motherhood wasn’t supposed to happen this way, and she can’t see giving up her Jewish heritage to marry her baby’s father.

      Rebekkah finds it impossible to walk away from Nick a second time.[a second time? I’m confused? Did she go back to him? this isn’t clear} She knows she must find a way to keep both her Jewish soul and the man she loves.

      Please keep us posted on your progress, Karoline. Fingers crossed!!! (which sort of makes it hard to type)

      🙂

      Like

      • Thanks Amy!! Maybe you will be kind enough to answer a question – is it okay to follow up with an agent who has your entire ms. and one that has a partial? If so, how many months/weeks should go by before you do? Thanks!

        Like

      • Hi Karoline,

        If the agent has parameters on his or her website, follow those. Some say you’ll hear in 8 weeks, or 12 weeks, and if you don’t, then send an email. I always waited 12 weeks to follow up. And then when I didn’t hear back (which I rarely did) I waited another 12 weeks. I sent emails to agents who had fulls when I was offered representation and most didn’t even reply then. I think if they want more of your manuscript, you’ll hear from them. Once it took five months for me to get a rejection on a partial. I found that kind of CRAZY. I’d written off that agent long before that!! But of course you should follow up — especially if you are getting a lot of interest and there is an agent w/ pages who is at the top of your list. Hope that helps…and good luck!!

        Like

    • I would read this! I’m not Jewish, but the struggle between what you “should” want and what you actually want is a universal one. Good luck with the submissions you have out.

      Like

  18. Holy moly, this blog was not nearly so loaded with posts when I checked it this morning! ; ) Well, I’ll give it a go, anyway. From my unpublished (yet to be submitted and rejected…) novel:

    Of all the thoughts in Melissa Graham’s head, those of an unresolved love from long ago should not have been the ones to take precedence, but serious illness has a way of causing a woman to reflect upon her life and Melissa discovers that sometimes echoes of the past are simply too persistent to be ignored.

    Melissa finds herself longing for a past she once knew even while ever grateful for the present she has been given. Confined to the hospital for her latest round of cancer treatments, Melissa has all too much time to reflect upon an innocent time of first kisses and first love, stirring up emotions she had long thought were dead. With help from her closest girlfriend of nearly thirty years, Melissa faces the past, confronting the demons she once convinced herself that she’d left behind. Alternately moved by her memories of Nicholas Cooper, the man she once knew, and racked by guilt at her husband’s unfailing dedication to his wife, Mel discovers that sometimes there is no right answer where matters of the heart are concerned. In Return to Mozart, Melissa struggles between finding a way to right the past and reconcile the present.

    Like

    • Hi Lorraine,
      Thanks for being so patient! I think you’ve buried your hook in trying to tell us the themes in your novel. Is the hook that Melissa is in her latest round of cancer treatments and realizes she is in love with a man who’s not her husband? I’m not sure that’s what you’re saying about, I’ll admit that I’m a smidgen lost. There are hefty themes here, indeed. What we need to go along with that, for a hook or a pitch, is what makes this unusual, different, special. What is the one thing that is unique to this story? Of course, no one can write your book – but themes are universal. That’s why we relate to books. It’s in the details that we find our niche.

      What’s the hook? I hope you’ll tell us again…I’m very curious.

      🙂
      Amy

      Like

      • Thanks for the feedback! I fully admit that this is my first attempt. (I’m a – GASP – virgin where querying and hooking are concerned!) I’ll attempt a rewrite. I certainly don’t want to sell the book short and I want to make sure that the idea clearly comes across to any potential reader.

        Like

      • As I’m writing, I find myself coming up with questions, but the thought that bothered me most is this: I keep reading about how a hook should be a single sentence. (And there are numerous websites that go on and on about how to write a successful hook, but I admit I am hesitant to follow a “formula.” Maybe I’m just a rebel at heart.) Is the one sentence idea really a hard and fast “rule”? I’ve seen so many ideas on this blog that are not one sentence. Does it have to be a sentence? Or can it be a short paragraph – more like a summary with both specifics and themes involved? Or, is it that you, personally, aren’t necessarily looking for a “hook” here in the traditional sense, but rather in a broader term for the purpose of this blog?

        Certainly, I don’t want to overload a potential reader with a bunch of info that doesn’t really relay what the book is about. (And I obviously goofed somewhat on that already because you didn’t realize that Melissa isn’t necessarily in love with another man as opposed to her husband. The essence of the book is that Mel strugges with the guilt she faces when she’s unable to comprehend how she could possibly be thinking of a past love when she’s quite possibly facing death and the husband she loves dearly is by her side. Typical of any woman, she struggles to address the guilt and come to terms with a past with which she had never fully gained closure.)

        Okay, onto rewriting. Sorry – my one question turned into about ten…with a synopsis to boot.

        Like

      • Hi Lorraine,
        Great questions. For this little “hookapallooza” as I’ve started calling it, my idea was simply to have us show how we craft “hooks” for our women’s fiction. Usually they are one or two lines — because if you can’t sum it up that quickly then it’s not the hook you’re giving, it’s the story. The hook is to entice with some special incident or detail, often the jumping off point to the story. A paragraph for a query would have more information – but the hook is little blurb that you could rattle off if someone said, “What’s your book about?” You won’t go into the universal themes and backstory – you’ll just snag ’em with the good stuff. This was just an informal and fun workshopy way to get to the heart of some stories.

        From your explanation above, I think I understand the story — but what is it about the story that makes it exciting and different. What’s the twist? What’s the unique touch? That’s your hook. Think about your plot, your characters, your setting. Find a special bit in each and I bet you can put them together and find your hook. Fingers crossed! 🙂

        Like

      • Okay, so I’ve revised and revised and come up with this. Based on your reply, it still may not be *quite* what you are looking for. But, my brain hurts and it’s late, so I’ll post it anyway, with plans to rework based on further comments. This is an awesome little “Hookapalooza” you’ve got going here, if I can say so…

        Confined to the hospital for her latest round of cancer treatments, Melissa Graham has far too much time to reflect upon the choices she has made in her forty-three-year-old life. Surrounded by the family and friends she holds most dear, she is unnerved by a growing anxiety within herself as recollections of her past, and a long lost love, resurface against her wishes. Alternately moved by her memories of a man she once knew, and racked by guilt at her husband’s unfailing dedication to his wife, Mel discovers that righting the past comes with a hefty price.

        Like

    • Hi Lorraine, this sounds really interesting!

      IMO, you could actually just lop off most of the first paragraph here, as it doesn’t really say anything I could really grab onto. I would start with this bit: “Confined to the hospital for her latest round of cancer treatments, Melissa has all too much time to reflect upon…” <– this one was the first concrete sentence that really got my attention from this.

      I love the premise – facing cancer has got to be a real pressing opportunity to reevaluate one's life, for better or worse. Good luck with it! 🙂

      Like

      • Thanks, Laura, for your input, too! This is such a great blog. I want to thank Erika Liodice for introducing me to it. I’ve been seriously lacking in peer support and it’s nice to see other women in the same place, reaching for the same goal! I’m going to attempt a rewrite and I’ll post again later!

        Like

  19. I’ve been slaving over mine for months, and I’d love some feedback. I swear writing the blurb has got to be harder than writing a whole novel, lol!

    EXACTLY WHERE THEY’D FALL (soon-to-be self-published, March 2012), about 75,000 words.

    Jodie Larsen and Amelia Bradshaw were almost sisters… before Jodie’s brother broke up with Amelia. Years later, still strung together by their sprawling network of friends, Jodie and Amelia are stuck.

    After so many disappointments, Amelia hazards to trust again with their dear friend Drew, desperately hoping that this time love won’t grow stale or morph into something vague and forgotten. But that means Jodie is losing Drew (even if she never actually had him at all except for one fraction of a moment). As Jodie’s feelings for Drew become too unbearable to keep secret any longer, she only has two choices: to deny she feels anything at all, or else break Amelia’s heart.

    Exactly Where They’d Fall is the story of three lives strung together by thread-fine alliances. They’ll each explore the strengths and limitations of their friendships, learning what loyalties they have to each other, or don’t.

    Like

    • Hi Laura,
      Thanks for being so patient! I think for a pitch or hook there’s so much going on. Think of some top-notch specifics that say what your book is about. Or, think of the inciting incident. What HAPPENS that spurs the character into action? You have some lovely verbiage here, but for me it’s too vague to be hooky. Make sense?

      I hope you’ll think about it – and show us your hook. 🙂 It seems like a complex story of friendship (I love those).

      Like

      • Thank you so much for the feedback! Ha, yes, it’s definitely complex if nothing else.

        The inciting incident – yes it’s in there, but carefully camouflaged, lol! (It’s that Amelia and Drew get engaged, which sends Jodie in a panic.) I know what you mean about it being vague. We’re inclined to not want to give too much away, aren’t we?

        Here’s another try. I’d love to know if I’m getting any warmer… or colder, lol!

        Jodie Larsen and Amelia Bradshaw were almost sisters once, before college degrees, real jobs, real houses, or real lives… before Jodie’s brother broke up with Amelia. Years later, still strung together by their sprawling network of friends, Jodie and Amelia are stuck.

        After so many disappointments, Amelia hazards to trust again with their dear friend Drew, desperately hoping that this time love might be enough. But that means Jodie is losing Drew, and Jodie does not like to lose. As Amelia and Drew pair off and dive head-first into their future, Jodie’s feelings for Drew become too unbearable to keep secret any longer. When every passing day only proves that the world is moving on without her, Jodie has two choices: to deny she feels anything at all, or else confess her feelings and break Amelia’s heart.

        Exactly Where They’d Fall is the story of three lives strung together by thread-fine alliances. When secrets undermine the delicate balance of this group of friends, they’ll learn what loyalties they have to each other, or don’t.

        Like

      • No, the above blurb is still not hooky, is it? lol! I’m still trying to wrap my brain around this, and I’m not quite sure if it’s sinking in. Though I did think of one other thing, and perhaps it might be a hook? I’m failing to get it into words just yet, but it has to do with the events of one significant night, a year prior to the start of the story, and what it meant and how it was remembered differently by each of these three friends. As the three of them uncover the secrets they’ve been keeping from each other, they explore what that night meant, and what it will mean to the precarious balance of their relationships, friendships, and this once-close group of friends.

        Ha, I swear my book is a lot more cohesive than my blurbs make it sound! 😀

        Anyway, Amy, thank you for hosting this discussion and for investing so much of your time! It’s been truly enlightening!

        Like

  20. As a child, KATE O’DONNELL spends summers at her grandparents’ estate in Brands Crossing, Texas, where she battles make-believe monsters, rescues endangered victims and saves a mythical kingdom.
    When her grandfather is critically injured in a suspicious car crash, twienty-five-year-old Kate walks away from career and romance in Nashville, Tennessee. She moves back to Brands Crossing, Texas where the monsters, victims and endangered kingdoms are all too real. There she searches for missing documents, investigates a centuries-old family feud and confronts an anonymous rose-bearing admirer who stalks her in both real and virtual universes.

    Like

    • Hi Sharon,

      Are the monsters, victims and endangered kingdoms in Kate’s grown-up world metaphorical or literal?

      Is your hook something like: After twenty years in Nashville Kate O’Donnell moves back to Brands Crossing, Texas to care for her critically injured grandfather and uncovers/discovers/reveals…

      Is this sort of Southern lit? That’s so popular – so if so – you’ll want to play on that some, I think.

      I’d love more specifics. I already like Kate since she is going to take care of her grandfather.

      Hope you’ll chime in again.

      Amy

      Like

  21. “Great gifts come from great tragedies. For three women – a friend, a mother, a daughter- it is time to chose whether to keep running from the wreckage of their lives, or stop and accept the gifts to be found among the ruins.

    For thirty years Foreign Correspondent Greer Madison has competed brilliantly in a man’s world. But the hardships of a life spent reporting from war zones are catching up to her. In a foolish attempt to impress a young colleague, Greer involves them both in a deadly accident only she knows the truth about.

    Returning stateside, she recuperates at the home of her best friend, Darlene Richardson, yet for the first time in their thirty-year friendship Darlene is reluctant to accommodate Greer, for Darlene suddenly has secrets of her own. Secrets about how her soldier son died in Iraq and an even greater secret that no one can know.

    Kate, Darlene’s spontaneous, willful daughter, is desperate after the death of her brother to bring her struggling family back together. Vowing to settle down and be a “good daughter” she becomes engaged to a man she doesn’t love. 

    While Darlene retreats into her son’s room and his letters from the war, Kate and Greer find unexpected pleasure in each other’s company. Restless evenings in the Richardson’s guest house foster a deepening intimacy between the two women, culminating with each having to admit the truth they would rather hide. The aftermath of their painful revelations force Darlene’s own confession and with all secrets bared, each woman must choose whether to stay on the safety of the known shore, or dive into the uncharted but healing waters of “The River Within.”

    Thanks for the look.

    Baxter Clare Trautman
    The River Within

    Like

    • Hi Baxter,
      I’m not counting words – but there’s no way this is anywhere near 100! (OK, I counted, it’s 279 words. LOL!) It’s not a blurb or hook, it’s more of a synopsis, don’t you think? Or maybe something you envision as back cover copy? In which case, I do get a real sense of your story. It sounds dramatic. A family saga with some unusual circumstances. That’s always a good combo.

      So, let me ask — what’s your hook? What’s your inciting incident without which the rest of the story could not take place. A hook is simply (although there is nothing simple about it) to reel in the reader, be that reader an agent, editor or regular person (we all know some of those, right?)

      Is the hook that Greer is a war correspondent who causes an accident that kills someone? That sounds hook-ish to me!

      This of this as a formal answer to the “what’s your book” question.

      I hope you’ll give a hook/pitch another go. Sounds like you have a great story here!!

      🙂
      Amy

      Like

      • You are amazingly generous with your time! Thank you so much for replying to each of our posts. Every one has been a mini-tutorial. (And so sorry about the 279 words!! I missed the 100 words or less part!) Thank you, thank you, thank you!

        Like

  22. Here’s the brief blurb for my women’s fiction novel:

    ‘Sex And The City’ meets ‘Eat. Pray. Love.’, THE LIFE MAKEOVER CLUB follows a year in the life of a glamour girl whose biological clock is ticking, a career-woman in a destructive marriage, and a frazzled mother of three as they push through their comfort zones in an exclusive LIFE MAKEOVER CLUB!

    🙂

    Like

    • Hi Juliet,
      I love your comparison, I can really envision your book’s vibe. (Sometimes those things go – whoosh – right over my head.) I’m not sure where you are with writing/querying or publishing. What would clinch it for me would be to know what “push through their comfort zones” means. I know it’s a short blurb – but the “going outside one’s comfort zone” is kind of a catch-all phrase to me. And what makes the club exclusive? Do they start the club to push each other? Those are the questions that arose for me. Good luck with this. Sounds like you could get a whole revolution going with REAL Life Makeover Clubs!! 🙂

      Like

  23. Soon to be thirteen-year-old amateur detective Kate wants to spend a peaceful summer with her family in Andrews Beach, Florida, and get her summer best friend Jeremy to see her as more than that. When she asks her grandmother about a woman she doesn’t recognize in a family photograph, her summer and her life are shattered beyond repair.

    Seventeen years later, Kate and her mother return to Andrews Beach to clean out her grandmother’s house for the new owner. Kate hopes to get through this unscathed and go back to St. Louis, but family secrets don’t die. Neither do family ties.

    Through the combined efforts of Kate’s police officer cousin, a former FBI agent, a runaway boy, and Jeremiah, Kate is forced to confront her mother and her own suppressed emotions to learn that the most important truths are communication, trust, and love.

    Like

    • My thought is that you don’t want to put the backstory in the pitch. You want to hook with the book, not what happened before the book starts. So, if Kate and her mother return to Andrews Beach after 17 years away to clean out her grandmother’s house — what do they find?

      What is the inciting incident? What makes this story unique?

      Give us more info if you care to share!

      Like

      • The first part is in the prologue, which you need to have the context for the story. The inciting incident is Kate finding the photograph of the woman she doesn’t recognize in the family photograph. The title of the book is Family Secrets.

        My concern actually is the third paragraph, which I feel gives away important information that is revealed slowly in the book. Letting people know up front that there is someone who is a former FBI agent and that there is a runaway boy spoils part of the mystery in the story.

        I would love suggestions to improve any part of this. I have gotten requests for partials and fulls, as well as rejections, from agents with versions of this but am always looking to improve it as I haven’t had any agent offer to take me on yet. I still have a partial out, and all the comments have been great and encourage me to submit to other agents. I did have an e-publisher offer to publish the book, but I turned it down (long story). I have another publisher interested.

        Thanks for doing this.

        Like

    • Maggie,

      You can TOTALLY give away secrets in your pitch. Agents and editors want to see that you an weave a story. When you’re at the point of back cover copy (fingers crossed!) then your publisher will worry about not giving it all away. For now, if this is getting you requests, then don’t mess with what works!! And again, if that’s important, you want the agents to know!!

      Good luck! Keep us posted!

      Like

      • Here are two of my favorite writerly quotes – from one of my favorite authors, Kurt Vonnegut.

        “Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.”

        “Start as close to the end as possible.”

        Like

  24. Okay, here goes:

    What would Death see, say, or feel if it were a person? In the novel, Universal Balance, Death is seething with jealousy that humans get to have all the fun so it took the form of a woman, Jamie Mortimer, to experience love and life but Death has a day job running a “front” business manufacturing aromatherapy candles. Jamie finds a candidate for her experiment in love but puts the universe in peril when she becomes pregnant. Fate also becomes a human, Jackson, and tries to intervene to prevent the universe from collapsing but he has his own problems with a scorned lover. (103 words…sorry!)

    Like

    • Hi Dana,
      Would you classify this as women’s fiction? I know there’s so much overlap with genres, but this seems more paranormal to me with Death as a character and Fate becoming human? I’m asking because I don’t know, of course. If the crux of your story is WF — I’d love to see that as the emphasis of your hook. Is it horror at all? I guess the focus on Death is throwing me — but that’s just me. I’m curious what some others think!! And I’d love to know more about your story.

      THANKS!!!

      Like

      • Your questions make me think maybe it is more paranormal…but there is a love story in there. I guess that doesn’t really classify as women’s fiction but my target readers are women between the ages of 18-50. Does that count? Definitely not horror. Thanks for your questions!!!

        Like

      • Dana,
        Women’s fiction is so many things – usually the center of the story being about the woman’s journey. So there is definitely women’s fiction with paranormal elements or bits of magical realism, but it’s not the focus. If that’s the focus of the story (the otherworldly bits) than perhaps it is paranormal – and if there’s romance it could be a paranormal romance. You know best!! 🙂

        Like

  25. I commented yesterday, but didn’t see it! I’ll try again. Here is my pitch for my novel (I have an agent reading the full ms. and one reading a partial)

    I am in search of a literary agent for my novels. My recently completed novel, THE ART OF BEING REBEKKAH, 94,000 words, is women’s fiction.

    At the top of twenty-five year old Rebekkah’s wish list is a nice Jewish husband, followed by children. She believes she’s found the man she’ll spend her life with, but when she begins to suspect her husband of not only lying to her but also contriving not to have the children she so desperately wants and embezzling money from his business, Rebekkah wants out of their marriage.

    Falling in love with detective Nick Rossi isn’t anywhere on Rebekkah’s wish list. Convinced Nick’s wrong for her—he’s not Jewish for one thing—she walks away after they share a night of passion. But when Rebekkah finds herself staring at a positive pregnancy test, she wavers between joy and sadness. Motherhood wasn’t supposed to happen this way, and she can’t see giving up her Jewish heritage to marry her baby’s father.

    Ultimately, Rebekkah finds it impossible to walk away from Nick a second time. She knows she must find a way to keep both her Jewish soul and the man she loves.

    Like

  26. I’ve so enjoyed reading the synopses/pitches/blurbs here — I wish I’d had more time to comment and help than I did – but I wanted to say that you all are wonderful — this isn’t easy to put yourself out here like this – Take your right hand, put it behind your back, and give yourself a pat!

    Amy, this is such a wonderful idea. Brava y’all!

    Like

  27. Squeaking in before the deadline!

    Here is my 85k word unpublished women’s fiction: Second Chances:

    Cathy Brooks has a second chance at love. What stands in her way? Her estranged husband, her two teenage girls, a job she loves, and the Atlantic Ocean.

    When Cathy Brooks realizes she loves her best friend, life hands her not one curve ball but dozens. Her wayward husband begs for another chance. Her youngest daughter rebels against her parent’s divorce and her mother’s new romance. Her eldest daughter withdraws in herself. Her carefully tended career path may permanently derail. Plus, Cathy’s true love has his own issues: still coping with widowhood, being a single parent and accusing in-laws who blame him for their daughter’s early death.

    SECOND CHANCES is an 85,000 word women’s fiction about a woman at cross roads between true love and life’s constraints..

    Like

  28. Hi Adrienne!

    I see a lot here that would add to the heft of a story, but I’m missing a hook. What is the one thing Cathy does to propel the story forward? The hook needn’t be all the characters and their quests or problems, but something that grabs the reader right away. Something unique about the setting or character or plot. Because we all know, stories are retold again and again, but it’s what sets YOUR story apart that is what will make it sell. Think of some specifics that are unique to your story only, and chances are they can make it in the pitch.

    I’m also curious – is she divorced or married. An estranged husband is still a husband. I’m not sure what a wayward husband is. And if the daughter is rebelling is it against the impending divorce? I’m not sure the daughters have a place in your pitch unless it’s really the story of the mother and daughters.

    I’m probably logging off soon (I fizzle early) but if you repost, I’ll comment once more tomorrow.

    Thanks for sharing your story with all of us!!

    Like

    • Hi!

      Okay, I’m working on the hook. I rewrote the 2nd paragraph:

      Sitting in a pub in London, the always reliable Cathy Brooks is on the verge of the biggest risk of her life: realizes she has always loved her longtime English best friend, a realization that breaks the mirage of her orderly life. Life hands her not one curve ball but dozens. Her errant husband begs for another chance. Her youngest daughter rebels against her parent’s possible divorce and her mother’s new romance. Her eldest daughter withdraws in herself. Her carefully tended career path may permanently derail. Plus, Cathy’s true love has his own issues: still coping with widowhood, being a single parent and accusing in-laws who blame him for their daughter’s early death.

      Like

  29. Congrats to the winners *clap clap clap clap clap clap clap*! Of course you all are winners . . .*smiling*

    and thank you, Amy . . . what a surprise to see my name up there and the warm words *blushing and teeheeing* I feel really honored *smiling warmly*

    I can’t wait to see what comes next in this! It’s so exciting to read the hooks and wonder who will start querying and when books will be ‘picked up’ and contracts made and — how exciting!

    Like

  30. Pingback: Guest Blogger—Amy Sue Nathan. A Writer’s Blog Done Right! « Lisa Hayes Blog – For writers (& fans) of Women's Fiction & Roots Rock Music…

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