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How to write the best pitch for twitter pitch contests

I've participated in PitMad and NestPitch on Twitter, and both have provided the opportunity to pitch my manuscript to potential agents. I have also benefited from the wonderful opportunities to share my hopes, my dreams and my work with like-minded writers (who are also moms, dads, teachers, and members of communities all over the world).

Currently I'm participating in PitchSlam, and I have found this pitching competition offers a new benefit--critique by professionals. The process works like this.

  1. Pitch 35 words
  2. Receive feedback for improvement
  3. Submit first 250 words
  4. Receive feedback for improvement
  5. Submit revised 35 word pitch and revised 250 words
What I found is the reviewers caught some pretty obvious mistakes in my work that I did not catch after multiple reads. And once I followed the suggestions, the improvement of my pitch and first 250 is encouraging. Compare the results yourself.

My first 35 word pitch:

Name: Cheryl R Cowtan
Genre: Adult / Dark Fantasy
Title: The Precious Quest
Word Count: 90,000
Song: Ayreon - River of Time   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2XAPosjkbfQ

Pitch: When the Firslain betray the goddess, and breed abominations to replace the virtuous, Laywren, Queen of the Horde, swears to defeat the deceivers, cleanse the unnatural, and restore the goddess, before their world is lost.
The pitch feedback I received:

Your pitch gives a lot of details, but about things and people that are unique to your world, which is disorienting. The pitch would work if the reader was as familiar with your world as you are, but we have no idea what Firslain, the virtuous, breeding abominations, the Horde, the deceiver or the unnatural are. As such, we can't grasp what's going on in the story or why. Paint a picture of the central plot in a way that someone who has no idea what your book is about can understand.

I submitted my MS first 250 words:
Nethaz, the giant warrior dropped to his knees. The impact of his weight rumbled the rain-starved ground beneath my feet. I raised my bow, scanning the forest at his back and the battlefield at his side. But no shadows leapt between the tree trunks below the twisting, yellow leaves. The bodies of the dying warriors lay still in the red dust, sprawled out across the distance between the giant and the tip of my arrow.
Nethaz’s powerful hands released his axe and shield, and the clang of his weapon’s fall echoed across the field, ringing into silence. His head dropped to his chest, and his black hair parted revealing the back of his neck. An axe wielder does not bear his neck, not on the field of battle.
“What ails you?” I called out.
He did not answer, but rocked on his knees, his long hair swinging around his face. I listened in disbelief, as a low keening moan escaped his twisted mouth. My heart hardened against him, for his tears were staining our hard-won victory. Turning my bow his way, I narrowed my eyes against the drying wind. As I made my decision, the blood rushed to my ears, and the sound of Nethaz’s shuddering breaths sharpened.
“What do you plan to do, Laywren?” Dorn’s steady voice rolled across my tense back, as he walked up from behind me.
I did not turn. “Nethaz regrets fighting for the Horde,” I answered, drawing back the arrow until the bowline sung.
 The 250 words Feedback I Received
In the first line you tell us Nethaz is a giant warrior. You've shown warrior, why not show his size by the way he moves or by describing his girth. You've got a start on that in the way the ground rumbles. No need to tell in the first line. Also you use 'bear' his neck, when the correct homophone would be 'bare' as in made naked by brushing away the hair/clothing. There is a missing comma after 'parted' and before 'revealing.' Watch words like 'up, down' off, out' and other directionals as often they can be cut.
This piece did raise my curiosity about what would happen next. And despite starting in the middle of action, I was able to follow what was happening and even want to see more.    
Working from the feedback, I revised both the pitch and the 250 words. Here are the results:
Name: Cheryl R Cowtan 
Genre: Adult / Dark Fantasy 
Title: The Precious Quest 
Word Count: 90,000 
Song: Ayreon - River of Time   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2XAPosjkbfQ
35 Word Pitch: When the goddess’ sons betray their mother and corrupt the world with evil, Laywren, Queen of the Horde, sacrifices her pride, her lover, and her rule to defy temptation, defeat chaos, and restore the goddess.

250 Words: Nethaz dropped to his knees, the impact rumbling the rain-starved ground beneath my sandals. I raised my bow, scanning the forest at his back. But only the twisting, yellow leaves moved among the trees. Between the giant and the tip of my arrow, the bodies of the fallen warriors lay still in the red dust.
Nethaz released his over sized axe and shield, and the clang of his weapon’s fall echoed across the field, ringing into silence. His chin dropped to his massive chest, and his black hair parted, revealing the back of his neck. An axe wielder does not bare his neck, not on the field of battle.
“What ails you?” I called out.
He did not answer, but rocked on his knees, his long hair swinging around his face. I listened in disbelief, as a low keening moan escaped his twisted mouth. My heart hardened against him, for his tears were staining our hard-won victory and were insulting to the goddess. Turning my bow his way, I squinted against the drying winds.
“What is wrong, Laywren?” Dorn asked, as he walked up behind me.
“Nethaz regrets fighting for the Horde,” I answered, drawing back the arrow until the bowline sung.
Sobs ripped out of the warrior’s depths, and my face burned with his shame.
“Will you slaughter a warrior who has just fought like a god for your glory?” I could feel Dorn’s amber eyes searching for mine.
“There is no glory in weakness,” I replied, steadying my aim.

 I feel empowered by the suggestions provided on PitchSlam. It's one thing to have that emotionally satisfying feedback of "awesome" or "good", but it's quite another to receive actionable responses to my work. That's where the true value lies, in the feedback that guides improvement.

What do you think? Improved?

Where can you see changes still being needed?

If you are a writer, consider all of the Pitch competitions, but especially PitchSlam for the value you will get through feedback on your work.

You can find me on Twitter at NspiredMe2Write, where I will be sharing more tips from my author's journey.

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