Monday, 2 July 2018

An Elevator in a Skyscraper Works Best...

Just one of many things myself 
and Mariah Carey have in common.
Here's something I've learnt over the last few years - I'm terrible at pitching. No, not lobbing a ball about in a field! I mean pitching. Pitching an idea. Summarising a writing project in as exciting a way as possible so that anyone listening can't help but make a mental note to 'check it out' at their earliest convenience. Pitching. I'd be useless on Dragon's Den, no matter how revolutionary an idea I'd invented. I just can't do it.

I realised I was crap at pitching when I was writing Carry the Beautiful. When people asked me what it was about, my first response would be 'Erm...'. Then I'd waffle a bunch of words that vaguely made sense, but didn't convey anything remotely like the enthusiasm I felt for the story. I knew it was a great read, and I knew people would like it. I just didn't know how to convey that in a succinct way, when they politely asked me what it was about. I think it's called an Elevator Pitch. Can I summarise my idea in as short a time it takes for someone to get to their floor? Can I be brief yet draw people in? Can I make them want to hear more?

Now THAT is who I need to channel when I get
into a (metaphorical) lift and pitch my ass off.
The answer to all that is still a definite no. I'm now working on my next book. The title is TBC but lots of other things are in place. The editor will be working on it over the next month, and ideas for the front cover are being sketched. It's all coming together. It's just me that needs to get my elevator pitch right.

Here's the problem I've been having since the start. It's a fairly fundamental issue. The thing is, I don't know who I'm writing it for. Yeah, you heard right. I haven't got a clue who this is aimed at. My last book was easy. It was adults who like a decent story. End of. This time, it's not so clear. 

First of all, like any book ever written, it's for the author. I've told a story I want to read, so I'm the main audience at the most basic level. But obviously, that's not enough. What motivated this particular story, is my feeling that there's been something missing in pre-teen fiction over the last decade or so. Back in the day, when I taught a class of eight and nine year olds, the novels available to them seemed very samey - basically, they seemed massively influenced by Harry Potter. Stories contained magic, spells, superpowers and all sorts of things that just don't happen in real life. And for the kids that devoured that sort of stuff, fair play to them. They had lots of reading material to choose from. I just knew I'd be struggling if I were eight or nine at that time. 

You tell 'em, Judy!
I always preferred real-life stories. I worked my way through Enid Blyton's schools' series and Famous Five books but drew the line at the Faraway Tree stories - where kids climbed a tree and it turned into an enchanted land of magical characters. Nah, soz. Not for me thanks. Clearly I got off on the gritty realism of boarding school, or child and canine detective teams. Even more real was Judy Blume - my favourite childhood author. She was American so there were some cultural differences to navigate (grades instead of school years, for example) but I learnt more about puberty reading her books than anywhere else. (I've still never encountered a sanitary belt though. Answers on a postcard?) She wrote stories where my life - or a version of realistic life - was reflected back to me, and these were always my favourite. And that is what prompted my new book to be written. It's about a large family and is told from the perspective of the eldest daughter. (*Coughs* Defo not autobiographical.) She is ten. She is frustrated by her younger siblings, feels like she has no control in her life even though she KNOWS she's nearly a teenager, and has constant drama with her friends at school as they all stress over their SATs and the move to High School. It's relatable and it's real. 

The thing is, I still think adults would like it too. I've found myself laughing as I've written parts of it. (Could I be any more self-absorbed?) But it's pretty funny in places. I've also put in some emotional bits. Even when the ten year old narrator doesn't realise it's emotional, the reader can read between the lines and see the scene being played out. At least an adult reader could. I've swung between thinking this is for adults and thinking this is for children for the past two years. And now it's nearly ready and I'm still not entirely sure.

One thing I am sure of - it is definitely suitable for children. There are no bad words or sexy times! I strategically use the word 'penis' - you may clutch your pearls now - in relation to a scan photo, and later 'willy' in the same context. I think that's more than acceptable considering it's just biology. So yeah, it's SFW! Safe for work, AND safe for children to read and put on their book shelves. And yet, I still think adults would get something out of it too. 

So for now, I'm going to crack on with working on that elevator pitch. And just for funsies, I'll leave you with a blurb I've discarded as being not enticing enough. See what you think. Picture me blurting this out at you in a lift!
It is January and Leeza McAuliffe faces a year of change. The move to high school is getting closer and puberty is just around the corner. As she prepares for the inevitable, she realises that no amount of planning can prepare her for the changes she didn't see coming.
 Between her household of brothers, her vegetarian parents (who have no idea about her love of ham) and the drama of juggling two best friends, Leeza shares her thoughts the only way she can – with her diary. 

No worries, Jake.
You have yourself
a cracking day!
Either that will whet your appetite for more, or you'll be able to mentally say 'Not for me, thanks!' and walk away. Whatever you feel, thanks for listening!

Have a lovely week, folks.


  1. I agree, when i cut your hair your pitch could of been loads better for your wonderful book. Its like you under sell it when you ahould be shouting from the rooftops its that good

  2. I am terrible at bigging myself up! I need to get better at it. How's this? MY NEXT BOOK IS THE BEST BOOK YOU WILL EVER READ. DEFO.

    Thanks for bigging it up for me, though. N x