A First Draft of the Pitch

At the writers’ conference next week, I’ll have to pitch my novel to as many suitable agents as I can manage. I will have only, like, three minutes to say what the book is about in such a way that the agent is interested in hearing (or reading) more. I just wrote a first draft of The Pitch:

My book, _Like Light from Stars_, is a complete novel of 80,000 words that follows seven generations of the same gifted family in San Francisco, starting with the California gold rush and going farther into dysfunction and violence with each generation, until the late 20th century when three family members succeed in breaking that cycle.

The story begins in 1849, when Sarah Hammond is suddenly widowed with seven children. She takes the children, and her father’s violin, on a brutal journey across the country in a wagon train to become a laundress in San Francisco.

From there the story steps down through the generations: A woman survives the Civil War battlefields, not without some damage. Her son runs away and survives by playing the violin. His abandoned daughter becomes a singer gifted with the “breath of God,” and she in turn abandons her child for a lover. That child grows up to become a famous jazz musician, and turns a blind eye to the atrocities of his psychopathic son. The psychopath’s two young sisters lead a double life to survive his abuse, and later escape the family. The older sister’s daughter tries to save her damaged, talented brother and ends by learning painfully that she can only love him. The violin is lost and found again.

The women who break out of the cycle have inherited Sarah Hammond’s musical gift and the resilience and determination she had, to take her children across the country on the westward migration.

What do you think? If you were an agent, would you want to read this book? If you’ve read the book, does this describe it? Is there a way to make the pitch shorter and still get the idea across?

Huge herd of cattle moving in one direction
Writers converge on an agent’s table at a pitch event


4 Responses to A First Draft of the Pitch

  1. Bonnie February 5, 2019 at 5:12 pm #

    I read it and couldn’t put it down.

    • Sylvia Allen February 5, 2019 at 8:53 pm #

      Thank you, Bonnie! I’m so glad you liked it.

  2. Peggy February 5, 2019 at 10:15 pm #

    Hi Sylvia,

    I met with an agent a few years back at the Mayborn LIterary Nonfiction conference in Dallas, Texas. Before our appointment, I heard her speak on a panel of agents. Her message was that it doesn’t matter how well you write; it’s what following you have.
    She repeated her message during our appointment and suggested that I start a blog.

    Sylvia, you have a blog and a following, so I suggest you mention it. You already have your novel written and are organized about the whole thing. You’ll do well. And there are many of us are waiting to buy the book. Be sure to say so. And you have quotes from your early readers, like Bonnie.

    One question: Is your book is based on any historical people or events?

    • Sylvia Allen February 5, 2019 at 10:56 pm #

      Hi, Peggy! Thank you, that makes sense–I should mention the blog and the interested people. The book is based on actual people who lived at those times, but they are not historical in the sense I think you mean–they are not anyone you would have heard of, and are not mentioned in historical records. Historical people do make appearances here and there, however. Emperor Norton, for example, has a walk-on role in one chapter. Historical events, too, aren’t what the book is about, but they do change the lives of the characters. Two of them survive the Civil War battlefields with psychological damage, one young woman’s life is derailed by Prohibition, etc.

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