Shockingly, not every writer is introverted.
Really. There are magical extroverted people who can talk about their books and answer questions about their writing career without panicking or breathing into a paper bag or stumbling over their words twelve times.
At least, that’s what I’ve heard. I’m an introvert myself, so I wouldn’t really know.
However, joking aside, whether we’re introverted or extroverted, talking about our books is hard. The dreaded ‘elevator pitch’ is an essential part of spreading awareness for our books. We need it for agents at writing conferences, the pitch line in queries, and well-meaning friends and family who want to know what our book is about.
Why do people ask that? I get it, it’s harmless and inquisitive. They’re not really trying to make me sit on the floor and cry, right? They’re doing their best to show an interest in that weird thing I do where I lock myself up in a room for hours on end and stare at a computer with a lot of squiggly lines on it.
Or sometimes a blank screen, because those days happen to all of us.
Still, condensing fifty to a hundred thousand words (or more) into a single sentence can feel impossible. It’s hard, it’s frustrating, and all too often, it falls flat. There is nothing more irritating than having a book you know is brilliant and compelling, and then stumbling over a vague and cheesy sounding explanation that features ummm more than any other word in the English language.
Believe me. It’s torture.
Unfortunately, it is also a necessary torture. So, introvert or extrovert, if we want our books to see the light of day, we have to learn. Here are five tips that I’ve found helpful in learning to explain my crazy books to people.
1) Don’t be afraid of making mistakes.
You’re going to mess up. It’s going to sound weird. It’s never going to be completely perfect.
And that’s fine.
As with everything else, practice makes perfect. So resign yourself to making mistakes, to looking a little foolish, and even to one or two embarrassing failures. As long as you continue to try, to learn, and to perfect what you’ve got, you’re conquering it.
And, honestly? It’s the mistakes that are teaching you, not the successes.
2) Know the heart of your story.
Not everything needs to be a part of your pitch. You’ve got tens of thousands of words in this wonderful book of yours, and myriad of ideas.
And one sentence (maybe two) to catch someone’s attention.
So take some time, be realistic, and decide what is the heart and soul of your story. Sure, maybe dragons attack a city at some point and the hero has the ability to control them with his mind but decides not to because the bakery in that city wouldn’t sell him a donut, but is that really the heart of the story?
If not, then skip it.
It’s still in the story. You haven’t lost it. It’s just not the core of what you’ve written, and the core is exactly what you want to give them.
This is definitely not a skill that you are automatically going to have. It needs practice, it needs polishing, and it needs feedback. Use your friends and family as guinea pigs (respectfully), jump at the chance to practice your pitch whenever anyone asks about it, and practice by yourself in your bedroom mirror.
Yes, I’m telling you to talk to yourself.
When I drove down to the writer’s conference in Missouri last July, I spent most of that trip going over my pitch alone in my car. It sounds weird, maybe it will feel weird for a while, but it works.
And if it looks dumb, but it works, it’s not dumb.
The point is, the more practice you have, the better your pitch will be. You want it smooth, you don’t want it to sound rehearsed, and you want it to look effortless.
And, as everyone should know, if something looks effortless, it means there is a whole lot of effort behind it.
4) Don’t give up.
This is one of the most discouraging and scary parts of being an author. It’s so intimidating, it’s so easy to get it wrong, and for some of us, it goes against the grain of our personalities.
It would be much easier to simply duck under this one, and not try it.
But don’t. Really, really don’t. Your story is worth this attention, it’s worth this push to learn and stretch yourself as a person, and in the long run, you’ll be so glad that you took the time and the effort to make it happen.
And someday, who knows, maybe it won’t be that difficult after all.
I’m not counting on that, but you never know.
5) Be passionate.
This is your story. You’ve slaved over it, cried over it, and maybe worked harder on it than you ever have on a project before.
It’s your baby. Your magnum opus. Your symphony.
So love it. Don’t rattle off an emotionless plot outline when someone asks what you’ve written. Tell them why you love it. Passion is attractive, and, as a writer, you’ve got more than enough to share. (Believe me, you wouldn’t have gotten as far as you have with this story if you didn’t.)
Embrace it. Be willing to be wrong, be willing to need work, be willing to make mistakes, but never, never forget your passion when you talk about what you do. Writing can be a job, but writing is magic too, and magic is worth being passionate about.
Good luck, dearest writer! May your tea be hot and your dreams wild.