Be Prepared

All night the song from Lion King has been going through my mind.   

It’s easy to think that we are prepared when we begin submitting our work.  Reality, however, may be much different. 

For instance, how well do you know your novel?  I mean really know it.  I’ve heard of writers attending critique sessions at conferences and when asked questions about where their manuscript is headed, they fail to have an answer.  They had been so wrapped up in other projects, they were no longer intimate with the details of their initial manuscript.

What are your MC’s motives?

How did you pick the villain?

Where does your novel take place and why?

Love your manuscript so much you can talk about it in short, concise thoughts.  Don’t risk losing your potential editor or agent or future reader by rambling about the plot. 

My Dear Daughter loves to regurgitate movies for me.  She always provides me the long version, complete with quotes and back tracking.

Your readership doesn’t love you as much as I love my daughter.  They will not have the patience for us to “remember” the details and spew them out willy nilly.

Be prepared.

Get a pitch–a one sentence summary of your novel–and be prepared to use it.

Prepare a mini-synopsis for those moments when someone asks for more, but has little time to spend while you search for the right words.

Reread your manuscript and familiarize yourself with the characters, plots and story that you are trying to sell.  Because if you can’t, nobody else will.

Be prepared.


PS.  If you don’t believe me about getting the facts straight from an earlier post, just check out the comments.  Laura was kind enough to spare me more than a day’s worth of embarrassment by reminding me which Disney movie this song was from.  Never assume and never forget to edit.


18 responses to “Be Prepared

  1. Oy. I need to start practicing this on Sunday. I’m tired before I’ve even begun. 😦

    • Victoria,

      Is something special about Sunday? Hope it doeesn’t wear you out too much. Personally, I would get to flustered to come up with something on the fly, but I hear of it happening all the time.

      Scarey with a capital S.

  2. Great advice Cate! Always good to be prepared.
    Oh and my shiny girl (from previous post) is a character in Pig & Twig. 🙂

  3. You’re right as always, Cat! If you don’t know your own novel, how can you expect others to get it?

    I love Beauty and the Beast but Be Prepared is from The Lion King! I’m a Disney nut, obviously, lol!

    • Ach, I knew that. I’ll have to change it in my post. I guess that’s what I get for writing it with ten minutes to go and being sandwhiched between two uber busy days!

      See what I mean about the facts? Someone will always notice!


  4. I’ve been thinking I should have a pitch, but have put it off. This weekend is as good a time as any to focus on that – thanks for the prompt! 🙂

    • Layinda,

      RS is a good one to help with that pitch line. But I think it’s just important to have the major story line in your head. That way we don’t have to rummage around in the debris of our other stories to find the perfect words.


  5. I prepared a short pitch for one conference and practiced it over and over, but when the moment came, I sputtered and forgot everything. Nerves. That’s why I love having people around me that don’t get so tongue-tied!

    • Barbara,

      I feared that was a possibility.

      Here I thought I had it all figured out. I’ll be lucky if I don’t collapse on the spot. Agents give me the shivers for all their mighty power. It’s kind of like the hyenas saying Mufasa’s name in Lion King.

      Do you think a puddle on the floor is a good place to be when you pitch?

      • I think as long as you don’t have a puddle beneath you when you pitch, you’re in the clear. ^_^

      • LOL! So you’re saying I should quit trying to pitch to agents in bathroom stalls at conferences?

        Shucks. It’s been so fun…J

        /K. Thankfully, that’s one rooky mistake I haven’t yet made.

  6. Good post. Sounds like you are facing having to do this. I have not had to do anything publically yet and I’m dreading the day!

    I remember when I started my second book how much the first one started fading. My gosh, how could that happen? When I spent so much time with it? But it’s easy to do, especially when you get wrapped up in another story. I’ve heard famous authors say the same thing about forgetting stuff, so it’s not just us newbies.

    Good luck with your presentation! Let us know how it turns out.

    • Sweet Rahma,

      I wish I were presenting. I have just heard enough stories to know that we can find ourselves faced with pitching our books unexpectedly. The stories contain horrible tales of unprepared writers stumbling over things that should be no brainers.

      You provide the perfect example when you described how quickly that first book started to fade while working on your subsequent one. I have books I wrote four years ago and probably read through for the last time two years ago. What if someone wanted to know about those? I’d be fumbling for the MC’s names, let alone plot details!

      Maybe I’m just getting old(er).

  7. I’m so scared to do a verbal pitch. I think I just finally nailed down how to write a query letter. 🙂

    My WIP is the first manuscript I’ve started with an eye to how I would pitch it and its marketability. It’s kinda strange to think that way.

    • Kate,

      Never fear. I think you are in strong company. Pitching your book in person is like standing in front of a potential husband (whom you’ve never met but admired from afar) and saying, “Hi, five five, funny, cooks, cleans, loves kids, scrabbles, writes and reads. Wanna marry me?”

      It’s so personal. And so public.

      But, many of succeeded before us, so we know the process isn’t life-threatening! Besides, a good query letter can go a long way in pulling those details together in your mind.

      ~ cat

  8. I’ve returned to breathing and the land of the living. Just. No, Sunday wasn’t so much special as agonizing. I was a speaker at an office meeting where I was initially told I wasn’t going to do exactly what I ended up doing. Only I ended up doing it without the tools I needed. It was worse than pitching to an agent in some ways. I need the job to pay for my house. Then after that, I had house guests and in-laws to deal with while my husband left me to it. Not the best of days. I need ice cream….

    • Victoria,

      Welcome back. Hope you’ve recovered from Sunday. I wish you all the luck in the ice cream department–and with the job.

      hugs~ cat

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