An inside look at Twitter writing contests and how to make your pitch stand out.
If you’re a writer with a completed manuscript in search of representation, chances are you’ve entered (or at least heard of) Twitter pitch contests.
As my Corvisiero Literary Agency colleague, Kaitlyn Johnson, said in her Writer’s Digest article, The Benefits of Participating in Writing Contests on Twitter: “online writing contests have exploded in popularity,” which is so undeniably true.
Here are just a few of the many hashtags for these contests:
For those of you who have yet to be immersed in the writing community on Twitter, these pitching events provide writers with an opportunity to showcase their completed/polished manuscripts to literary agents and/or editors—depending on the contest. While not all agents and editors elect to participate in these contests, there are many who do.
But the tricky part is turning that 70,000-word manuscript into a 140-character pitch. (Trust me, I’ve been there!)
When I first started pitching my own manuscript in these Twitter events, I made a few of the classic beginner mistakes:
- Focusing on vague conflicts (such as a fight between good and evil)
- Including vague stakes (such as will he/she achieve his/her heart’s greatest desire)
- Focusing too much on world building and not enough on plot or character
- Failing to utilize (or understand) a hook
- Not focusing on the protagonist (instead, focusing on antagonists or supporting characters)
While there’s no exact science to a good Twitter pitch, the tweet should do the following:
- Introduce the protagonist (either by name or by title, such as thief or queen) while conveying his/her distinct voice (and therefore your capabilities and style as a writer)
- Introduce the main conflict or inciting incident (depending on the angle of the hook)
- Provide essence of the plot
- Hook the reader with uniqueness of the story
That’s a lot to do in 140 characters, and we totally get it!
As some of you may know, I write adult fantasy. In some of my previous manuscripts/drafts of manuscripts, I participated in Twitter pitch events.
Here are a few examples of my Tweets that received likes from publishing professionals:
- When Jamie nearly kills her brother’s friend with a kiss, otherworldly pirates abduct her to end their banishment on Earth
- Jamie’s discovering her sexuality—which would be easier if her kiss didn’t nearly kill her brother’s best friend
- To return to his ship, the pirate lord breaks his code&lets the girl live. His crew resists—threatening permanent exile on Earth
- Ransomed by otherworldly pirates, Jamie must navigate the politics of a land segregated by vocation&magic. Narnia meets GoT
As you can see in these examples, my more successful pitches tended to introduce us to the protagonist (Jamie) and the inciting incident (Jamie nearly killing her brother’s best friend with a kiss) or the main plot (Jamie having to navigate politics in a foreign magical land). While my pitches are far from perfect, hopefully they give you a better understanding of how to write a hook and introduce us to what makes your story unique.
A few other tips:
- Include the main event hashtag—otherwise publishing professionals won’t see your tweet.
- Use BOTH the genre and age group hashtags—many agents and editors (myself included) use these to filter the pitches since there are often way too many to go through on the main hashtag.
- Avoid too many world-specific names or terms—keep the pitch simple and easy to digest (while giving specific conflict!).
- Consider including similar manuscript titles, such as TITLE meets TITLE.
- Check out the Tweets that agents/editors like during Twitter pitch contests. These pitches are perfect examples of how to hook an agent or editor.
Interested in learning more about the writing community and pitching events on Twitter? Here are some additional resources:
- The Benefits of Participating in Writing Contests on Twitter by Kaitlyn Johnson
- The Ultimate Writers’ Guide to Twitter Pitch Contests by Carly Watters
- 18 Essential Etiquette Tips for Twitter Writing Contests by Meg LaTorre-Snyder
- Pitch Wars: The 35-word and Twitter Pitch … simplified by Brenda Drake