Just Beat It

I’ll be the first to say that crafting a 35-word pitch used to be such a daunting task — it seemed nearly impossible to me. Then I entered Pitch Slam and Pitch Madness. Thanks to what I’ve learned from these wonderful contests, something clicked. I’m still not perfect at writing pitches, but now, I actually find it fun.

Now, I like to create pitches for WIPs. I’ve already created a pitch for my WF thriller — complete with comp titles, another thing I’ve really struggled with!

And speaking of areas of difficulty…enter the beat sheet. I probably should be embarrassed to admit that I’m just now discovering them. But the truth is, I am way too excited to be embarrassed. It’s not that I hadn’t heard of them before. “Save the Cat” came up at the first conference I attended last summer. At that point, though, my first manuscript was largely finished, so I filed it under “helpful things for later.”

Well, later turned out to be about a week ago. I found a nice template online and decided to fill one out for my finished manuscript. It was so cool to see what fit where. I can see how it’ll be a helpful tool if and when I need to revise again (which of course I’ll inevitably have to, at least to some degree).

So then I thought, why stop there? Within about a half hour, I had completed beat sheets for three WIPs: the manuscript that I’ve completed a first draft of (a sequel to the manuscript I’m querying); one for that women’s fiction thriller I recently started; and one for a YA with magical realism I started previously and have picked back up again.

Suddenly, I had road maps for all of these stories floating around in my brain. I do want to be careful not to plot things out too strictly — I’m a panster by nature, after all. But I’m continuously seeing the value of a certain amount of plotting.

Overall, it’s a great feeling to see improvement in those tough areas. And believe me, there are plenty of other such areas…comps, as I mentioned. Knowing when to revise — and sorting through conflicting feedback — is another. So is maintaining this blog.

But I’m working on not letting those things overwhelm me. Instead, I’m focusing on those moments when something clicks and becomes easier — like pitches, or beat sheets. I’m working on celebrating my successes, however small they may be, one step at a time.

What aspects of the writing process do you struggle with?

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