July 7, 2015 by kristin
Last week I heard about a pitch contest on Twitter called #pg70pit. It’s based on the idea that the best way to decide whether to read a novel is to flip to the 69th page (modified to 70th page for the contest for spam-avoidance purposes). By that page, the action should be in progress to the point where you can see if it’s for you. Makes sense to me.
My usual method of book-browsing is to read the first page (NOT the last! NEVER the last!), but now that I’m writing books, I know how many billions of times that first page gets edited, not just with the intent to set up the story but also with the desire to hook a reader from the start. I’ll probably still read the first page, because if the voice there sucks me in, I am hooked. But I think from now on, I’ll also read the 69th page. (Unless it’s a book by one of my friends from the Historical Novel Society Conference, in which I will just buy it and love it. Hasn’t failed me yet!)
The #pg70pit pitch contest also focuses on voice. Contestants submit the 70th page (259 words max) of their completed novels in Middle Grade, Young Adult, and Adult categories, along with a tiny bit of other info and a code name for the entry based on a song title.
When I heard about it, I scrolled to the 70th page of my manuscript and was delighted to find a 250-word section that effectively captured the main character’s voice (hopefully any point in the novel would do that) and hinted at her main journey – searching for her best friend, Marion, a missing drag queen in 1931 New Orleans.
I submitted in the YA category, though there is still some debate (in my own head, and with an agent at the HNS Conference) about whether mine fits in that category or Adult. It feels YA to me, but I’m not an expert in deciding that sort of thing.
Three judges – writers and editors – read the 237 YA entries. Ten of the entries got perfect scores from the judges, including mine! To my great delight, my 70th page was chosen as one of the top seven YA entries to be presented on contest host Lara Willard’s writing and editing blog. (My code name is “You’re the lace in my shoe,” a line from the popular flapper-era song, “You’re the Cream in My Coffee.”) Agents will be perusing the entries, and the hope is some of them will want to see more!
So yay! It’s always nice to have some validation! Now scurrying off to send requested pages to agents I met at the HNS Conference!
Edited on 6/27/2016 to add:
Five agents requested pages based on my #pg70pit entry, which was thrilling! But I ended up never querying them, because I got back a response from an agent I met at the HNS Conference, saying the manuscript wasn’t quite ready, and I agreed. So I dove into revisions for almost a year, sent to beta readers, etc. and the manuscript is exponentially better today. Finally ready to query again!
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